Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's Your Business!

Wyatt and I were practicing our selfie game the other night.  I was trying to teach him the art of making silly face for a selfie, but he went for the serious-handsome pose.  But I decided it was a good one for this post because you guys!  Christmas is in less than four weeks!!!  How is this possible?!  

We didn't do any Black Friday shopping.  Matt went out yesterday morning to get decor with the kids, but came home empty-handed.  But you know what?  I'm glad.  I'm trying to buy less this year, and to be very deliberate about what I do purchase and keep.  Small Business Saturday is definitely more of my jam; I'm trying to support smaller business whenever possible.  

So with that in mind, I've put together a list of some of the places I'll be shopping, and where I'm hoping Santa does some shopping for me.  There are too many links here to post all the images, but please do click on them to check them out.

-- All the Pretty Letters. This is my friend Jamie's calligraphy business.  She is one of those insanely talented people.  She sings and plays the piano beautifully, writes poignant and funny blog posts, AND she has pretty handwriting.  Not only that, I got her Christmas card yesterday, with beautiful writing even on the address.  (Okay, Jamie, enough with the overachieving).  But seriously, check out her Etsy shop.  I love it all, but some of my faves are this anchor piece, and this Christmasy one.

-- Amber's Whimsy is my friend Amber's handmade jewelry shop.  She made some gorgeous pieces that Matt designed with her.  She's just brilliant at taking something you suggest and turning it into a work of wearable art.  Plus, she is just another awesome person.  She suffers from chronic illness and pain, but if you saw her sweet, smiling face, you'd never know it.  The more I know her, the more I love her.  And her jewelry... well, I love it all, but some pieces you must check out here are this necklace, these earrings, and this bracelet... or this one!  UPDATE! She's offering 20% off with code SMALLBUSINESS20.

-- Happy Hives Creations is the shop where my sister-in-law Erica sells her super fun, whimsical art.  Inspiring, fun, eclectic -- all words I would use to describe her pieces.  And also her.  Another "to know her is to love her" person, even if you're not related.  You've got to check it out!  My favorites are this one (of course - ha!) and this.  Skyler has a a Paris theme in her room, and she pilfered this one from downstairs to put up. 

--The Wild Hare is my friend Katie's children clothes' store.  Such cute stuff -- this hat, dress, etc.

-- I don't know her personally except through our Instagram friendship (and I think that counts!), but I love the work of Heart Comma Jenna, like her personalized family tree. *heart eyes*. She is offering 15% off with the code SMALLBIZSATURDAY.  The same is true for Kate Lewis.  Her art is just gorgeous.  

On less personal notes, because I don't know the business owners:

-- Cinnamon Sticks is an Etsy shop where my husband got me one of my favorite necklaces.  I don't see it here any more, but I love this bracelet and this gorgeous ring or in gold, or  these stackable rings.  Also, this starfish necklace is calling to me.

-- Island Betty sells some Hawaii-inspired jewelry I love, like this puka shell and heart bracelet. She is offering 20% off with the code MAHALO. 

I'm not sure what the cut-off is between you "small business" and "not small", but these aren't what I'd call "big business" either.  Rather, they are a few companies that are definitely worth mentioning here because they support ethical/ fair trade manufacturing, which is really important to me and my husband. 

-- First, I have two Karina dresses, and I love them both.  (This "Audrey" and a "Megan" that has maybe been discontinued because I don't see it any more.)  What a cool idea, to make dresses to suit every body.  They are pricey, at least in my opinion, but worth it.  Mine were both gifts (birthday and anniversary), but bought when I knew they had a discount going and told someone -- okay Matt -- about the discount code.  Today the entire site is 30% off with the code BLACKFRIDAY. I don't buy a lot of new clothes now, so saving up for one of these made in America beauties seems doable, at least when they're on sale.  Plus, you get points with every purchase that help make future purchases cost less. 

--And Better Life Bags.  Such a cool idea, to give jobs to women in Detroit who otherwise wouldn't be able to work.  They are not cheap, but I want one of these.  

-- Also, The Shine Project, that employs inner-city youth and puts them through college.  I love this necklace and these bracelets

-- Wildly Co is a children's clothing company that is ethically made in America.  Love their stuff. It's not just cute, it's smart -- clothing that grows with your kid and isn't (necessarily) for just one gender, so hand-me-downs, which I'm also a huge fan of, can go from brother to sister, or vice-versa.  They are offering 25% off this weekend plus free shipping.

Anyway, there are so many more places I want to and should put on here.  But if I'm going to post this, it needs to happen now.  If you have a small business, please feel free to share in the comments!  Happy Christmas shopping at stores you can feel really good about! :-)  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In With the Blue

It was a lovely spring morning in Florida that day.  Even in the midst of my early pregnancy nausea, I felt happy.  A gentle breeze was blowing through the tall pines around the playground where my three girls were playing, and their laughter and quiet chatter floated towards me.  I closed my eyes and breathed deeply and happily.  Everything was lovely, good, serene.

And then... over the sound of the breeze... came a roar.  Yes, an honest-to-goodness roar.  My eyes popped open.  A hundred yards away, there was a small band of boys -- maybe a half-dozen of them -- thundering toward the playground.  Each of them carried a stick, and for each, it was a different weapon.  They crashed onto the play equipment as my girls stood blinking in shock and wonder.

And at that moment, I had these words from the deepest part of my soul, "This is about to happen to you." I just knew I was going to have a boy.

Still, when the sonogram tech said, "It's a boy!" I almost fell off the table.  I mean, I'd been a girl mom for almost 12 years!  Pink and purple and sequins and glitter had infiltrated every corner of my life.  Don't get me wrong: I'd tried to be sensible about it. Even though I knew Jayna was a girl, I'd registered for gifts with primary colors, and asked for "not too much pink."  I wasn't going to make everything overtly girly; my own style leanings were toward classic, not ruffly.  

Fortunately, the people who love me knew better and bought all the ruffles and lace and pink they could.  And I started to love it.  I do love being a girl, and I think I get (for the most) how to parent girls.  I had only sisters.  I know what motivates us, and also what is terrifying.  I wasn't surprised that Jayna wore a tiara for a year straight, Skyler wore princess dresses with her hot pink cowboy boots, and Lilly wanted to be just like both of them.  

And then along came Wyatt, so different from the start.  All my girls (until then) were eight pounds or less.  Wyatt's birth, a week before his due date, was my scariest.  He wouldn't budge even with all my hardest pushing, I had to have oxygen, and his heartrate dropped to 28 before the nurse switched off the monitor and the doctor pulled him out.  Turns out it was because he was 9 lbs 5 ozs.
 Did I mention he was a week early?

His little cry was deeper, and he was just a tough guy from the beginning.  When Matt dropped to the floor and said, "Let's wrestle!", Wyatt, at five months,would belly crawl as fast as he possibly could toward him.  He beamed when, at nine months, I put him in the Cozy Coupe for the first time
and bawled when I took him out.  As soon as he could walk, we had to stop in parking lots to admire things like... wheels.  He loved staring at construction equipment and tractors.  When he could say "Wow!" it was for things like loud motorcycles.  Did Matt and I teach him this?  Had I ever touched a bumpy Jeep tire and marveled at its ruggedness?  No and definitely no.  It was completely ingrained in him like a river at the bottom of a deep canyon.  

And then he started talking -- really talking -- telling me things like, "I like dirt, Mom."  Since he was covered from head to toe in it as he said it, I was not the slightest bit surprised.  We passed a construction site the other day, and he said, "There's the daddy excavator and the little boy excavator."  Because, while I know he loves me bunches, and I'm the one who turns to when he needs things, Daddy is the coolest.  

He is so different from his sisters.  The girls weren't perfect, (I'll tell you another time about certain people throwing tantrums), but Jayna and Skyler went to public school for a while before homeschool, and both can tell you about the one time they got an official "first warning."  And both can tell you exactly why it was unfair and completely undeserved.  Not so with Wyatt.  He does a gym/ tumbling class an hour a week, and I call it The Hour of No.  When I get home, I need a nap.  People-pleasing just isn't as much an inherent part of his being as it is with the girls.

He has a knack for the gross.  For instance, right now he's a bit obsessed with potty words/ alternate names for certain body parts, and can work them naturally into any song or sentence without blushing or flinching, no matter where we are.  If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know that on Sunday, I saw him licking from puddles three times because he was "being a puppy."

And then there's the Great Cheese Horror... I almost think I shouldn't write this because it's so disgusting I'm still traumatized, but maybe there will be healing in my telling it.  If you know me well, you know I love cheese.  I'm vegetarian and could almost be vegan -- except for this devotion.  I vaguely recall the day a few months ago when I caught Wyatt with a bag of shredded Mexican cheese, trying to make himself a quesadilla.  Or so I thought.

But days later, I began to catch a whiff of a strange odor in my kitchen.  Then a week or two past... And it wasn't getting any better.  Then another week... I searched desperately for whatever dead animal was apparently rotting, and when I didn't find anything, I decided it had to be a problem with the sink or disposal.  I had Matt check things out, but he couldn't find anything.  Finally one night as I was in the kitchen, I said, "Do we just stink or something?!"  

Jayna walked toward me, and said, "No, there has to be something here..." And then she spotted it.  I had a large ceramic drink dispenser on the counter.  I typically just used it for parties, but I liked the blue-and-white pattern on the ceramic, so I kept it out instead of putting it in the cupboard.   Jayna lifted the lid and peeked in.  "Oh yeah.  There it is."

It turned out that my dear son had not, in fact, been making a quesadilla but had put few cups of the shredded cheese in there all those weeks before.  It was like a science experiment gone horrifically wrong.  Since I've been a mom to multiple kids (and dogs) for sixteen years, I've dealt with a lot of nasty stuff, usually the effects of a stomach virus.  And I can usually it.

But the "cheese" if it could still be called that, smelled so bad by that point, it could have been weaponized.  At first I tried to salvage the dispenser by dumping its contents into the toilet.  The smell was so terrible, though, I started heaving, so I put it in a garbage bag, sealed it, and threw it away.  My bathroom stank from that flushed "cheese" for a week -- I'm not even kidding.

And further along the lines of gross, there is something else I've learned that boys think that never crossed my mind, and it is this: "I could pee on that."  Don't get me wrong, I've had to do some desperate find-a-good-bush moves in my day, but only when there were no better options around.  But that's not what I'm talking about.  What I mean is, boys seem to look at the world as a target for their urine.  I remember witnessing this as a child and thinking boys were kind of savages, and as an adult -- a girl mom -- thinking that the parents weren't trying hard enough to civilize their young males.  

But I can't tell you the number of times I've watched my son walk off the patio and start peeing.  Or had his sisters tell me they caught him peeing out in front of our house.  On the one hand, it's fantastic when I don't have to hunt down a bathroom or use some nasty toilet somewhere -- boys can take care of business much more discreetly, and they don't look at you with the same mortification your daughter would if you suggested that tree over there.  Then again, a couple months ago, I heard the door to the garage slam shut.  I looked around and realized the only one of my kids that was absent was my little man.  I hurried out to tell him to come back inside (he was holding one of his daddy's tools by then -- big no-no) and noticed a puddle over by our paddleboard.

"What's that?" I asked suspiciously.

"Oh... Well..."  He was sheepish -- for half a second.  Then he looked me square in the eye and said as if it were so obvious, "Well, I had to go to the bathroom!"

He had walked past a perfectly good toilet on his way out!

But if it sounds like I'm complaining, please know this.  I'm not.  I love that I have a son, even with all the gray hairs he's adding to my head.  If I had never had him, I wouldn't have known the difference.  Not only was I a girl mom for twelve years, I had two sisters -- no brothers.  Sure I had guy friends and a small handful of boyfriends prior to Matt, but... If I didn't have my son, I wouldn't have known how much I didn't know.  I might have gone on thinking I was pretty darn good at motherhood (but only till I had a teenager).  I love all that he's teaching me about how the other half lives, so to speak.  I don't have to wonder so much what Matt is thinking, because his mini-me is showing me.  

And let me tell you this, too.  He loves big.  It might be a rough, knock-me-over hug, or a big tickle-and-wrestle-fest. But he's tender, too, and protective.  Just about his favorite thing in the world is when his daddy pulls out the toolbox and tells him it's time to fix things, and he recently dragged his play kitchen into our kitchen to cook alongside me.  

And he notices things -- things I didn't pay attention to.  Like the different sounds of different planes that he can mimic, or the soundtrack to Cars 2 which he hums all the time.  I've watched Spider-Man, but I never really thought about how he holds his hand until I saw Wyatt put on his costume and spend ten minutes trying to perfectly replicate the move.  We hadn't watched all of the movie with him -- just, I think, the last half-hour.  He climbed the couch and the old trunk my granddad had refurbished as a wedding present, jumping to the floor while trying to cast his webs with that perfect hand motion.

But that wasn't all he had noticed.  What else happens in those last thirty minutes?  Oh yeah, Spidey drops down and kisses MJ. So after all that climbing, leaping and casting, he walked up to me and said, "Okay, Mommy, now smooch me."  And he kissed me -- no, not exactly like Tobey Maguire kisses Kirsten Dunst in that scene (thank goodness), but very sweetly.  Then he repeated it three more times.

And my heart?  It melted into a big puddle of Mommy Goo.

So he's far from perfect, but he's my little guy.  He takes up a certain special place in our family.   I'm trying to be a good mom to him, to discipline but to love big like him.  Some days I feel like I've only used my Angry Mommy voice with him, and I pray like crazy, because I know we need a lot of grace and hyperactive guardian angels.  

But I'm so glad I've got him.