Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A commitment to meaningful projects

As part of my turning 30 [*cough* x years ago], I tried a triathlon and I got a sewing machine. Now I can truly say with confidence that experience is the greatest teacher of all. You aren't going to get on the bike the 50th time and not be better than the first time.

Likewise, now that I have been sewing almost every day for a few years, I have just gotten better. More patient, careful, precise, and, well just nicer finishes than ever before. 

If I don't rush myself, I'm getting really good at quilting. I get distracted by my daughter's requests for various Frankenstein dresses she would like to cobble together from fifty different fabrics, and custom requests on my ETSY shop, but to truly dedicate my space to a quilt, that feels the most right. 
The skirt is way too long but the customer is always right?!
So I've volunteered to make several quilts for our school auction. I've gone into the school to collect the kids' handprints for the three different classes, and I think they will translate best to three small quilts. This will take some time, and that means it will help me say "no" when other opportunities arise. I'm already feeling a calmness about this choice, because as I left their school today I overheard my daughter ask her friend,
"Oh do you have a nice mommy too?" 
Yes, I totally cry a little every time I think about that moment. I'm finally playing some "offense" in this game called parenthood and I think the kids are starting to notice as well. Taking the hands of the sweet little two-year-olds and walking them down the hallway to my station made me realize just how far we've come.
The set-up at school
The loot (well, about a third of it...)
If you follow me on Pinterest, you've seen me sorting through many piecing ideas. I want to be careful and well-thought out. I want them to be well quilted, which is the ultimate finishing skill. In fact, I'm planning on taking a long arm certification this year at Steve's, so I can rent their machine for $17/hour. I have no idea if I'll feel comfortable doing that, but I've also purchased a free motion quilting foot for my machine that I would like to experiment with as well. 

Now if all of this terminology sounds alien to you, then thank you for bearing with me this far. Most intermediate/advanced quilters would have already tackled these steps. What I'm trying to say is that I'd like to focus on a few, larger, detail-oriented projects, rather than little quick projects here and there. 
My shopping helper. She knows the layout of Joann's better than I do now.
Just as it happened with my half-iron distance race, and the musical I wrote with my friend at Duke, I'm finding much more fulfillment in meaningful, focused committments, rather than the dabbling that I usually do. The musical needs to be fleshed out more, and it will be coming back around in my life, so it's on the docket.

I would also like to connect with the quilty blogging community as I get more entrenched in my projects this Spring. I have dabbled, as is my nature, but have not participated in any group activities. 

I also have my red and white quilt that is calling my name...it wants to be Christmas-y, maybe Valentines-y....it needs to speak up a little more while I get started on these handprint quilts.

I have a friend having his first baby in June, and he is in the business of fabric, so I'd like to make a show-stopper for him his baby, too. 

So, in the same vein of getting organized in 2014, and saying no to 14 things (I've done *2* already! woohoo!), let's leave ourselves space to create and dedicate to fresh, meaningful projects. Don't let your energy go to waste on little throwaways.
Like this one. Shhhh...I'll share it when he opens it.

Finally hung this piece from Kelly Rae Roberts collection
What.is.calling.you?






Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tiger mom I ain't

I was confronted with a moment in parenting this past week that I didn't think would have happened so soon.

Or at all, actually. 

It was harrrrrd.

My daughter, when faced with a difficult stunt at gymnastics class, seemed to divert her attention elsewhere. The teacher instructed her to listen, or else she wouldn't be able to finish the class with everyone in the ball pit. She ran out in a huff to sulk two feet away from me in the parents' observation area until I found her. 

"So let's leave. So don't do it," I wanted to say.

Oh, what would that teach her, twynmawrmom...

I don't know- to accept her limitations? And early enough so that she can move on to other things?

But, of course, like every good 21st century helicopter parent, I told her to apologize to the teacher, and to say these exact words:
"I promise I'll try harder next week."
It kinda killed a little part of me. 

Me, having been raised by a baby boomer, who fought limitations at every turn so that we wouldn't be faced with any of them, found myself weary of the excellence. The striving to break through barriers. The achievement game. 

Because what good did it do me? Freedom to try everything, at least once? Yes. 

Guilt over staying at home with my two precious ones even though I have an Ivy league masters degree? 

Oh yeah, that. 

And struggling at every turn in my life, to make it bigger, badder, and awesomer than ever before? 

And why? For my blog? For my wiki entry? For my high school friends on Facebook? 

Just be, little sweetheart. Just be yourself.

"More than just a princess..." our new-fangled, girl-empowering, mechanical engineering-inspired toy says on the side of the box.

Why does my daughter have to be - "More"?

All the time, everywhere. Playing with toys. Choosing her activities. Wearing her clothes, and shoes, and headbands. More. More. More.

Be more.

Do more.

Think more.

Have more.

What I'd rather her hear: 

You are. enough.

Accept your ugh.  Don't feel the need to papercraft your child's third birthday party and use your fanciest SLR camera and photoshop skills to plaster your worth all over Pinterest. Yes, put together a beautiful party. Don't seek accolades in the pretense of sharing. 

You can get a mani/pedi outside a 24 hour window before a wedding or beach vacation. You don't even have to 'deserve' it. You can just go when you have the time and money.

There will be things you are good at, and things that achieve a new level of suck you never knew existed.

Especially within yourself.

I struggled to have the conversation with her. How to approach the heart of the matter. How to get to the real lesson I wanted to teach her. I said to her,
"If everybody was perfect at everything, life would be so boring! What would we do all day?" 
She responded:  
"Well...we could just...rest...."
And I wanted to hold her and say ok-
my little two pounder who fought off a hole in her heart by the sheer force of her will - 
- you can handle hard things -
- but you already have. 
So don't anymore.

Just rest. That's fine. 

We can handle life's best things together. 

I feel like I've worked hard in my life and I don't know what it has gotten me. 

I have wonderful amazing people and luxuries in my life, not the least of which is being able to stay home with my two beauties.

But the things I've worked the hardest at - the things that kept me knocking my head against the wall over and over and over again - in hopes of attaining something without distinct shape - without a realistic path on which to tread -

I don't think that was what I was meant to do with my life.

I wish I had thought bigger, like how to translate my best skills into the best, most strategic way possible.

And I wish I had thought smaller, like how to translate the thing that wakes me up in the morning, into the rest of my day's events. 

So stay with me in the parents' observation room while we wait for your brother to finish his gymnastics class. Step back.

Discover your - self- and its best qualities. And trust them. Go where those waters rise to meet you.

Find what you know to be true, and only seek more truth.

Distractions and diversions are just that. They tempt your curiosity, but do not fuel your life's purpose.

You. are enough.

You. Who wouldn't have been born or survived such an early birth 30 years ago. 

You. Who fought a hole in your very own heart with the sheer force of your will. 

You. Who will be thoughtful, intelligent, kind, and generous by your very own nature. 

Take the easy road. 

And don't look back.

You. are enough. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#GoldieBlox Trial


The other day we finally tried our GoldieBlox kit! I had been intrigued by the marketing from its creator, and pre-ordered a package last Spring to help her make her 5,000 unit goal. 

I intended to give it to my daughter last Easter, but with twins you must always have 'equivalent' gifts and one thing led to another, and, well, Santa ended up bringing it to her. 

I'm glad we waited because it was a little difficult for her (and him, as we all did it together.) They did like the story that went along with it (the premise is that you are to build the spinning 'machine' along with Goldie in the book.) But in no way were they going to be distracted from: 
a) the ribbon, and pulling it this way and that,
b) the little characters, and making stories of their own, and 
c) inserting pegs into the peg-board willy-nilly.

Once we sorted through the book and the introductory design, the kids did best playing with it on their own and making their own designs. 

The ribbon, however, is supposed to wind in between the 'wheels' in such a way, that all the wheels (and characters placed on top of the wheels) turn, just from your pulling at the ribbon. 

Well, the ribbon is a little longish and cumbersome for my-just-turned-5-set, and they were often frustrated not knowing exactly how to attach it to its 'base' (via velcro, only one direction), or how to wind it through (works best if it doesn't twist.) So that would be my only criticism of this toy. 

"Wait...I just need a minute with it ON MY OWN," she says...
And although I see that they are adding new 'sets' and designs to be released soon, I think they would do well to make this compatible with other tinker toy sets, so that my children may build larger and larger 'machines', outside of the little peg board they provide.

Overall, I would recommend this toy to parents of children over the age of 5, and if you don't mind working through it with them. I think it's a great 'different' birthday present, too, if you like to give unique toys that aren't princess-related ;)

Excitement of finally figuring it out!
At the end of the day, nothing can beat the look on your kids' faces when they 'get it', and we have been experiencing this a lot lately with the added exclamation of "SCIENCE!" with various 'speriments' [experiments] throughout the house. So I had to explain to them that this was science, too, and in fact, a bit of an offshoot of science, that this was engineering and mechanics. 

Blank stares.

"SCIENCE!"

I'll let the videos do the rest of the illustrating...


Pre-success: Getting frustrated...



Post-success: Getting it...


Happy Snow Day! 
Have you tried any new toys lately? 
Should we get them? 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Take two and call me in the...hereafter

In the past three months I have been prescribed two daily medications.

FOR THE REST. OF MY LIFE.

I guess this is (almost) 40.

I've been avoiding this for a long time.

It's not like, anything major, I just am not consistent in anything I do. 

Are you surprised?

I can't even take a daily multivitamin (although my new internist says this is no longer de rigeur anyways)...

I'm really bad at daily maintenance. The only time I worked out every day is in preparation for a race, or as a result of being bullied.

So, fear,  I guess. Fear is what motivates me. Or GLORY. Yes, let's call it glory.

Because one of the daily medications is an eyedrop called Restasis. And it's like, what's my motivation? My eyes are dry, yes. Ten years ago I went in for Lasik evaluation and they described them as "Dry as the Sahara". And that was ten years ago. And I have been less and less able to wear contacts, it's true...in fact I've restricted myself to using them for for the four hours of scuba diving I do each year. And in those humid climates, it hasn't been a problem. And now they are no longer "Sahara Dry" so much as,
OH-MY-GOD-HOW-ARE-YOUR-EYES-OPENING-AND-CLOSING-ON-A-REGULAR-BASIS-DRY??!
This past follow-up (the two week check-up) the doc even went so far as to say, "Wait until Menopause, then you'll really be suffering."

Thank you. Thanks for that.

Because I was looking forward to Menopause for so many other reasons. [insert eye roll]

I have no patience for this. For the first two weeks she wanted me to do three different types of drops which amounted to 8 doses daily.

8 times a day!?! That's like, formula feeding schedule. Only worse, because there is not a baby-sized-alarm that goes off for this.

I lasted 10 days. I ran out of one of the drops, thank God. And I felt that justified me from taking a second as often. So I was down to like, three doses a day.

Then the follow-up. She started to say, "I'd like you to taper the first drop..."

"Oh well I ran out of that one."

"Oh? Well don't get a new bottle. I guess we are done with that. Ok well up the dose on the second..."

So...back to 6 doses a day. And a warm compress. And some kind of natural oil supplement.

"Flaxseed, Fish oil, primrose...doesn't matter..."

Interesting that she likened them all the same. So I will be asking Dr. Google about that one...

And a humidifier. Another thing I have been loathe to go back to, because again, I am not consistent, so the emptying and cleaning of filters and cannisters is something I would compare to trimming children's toenails. I'll do it when it's hurting someone.

And the humidifier filters don't really talk to me.

So anywho....I'm just telling you all of this because I might blog here and there about my results of my new regimen. See what makes a real difference.

Although, I don't know how we are going to measure progress, other than the doc giving me a thumbs up and/or me being able to successfully open my eyelids upon waking.

I'm on: 2 doses of restasis per day, 3-4 drops of systane or refresh-type natural drops in capsule form (there's the worst part, little capsules I have to keep track of), and 15 minute warm compress per day (15 minutes of stillness, hello? do you know me?) and some type of ingested oil supplement (shall I just check into the Retirement Home, see if they are ready for my membership application?)

So now this post is too long. But I was going to tell you about my other daily: reflux medication. I go to bed with an acid reducer, and I've supplemented with a natural stomach-lining product called Glutamine powder, first thing in the morning. I have noticed a difference, however, the eye doc says acid reducers are my eyes' enemies...

So then there's that!

Hubby is home from quarter end and says he's going to get me healthy lickety-split.

Like, as soon as he wakes up...

Happy three-day-weekend!!

Let's remember the man who was so great he deserved a national holiday: 

"Everybody can be great
because everybody can serve
You don't have to have a college degree to serve
You don't have to make a subject and verb agree to serve
You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve
You don't have to know Einstein's Theory of Relativity to serve
You don't have to know the 2nd theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve
You only need a heart full of grace,
A soul generated by love
And you can be a servant."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.


Friday, January 17, 2014

The hazards of quilting #funforFriday

I may have mentioned to you bumping my hip on various tables this weekend thus sustaining an injury from a certain item in my sewing area, but let me explain...

That's not even the half of it!!

I typically, while sewing, hold the seam ripper or a straight pin in my mouth so as to quickly pull through threads and tie them off on the other side. 

Don't ask me how many times I have forgotten it was in my mouth when I go, to say, take a drink from my coffee, thus spilling my coffee all over myself and/or accidentally ending up with a pin in my mouth for one half second while I run to the sink to spit out the contents of my mouth so as not to swallow the pin. 

Or how about if I have to make a quick move while sewing, and my hand ends up by my face, thus getting speared in the process by whatever is sticking out of my mouth. 

This is the narrow passageway by which I must move in and out of my sewing area. Whoever designed this is a fool. 

(It's me, by the way.)

Because I broke the base of the iron long ago, and I mean, before I had children and a sewing business so there's no excuse, it is particularly shaky and will fall to the floor at the drop of a hat. Or hip, as the case may be. My only saving grace is that I usually have it pointed out so it usually falls the other direction, not my foot. 

But on this particular day, when I was frantically in the throes of the final stages of my latest quilt, I managed to knock off the pincushion on the left side, step on it with my left foot, to which I replied by screeching and hopping right, to which the iron responded by bowing inwards and falling on top of my good/right/not-currently-punctured-with-a-teapot-shaped-pincushion-filled-with-you-guessed-it:pins, thus rendering me incapable of standing, and falling to my knees, thankfully outside the sewing triangle, otherwise I would have likely hit my head on the table. 

I won't even get started with the bowl full of oatmeal I shattered this week, because it wasn't technically a sewing injury, I was just distracted by a sewing idea...

And you must think I'm really stupid if I still tried to pick up the spoon filled with oatmeal in the mess and take a bite...

Because glass really does shatter so you are likely to get a crunchy bit even if it looks clean on the spoon and you are damn hungry...

And don't ask me how many band aids have resulted from when I do this:


Happy Friday! Stay safe this weekend! 
Do you injure yourself doing something you love?!? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

12 months of Christmas projects: Upcycle those Holiday cards!

One of my regrets about this past - well every - Christmas season is that I didn't get inspired early enough to start all the homemade gifts & projects I would have liked to complete.

Plus, my ETSY shop picks up right at the time my Christmas gift-making would.

So, this year I'm going to try something different: plan a Christmas project for every month to get myself thinking about it ahead of time and to organize my home projects [remember my New Years resolution is to also get organized, so this helps keep me on target, as I go to look for things and things aren't there, but they are, in fact, everywhere, and well I digress...]

Some of the plans are to include:
  • Stocking project (I completed four this past season but had no time to blog about them)
  • A Christmas purse (a friend had one from 31 that I just thought that is a cute gift because no one needs one but no one would mind having one)
  • My red & white quilt (my quilting bee has just finished their contribution of blocks and I really owe them to finish a project they contribute to!)
  • Some puffs! (wouldn't it be fun to have some around the house, and especially around Christmas-time when you need extra seating for family around the tree.)
Today I just wanted to get you to NOT THROW OUT YOUR CHRISTMAS CARDS BEFORE READING THIS TUTORIAL BROWSING THROUGH THESE PICS! 

Because it's that easy. You could do this while watching TV at night when you are sick of looking at Christmas.

You will need: scissors, your old Christmas cards, and a hole punch. That's it!
You ready? Cut out images from the (non-written-on) sides of cards that organize nicely into shapes. Then put a hole in each.
Some images are already prime for the picking! Could even use them for scrap-booking.
In my pre-kid days I made this box to keep them in. It's still half-full from those days! Guess I don't buy enough presents!
Oh? Those photo cards? Extra bonus points if you regularly exchange gifts with them and use their pics! How easy would that be to sort?? Better yet, use their pets as cute gift tags! Hello!
If you like it then you stringa lil' ribbon on it! 


You know you want to PIN this. 

Happy Monday!! 

What's your project for the week? 
What project did you miss doing this past Holiday season that I should be focusing on too!?! 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"The Voice" audition report

So thank you all for your comments, suggestions and support for the past few days as I did a last minute scramble prep for "The Voice" auditions here in Philly.

I spent the better part of my Saturday away from my family in order to pursue this pipe dream the little twelve-year-old in me still harbors.

Actually, all in all I arrived at 12:30 for a 2:00 pm appointment and was seen by 5:00. Really not too bad for a reality show. This is why I was willing to do this a second time; I feel they manage the auditions really well. Although last time was a little bit quicker, I was in the first appointment group and the show was not as popular.

This report half reads as a race report, as there were about 5 parts to the day. Bear with me as I try to provide you with some tips in case you care to brave one of these 'mass' auditions on your own!


1st line/swim: You should eat. Crap. Why didn't I bring a balance bar, why didn't I bring a balance bar. I'm off my game. This is just like a race...yes swim bike run and then two transitions. Pretzel guy comes around the line. Fab. Just the thing. Not too much. Just enough to get me to (gulp, what would be 5:30.)

T1: About 45 minutes dancing around the building and we head inside. The kid behind me who had a 7:00 appointment was not allowed in the building at this time. Should take this opportunity to pee. That's your best opp before they segregate you into further lines after reviewing your credentials/release paperwork.
2nd line/bike: Drugs. You're about 30 mins to an hour out from your audition so now's a good time to drink water and possibly take an ibuprofen or whatever sinus meds you prefer. I also love entertainers secret. Never too early for that...might have sprayed some of that before bed last night....people start getting antsy, especially the newbies. Avoid the chatter. You are not making friends, you are losing focus and vocal potential. Just relax.

T2: another chance to pee as they move you from cattle corrals to smaller room lines by walking through the lobby or corridor again. 

Positioning is key at this point. Who are you singing after/before. And I happen to be between two [straight] guys. I say straight because they are not being flamboyant, but who am I to say. They are clearly here for a reason, not for a quick rush of attention, and I start to tell them I'm not happy about being in this position with them.  "I can tell. You are here because you have something to offer." They chuckle at me. They ask me, "what about you?"
"Oh God. Well, it's been twenty years for me doing this sh**. I'm just here out of habit, I guess."

3rd holding room/Run: this is it. Whatever you are going to need to do before the audition, do it now. Read the words to your song, warm up a little by humming, pop a candy that moistens your mouth, listen to your audition song in your headphones (I actually like to only do this when necessary, don't want to ruin my warm-up or key placement I already had in my head. Relative pitch is better for me in the moment sometimes.), push-ups (yeah, I don't want to know what the teenagers thought of it, screw you, I gotta get my blood pumping after sitting for 5 hours, I'm old.) Lipstick/touch ups.
Room #4? The last big room before we are taken out in groups of 10.
Suddenly the shepherds start to chat us up and try to get rid of our jitters. They suggest we get up and sing our piece for each other. People start taking turns; mostly the newbies, because the rest of us want to save our golden notes for the actual audition. We all start getting in the spirit; lifting each other up. This was probably the best part of the process- everyone just sharing music and laughter. Me and my two seat-mates were begging for "Boyz II Men" songs so we could warm up with harmonies. We got a few. Some super-funky-granola-looking teenager sang a Carole King song and it renewed my faith in the next generation. I was the only one who knew the lyrics and could sing along with her.

I was also the only one in the room with an actual book to also occupy my mind. Yes, I like to read on my kindle app, too, but in these situations you don't want to eat up all your phone battery all day. Nothing like a good old fashioned booky book.

We go in the room/finish line. Ten of us. Ten chairs are split up into two angled lines of five each on either side of the conference room, and a little taped green line separates them. The judge has a table about thirty feet directly in front of that green line. He gives us a little welcome speech, tries to break the ice by saying "you all look good...thank you all for being attractive, that makes my job easier," and we all laugh nervously. Then he asks "is it still raining outside?" And I interject, because I'm a troublemaker, "how would we know we've been inside for five hours!" And he says "we'll I've been here since..." And I cut him off and say "it's not a competition", and he laughs. Let me explain who's breaking the ice here, buddy. He shuffles up our name cards so we are asked to sing at random, rather than the order of our chairs. 90 seconds, and he might cut us off just to be fair to everyone. You get to the line, say your name, where you're from, and what you are going to sing. Come to think of it, I wonder if there was a video camera directly behind the judge just for later edits/further sorting/ reviewing. 

A little young chunky white jersey girl sings an Alicia keys song fairly well. 

A guy who looks just like Blake Sheldon gets to the line to say his name and jokes "Blake-I mean Brian..." You gotta give him credit for trying to use that gimmick. If he sang well I think it might have worked. 

My seat mate from the previous room sings an easy listening song I love, but I can't recall it now, I can only recall the gorgeous timbre of his voice. I knew I didn't want to sing after him. Didn't I tell him I didn't want to sing after him? Yes, I did. Not that it matters when 11,000 people would be auditioning in the city of Philly alone, but you'd be surprised at how many different ways you can make yourself look better.

The judge calls me ninth in the room... Good thing I'm not easily intimidated! I was actually feeling my heart beat through my chest for the newbies whom you could tell were so frightened. I knew from chatting with another girl before that this was her first time. Singing for people. Like, EVER. She sang "Stay" by Lisa Loeb and quietly murdered it. (Remember in showbiz that "kill" is good and "murder" is bad.)

Maybe I get off on this adrenalin high- same as triathlon- I'm going to keep it up. I can't help myself.
Until I'm 70 so I can get on that podium by default of the fact that there may only be three people my age in the running. 

Anyways, as I said I was ninth. I quickly trifle through my stuff to find and grab my little handwritten lyric sheet of "Let it go" and as I'm walking to the green line I say to the judge,
"You gotta help me out, do you want an old song or a new song?"
And he says, "oh no I don't want that pressure on me. You gotta decide."
So I crumble up the sheet into a ball in one of my hands and dig in for "unbreak my heart". It got the best reaction out of my husband that morning while I was warming up so I felt like it was a contender. After the first three lines is the key change and the judge lifted his head out of hs notes at that point and really started to pay attention. I could tell it was sounding pretty damn good. I have no idea how the final high "D" sounded but I held it out for 4,000 measures so I just ended on it. Could not have done any better. 

I sit, the final girl sings a country song which relaxes me a bit (you know what, there are just too many girls here I start to think), and then the judge gives us another speech about how "You see how much talent is in this room, but I'm auditioning 10 people every 20 minutes, and there are 10 other rooms going on at the same time, and we will be here for about 3 days blah di blah [ain't none o' you gettin' thru...]"
"But! There is one person whom I would like to ask to stay. And thank you all again for your time, and for giving up your Saturday to be here. Without you, our contestants, there is no Voice..."
GET TO IT, DUDE! WHO'S THE ONE PERSON!?!?! It's gotta be my seat-mate. It can't be me. But I really liked the girl who sang Alicia Keys. If it's her, I'm fine with it. If it's him, I'm totally fine with that. His voice was gorgeous...but maybe....

Just... maybe...

It's MY turn...

He shuffles through his papers...

Is it mine? is it mine? Mine was folded into quarters into my book. Is it a folded one?  
"Duane... please stick around. Everyone else, thank you again."
I slap him on the shoulder on my way out and said, "SEE? I TOLD you I didn't want to go after you" and he tilted his head back, gave a big sigh, and laughed. I could see his thinking, the trip from New York and all this day of waiting, was worth it.

For, at least, this round...

But it does give you some solid affirmation, just to get that first 'red ticket.'

I actually wasn't 100% sure he got one, so on my way down the hallway I stopped to watch him leave the room with it. I was beyond the barriers at that point, telling my husband the tale on the phone, and I would've liked to ask Duane what the judge said. But they ushered him another way, probably to a tenth holding cell where he would sing another two, three, or four songs.

Good for him.

Come to think of it, the only three red tickets I saw all day were garnered by young, beautiful, black men. And I also spoke to two older (my age), stockier guys in one of the lines who had been "called" to the audition based on a video submission.
Dancing and screaming about his red ticket. We feel you.
So, guys. As usual. Gotta get my son working on that piano ;)

Ok let's be thankful for amazing friends who will wait all day for the call that you are finished and know the perfect place nearby to catch a drink (or two or three).

And lets be thankful for kids who want to wait for you to get home before they go to bed.

And for a hubby who cooked you some nice bbq chicken legs and latkes for dinner. [weird but amazing combo.]

And for "Can we have a story mommy?" moments, after a tiring day of waiting, waiting some more, singing your face off, then slamming some martinis to work off some of the adrenalin high that fed you the creative juices for this gem:
Once upon a time there was a princess. And she had a beautiful singing voice. All the town loved to hear her sing. She would sing for her family, she would sing for the King & Queen, she would sing for all of the Villagers. Everyone loved her voice, and begged her to bring it more people. They told her to go to New Amsterdam, where they knew many more people would be able to hear her. So she went. She said goodbye to her family and her nice village, and set off for the big town. She sang when she arrived. She sang high, she sang low. She sang for people in the street; she sang for Kings & Queens. No one could hear her; there were too many voices in New Amsterdam. Only one man heard her, and he was a handsome prince! He asked the princess to sing for him everyday, for the rest of their lives. To build a house together and have children. So she did! And they lived...
* Happily Ever After *

The. End.


For. Now.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"The Voice" audition choices

Forgot I signed up to audition for "The Voice" here in Philly tomorrow! So help me decide what to sing.

You only get time to sing a verse and one chorus. You sing a Capella.

I did audition in NYC for them two years ago and sang Annie Lennox "Cold" and sang my face off. No response. 

So my "strategy" this time might be to try an original tune, just to show them who I am. 

But there have been other requests (on fb)...how do I get myself into this sh**!!



Here's the whole original song, with me playing. Hopefully sometime I can upload the audio file of my professional recording:



I don't see any real winners here.

Tell me what you think! Don't be shy.

Ok gotta get the kids and run to the dentist! Real life, people! 



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

NICU Nostalgia & Tips

Well I've been saying sometime I would post "A Typical Day in the NICU" of sorts, but it's hard for me to go back...

But this time of year, and especially with the twyns turning 5, I look back constantly and wonder where the time has gone. It literally feels like two days ago, I was rocking their little doll-sized bodies tucked into my shirt during kangaroo-care in the NICU.

One of our favorite nurses handing Baby A to me for Kangaroo Care
So I'll just try to jot down some moments, and hopefully it will give a clearer picture of my life *five* (wow, was it five!?!?) years ago...as usual, I know I'm no expert, but I do offer tips as best I can at the end of this post.

This bit of nostalgia was inspired by a friend who is a NICU nurse posting about a hard time she was having at work. I tried to reassure her by posting this photo of my Thank You note I sent to our NICU ,along with a gift, at the end of our stay, for the staff there:
Our Thank You's from A to Z

Breast-feeding in the NICU
Yes I think the first memory that comes to mind is the many different nurses who gently (or not-so-gently) touched my breasts while helping me get those tiny mouths to latch on to a breast larger than their heads. Yes, I'm a bit well-endowed, but seriously, those babies are TINY. There's NO WAY they are going to breastfeed. But, lo and behold, with the right hold (small, skinny, lumbar-type pillow under their bodies, propped up on the arm of the chair so that they are higher up at an angle, not parallel to your lap like on a Boppy), and an eye on their little noses for clearance, and you've got a good head start. Thanks, nurses. Thanks especially to the ones who coached the children OUT LOUD and made me laugh and not take myself so seriously. Sometimes in a foreign language (D.C. is a very International area, and who knows what languages babies actually speak.) Thanks to the nurses who knew when I was starting out I would need the privacy screen to shield me from other patients. And then thanks to the nurses who knew I was "old hat" and didn't care about the effin screen and gave me a knowing wink to make me feel at home.

When breast-feeding was a long shot: holding and diapering
Taking temperature
Calming her through a difficult medical treatment for her PDA
This look says it all: gratitude, exhaustion, having hope while giving up control
Breast-feeding wasn't until the final 1-2 weeks of our stay! For the first 5-7, it was holding, diapering, taking their temperatures, and pushing the little tiny ounces of breastmilk into their tubes before trying to bottle-feed. It was surreal. It was a struggle. It was SURREAL. You don't believe there is a little person in front of you; it feels more like the zoo. You don't know how to feed this animal, and the zookeepers are there to give you a fish you can throw at the seal during feeding time. Without the zookeepers, you would just stand on the other side of the glass and watch the animal. SURREAL. In these early days, "Open Crib" time was the best. There were a few times of day when the Isolettes (once called Incubators) could be open and you could be closer to your baby. Then the few times of day when you could actually hold your baby. You think you are supposed to comfort your baby, but you just cry because there are so many tubes and wires stuck on them. You wrap your arms around them carefully so you don't break them, and then the nurse swings them back into the Isolette so matter-of-factly that you start to realize you can do that, too. And you get braver and braver with each tutorial on how to change a diaper by sticking your hand into two holes in the wall with five hundred wires sticking out of your baby. Honestly that is the first time my husband had changed a diaper!! I reassured him that it is easier without all the wires. The NICU nurse who taught him how was so calm and NOT condescending at all. He took it like it was an engineering class. It was very special and sweet. I'm sure she does that five hundred times a day, and makes it seem special every time.

The tips, the chats, the notes
Just sitting there watching your baby breathe is fun, but the nurses are at their job, so they are chatting about all kinds of things. And most of them are mommies, too, so they now have, literally, a captive audience, prime for pieces of wisdom. I didn't remember ANYTHING they said at the time, but it came back to me through the YEARS, seriously! YEARS. One was a twin-mommy and she said one of her twins' favorite things to do was take off each other's diapers and play with the poop. Poop, poop, poop, everywhere. Sounded disgusting. But there I was, in poopville, about 16 months later, remembering she told me to PUT THEIR DIAPERS ON BACKWARDS, so they couldn't get them off as easily. Brilliant.

A lot of talks also turned into reassurance. That the preemie clothes wouldn't last long (it's true, we were out of them within two months), the heart monitors would be a thing of the past (lucky I didn't throw them out the window before returning them properly), and that the girls were always stronger than the boys (my little sweetheart was tinier and struggled with more ailments than the boy, and she was the first to walk, talk, and manipulate. She's now the girl in charge, naturally.)

The nurses, especially on night shift, would often leave us notes or phones messages letting us know how the babies did over night. I coveted these notes and messages SO SO much. You always worry someone is going to "Brady" [have a bradycardia, or cardiac event] overnight and prove to be a major setback in his/her progress. Circumstances can change in an instant in the NICU. We, unfortunately, bore witness to this fact a few times on the 'floor', and it is heartbreaking to watch. You hope for more 'ups' than downs in your roller coaster ride to that ever-gleaming goal: homecoming day.

The reunion
Then there are the good stories. The inspirational moments. I remember the Nurse coordinator recommending I attend one of their monthly reunions, when "graduates" would come visit and the Nurses would get a chance to see the preemie babies "all grown up." A very enthusiastic man swung into the lobby that night with an infant seat dangling lightly from his arm. He visited the reception desk and started to tell his story. "LOOK AT HOW BIG!" I start to hear. He two-stepped down the hall into the meeting room, and I followed directly after him. He danced around the room, proudly displaying his little baby in her car seat and shouting to the rafters, "15 POUNDS! MY. BABY. GIRL!" He took her out of her seat and talked to everyone and anyone there about his "BIG" girl. His smile was as big as she was, and I was instantly renewed.
Two babies in two cribs instead of Isolettes! A double reason to celebrate.
Everyday occurrences
During the first two weeks, there were a lot of critical care issues and things were touch-and-go. I would not have made it through without some very powerful friendships, and family. Never have I ever leaned on them so so much, and thankfully they were strong enough to bear the burden.

After the first two weeks, it was New Years, vacation was over, so my husband started commuting from D.C. to Philly again, and I hit a routine. Every morning I would pump at home while staring at photos of my babies, and drive to the hospital. This was a large maternity ward, so I would often see a new mommy in a wheelchair, holding her newborn baby, waiting to be picked up at the front entrance to go home. I will never be able to not cry when I think or see this. My jealousy will always get the best of me. I just wanted, at that very moment, and every moment of everyday, to get my babies home. I will always wonder what it must be like to take your baby straight home, and I will never forget the feeling of *not.*

[Don't get me wrong; we are intensely lucky with our infertility and birth story. But it's still something I'd love every healthy woman of every healthy baby to not take for granted!]

I would cheer myself on the way upstairs to the NICU by getting one latte and one piece of bread pudding. I say 'piece' because it was like a cake. It was delicious. It was exactly what I needed to give me strength to get through the next feeding, hold back tears and lactation, and head straight to the hospital pump room for emotional and physical release.

I'd return to the babies and read a book by their bedsides until the next holding/feeding sequence (no smartphones back then!). Sometimes, if someone was off-schedule, I would miss one of them at this mid-day time. I'd have to wait until the 3:00 feeding to be able to hold that baby. You wouldn't want to wake them and have them getting cold before a feeding and affect their strength; so the best time to hold them was after a feeding.
Our first 'family photo'.
If my husband could join me for the 6:00 feeding we would meet there and then head home. We'd usually eat dinner out or get take-out, because neither of us had the energy or desire to cook in our little temporary apartment. We'd call the NICU around 10 or 11 to hear the report if we needed to, and I'd pass out before waking up in the night to pump, and waking in the morning to pump again.

And so started another day...in three-hour-intervals...with various milestones (clothes! bottles! maintaining body temp! cribs! breastfeeding!) peppered in our lives until our favorite new holidays: Homecoming Days.

 The day we put them back together again
*Home*



Their Homecoming Days are something we hope to celebrate further down the line, when they can understand them, and when they may want their 'own' days, rather than a shared birthday, (especially one so close to Christmastime).

So with those stories recounted, I try to give you tips, if you are there in the NICU right now: 
  • Listen to the nurses (and doctors), they are the experienced ones in this surreal world; only they speak the language; they want what's best for you and baby. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Get comfortable. You will be here a while. It may only be a week, but it will still be way longer than you ever anticipated. Use tricks & trinkets to help you stay calm and centered, like accepting gifts of blankets and buying a comfy kangaroo-care-friendly shirt. 
  • Know you are not alone. Especially moms of multiples, many have been in your shoes. Reach out to your networks, because there is likely a friend-of-friend who can have a kind ear during this time. Some NICU's also offer mentoring. 
  • Don't expect to be super-mom yet. This is not reality. There is no way to 'prove' your worth or skill. Pumping breastmilk, if you can, does make you feel like you are 'contributing' something, but honestly just being present with your child is the most important thing you can do. 
  • Go out while you can! Shop for those last few baby items you will need; get a mani with a friend before night-feedings at home begin; shop for birthday cards for the year if you have to! Keep yourself busy outside the hospital so you remember what real life is like, because you will be back there soon. If you want to or are able to go back to work for these few weeks before maternity leave, I say go for it. I was not emotionally capable but I applaud those women who are. 
Love, Hugs, Patience and Peace be with you. 

Also, hopefully, a friend and a latte.

Email me at twynmawrmom [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to lean on me. 


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gmail Inbox cleanup Take 2, or how to become a Deleting Diva

You are about to embark upon a journey.

A journey that will have you looking back on years past and saying:

"Who the hell is Sheila?"

-and-

"Which Michael is this now?"

Sheila is the person who has been cluttering up your inbox. Or, at least she did from 2008 to 2011, and you haven't heard from her since.

Because she was actually just the name of the marketing person for that furniture store you once shopped.

Online.

At midnight.

In a haze of glory.

So let's get rid of it, shall we? 

There are two Michaels. One, is your husband's best friend, and you'd like to hold on to conversations you've had with him in the past. For nostalgia's sake, for a funny-look-back. The other one is a former co-worker whose emails are no longer relevant. This is why we're struggling with inbox maintenance.

You must be brave. YOU MUST BE STRONG! You do not need that old email, hoarder. If you don't need it for tax purposes, or the eventual speech you will make at your friend's wedding or 50th birthday party, TRASH IT, along with your maternity pants.

[you can keep one pair of maternity pants per child per decade post-pregnancy.]

This is something I've been doing for the last week in between trips to the basement to remove demo debris from the hubby's workspace, which according to him, is the key to all organization in our house because, when functional, will provide him the space to produce such magical items as shelving, beds, and more shelving, which are, as you know, not available in stores. This may also be my effort to call his bluff on the overarching excuse as to why projects haven't been finished in the house.

The newly cleared basement workshop
The newly cluttered garage-in-waiting
Oh, and the kids have been watching a Toy Story marathon in between playing with their new Christmas toys.

Thank you, Father Christmas.

As usual, I do not claim to be an expert, but I have some tips, as this was the electronic part of my organizational resolution for New Years 2014, and I've managed in five days to go from 12,000 emails to 549. (And counting!) (Down, that is!)

So, basically, I am skinny again. I'm like, 24 years old skinny. Like, almost pre-internet skinny. It's my approaching-40 equivalent, in any case.

And, while these tips apply to Gmail in particular, I'm certain your email provider has similar options. You must be diligent and curious; and in a few weeks, you could be much lighter in the Inbox. And, the best part is, unlike your fitness Resolution, you may get to a point where you don't run the risk of gaining the weight back! 

Quick & Dirty breakdown:
  1. Delete unnecessary folders you have created and send those emails back to Inbox.
  2. Allow category configuration from Gmail into "Priority"; "Social"; and "Promotional." 
  3. Delete all content in latter two.
  4. Search by senders in search box using "from: insert email address".
  5. Create filters to delete en masse unwanted senders while simultaneously unsubscribing from any future emails.
  6. Create filters to "star" en masse wanted senders while simultaneously deleting or starring old messages from this sender.
  7. Now that you have starred important senders and past emails, you can delete "unstarred" en masse.
  8. This is what got me to the 500's. I'm then going through receipts, donation records, fun and serious conversations from years past to whittle it down further, but you may not be so lucky. You may have more detailed reading to go further. Promise yourself to never let it get this bad again, and open up a bottle of wine.
  9. Create another category that applies to you. Perhaps "work emails" get their own immediate category upon arrival into your Inbox, and start from step #4 again.
Slow & Painful, and sometimes illustrated, expansion:



1. FOLDERS
Unless you are completely happy with your current filing situation, get rid of your old folders right off the bat. You want to send all those emails back to your Inbox so you can mine from there to delete. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.

While we're at consolidating, click on that little gear-icon on the right-hand side of the menu (which is 'settings') and make sure you are looking at the most compact screen filled with the most emails as possible (preferably 50.)


2. CATEGORIES & 3. DELETE CONTENT IN ENTIRE CATEGORIES

While you're in those settings, you will want to reconfigure your Gmail Inbox to 'categories' which can include "Social" and "Promotional." You'll want to delete all current emails filtered into these categories (because you don't care what Facebook birthdays occurred in 2008, and the rest of your accolades on Twitter are still on your Twitter page, and whatever discounts you could have gotten from Zulily have long passed and your babies no longer fall into the categories offered by Buy Buy Baby.)

Just delete them. This will get your inbox a fantastic head start on trimming up. Going forward, you will be able to skim these categories for anything that may actually interest you. But for now, it is all superfluous *old* fluff.



4. SEPARATE BY SENDERS


If, you are like me, you had already started a little bit of categorizing, filing, and 'marked as important' type organizational efforts. This is now screwing you. Because, in another category, "Priority", you have everything that you've ever 'starred' or 'marked as important.' And this includes birthday invitations and event details from five years back. This is when you need to start sorting by sender. In the search bar, type: "from: Evite" and watch the emails flow below. DELETE THEM. Even if there is an upcoming event, you'll get a reminder the day before it. You must, unfortunately, go through and delete by page. In each page is usually no more than 50 emails at a time. In order to go 50 at a time, you must go to the settings [that picture of a gear icon] on the right-hand corner of the inbox that allows you to view more messages at a time. So, if you have 75,000 messages in your Inbox, and only 5,000 are from Evite, it will still take you 100 pages of clicks to delete all those messages. But, like I said, consistency and diligence will win you your prize. This will be one of the most time-consuming parts of your efforts.

5. CREATE FILTERS FOR UNWANTED SENDERS
I mentioned the filter method in my first email on this subject, and included these graphics below. Take a promotional email you don't want anymore. Follow its unsubscribe motions. Then, in a drop-down menu on the right-hand corner of every email is "Filter messages like these." Make sure you click through to 'delete' this message and 'apply to all messages like this.' This will ensure you have taken care of all previous emails from this sender, and all future [sneaky] emails from this sender.





6. CREATE FILTERS FOR WANTED SENDERS

Ideally you want to use this same method for "starring" or marking in some way, the messages that you DO want to read. If you make sure that all your emails coming in from your besties and family members are starred before they even get read by you, they will never be deleted or lost in the shuffle. You could also create a folder or even top-level category labeled "family", so that they are easily found & filed after being read. Or maybe there's a family member you never want to 'star'. I don't judge. 

7. DELETE CONTENT IN ENTIRE SUB-CATEGORIES

Once you've starred important messages, you can simply use the drop-down menu to select all 'unstarred' messages in your Inbox and DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Yes, this might take a while. Yes, you can only do 50 at a time. But doesn't it feel good? No, not the carpel tunnel, but the ever-decreasing emails...the instant weight loss...
8. NOW, GET TO READING

Ok, that was time-consuming. You are going cross-eyed. You have taken several drinking breaks. I don't blame you. I alternated physical activity with sitting in front of the screen, scrutinizing senders and categories and deleting away. Then the real work begins. You want to read through those seemingly important emails that made it through all the other cuts, and see if you really want to re-hash those conversations about how the twyns' teething was affecting their sleep schedule. No. I don't think you do. But the one about how thankful your hubby is for your support, yeah, *keep* that one. Oh, you don't have that one either? Ok that makes me feel better.

9. CREATE ANOTHER CATEGORY IF NECESSARY. 

After all the spam, the promotional emails, the social networking, and personal history, you may still be inundated with thousands of emails. You may just need another top-level category altogether, like 'work' or 'wedding.' You must teach gmail what senders should be sent there, and it will require some follow-through going forward. This is not an overnight project, unfortunately. Like all organizational efforts, having a 'place' for everything is step 1, and continuing to put things in that place is step 2.

Keep up the good work, and you will see results.

You will see less than 1,000 emails in that Inbox.

And you will never, EVER, ever sign up for discounted offers on every single website out there again

Or maybe the kids will start kindergarten, and you will become a daily deleting diva. Brava!

Happy Monday! Happy 2014! Happy Inbox fitness!





Thursday, January 2, 2014

Social out-working: 14 in '14

So I mentioned in my resolution declaration to be organized in 2014 that I had a few other resolutions. Here is my fitness resolution.

I admire those bloggers who did 13 races in 2013...

It's inspired me to say NO to 14 things in 2014.

You know me! I like to get involved. I'm the first in line to sign up. I create projects...diversions...obstacles to overcome. 

The half-ironman took a lot of my mental energy and was a source of a lot of fear all last year. Once I signed up in January 2013, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I started stepping up my normal regimen as early as March 1st with my month-long 140.6...then came the 10 miler in May, the long bike in June, the long swim in July, the short tri in August, and the long race September 8th.

I can't do that this year. I'm saying no to myself and my own crazy notions of pushing myself to new levels of crazy...lets just be fit and happy. (With a little sewing and music mixed in for flavor.)

I still have my gym membership on freeze, which costs $15 per month. Normally, it is $72...so if I purchase three $20 classes or Groupons per month, it's still comparable. And I may never go back...I mostly did spin and used the pool there. Since I joined that gym I have acquired a treadmill, plenty of new spin options have cropped up on the main line, we joined a pool club in the summer months, and I have discovered Villanova's Radnor friends program for the use of their pool off-hours. Win-win-win-win. 

So what I'm saying is, one of those "no" items may be the gym entirely, but what I will say yes to, is a workout invite. Going for a run or bike ride doesn't cost a thing. Groupons will be my new gym-hop. Just found this one... 


If a friend wants me to run a race with them I will, partly because I'm sick of feeling alone at the end of them, and partly because I do not want the self-imposed torture anymore. So let me know what you are up to workout-wise. My resolution will be to try to have as many social work-outs as possible, because that seems to be the best motivation for me right now. Maybe, say, 1 a week, on average? Say, 52 for the year?  Find me on MapMyRun or DailyMile to workout with me virtually [twynmawrmom, duh.] 

Social out-working 2014: yes.
Everything else: no.

And you? Saying no to anything in 2014? 

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