Unexpected Success, and Raw Suckage

Long story short, my five-year-old Canon sidekick completely and utterly short circuited in Grand Cayman. It was a painful, slow death that I could not stop. I found a kind, professional camera nerd who walked me through the passing and called time of death, and gave me a good deal on my new baby. I replaced my old friend somewhat begrudgingly because no one likes spending unexpected money on vacation, but I had faith in my system. I can work it off, just like I did the last camera.  On a related note, anyone have a bat mitzvah, birthday, new baby or wedding for which they need a photographer? I'm your girl. 

I am anxious to post more pictures from vacation, but I am experiencing a hitch: I have always shot my pictures in RAW format, and convert them after post processing. For some reason Adobe Bridge from CS3 is not willing to open the RAW files taken with the new 5D and says "these are the wrong kind of document." I don't know why, and I have two entire CF cards from the vacation that are apparently the wrong kind of document. So I switched to jpeg format for the moment until I figure this out. This all is a fancy, convoluted way of saying: Crap. I can't get my vacation pictures. And until then, I offer you some small success I had this week.

Ikea offered two solutions to non-camera-computer-related problems: We had children's books spilling into every single room of the house. They were breeding. There was no shelf to contain them. We have been going nuts tripping on baskets of books. It is a wonderful, blessed problem to have but it was indeed an issue.

I present to you the new home for all our kids' books except for one little basket down in the living room. This lives on the second floor of our home on the landing just as we come upstairs. I love coming up and seeing organization and beauty like this.

The other success answered my constant call for ethnic, non blonde dolls. Ikea offered a brown baby who we call Abdulwahid, and an Asian baby who is still waiting to be named. They are soft and cute they had to come home with us. Go get yours, too.

And if anyone knows anything about the Adobe/RAW issues to which I alluded above, feel free to point out my idiocy publicly and tell me what to do. Thanks!


Grand Cayman, Vacation Re-entry and the Blues

There is a dearth of words to describe how cantankerous I feel having to put layers on now that we are back in Boston. I heard wild rumors of amazing weather while we were in paradise, but all traces of such things are gone with the arctic wind blowing bits of our roof off as I type. It was in the 20s last night, and my mood has plummeted with the temperature.

The day after our arrival from Grand Cayman, I may have thrown more tantrums than Tsega and Cookie did. And their behavior was deplorable. It may have also had something to do with missed connections, delayed flights, lost luggage, sick and tired children and a tweaked back, but we are clawing our way back into Normal Life and it really kind of bites.

Grand Cayman is magical. It defies reason how I live here, and that world exists, since I would very much like to live in a place that does not require much clothing and is beautiful every day. We would (will!) go back -with a massive disclaimer that we would not go again until everyone is long past potty training and nap phase. You should go. Like, right now. But if you cannot, you can join me now for a little phototherapy to escape the lingering cold weather blues.

The flight there was awful. Crying, squirming, pee-through-all-available-clothes-awful. Despite two nights in a row of zero sleep to prepare and pack, I learned you can't pack away the Toddlerdom. But we waited out the little storms.

This one did surprisingly well. 

This one didn't sleep one wink of the seven hours of flying despite a 3:30am wake time for the airport and a few doses of melatonin.  He faithfully remained an unholy terror in regards to his sleep the entire week.

This one was also quite unhappy with the containment + strangers cocktail though the phone bought a few moments of peace here and there.

This one prayed it would all be over soon.

When we arrived at the hotel, they claimed check in was not for another four hours. They pretended to care that we had this obscene amount of crap and four highly unhappy kids but efficiently did nothing about it for some time.

The littles wandered out to the pool, and Tsega jumped in within four seconds in his clothes. The other kids followed suit. Little Miss was not thrilled when I asked her to get out.

We appeased them with a movie. In the Cayman Islands. Instead of playing, we were sitting around, watching a movie to sedate our kids, getting ticked, wanting a place to change into our swim gear and get out!

Please let me go out there Mama!

It's a sick world, but finally one of the front desk lackeys saw Hubs is a Platinum Status Dude, and they tripped over themselves to find a room lickety split. At this point, we didn't care what kicked things into gear. Cookie, before changing out of his wet clothes, did what he's been dreaming about for weeks: jumping on the hotel bed.

Finally, the fun could start. We asked the little people Where to, first? Beach or Pool? Their answer: BOTH!

No photoshop required for this place.

Grand Cayman: where the ocean is clearer and warmer than the pool...

I was concerned this one might be a bit sensory defensive and have a hard time with the sand. I should not have worried. He loved every grainy minute.

A little seaside eskista is good for the soul

The pool area was stunning and heavenly as well.

Sassy pants was thrilled with the locale. In a reversal of eloquence, she kept saying this is the best! and Cookie kept saying This is so beautiful. The air is so sweet!

Grandma Jane brought an extensive supply of sharks and ponies, which I would recommend having on hand for travel with tiny ones.

The pool featured these 20-inch-wide water ways leading to fountains into the main pool. Perfect spot for my babies to act our their games and schemes.

The pool area also featured some amazing wildlife. The birds called all the day long, and  the kids and I stalked massive iguanas all week.

Disaster struck my faithful Canon 40D camera after our first day in, and she still has not recovered may she rest in peace.

It's OK. All is well. There are more pictures to come, after all, these only represent the first day in paradise...


Packing. International Vacation. With Kids. Oh my.

We are on a 18 hour count down until we get strapped into a steel box with two toddlers who would rather do just about anything than sit, a three-year-old who has recently and very conveniently entered a phase where he completely loses his crap should a situation manifest as "unfair," and a five-year-old who will likely  be just fine, heaven love her.

My angel of a mother is coming. My dad is actually gonna meet us in the Cayman Islands for a few days so the kids are psyched beyond words for beach time and grandparent time. When we picked her up from the airport yesterday they attacked her like a hungry pack of wolves meeting up with a sickly deer. They overcame her easily. I don't think any of them have any idea I still live here.

Last night we started packing in earnest collecting suits, jammies, washing blankies, the whole song and dance of making sure we aren't forgetting anything. At one point Hubs called me from his office (he works on our 4th floor, an attic and I was two floors down)  

Honey, do you know where your passport is?
Silence on my end.
Because it's not here with everyone else's.

After a few minutes of panic (I haven't seen that thing since I traveled in 2010 to Ethiopia and a few days after we got back had Brady sooo, it's not like there was a whole lot of organized unpacking going on from that trip) I kid you not the Holy Spirit himself took Hubs by the hand into our closet with the burned out light bulb, armed only with his iphone's flashlight app, and while inspecting the nooks and crannies of a top shelf, he found my passport in the back of a cubby that houses his out of season shoes. 

We will never know the mystery that brought the passport to that remote location. We will never know how it got up there and why. It's unfathomable.  But Hubs must've had a religious experience because within moments of finding the passport he also found his watch that has been missing for two weeks, and my Rick Steves Packing Cubes which I was desperately needing for this trip.

After Hubs found the passport, he looked at me, winked, and totally pulled a Tim Tebow on the floor of the closet. I wish you guys could know Hubs. He's high comedy hiding his light under a bushel.

Incidentally, the iphone finally has proven its worth to me. That flashlight is bright!

In other preparation news this week I hit up a second-hand children's store for buckets and trucks since they aren't quite in season yet, because if these kids have anything going for them, it is the ability to play in a sensory rich environment for hours with only minor intervention. All their shovels were flimsy and I knew we crack right away. I found these babies on Amazon for $2 each and they are totally sturdy. Brady might ingest a lot of sand, but we will have the happiest crew in the world.

We are staying at a wonderful resort, but the meal situation will be interesting since it is not an all-inclusive stay. Not sure how we are gonna attack it still, actually. We are kinda "get there and see" kind of folks. We don't want to eat out every meal but we don't know how big the mini fridge will be and we will need to find a grocery store as soon as we get there to get milk for bottles since both babies need them.

Our kids wake up every morning famished and ready to eat. They eat before they can function. And the pool and beach and sun will likely intensify this early morning need.  My solution to this problem was to create easy, filling, nutritious breakfasts for the kids: oatmeal packets to go. Normal oatmeal packs from the store taste disgusting to me anyway, are full of terrible ingredients and mighty expensive.  After filling up on these babies, the children hopefully won't be asking for food for a few hours AND we don't have to spend $5 for a box of cereal once we get down there.

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We are bringing a white noise machine to help the babies sleep in our room, and a ton of books for long bedtime story reading in the hotel with Grandma, melatonin just in case, and snacks, stickers, markers, coloring books, toys ad nauseum for the flight is ready to go.

I gotta get back to sweeping, mopping, sorting and packing. Do you have any favorite food or travel or kid tips to share? I have one more day to make magic happen. And also, by way of a poll, if you were on a plane, child free, would you rather hear a mom singing every song she's ever heard to her kids to help them be OK, or kids crying? I realize the annoying factor makes this a close call, but I need to know, because it may come down to that once the portable DVD player dies three hours into the 6.75 hour flight...


Resolute! {and what to do with your sensory seeker}

Because I was consistently a day late and dollar short last year Because I need to rage against the machine, last June I made mid year resolutions instead of new year resolutions. But I haven't checked that list in some time. So long in fact that when I sat down to think about changes I want to make in this year, I couldn't even remember what was on the old resolution list.  The act of visiting that post bought both pride and shame, so here it is on record, how I shaped up:

Goal: Meditate/pray/read scripture every day, even if for just a few minutes.
Prognosis: needs to make it back on the list

Goal: Go to bed before 1am three nights a week.
Grade: B+
Prognosis: I am much better at sleeping. I accomplish so much less which drives me completely crazy because sleep feels lazy to me, but somehow I know I should rest. Hubs is relieved I am acting like a normal human. I am behind on everything.
Goal: Physical Therapy exercises 5x a week until strong enough to start real exercise
Grade: B. I did physical therapy and I found it did not help that much. I got frustrated. Quit. Didn't exercise for five months. But now I just choose to not heed knee pain and I work out anyway and in some small way, working through the pain and building muscle to support the knee seems to be helping.  I work out four or more days a week right now, which is up from zero so I am satisfied.

Goal: Get down on floor and play with kids for at least 25 minutes every day.
Grade: C+  I do it more than I did, but it is sporadic. There is still room for improvement here.
Prognosis: implement more structured play to help me stay focused: like instruments, leading a game, initiating a craft, start a game of indoor soccer, etc.

Goal: Start singing again. And play my violin more. 
Grade: D and goal hereby removed from list. To everything there is a season. I am not in the season to be a performer. It makes me sad but it is a fact. I have however brought my violin almost every week to a church nursery school I teach and play song time with the kiddos. Every once in awhile I sprinkle Bach amid the Twinkle Twinkle and Wheels on the Bus, just because, hence the D instead of F.

Goal: Choose one day a week where I will not check email, blog or FB while kids are awake.
Grade: F+  I may have done this once but maybe not. Do I even want to do this? I probably should

Goal: Organize, update, and improve our emergency preparedness items.
Grade: B- I did compile an exhaustive and comprehensive first aid kit which is in a sealed plastic tote in an easily accessible place stored near several flashlights, back up batteries, long burning candles, matches, etc to be ready in case of emergency. However, I have not updated food storage and water solutions. I would like to have more food storage and water purification tablets on hand for ya know, a rainy day or Armageddon.

Goal: Accomplish one sewing project a month.
Grade: A+ I started a business that involves regular sewing, and I have created countless skirts for Samantha, pjs for Cookie, blankets, doll clothes, a pillow, have done repairs to mine and kids' clothes. I love my sewing machine and enjoy the creativity it affords.

2011 Goal: Finish researching, developing and implement home education curriculum for Kindergarten for Samantha.
Grade: A
Prognosis: Homeschooling continues to get better and better as I add to the curriculum and tweak it. First grade is gonna rock. Cookie Monster is in on the action now and having a ball.

2011 Goal: Go blueberry, strawberry, peach and apple picking this year. Learn to can and or make jam.
Grade: B-  I only accomplished the strawberry jam, but it was diverting and delicious and I hope as the little people get easier to manage each summer I will do this more.

2011 Goal: Consciously eat less sugar.
Grade: C
Prognosis: I fluctuate. Whatever.

I must add to this list a few more for 2012.

Say No when I cannot do something. And by cannot, I mean I need to realize sometimes should not = cannot. I tend to believe myself capable of anything and go towards proving myself right, and so should not needs to have more power for me.

Throw away ten things a week. Toys, clothes, kitchen items, magazines, broken stuff. Slow but meaningful purging will keep me sane. To keep me on task I occasionally will force myself to watch Hoarders which sends me into a frenzy of cleaning panic and a trip to the basement to clean out the cat's litter box one extra time.

Increase the exercise a leetle bit more. I have jeans that don't fit and I want to fit in them.

Work on therapeutic parenting.  Not because I think we are living in a house full of attachment disorders, but more because I believe every kid deserves the kind of mom that doesn't make their anxiety worse.  I believe every kid deserved a parent that makes them feel afraid, well, never. Less anger and annoyance in my reactions. More eye contact, more positivity, more examples of calm living, less stressful reactive parenting. Find and use consequences instead of threats. This blog is chock full of good ideas. Less emotion, more love from me, is that even possible? It has to be because I hate my moments of ineffective parenting. I have lots of good moments too, but not enough I am afraid.  Hubs and I are starting a training course on therapeutic parenting and I will be excited to report any tidbits of brilliance we learn.

Final Goal of 2012: I see myself one way, and I am learning oh-so-humbly that the way I present myself to others doesn't always reflect my self description. I want to be a kinder, gentler, more patient version of myself. I think if a room full of my friends were polled about me they might use words like "energetic" "entertaining" "busy" "crazy" "creative" "social" but really, if I could pick how I wanted people to define me, it really would be loving, positive, compassionate, kind, non-judgmental. Gulp. I have my work cut out for me.

And just because you stuck around for this self-indulgent post, here is a tip for you who have kids who have intense sensory needs: Give your baby the vacuum. It provides heavy work to tire him or her out, and he or she might actually pay you back for one of the many many messes he or she makes. Tsega loves this chore and he's two. You're welcome.

Do you have any goals that are just now crystallizing as the year moves into the second quarter?  Do you give your toddlers chores?  Do you struggle with coming across how you mean to?


Pi Day

I love humans. I love their creativity. I love this piece. I love my mother-in-law for providing a mental health day for me by having the children over so I can attack laundry and pack for a rapidly approaching trip to Grand Cayman in silence. I haven't been child-free for a loooong time. I kinda wanna just sit and stare at the wall for awhile. But packing must go on.  I have told myself all we really need are swim suits, blankies, their floaties and clothes to wear for an updated family picture. The large blown up family picture on our wall contains only the first two children, and they were ages 2 and 10 months at the time.  My butt is not as swim suit ready as I'd like, but my soul is ready to get outta here. Beach, bliss, here we come.

Happy Pi Day to you all!


Ethiopia Reads: Drive to Read

Last night we had the great fun of attending a fundraiser for Ethiopia Reads with a 150 of our closest friends.

This particular event was focused on raising funds to get Ethiopia Reads a much needed car!

At large parties there are almost always initial tears but today we were happy to see smiles emerge, a willingness to play, and we even got a request for injera and alicha from this little man.

Arts and crafts

Someone walked around the place like he owned it, getting into trouble, popping balloons and making new buddies.

He is the only kid I've ever met who never gets overstimulated by a crowd. Social butterfly and "not clingy" are two apt descriptions for the youngest of our brood. I wonder how he developed those traits??

There was buna

There was a new author reading

Famous authors!


Why is my kid lying on the floor in the middle of a party?

The car theme overcame the superhero.  Cars = kryptonite for little boys.


We brought Village Thread to the event to help support the fundraiser

The Captain Ethiopia capes literally flew off the table.

We had a marvelous time reconnecting and learning more about a wonderful organization

and maybe the best part, the smell of leftovers is making our house a very happy place. I hope we hear soon that Ethiopia Reads has the car they need to get books to more and more wonderful people in Ethiopia!

Our newest (signed!) treasure for our little personal library helps grow a library in Ethiopia. You can get yours here