Monday, January 30, 2012

Treading Lightly

I received some Toms shoes for Christmas and they remind me of a quality that I love in shoes: weightless-ness.

Seriously, when my shoes don't weigh much, I feel like I can extrapolate that feeling for my whole body. Forget about the pounds of cookies I ate over the holidays: my feet feel light, therefore, I am bouncy and energetic and young! Or, I tell myself: I can do anything and go anywhere quickly and easily and stealthly. I would love to buy more based on purely on the sensation of wearing them.
You might think it is difficult to get an action shot like this: blocks toppling over, toddler a blur.
Nope, not difficult.
The difficult shot would be the one where the blocks AREN'T falling/fallen over and you can actually SEE the toddler.
That said, these shoes cost way too much money. Toms claims that for every pair of shoes bought, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. I like that. But I examine these very basic shoes and they tell me that at $10/pair, the company would make a reasonable profit. At $20/pair, they could do a ONE for ONE donation. At $44/pair? I think the owner must be hand delivering via private jet to (poor?) children in Australia.

The shoes also came in a cardboard box WITH a fabric bag AND numerous little pamphlets printed on expensive paper. Why? This kind of excess feels like an insult to any sort of philanthropic intentions a purchaser may have! How about Toms gets rid of all their marketing paraphernalia and donates THREE for ONE, so that I actually feel as good about buying their shoes as I do about wearing them?

Well, if Toms doesn't up their giving and lower their paraphernalia (or cut their prices), I think I'll be relegated to ONLY giving these shoes to OTHER people as a gift. Because somehow, all the excess seems okay for a gift, but NOT okay if I'm purchasing them for myself.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

With Return

Our guests have left.

[photo removed]

And about this, I have mixed feelings.

We had a wonderful birthday party, complete with pink-streamers and a cupcakpiƱata - a style and color of decorations that I am not sure I will ever see again in my house.

We showed-off the wonders of the in-sink garbage disposal. (Yes, they exist in Germany, but are not very common!)

We amused ourselves with differences between expat German DINKs in China and, um, us.


There were tractor rides along with livestock and cowboy boots.

[photo removed]

And there were silly parties.

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And humbling gifts.

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Today, as I reorganized the house, I took my time, as opposed to hurrying so that I could make the next meal (or prepare for going out for a meal). I took a long shower without worrying about who might be ready for some coffee, or would there be enough hot water? I left the dishwasher unloaded even as we ate another meal. And I thought more complex thoughts in my native English, instead of my fumbling German.

As just-the-four-of-us sat down for dinner tonight, in our empty house, Mattias called out for our guests one by one. "Oh-ma! Oh-ma? 'El-la! 'El-la? Lr-ahs!  Lr-ahs?" He was not quite sure where they were; he was not quite sure when they would be coming back; perhaps he was hoping to see them one more time: both the joy and confusion of having guests firmly established in his 22 month old brain.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Museums

Today we dropped Noah off at school and headed over to the Denver Art Museum.

I can't believe I've lived in Denver almost three years and had not yet visited.
 I was finally lured to the so-called cultural district by a combination of the newly opened Clyfford Still Museum (designed by Allied Works Architecture) and my visiting family members. We never made it to the Still Museum; we ended up spending most of the day in the DAM.
And guess what? They actually had two installations that are awesome for toddlers. The first was this one by Rupprecht Matties. You might already have noticed I'm a sucker for carpet tiles. Naturally, I was going to love this exhibit.
Hello, colorful word-shaped pillows! I'm totally making you (in stripe patterns) for my couches. No! Who am I kidding? I'm making word pillows to play for us to play with!
And the second one was the Bubbloo exhibit.
This is such a simple idea – although I doubt it was simple to implement. Projected light bubbles float across the floor and POP! when someone steps on them. (Actually, I think the system was detecting the motion and not stepping, per se.)

[photo removed]

Hours of entertainment. No plans to make this for my house. Instead, I'll try to train Noah to move around our existing prism that hangs in the window. That will, at least, make the existing Catching Rainbows Game a little more interactive.
Also nice? There were not dozens of other kids running around. I mean, sometimes it is nice to have lots of kids around. And sometimes it is nice to feel alone with just your own kids. I tend to err on the side of liking fewer kids/just mine. Over the last four-ish years, I have often avoided places that cater directly to children. Children's museums, in particular, leave me with a feeling of whiplash. But perhaps I have also avoided too many places that are traditionally considered adult-centric. I don't know. There is something to be said for exposure to these things – even when it turns out like our recent experience at the symphony.

Growing up in the suburbs, I always wanted to do these types of cultural activities, but it was always a little too far, and a little too expensive. It was also really hard as a child to 'take in' all that was available at a museum, given our rare visits. And even though I WANTED to go, my attention span was limited. One of the most wonderful things we've discovered since moving to Denver has been family memberships, which allow us to visit places repeatedly for short periods of time (1 hour, 2 hours max) whenever we want.

Some memberships have been better than others: Fritz and I were quickly bored by the airplane museum (although the boys loved it). Fritz also developed an elaborate argument regarding airplanes as the province of the military, and the military, with its primary mission to kill people, and blah blah blah. No more airplane museum membership.  The Museum of Nature and Science manages to be renewed every year without question. This year, my cousin reminded us that our membership is good for OTHER science museums as well. Good to remember if you travel much! The Botanic Garden membership was barely used. Although the new children's garden shows promise for the future, it still seems a little dull compared to the freely available nature elsewhere. Also, I couldn't get the boys to be too excited about plants that they couldn't dig up/break off/use as weapons. The biggest perk of the Botanic Gardens might have been the discounted tickets to events like the corn maze and lights festival. Which is a perk, because those events are expensive. But it would be better if those events were included, considering they ARE what the boys like about the garden.

Today I was impressed and inspired enough by the standing collection and exhibits to get a family membership. And I'm genuinely looking forward to going back with Noah, seeing the collection again, and maybe even eating a bag lunch on the skybridge.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In the Middle

If someone suddenly placed me on this planet and explained to me the concept of marriage, I-me-myself (the Psych 101 dropout) would assume that OF COURSE! EVERYONE gets along with their in-laws! After all, these are the people who love the same person as you! These folks were the most important in your beloved's life prior to you! OF COURSE you would love them and get along swimmingly!

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Or maybe this kind of thinking turns up the pressure and makes little differences feel like chasms.

One week down, one guest. One week to go, two more guests added tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stripes

We might have reached stripe saturation until Noah jumps a clothing size.
Stripes in contrapposto
When I'm trying to justify my outrageous need to purchase (or beg my mother to purchase) every single article of boys clothing with stripes on it, I mutter things to myself like:

The minimalist expression of proportion.


and
The socks are both nomadic and striated. Hahaha...I'm sooo funny!

I truly spend too much time getting philosophical with the laundry.
Did you already know I was a nerd?

But the stripes DO make me smile.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hacked Ikea TV Stand

We've been working on finding a television stand for our television that will fit a desktop computer. I actually find it AMAZING that furniture manufacturers haven't figured out that this would be a good idea yet. Perhaps our television watching habits are in the minority?

For a long time, we watched all our 'television' on our laptops via what's-available-online. Surprisingly, my parents weren't so cool with 4 adults and 2 kids crowded in front of a 12" laptop monitor when they visited and wanted to watch something. So last year for Christmas, they gave us a television.

Like anyone who spent too many hours in front of the computer, our immediate thought was to hook the television up to a computer so that it could be A GIANT COMPUTER MONITOR, of course. We could store family photos on the computer and see them life size whenever we wanted! Hurray! We forget that a television can operate on its own. And the setup looked like this for about a year: (You'll need to look past the cute little keyboard surfer to see it.)

My father, determined to show us that a television doesn't require an expensive cable package or satellite dish, bought the antenae as well. Oh, cool, we're so retro!

Naturally, having all these computer pieces out and available to little fingers was less than ideal. You might notice the DVD drawer hanging open in the above photo. (See? I'm so glad Fritz doesn't read this blog. He'd be awfully grumpy if I knew I was taking semi-witty photos of the toddler and while letting our poor DVD drawer just hang there all exposed-like. Nevermind what's happening to the poor keyboard.)

It took us a year (and Ikea finally opening) to find some sort of semi-workable alternative.

We ended up buying two Vika Annefors, mounting them back to back, and covering the openings with a piece of board we painted to match. The board 'floats' away from the cabinet to allow for more air circulation. We cut pieces of plastic pipe to use as the spacers at the points where we screwed the board to the Vika Annefors. I'm going to let the photos tell the rest of the story.









It's definitely NOT a fine piece of furniture, but it's working well considering informality of the room and the short the lifespan of our furniture. (Have you noticed how quickly kids have a way of destroying things?)  Also, I think that most people could do this themselves. The basic design would be pretty easy to snazz up with a different material for the floating center board or baskets for hidden storage on the shelves.

Fritz thinks we need a family seal to paint on the 'floating' center board.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seque

I took down most of our holiday decorations last weekend. Honestly, I wasn't ready to take them down. But Fritz's mother – my mother-in-law – arrives in less than 1 week for 2 weeks. That was all the motivation I needed to start prepping.

While I took down the exterior lights, the boys played outside in the front yard. Mattias needed so much less supervision than he did three months ago, that I actually managed to get the lights down, as opposed to running, catching, and carrying him away from the street. It was so nice and lovely outside that nobody needed a coat.

Noah, nonetheless, has started to put on Mattias's coat for him when we are heading out. It's amazingly helpful to have the four year old dressing the one year old. Noah also sets the table without prompting. He uses the 'good dishes' and leaves the Ikea plasticware in the cabinet. So, I packed up the plasticware, while packing up the Christmas ornaments.

Plates and glasses will be breaking in our future; I'm ready. Breaking dishes will be part of learning about manners (I think). I bought new (cheap) ceramic plates in preparation. I'm more worried about the damage to the wood floor than plates themselves.

The wood floors begin to take more abuse when the weather gets nice, anyway. It's the sand: sand that is tracked inside in the warm weather. (Whose idea was it to give the boys a sandbox?)

The neighbors have also been outside in force this week, thanks to the nice weather. I find myself being my version of a social butterfly. By any objective standard, this is not very social. But for me, I'm feeling mentally exhausted from all the small talk. All the small talk is occupying the part of my brain that is usually reserved for blogging.

I secretly hope it gets cold again soon. Because I kind of miss sitting here at my computer typing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Does your husband read your blog?

Don't you think this is an interesting question?

I do.

Answer 1:
No, Fritz doesn't. Not really. I don't like to admit that. (Intentionally avoiding further elaboration.)

I've tried typing out the other answer with all it's various qualifications so that my answer is: Yes, he IS reading my blog! The post got really long. Finally, I appeased myself with this:

Answer 2:
Yes, he reads my blog if I tell him to.

All of this thinking about answering such a seemingly simple and direct question gave me three more thoughts about myself and blogging:

1) Blogging about kids when they are younger is probably – definitely? – much easier because the parent-child relationship is clear(er). Clearer both to the parent/blogger and to the outside world. Older people relationships or longer term relationships are more complex and less suited to the blogging-stand-alone-post-format.

2) Nonetheless, there's something intriguing, frightening, and challenging about trying to blog about complex relationships. Is it impossible? Decidedly, morally wrong? I don't think so.

3) Sometimes I find it very difficult to walk away from something once it's been framed as a Challenge.