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Happy April!

What’s new?

::: a meal plan again after a week’s hiatus, making use of food from the freezer and our weekly batch of chicken broth

::: one of my classes is finished! I’m down to teaching twice a week now (from four). I will miss those students, but not the crazy schedule!

::: an updated routine that needs to feature better organization and bits of guilt-free time for me

::: approximately 1.5 more rows on mom’s fingerless gloves

::: an amazingly clean, tidy house!

::: weather that feels like it’s actually spring!

::: exercising again after a week’s hiatus. I deliberately didn’t overdo it, and it felt fantastic!

::: taking some unwanted stuff to the consignment store and the donation place. There were a couple of pangs that surprised me – it’s already hard to get rid of toys Minnie used to sort of like that were given by loved ones! I tried to keep my focus on the space we were freeing up and the hope that these toys would become favorites of some other little kids. (Don’t worry mom, we still have a ton of toys for Minnie as well as Hypothetical Baby #2.)

What’s new with you?

Being Content vs. Striving for More

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Over at Get Rich Slowly, my favorite staff writer Kristin Wong wrote a really nice article called Overwork and the Illusion of a “High Paying” Job. Basically, is a huge salary that “costs” 80 hours a week really a huge salary?

Though this article appeals to personal finance geeks (such as myself), in her exploration of the topic she addresses something more fundamental than income: practicing contentment vs. actively setting and pursuing goals.

Wong writes,

When it comes to being appreciative of what you have, I’m all for looking at things against the backdrop of “someone has it worse.” But using that perspective to keep you from your goals doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Leo Babauta at Zen Habits eloquently points out that contentment is a choice that comes from within, and one that leads to happiness.

My question is: how does one person simultaneously hold the mindset of contentment and the mindset of pursuing more? All while scraping play dough and spaghetti sauce off of various surfaces of my home?

Knitting Update

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Fingerless gloves for my mom are coming together just in time for spring! To be fair, the stated deadline was September 2014, so I’m technically ahead of schedule. 🙂

DSC07777

Row by row, car ride by car ride, they’re going more quickly than I thought they would.

Mom's Mitts WIP 1

I’m not crazy about the way the zig-zag pattern came out – I especially don’t like how the one-row-thick diagonal dark blue came out. I do like the yarn, the colors, and the way the knitted material feels. My mom tried them out this past week and they fit well!

Ravelry notes here.

Linking up with KCCO @FrontierDreams.

Inter-Generational Chatting: Part II

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Minnie and I got to go out to lunch earlier this week with some friends from my mother’s and grandmother’s generation. This post and the previous one about clutter are inspired by our conversations.

Birthday gifts for kids that already have everything

One conversation that went around was what one lady should get for her

My Kid's Sty by Bandita on Flickr.com

My Kid’s Sty by Bandita on Flickr.com

granddaughter’s eighth birthday. Every suggestion followed basically this pattern:

Suggestion: Art supplies?

Answer: No, they did that for her last birthday and the entire third floor of their house was converted into an art area for the kids.

Holy buckets. What do you even do with that? She already has everything and then some.

One woman around my mom’s age said that she just gives money. It wasn’t clear to me if she gave it to the child for spending money, or if it went straight into a savings account for the child, or some of each. That sounds like a nice, practical idea… but money just seems so generic, even if it’s given with great thought and love.

Another idea that’s popular these days is to focus on experiences instead. Maybe the lady could take her granddaughter out instead of giving her stuff? Something tells me that she isn’t really hurting for exciting excursions either, though. And I suspect her time is pretty booked with activities anyway. Still, it might be a good way to go.

The more I think about it (without knowing the child), the more I’m leaning toward my own personal answer of buying a modest, open-ended item (a basketball, a pair of knitting needles with a skein of yarn, a small set of nice colored pencils) and include a card that explains that you donated the rest of the money you would’ve spent to charity. Depending on the child’s personality and age, they might like to help pick out the charity, and they may even learn something about the importance of giving. Or they might be saddened, horrified, etc. That’s the risk of doing something weird!

What do you think? What do you get for a child who already has everything?

Multi-generational time

Hanging out with Minnie and the ladies was fun, and in a very different way from when I hang out with friends my age. I wish I had more opportunities to spend time in groups with an age range spanning more than eighty years! With all our different experiences, we all had something to add and something to learn.

I also wish I’d had the time and with-it-ness to ask the ladies what their advice is regarding my ideas and conclusions from our conversation. Would they recommend a house with less storage space? Would they be horrified at the idea of “giving” most of a child’s eighth birthday gift to charity instead?

We need to get more elderly and boomer ladies to blog! In the meantime, advice from you would be welcome!

Inter-Generational Chatting: Part I

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Minnie and I got to go out to lunch today with some friends from my mother’s and grandmother’s generation. This post and the next one will be about ideas from our conversations.

I think that the highlights from the diner for Minnie were the trucks and trains going by the diner at regular intervals, ice cubes, her very own mug of “tea,” and hanging out with her new friend PB, a grandmother of six.

For me, the chit chat was definitely a highlight. One recurring theme that was particularly fascinating to me was the ladies’ adult children’s clutter remaining in the house.

Clutter at mom’s house

One lady around my grandma’s age said that her sons (presumably my mother’s age) still have things in their old bedrooms and in the attic. A lot of things. She doesn’t even use those rooms because the things in them aren’t hers.

Cluttered Shed by UnnarYmir on Flickr.com

Cluttered Shed by UnnarYmir on Flickr.com

Yikes.

Another lady around my mom’s age said that she got tired of having to vault over her adult children’s college books, furniture from past moves, etc. in order to do the laundry. So one day she hired a moving van to drive the stuff to her kids’ houses several hours away. She notified her kids the morning of the delivery.

Wow.

Oh, the wildly different parenting personalities!

Where do I fall as an adult kid? I’ve still got clutter at my folks’, but it sounds like it’s not nearly as bad as some. But I guess I really should do a bit more – it’s out of sight out of mind for me, but it can be a real burden on the parents.

It was really valuable to learn more about it by listening to a conversation among peers. If they were just telling me about it, it would probably feel like an accusation (deserved, but off-putting nonetheless).

Only time will tell where I fall as a parent dealing with my kid’s clutter. I feel like living in a condo with so little storage is a boon, though. I’m sure Minnie will attract her share of clutter, but at least it physically cannot spill into the basement, since there is none!

I wish I’d asked the ladies what they thought of that conclusion of mine! If you have some opinions about it, do tell!

Part II of this post to follow later in the week…

What’s New?

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Lately, I’ve found myself very focused on things that are not blog-fodder. Nothing bad, just not quite bloggable.

There have been a few weeks with no meal plan (gasp!), weeks and weeks without a single stitch knitted (sorry mom!), and I finally sent my friend’s sewing machine back home after its frighteningly expensive repair (sorry Minnie – no quilt for you any time soon!).

I have been…

:::teaching three evenings and one morning every week

:::repeating to my students for several weeks: “Spring is coming.”

:::listening and laughing while my funny toddler talks (and talks and talks)

:::doing better at participating in mom’s club and working hard to appear as friendly as I feel

:::starting to fall out of touch with friends, but also working to reverse that trend!

:::basking, reveling, zooming around the house, etc. in my two mornings per week of free childcare

:::exercising somewhat regularly using streaming videos on Amazon Prime. I started slow (very, very slow) and have come a long way already.

:::reading for fun – some new and some re-reads

Accidental Pancakes

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Well, February has been a full one so far!

I did not expect that between the car shuffling, teaching and lesson planning, Mom’s Club, family time, friends time, and trying to keep the house in relative order, I would also accidentally make pancakes.

Oops! (Image by ugod on Flickr.com)

How does one accidentally make pancakes? I’m so glad you asked.

It all started when I used Amanda’s recipe for leftover oatmeal muffins. I’ve made these muffins several times and it’s a great little recipe.

Among other things, it calls for half a cup of milk. Except reading the recipe on my tablet, the line break came between the 1/ and the 2. So I didn’t see the 1/ – only the 2. And so I added 2 cups of milk. Four times the amount of milk I should have added. So my choice was then to quadruple the recipe and be up baking all night and fill up the freezer with a huge excess of muffins, or toss the whole thing. Booo!

But then I thought, hey, it looks kinda like pancake batter. So I quick Googled it and landed on Martha Stewart’s basic pancake recipe. Lo and behold, the flour/leavener/liquid ratio was just about the same as the mess in my own mixing bowl. Turns out the chief difference between muffins and pancakes is the amount of liquid. Cool!

So I made pancakes. At something like 8pm. After the first one, I decided to add .25C flour to the remainder of the batter, and I was very pleased with the results. J and my dad helped make them as we juggled Minnie’s bath time, diaper, pjs, etc. We saved the leftovers in the fridge and they reheated beautifully in the toaster oven. Minnie was a fan, too.

And that, my friends, is how you can accidentally make pancakes.

Minnie’s Second Birthday

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Minnie had a lovely, low-key birthday party. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially her! Here’s what we did:

magic wand with a star on top and a ribbon

Our magic wands looked roughly like this, but the star was foam and they were 3/$1 at Dollar Tree. Image by Caro’H on Flickr.com

  • place: the party room at our local pizza place
  • emailed evites, resisting the urge to invite everyone
  • decorations: 10 helium balloons
  • food: pizza and soda
  • dessert: 2 homemade birthday cakes

Activities for the Kids: Open-Ended

Our non-adult guests ranged in age from about 7 months to 5 years. Most of the bigger kids were boys who like to run around.

Firstly, I counted eating pizza as an activity. It takes time and energy and creativity!

Beyond that, we made a couple other open-ended activities available.

We invested $2 in regular latex balloons, inflated about 25 of them, and let the kids chase them around, play volleyball, etc. They loved it.

We also got cheap party hats and a few sheets of stickers. The kids and adults enjoyed playing with the stickers. The kids especially enjoyed being goofy with their hats, being rhinoceroses and such.

While there was some additional running around and climbing on tables that weren’t ours, those things were minimal.

Party Favors: Wands and Balloons

As we were winding down, I busted out $2 worth of ready-made cheap magic wands. I told the boys (who were experts at parties and knew what to expect: pizza, cake, and goody bags) that instead of goody bags, we had a magic wand for each of them.

They each picked a color and they were a hit (har har – the bigger kids enjoyed whacking each other with their wands). The kids all liked pretending to change J into various animals – birds were a favorite (with a party hat beak). Sometimes their spells rebounded and they turned into birds too – gotta watch out for that.

We also gave one of our helium balloon decorations to each baby/child.

That was it!

The kids had fun, I wasn’t agonizing over prep or clean-up, the adults could sort of relax, the bill was not high (8 pizzas and 20 fountain sodas), and my house didn’t get destroyed. Yay!

And my sweet little baby is two!