Thursday, January 9, 2014

Back Again?

Even though this blog is on my mind a lot, I haven't written in nearly a year - yikes! Where does the time go?! The kids always keep me on my toes, plus I've been busy with a few personal struggles that take most of my remaining energy (I intend to share at a later time, just not quite yet...). Although on one hand blogging feels like another item on my t-do list, I've always found that writing is a great outlet for ME. I thoroughly appreciate any comments that you make, as I know someone besides just me is reading it! Maybe blogging should be one of the things I strive to do more whole-heartedly in 2014. 

On the home-preschooling front -- 

NEVEN is thriving! Reading signs everywhere we go, reading full (Level 2 -type) books, basic arithmetic is really starting to click with him, writing words by himself (still a hardcore capital-letters-user, but I get love letters nearly every day!), and imaginative play is in full gear. I know what I can do to help him thrive from here, but somehow it doesn't seem as "fun" as the home-preschooling activities we were doing when I started this blog... 

DARIA is showing interest in learning to write her letters, and so I'm trying to use that to my advantage. Hopefully, writing here will hold me accountable for planning some focused (academic) activities with her. Tomorrow, she starts a toddler gymnastics class! 

Today's Activity: BAKING
I was looking for something simple to make with the kids, and came across this recipe: They use pretty healthy ingredients (no butter, no sugar), and turned out amazing. They also happen to be gluten-free and vegan. 
Since once of the main ingredients is banana, they turned out a bit soggy - Not sure how they'll keep/freeze, but I'm going to try. 
Neven was able to help with nearly every step.
Big hit with the kids!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Planned Nothing-ness

I should be in a Gardening Class right now (my sweet in-laws enrolled me in a one-day  gardening 101 class specific to Santa Fe). But I just couldn't convince myself to actually GO. I don't feel stressed or overwhelmed, in fact I'm at a very happy place in life right now. But with work and kids in preschool and our busy social life ;) ... we don't have much time anymore with NOTHING planned. There was just something in me that NEEDED a DO-NOTHING day, a day to just BE with my kids and in my HOME. Fortunately, Matt went to the class in my place, and I'm sure the information that he comes home with will be a gift in itself. 

This morning, we baked cookies. The kids helped patiently at every step - because I didn't have a timeline to meet, I could go at their speed. 

We ate cookies (and chocolate). 
I was able to stay tuned in to Daria's potty training, which is full-speed ahead. 

We did an art project for Dad. I was able to say YES to markers and YES to glue and YES to glitter! 
We played with letter magnets on the frigde (Neven wanted  to spell words like Saturn and Jupiter). 
Daria danced to the ABC Song.
I found the kids' Easter baskets (packed away in a holiday decorations box), got those out, and found stickees to decorate the windows. 

I opened the windows and let in the fresh air. 

We did another art project (at the kids' request) - magnets for family visiting tomorrow. 

I've gotten a few chores done around the house, but that wasn't my focus. There's been no  yelling, no frustrated tone from me. In fact, no squabbles between the kids either... 

We ate leftover mac-n-cheese for lunch, on the floor while we played with Daria's fairy house. Right now, we're watching a movie. 

I needed this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Geodesic Dome Playhouse

A project I've been wanting to do for a while now with the kids, and I figured while we are living in someone else's (kid-free) home for a few weeks was a good time to do it: build a GEODESIC DOME out of newspapers. The original idea is from Disney Family Fun (I found that website through Inner Child Fun's blog). 

1. Gather newspaper - You'll need 100 full sheets. 
2. Make 25 logs - Lay four sheets of newspaper flat, one on top of the other. Using something like a pencil as a general guide, start at one of the corners and roll the newspaper along the diagonal. Slip the pencil out and tape the log shut. After all of the logs are made, trim the ends so that they are all approximately the same length (should be approximately 30 inches). 
3. Clear a large area of floorspace to construct your dome. 
4. Staple three logs together to make a triangle. Repeat, until you have five triangles. 
5. Staple the triangles together at the corners. 
6. Add connecting logs across the tops of the triangles. 
7. Staple the five remaining logs together to create a star. 
8. This is where things got a little tricky, and I needed Neven to help me - Slowly raise the triangles structure, bring ends together to create a circular fence, and staple the ends together. 
9. Staple the ends of the star to the tops of the triangles (to do this, I had Neven stand in the middle and hold the star center on his head). 
10. Optional: Add a blanket roof/wall. 

After thoughts: 
*I only used two sheets of newspaper per roll, and they were a bit flimsy - we'll definitely use four next time! 
*The weakest part of the structure seemed to be where they were joined - perhaps some duct tape to reinforce? or roll the newspaper logs along the straight edge (rather then along the diagonal)? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

BIG Changes

This blog post is a bit unlike any other. I've had BIG CHANGES happening in my life recently and wanted a place to get some of my thoughts out. 

Last month: Preschool
Neven started preschool. The first day couldn't have been more un-eventful for him or me (however, that afternoon/evening, filled with hyper-active excitement, was a very different story!). He goes three mornings a week. He loves it, is thriving just as we suspected he would, and is learning SO much about life. Still- a BIG change for me not to have him around 24/7... 
Name Change
Matt and I got married in June 2006. 
I didn't change my name then for a few different reasons: (1) We didn't legally get married at that time... it was more about the celebration and commitment to one another (we visited the courthouse later that year), (2) I was just starting in my career, and any accomplishments I had were connected to Jennifer SMITH, and (3) I was attached to SMITH - My grandma (dad's mom) had three kids: two girls and a boy. My dad had two girls. Which meant... I was the last SMITH in this immediate line (maybe the world isn't hurting for SMITHs?). 
What changed? KIDS. I got to the point where I just wanted to have the same name as my kids. 
A few weeks ago, I finally got around to visiting the social security office to have my name legally changed to Jennifer LynnSmith Sherer, which set off a whole chain of other to-do's (change name with MVD, banks, credit cards... what else do I not yet know I have to change?). I'm not at all used to answering "Jennifer Sherer" when someone asks me my name (in fact, I started that "Jennifer Sm..." before I had to hit the backspace key!), and I feel like I'm lying to them when I do! Will that feeling ever go away?

Wheeler Peak (highest point in NM, elevation 13,161 ft)
What an AMAZING weekend this was! 
Matt and I hiked Wheeler in 2002 with a good friend. We hiked in October, and so our memories of the trail were windy (60 mph!), snow, COLD (I've never been so cold in my life!), and physically exhausting. 
As we planned to hike again, I was unsure of what to expect - I haven't been in what I consider good aerobic shape since 2008 and we haven't been hiking for any significant length since 2007, and so I doubted myself being able to make it to the top without being completely exhausted. But hiking Wheeler had become SO important to me - for the first time since 2008 (notice the pattern?) I had the chance to do something for ME, to accomplish something for ME. And not because I haven't been able to, but because I haven't been ready to put ME first in a long while (I'm VERY ok with that decision, and wouldn't change it for the world!). 
We woke up at 5:00 am, silently got ready while the kids slept on, then traded places with our sweet friends Diane and Pete, who had made this hike possible for us. We drove to the trailhead, prepped our small packs, and put on jackets in the darkness. Then Matt read this passage to me: 
"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow." 
From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig
We started hiking before dawn. The hike was truly SPECTACULAR! With the above passage in mind, I tried my best to stay in the moment, both with MY being and hiking, and just BEING with Matt. We had a slow, steady pace for the entire 4-hour, 8-mile hike to the peak (stopping only once to sit down and rest). 
The climb of switchbacks Matt and I both had remembered as so grueling the first time around was marked this time by the breathtaking panoramic views and fat, fearless marmots alongside the trail. 
We stumbled upon a pack of a dozen or so longhorn sheep (including one tiny, fuzzy baby!), and were able to observe them without disturbing them for a good while before leaving them to continue their morning snack. 
Literally way before I thought it was time, there it was - Wheeler! - only about half an hour away. And still, we hadn't seen another human soul since we left our room that morning. 
We made it to the top by 10:00 am. We spent about half an hour there, (me) in bliss, watching the storm clouds tumble in (there wasn't more than a single cloud in the sky when we first arrived), drinking water, and smiling at our accomplishment. 

Starting in October, I'll no longer be a full-time stay-at-home mom: I got a job. 
Since quitting when Neven was just a few months old, I knew this day would come. But I couldn't help to wonder... Does "that part" (the scientific part) of my brain still work, or is my most valuable skill now growing and nurturing little people? Will anyone want to hire me after taking a three year leave? How will I manage to convey my skills in an interview, not having talked about hydrology in years? For the past few months, I've been putting a few feelers out there in case an ideal opportunity came along. And it did -- in the form of a friend who works remotely from his home office in Santa Fe, who also happens to be a hydrogeologist and dad of an 18-month-old. 
This is very bittersweet for me - I will MISS my one-on-one time with Daria (although this just started when Neven started preschool, and I will still have one morning with just her), the chunks of free time I've been able to find to be creative through crafting, and the freedom of no schedule (although that went away with Neven starting preschool). 
I am GRATEFUL (and this is the part I'm trying to focus on) to have had the past 3+ years as a FT SAHM, to have found something in my field, to have somewhat stumbled upon a great opportunity, and to have the luxury to start back part-time with the option to work remotely. 

Next up: California
Soon, we're headed to California to house-/dog-sit for close friends of ours while they galavant around Europe. I'm really looking forward to the ocean, beach, farmer's market produce, and more beach time. We'll be there for three weeks! 
We're driving, in our Impreza. Maijer is coming along (which pretty much means nothing besides the dog fits in the hatchback space, thank goodness for our roof rack!). Driving in an Impreza with a dog, two kids, Matt's two work computers, clothes for four, toys... means some planning ahead of time. I'm on top of packing and prepping, there's even a spreadsheet (who's surprised?). But until I get those last-minute things (like the kids) into the car, I won't feel "ready." 

Stay tuned... 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

DIY Bean Bags

Truthfully, these bean bags were inspired by my indecisiveness - I didn't decide whether or not I was going to a birthday party until the last minute, then realized I wanted to take along a gift! I found an idea similar to this one online, and altered the pattern to fit my needs. 

Part I: Decoration
The decoration for on these bean bags could be anything - animals, trucks, different colors, printed fabric... Here, I used letters to spell our friend's name. 
1. Cut 3x3-inch pieces of fabric for the letters; you'll need one piece per bean bag. I used muslin, then tie-dyed letters using sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol (full how-to here). 

Part II: Making the bean bags
1. Cut 6x6-inch pieces of fabric for the bean bags (shown here, purple); you'll need two pieces for each bean bag. 
2. Using a decorative zig-zag stitch, attach the decorative fabric to the center of a 6x6 square. 
3. With right sides together, sew one blank 6x6 square to one decorated 6x6 square, leaving a 2-inch opening. 
4. Flip right side out, and iron the edges flat. 
5. Fill The bean bag. I used a combination of dry pinto, black, and garbanzo beans. 
6. Topstitch around the edge. 

The finished bean bags! This one was for a sweet friend of ours in Taos, who was turning 2 years old.