Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goal Check In #1

Well, it's been one month since I set my goals for the year.  In order to help keep myself accountable, I thought I would do a quick check-in here.  So, here we go:

1. Take a photography class
       I started my class on the 18th, but am currently 2 class sessions behind.  It's an online class, so I can get caught up tomorrow afternoon when I have a little time.  So far it hasn't been hugely eye-opening, but I do find myself thinking about things differently when I pick up the camera right now.

2. Exercise at least 2x a week
       This one has been great!  I joined a gym at the beginning of the month, and have gone at least 3 times a week since then, in addition to 1-2 runs a week.  My typical routine right now includes 2 Zumba classes, 1 session of swimming, and light strength training.  The gym has so many great things I want to try that I find myself wishing I could go more often.  

3. Donate blood at least 4 times this year
         It still hasn't been the requisite amount of time since my last donation, so not this month.

4. Have friends over for dinner once a month
         We began the new year having some good friends over for a waffle brunch on New Year's Day.  It was a great time, and the time together is always fabulous.  We've been making plans for our February dinner already, too.

5. A Girls' weekend (or two)
          At our Mom's Night Out last night we began some initial planning!  So excited!
6. Finish Luke's 1st year album
           Haven't touched it yet.  Glad to have it back on my radar, though.
7. Go on a date once a month
           This month we had our super-date of 24 hours alone together.  It was a great way to start the year.  And I have to say - we are SOO very lucky to have two sets of grandparents who are willing to help us make this one a reality.
8. Weekly crafty time with the boys
            We made it 3 out of four weeks.  One week we did playdough sculpting, another was embroidered bookmarks, and the third was simple drawing with daddy time.  We did also make gak (more on that later), and have things prepped for some Valentines work this week.  But, yeah, not as great as I would like.

9. Monthly hikes
             This month we went for a very small hike on our butte (just up the street).  It was rainy, cool, and we couldn't find the geo-cache we were searching for.  Consequently, the boys aren't feeling so hot on my hiking right now.  I did also get to go on a morning hike with a friend last week sans kiddos, and that was a really great time.  This next month I need to find a good waterfall to visit - or hand each boy a camera to energize the trip.

10. Intentional internet time
             And here's the big failure.  I totally blew it.  LOTS of wasted hours just avoiding work. Or sometimes even as a lazy alternative to crafting.  Or as a way to veg during quiet time.  And once again, I have nothing to show for all those hours, and that really bothers me.  This month I am going to try and stay off the computer between the hours of 2:00 and 7:00.  Think I can do it? I'm curious to see just how much i could get done if I can!

So, some great success, and lots of areas to still work on. I'm ready to begin this month with focusing on those areas that were most challenging, and try hard to not let the others drop off. Thanks for all the great cheerleading from so many of you in working towards these goals.  There certainly is something to that public accountability, isn't there?!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Opera...

Today we took advantage of an amazing local opportunity. Portland Opera offers an educational program called Opera To Go, aimed at introducing children to the opera.  I had seen their offerings flutter through my inbox before, but always figured that we just weren't ready for all of that.  But when I read about today's offering, I stopped and reconsidered.

Today they were offering "Hansel and Gretel". Now, both of our boys had fallen in love with this creepy little story over the last month, after checking out a version from the library. They were disgusted by the evil mother figure, delighted at the wisdom of the children, and only a little frightened of the witch.  Their familiarity with the story, when combined with the length of the performance (50 min.), location (just a few minutes from our house), and the cost (an amazing free!) all screamed to us to give it a shot.

Seriously, it was fabulous.  The program was designed for children - so they had their own seating area right up front, while we sat towards the back.  The woman who lead the program was entertaining and taught the children appropriate opera audience behavior.  Plus there was beer and wine (a bonus for the mommies and daddies), and because it was all parents with young children, no one expected the kiddos to be perfect. The performance was great, and they had done a few things to make it even more fun (the witch was male, the mom was just frustrated with the Hansel and Gretel so she sent them out to pick strawberries).  And the boys LOVED it.

They enjoyed it so much that they asked to stay for the second 50 minute performance - a "opera's greatest hits", if you will. There were songs from many different operas, all introduced perfectly to provide enough context to understand the piece. And my two busy, noisy boys were captivated.  The entire time.

It was one of those afternoons where I remembered just how much I am in love with my life. Glass of wine and knitting in hand, sitting with the man I love, watching my boys listen to beautiful music.  This afternoon was art.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So proud...

For Christmas, the boys got new fish to go in our old fish tank.  They had been asking to have it set up for a while, and this was the right time.  They helped get it washed out, filled, and set up.  Then we went to the pet store, and they spent quite a while discussing which type of fish they wanted to get.  Eventually, they settled on neon tetras, glass cats, guppies, and a plecostomas.  And, as happens often, after only 3 weeks, we had death in the tank.

As I turned on the aquarium light one morning last week, I noticed a guppy laying on the bottom.  And upon closer inspection, found the other guppy dead also. Not exactly what I wanted either boy to wake up to, but they took it pretty well.  I suggested that we give them the "traditional" flush burial.  They wouldn't have it.  The fish had to be buried in the yard, next to their other dead fish from a year ago. The older one ran to the kitchen, and came back with a tupperware container to put them in, saving the burial for after school.

I assumed they would forget.  I was a little concerned that I would have these dead guppies in my fridge for a week. But that's not what happened.

No sooner had we gotten home from school when I heard both boys whispering. The fridge opened, and the guppies came out.  They got their coats and rainboots on, and went to the garage.  When I offered to help, I was told, "Mama, these were our fish.  We need to take care of it." 

So I stepped back to watch. They got out the shovels, picked two spots and began digging. When the little one got cold (it was pouring outside - a day of record-setting flooding around the area), the older one stepped over, zipped his brother's coat, and pulled on his hood.  Then they got back to work. Each fish was picked up gently out of the container, laid into the hole, then the hole was covered with their hands. When they were done, they put the shovels back in the garage, put their wet coats and boots away, and went to wash their hands.

I couldn't have been more proud. So responsible.  So grown up.  Working together, taking care of each other. Respecting life.

It was one of those things I don't ever want to forget.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Giveaway Winner and Project Life 2...

With the very scientific method of writing everyone's name on a piece of paper, folding them in half, and having Dan draw one out of the jar I recently bought for a terrarium, we have a winner!

Ms. Lindsey, you're it!!

Thanks for all the love - I really appreciate that anyone would spend any of their very precious time reading my randomness.  Well, except for you Mom.  That's your job. (Love you!)

While you're here, here's Week 2 of my Project Life Album:

Now off to work on week 3!  Lindsey, look for your yummy caramel sauce in your mailbox soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

100th post...

I think I may just be one of the slowest and most erratic bloggers on the planet.  Last September I set aside my old blog (planning to leave it for the more personal, family and close friends only kind of stuff, but where I haven't posted for almost a year), and set up here at Upon the Tightrope.  I was looking for a spot to share the changes that our family was looking to make as we sought to find a balance that worked better than the one we had. 

Since then, I've switched to teaching part-time, our oldest has begun a new journey as a first grader at a Montessori charter school, the youngest has continued in his Montessori preschool adventure, and my husband has tackled a world of challenges and changes at his job that we wouldn't have imagined all those months ago. Some of us are busier, some of us are less busy, and on any given day, I'm not sure exactly which is which.  But I do know that things are closer to where we want them to be.

Life's a process.  There are constant changes both within and outside of our control at work.  We're working at rolling with them in a way that is true to our focus as a family. I no longer feel the desperation that I felt a year and a half ago, and it's hard to tell if it is because of the changes we've made, or because we've adapted.  I'd like to think it's a little of both.

So, to celebrate my 100th post on this blog, let's have a little giveaway. Leave a comment here (not on the facebook link), and on Sunday, January 22nd I will hold a drawing. The winner will receive a jar of my favorite salted caramel sauce.  It's perfect on ice cream, in hot chocolate, or drizzled over a brownie.  And it certainly helps to restore my balance when things feel a little crazy.

image courtesy of http://www.ourfoodshed.com/
Thanks for reading along.  Hopefully the next 100 posts will be a little quicker in the writing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Love this face...

Oh, this little one has my heart.  He's also the one most likely to give me a heart attack.

He can touch his tongue to his nose.

When angry, he shoves first, then hangs his head. If you let him, he'll climb into your lap, promptly burst into tears, and tell you just how sorry he is.

He read the word "Adams" on the peanut butter jar today.

He loves his friends, but is often just as happy to play alone.

He's developing a Lego obsession that is all about the minifigures, and not at all about the building.

To this day, he still tells strangers (usually poor teenagers checking at the grocery store) that his cat just died.  Then before they get too sympathetic or feel terribly awkward, I have to add that it was a year and a half ago.

He's silent or screaming.  There's almost no middle ground.

He is the slowest eater on the planet.  He blames the rest of us for distracting him with conversation.

His brother will tell you that he is the funny one.  The rest of us agree.  He helps us not take ourselves too seriously.

He's starting to develop an awareness of others around him, and is working on being more sensitive to their needs and desires.  As long as it's not his brother.

He is the master of dress-up, and even in the coldest of weather wants to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts.  He often changes into swim trunks as soon as he gets home from school, just so he can "practice his swimming".

He is a child whose enthusiasm knows no bounds.  He loves deeply, passionately, and feels joy with every fiber of his being.  Subtlety is not in his vocabulary.

He makes every day better. And I love this face.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A weekend away...

While we are definite homebodies, every once in a while we enjoy a weekend away.  One of our favorite places to go is my parents' home.  They have 40 acres just outside a beautiful tourist town where there's never a shortage of  fun to be had.

This weekend was perfect - we spent Saturday hanging out with my parents, talking a walk along the river, and playing.  Then on Sunday, my parents took the boys up the their cabin and left Dan and I alone for 24 hours. We watched movies (The Descendants and Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy in the theater, The Help at home), had an amazing lunch at a brew pub (10 Barrel Brewing), and reveled in the lack of responsibility. And while I never loved farm chores when I lived at home, getting to go back now and bottle feed calves and use the four-wheeler to feed the cows is a lot of fun on the occasional weekend.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for a great time.  It was a perfect winter pick-me-up, and the time both as a family and as a couple is so necessary. We can't wait until the next time!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Project Life: Week1

Before I had kids, I used to scrapbook.  And I always told myself that scrapbooking would be so much easier and more fun if I had kids to scrapbook about. Little did I really understand that for the first several years of having children, I wouldn't have time/energy to scrapbook.  To put it mildly, I've fallen off that wagon, and have thought of getting rid of all the supplies that are taking up room that could be used for precious yarn or fabric.

But these days, I do have a little more time. And I've been missing having a place to gather the many photos we take along with the stories that matter in our lives. But I don't necessarily want to pull out all the cutters and papers and embellishments just to get started, never mind getting pictures printed first. So I'm giving digital scrapping a try.

And not one to dip a toe in, I've jumped in head first with Project Life.  Project Life is the brainchild of Becky Higgins, and is an easy way to document the everyday stuff. In it's paper version, it's pre-made journaling cards, divided page protectors, and packaged, simple embellishments. In its digital format (available at Jessica Sprague or through Shutterfly in an even simpler format), its drag-and-drop pictures and papers, write some stories, and use Photoshop to put it all together. My plan is to do one layout a week. Sometimes it will be one page, sometimes two. There will be "events" when they happen, but mostly it will be our daily lives. Sometimes there's a picture from every day of the week, sometimes it might be focused on major things that happen.  We'll see how it evolves.

To help hold myself accountable, I'm going to post my layouts here.  Please know that if you are part of our week, you may show up! For example, the first week we had breakfast with friends that are featured.  And one of the highlights of our week was an email we received from one of the boys' teachers, so, it's on there too.

Between my upcoming photography class and learning to use Photoshop, I hope to improve and speed up the process.  But these were done while watching basketball and  there was no mess afterwards to clean up. I'm so excited to have a way to document these important things without stressing that every layout is a piece of art.

So, there you have it.  Week 1 of 2012 is done.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Like much of the rest of the country, this winter hasn't exactly been "wintery". We haven't had the warmth that some have had, but just rain and mid 40's.  But my boys are dying for some snow. So we had to make our own.

Now, normally, I'm not sure I would have let myself call this a craft.  After all, there's relatively little mess, little preparation, and it was so quick to do.  But what I discovered was that I have had such high expectations for crafty time that we just never did anything.  It took too much energy, and some days I just don't have it. But with a goal of doing a craft with the boys once a week, I needed to find a way to make it work.

So we're lowering/adjusting the bar. Snowflakes. To make them a little different, we used magazine pages rather than regular printer paper.  This had a few benefits.  The first is that the paper itself it thinner, which makes multiple layers easier to cut for small  hands.  The second is that my boys live large and in color - their snowflakes needed to match them.

During naptime I tore out a bunch of pages from an old magazine, looking for pages rich in color.  I then cut them into 8x8 squares with my handy scrapbooking paper cutter, and folded them up. There's a good tutorial here on how to fold, if you're looking for a reminder. By having everything ready, making the snowflakes could go faster - an important feature in a craft project for my on-the-go boys.

Instead of asking them to come have craft time, I waited until they were just running around aimlessly, sat down, and cut one.  I unfolded it, squealed, and they came running.  (Just like I had planned <insert evil laugh>) They were hooked.  So we got out their scissors, and I just let them try the first one without instructions.  I worked on one at the same time, and did some modeling.

It was fun to watch them learn so quickly what happened when you cut through all the folds, or cut off a whole edge.  They didn't need me to tell them,  And the "failed" snowflakes taught them what not to do on the next one.  The oldest was able to be totally independent, and found that repeating what worked on one snowflake onto the next and then adding a new "technique" worked best for his learning process.  He would unfold it, check results, refold, and cut again..  The little one still struggles with scissor control, so when he hit his frustration level, we switched it up.  He drew a line of where he wanted the cut to be on the folded paper, and I cut where he drew.  He still felt in charge of the process, and was able to be successful.

We had a great time.  Bright colored snowflakes grace our windows, and the boys are proud of they did.  Setup and cleanup were so simple that I can't wait to find another good project for this week.  Total win.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Random thoughts...

The house is quiet.  Both boys are in bed, Dan's upstairs playing a game on his computer. I'm headed to bed in just a moment to read a cheesy novel.

Right now it's calm, and sometimes it's nice to just sit and enjoy these moments.

But as I sit here, the crazy fears and worries creep in.  The list of things undone.  The scheduling that needs to happen.  The work emails to respond to, lessons to plan, TAG events to organize.  The art project we didn't do, the phone call I should have made. And it all makes the successes of the day disappear.

Maybe this is why I keep the TV on, the feed reader open.  So that it doesn't get too quiet.

I know that dealing with any one of the list would improve my peace of mind. And tonight, blogging was on the to-do list.  So: CHECK. 

And now I have checked and responded to my work emails:CHECK.

And I've sent the email asking for a favor: CHECK.

My brain is starting to slow down.  The panic is subsiding.

Materials are laid out for tomorrow's craft project: CHECK.

I can breathe again.

And the calm feels good.

G'night, all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One litle word...

I think I've got it.  My one little word for 2012.


For oh so many reasons, this word is calling to me. In big and little ways it will help me focus on my goals.  And I know that it's a little cheesy.  But I am ok with that.  It works for me.

So, here's how I am defining light for my year:

1. I often take myself far too seriously.  This year I want to lighten up a little - learn to laugh about my challenges, have perspective on the weight of my worries. Spending time with friends and with Dan gives me occasion to joke and play in a way that hasn't always been present in my days.  Being silly and goofy with the boys, not worrying about what others may think will bring more joy to our relationship.

2. Now, this is cliche, but health-wise, I am working to become lighter - I need to lose about 10 pounds and improve muscle tone to feel better in my own skin.  I am going to do this through more mindful eating and exercise.

3. One of my goals is improving my photography.  Light is the key element that draws me into the photos I love the most.  I want to be more conscious about the physical light in my space.
 In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.
Aaron Rose 
4. My job as a teacher and as a mother is to educate.  This year I am going to work to help them find their passions, their inner questions - to desire the search for knowledge and wisdom.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
William Butler Yeats

5. I want to make things better for those around me.  To be mindful of these definitions of light:
       As a noun:
                an illuminating agent or source, as the sun, a lamp, or a beacon
       As a verb:
                to cause (the face, surroundings, etc.) to brighten, especially with joy, animation, or the like

6. I want to live lightly.  Not accumulate a lot of stuff I don't need.  Not put undue burdens on the planet.

And finally,
7. I can be the source of my own peace and happiness.  I don't want to wait for an external source of light - someone or something or the weather or whatever to be joyful. I want to find a way to be my own light.

When you possess light within, you see it externally.  
Anaïs Nin

SO, there you have it.  My one little word.  If you're interested, here are my previous words:

Cultivate - 2009