The All-Consuming Hobby

 

Ok. I’ll say it out loud: I am very passionate about my hobbies (or…”special interests”). I’ve rarely been one to just casually dabble in something. I either don’t do it at all, or I attack it with all the vigor of a starving lion until I’m exhausted and I have to pee. My favorite interest/hobby is creating art and crafts of all sorts. I’m currently working toward becoming a professional artist and selling my work. Many times over the years I’ve been  entirely occupied in both mind and body by all-consuming art projects. Which was an acceptable use of my free time, as long as I occasionally moved from the spot, acknowledged my husband’s presence, and remembered to make dinner.

Of course, all that changed when I had wee one. No longer did any art piece matter one iota as much as keeping my daughter safe and content. And that’s how it ought to be.

However, when I emerged from the fog that encompasses the newborn stage, and wee one became slightly more independent, I remembered I’m still an artist sometimes, as well as a mom. During her daily nap I find myself with just enough free time to get obsessed with a project again, but not quite so much that I can actually finish one in any reasonable amount of time. Which recently led me to try to sneak in some creative tweaks here and there…while she’s up and running about.

This proved to be a bad idea, particularly with my last project. I had been at it on and off for weeks. Not only was I getting progressively more frustrated with it, but one night I actually did forget to make dinner…AND I wasn’t being a present mom. (Yes, I deserve to be smacked with a trout!). With paint all over my hands and tension built up in my shoulders, wee one came up to me to play and I wanted to keep working. But the whole thing just wasn’t working. I wasn’t focusing on her, and I wasn’t focusing on my art either, because I knew I needed to be there with her. I finally gave up on the stupid project, painted it all black, and started playing with my daughter. Then I learned a few things.

First, the should-be-obvious: When people talk about balancing work and family, I don’t think they mean you should be doing both literally at the same time. (Duh.) Also, I learned I can go without eating or using the restroom for a surprisingly long time  (TMI, anyone?).

But mainly…I know I’m always going to passionately love art, and maybe eventually that drive will produce some really fantastic work. Perhaps someday, I’ll even leave behind a legacy of inspiring creations. However, my “special interest” needs to be separate from my family. Physically, my art stuff needs to stay in its own space (not strewn all over the house!), and mentally, my latest obsessions need to have a separate place in my head. That means that when I’m with my family, I need to be mentally present with them…not stewing over what pencils to use on my next piece while I construct a block tower with my daughter. I may feel a “need” to create, but I also actually need to change diapers, teach manners, and read books in silly voices. Those family needs come first. I think a quote I heard recently in a sermon really summed it up nicely:

“Interruptions are our work”.

This quote was in reference to a busy office setting, but I feel it applies to life in general. When I’m *busy* with laundry, trying to work on something, etc…and wee one comes up to me trying to get my attention (which in the moment I would consider an “interruption”)…that is my work. And by “work”, I mean my first and most important responsibility. I can usually finish what I’m doing later (unless dinner is burning). But there are only so many times she’s going to want to nestle into my lap and kick my thighs with her tiny, striped-stocking-feet, while we watch Sesame Street together.

Memories like that, for both of us, are the real legacy.

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(My latest “masterpiece”. I call it “All Done”.)

Tantrums…

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Not my kid…but definitely her expression lately!

Hey there, haven’t seen ya in awhile…

I started this blog when weebee was new, and she’s changed a bit since then. At 18 months, she’s feeding herself, running around, sleeping better, and… asserting her adorable independence, however crudely and LOUDLY.
Yep, tantrum time–we’re learning the hard way that the “terrible twos” actually hit more than a bit earlier than two! Well, hiding in the closet doesn’t help *her* any, yelling back is certainly a bad idea, and she’s not in any mood for cuddles or play when she’s that angry.

So what do I do?? The main thing is…she wants/doesn’t want something, and she’s incapable of saying what that is, usually. Sometimes I can guess and sometimes I have no idea what she wants, and I’m literally just standing there saying, “what do you want??!”. I can just feel the frustration coming off her! I can understand,  I’ve definitely felt frustrated because I couldn’t voice what was wrong myself, or so upset I didn’t have words to describe it. But if *I* have a hard time handling frustration sometimes, then how will I teach her???

Well, I’m still working on that. My daughter has helped me see what things don’t really matter (like food on the carpet can always be cleaned up), so I get upset over fewer small things. She’s also taught me what my limits are, even though I thought I knew them already (I didn’t until I became a mom). Everyone has limits, and if you know just what yours are, you can check yourself before you reach them. If I feel myself reaching a limit, it seems to help if I remove myself from the situation and whatever stimuli is making it worse.
I think/hope things will improve for her when she is able to use words to tell us what’s wrong. Until then, I’ve read that it helps to show her I’m listening and can see she is upset, like saying “I know you’re mad that it’s naptime! You want to keep playing”. Everyone appreciates a little empathy. She also likes to be forewarned of changes, like me–if she is going in her carseat, I tell her where we are going and what she’ll get to do. I’m not sure she can understand many words, but she gets my tone of voice. We’re both works in progress here!

What about you? Is your kiddo in the tantrum stage? Have any tips for calming your toddler, or helping communication skills? Post them below 🙂


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5 (Cheap) Ways to Beat the Heat

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Ah, Summer…time to soak in the pool in your bikini with a glass of lemonade.

But wait! What if you don’t have a pool, wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini and…*gasp*…don’t like lemonade? Having been raised “below the poverty line” in the sauna-like southern Midwest, we couldn’t afford very effective air conditioning, nor could we buy a pool. I’m very sensitive to heat and it’s even caused a couple of meltdowns in the past. With an index over 100 degrees even before the first days of summer, I have to keep cool to keep my cool. So I stuffed a few heat-busting tricks up my sleeves. If I were wearing any, that is. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Slowly adjust your thermostat

This is the old “frog in boiling water” trick–the more gradually you increase your thermostat, the less likely you’ll be to notice it’s getting warmer. Over the course of a week, inch your thermostat up just a degree at a time, stopping only when you hit the threshold of what you consider comfortable. We leave ours at 75 during the day but could probably inch it up another degree or two, if wee one’s naps don’t suffer.

2. Roll the windows down

On one side of your car, that is. When you’re out and about, turn down the windows only on the passenger side of your vehicle, and the air will circulate around you like natural A/C. This really works best going over 50 mph, or on a highway/freeway.

3. Dress light

Well this one is obvious…however, I used to be under the impression that “light” meant lightweight! But I sweat like crazy in synthetic clothes, even the gauziest acrylic/nylon tops are like heat traps in the sun…and forget about any light knits. Light-weave loose natural material like cotton seems to work best.

4. Spray fans

When I was living in an honest-to-goodness trailer park a few years back, we had one window air unit, which during August kept it a balmy 89 degrees inside. Putting an oscillating fan in front of the unit helped to circulate the air. However, about the only thing that was really effective was putting water on my limbs and sitting in front of the fan. A spray bottle of ice water would work even better, and there are handheld fans available which spray a mist (just google it!).

5. Use mint

Chew some mint gum for a quick refreshing burst of cool. This is especially effective with an icy drink. Mint body lotion can also “trick” your skin into feeling a little cooler.

 Are you especially sensitive to heat? Got any heat-busting tips or tricks? Let us know with a comment below!


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How to Harvest Mulberries

I looked down and realized I was making valances for my studio out of a bolt of loud 70s polyester with a 60s steam iron on a 60s dinette set with mid-century accessories,  while listening to the Beegees. I might possibly be from the wrong decade. Or maybe the right one, since some of that stuff is so popular with “hipsters” now anyway?

On an unrelated note, the mature mulberry tree we share with our neighbors is bearing again, and it’s time to pick and freeze while the picking’s good. Mulberries are among the best edible berries, IMO. They’re so sweet they need no sugar, they’re not tough nor do they have large seeds, they are full of antioxidants, and to harvest them, you simply shake the tree and they literally fall on you like *purple rain*. Supermarkets don’t carry mulberries, so if you have them then you probably got them for free from a nearby tree, which is also awesome. Unfortunately birds love them too so your car and sidewalk will be littered with colorful poo for the next two months, but it’s worth it.

  1. To get the mulberries, I use a ladder and drop them into a plastic kiddie pool on the ground, but you can also just spread a large tarp or cheap plastic painting dropcloth, shake the branches you can reach, and pick up the booty that falls. These things stain everything they touch, including carpet, so wear your grungiest digs and check your shoe soles before wearing them indoors afterward.
  2. Next, soak the harvest in a bowl of water for about 10-15 minutes, which should drown whatever got to the berries before you did.
  3. Spread them onto a paper towel on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Not too many berries to a sheet so they don’t stick to each other.
  4. Put them in the freezer a couple of hours until they are frozen solid–a COLD chest freezer is best–then remove.
  5. To remove the stems easily, rub the frozen berries vigorously on the sheet with the palm of your hand. The stems should all snap right off. (They are edible, but I personally dislike the texture). Then pick the berries up and the stems will be left on the sheet.
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frozen mulberries…lots of tasty, no stems

But now what to do with them? There’s cobblers, pies, you can put them in smoothies, in yogurt, on fancy crackers with cheese, use them frozen in slushies…and they can be stored in an airtight container in your freezer if you’re not ready to use them. I like to pick the first ripened batch, freeze them and pick more as they ripen over several days. Or, just eat them fresh right off the tree–the “bugs” are extra protein!

(No, I don’t know when this blog became another down-home-food preserving-curtain sewing- mama sort of blog. 😉 )

Let me know if you have any tasty mulberry recipes!

To Be Human

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We all need a healthy balance of time to ourselves plus time with others. However, those of us on the Autism Spectrum may have intense special interests and social awkwardness. To other people, this can make it look like we are content to stay in our own little worlds.

But what some people don’t see is that there is this unfortunate paradox for us on the ASD Spectrum. We can to tend be unintentionally socially inappropriate, which drives people away, yet there are those of us thirsty for companionship, because hey…we’re human beings.

As a mom on the Spectrum, I’ve realized I’m not an island. I’m a peninsula–stubbornly jutting out from the mainland, but still forever a part of it.
I rely on the connection to that big, varied continent of Everybody, to keep me from being stuck in my head in an unhealthy way. To relieve some of the intensity that gathers when I’m by myself too long. And when you’re a mama, there’s really no such thing as “by yourself”, but stay-at-home moms, you know what I mean–going through days mostly void of adult conversation or any communication more meaningful than whining and sudden tantrums (mine, that is…just kidding).

Yes, I would love to dive under a pile of covers, curl up into a tight little ball like a dead bug and sleep for several millennia. I want to create art and listen to music and read, or heck, just poop, with absolutely no interruptions. Not from my child, my husband, Facebook, or whoever randomly calls me.

But I also really want connections with friends and family and other moms. And to meet up over coffee/wine/whatever beverage suits the hour, discussing late nights and is your kid walking yet because mine isn’t and things like that.

I just want others to know that even though we may not look like it, sometimes we get lonely here in our own little worlds. And we may not all know how to come out and say “hi”. Though some of our behaviors may be different from the general population, we are unique, fascinating people to know. So, say “hello” to an Aspie today. Ask them what they find interesting (I guarantee you’ll get an answer!). Because everyone needs a little companionship…and that’s how it is to be human.


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7 Ways Newborns Are Awesome

Every now and again, I write up something for a mom blog outside my own. This is one of those posts…

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Whenever someone asked me how I was “enjoying motherhood” during my first few weeks of it, I honestly didn’t know if I should spout cliches about magical mommyhood bonding or just spill the no-so-pretty truth. Which meant, asking them this:
Do you enjoy waking every 2 hours to screams and being pooped, vomited and yanked on at 3 AM while the most sensitive parts of your body are recovering from the most extreme trauma they’ve ever experienced (or a major surgery)? No?
Well then why would you expect me to?
That being said…beside the obvious cuteness of your new offspring, the newborn stage comes with some awesome perks that almost make up for the zombiefication that is the first 3 months post-partum. For example:

1. Newborns can sleep anywhere, any time.
Yes, sleep comes in unfairly tiny chunks, but the average newborn sleeps a lot, and some can sleep anywhere. For instance, I could have held a heavy metal concert in my living room when my daughter was tiny and she would have snoozed right through it. Now she could wake up at the sound of a gnat sneezing in the backyard, and basically pitches a 5-alarm fit if she has to sleep any place but home. If your tot can pass out in your arms during a WWE match, enjoy that. It doesn’t always last.

2. They’re easily entertained.
You can hand a 3-month old any random object in reach, and because they’ve never held it before, it’s the most fascinating thing on earth to them. All you have to do is be uber-enthusiastic, say something like “You thought spoon was cool? Wait til you see…washcloth!!!”, and that will keep them entertained for at least a solid 8 minutes.
But eventually they will develop more advanced reasoning skills, you will run out of different voices to read books in, and the toys will become so complex and covered in light-up buttons that your kid will need to read a manual before playing with them.

3. No teeth.
Most babies are born toothless. Which is awesome because that newly breastfeeding break-in-period is hard enough without tiny incisors chomping down on raw nipples. Also, teething BITES (literally).

4. They can’t wreck your house.
House-cleaning is going to fall pretty far below “keeping a tiny human alive” on the priority list. And it won’t matter–your lil’ angel can’t run through the house smearing poo on the walls, or throw an entire plate of spaghetti on the carpet yet. This may be the only time in the next 18 years that you will have a child in the house AND all of your glassware intact.

5. They’re lightweight.
Although there are exceptions, an average newborn will generally weigh less than an average bowling ball. I could carry mine around easily and securely with one arm. But once your bundle of joy approaches the 16-lb mark, your arms won’t recover for a good 5 years. Want to pump up those “guns”? Try this new workout called “carrying a squirming child”.

6. Everyone wants to hold them.
Baby-crazy relatives/friends are gold. If you happen to see one at a gathering, they’ll pretty much be unable to resist the temptation of holding your kid. Then you can go hide in a closet for a good 30 minutes so they can’t find you and give your baby back (just kidding…or am I?). Good luck doing that with a tantrumming toddler. I doubt anyone will be begging to hold 30 lbs of screaming, flailing fury.

7. They can’t escape confinement.
Apparently, toddlers are capable of doing backflips out of their cribs (at least I did, according to my horrified mother). This is obviously not a problem with a little person who can’t even hold their head up yet. And you can set a newborn in their crib while you pee for a precious couple of minutes, without coming back to a disaster that took 3 seconds to create and will take 3 hours to clean.

Ironically, because of sleep deprivation and temporary mind loss and all, I only realized all of this in hindsight. It may feel like the longest few months of your life, but the newborn stage really is a tiny chunk of your whole life together–and the next stages have their own challenges (and joys!). So while you’re waiting to get through this, new mama, take heart that it won’t last forever. And enjoy not having to worry about securing every cord in the house, finding socks in the toilet, and fits involving carrots while you can!


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From Their Perspective

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You know something? Parenting is hard. The sleepless nights, the worry, the noise and tantrums, the flu bugs, the tough decisions…it’s enough to crumple a tough person into a stressed-out little ball sometimes. So what could be more trying than this very important job we have as moms and dads?

How about being a child? Likely none of us remember much from before age two or three. What was it like to be an infant? They have likes and dislikes and fears they can’t communicate–and they experiencing the same emotions as we do, but with an underdeveloped ability to cope with them. And sometimes when they lose their patience, we lose ours. Lately my kiddo is learning to assert herself, and I find myself losing patience more often than I should. To better handle when wee one is being unreasonable (i.e., tantrumming over something tiny), I need to try to see things from her point of view. What may be silly and small to me, is probably momentarily devastating to her, because she doesn’t know how to handle it.

In this vein, I just ran across a short insightful blog post on life from a tot’s perspective: as a challenging, frustrating and exhilarating experience. Read here: It’s Hard For Them Too

What’s the “silliest” thing your kiddo has thrown a tantrum over? Got any tips you use to help them (and you) calm down? Feel free to comment below!


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The “New” Dilemma

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I’ve got a question for you:

Have you ever been so “set on” one thing that you know you like or are used to, that you won’t accept anything else?

This will sound unrelated, but bear with me here:
Just recently, I was driving to my mom’s house to help her with some home improvement projects. She lives on a curvy, hilly road out in the middle of nowhere, where I grew up. I was likely daydreaming a bit like I’m prone to doing. Going around a steep curve on a hill, I swerved a bit, overcompensated, and…

…immediately found myself doing vehicular somersaults sideways across the road. My car landed, roof crushed, upside down in the ditch. I’m not sure what led me to be so careless, but I was lucky to still be alive. After managing to free myself from the front seat and frantically crawling out through the busted back windshield (because in movies, all wrecked vehicles explode), I wondered where I would go from here. Other than to the E.R., that is. I got help pretty quickly even out in the country. I ended up with just a slight concussion, minor whiplash, massive tow and E.R. bills, and…oh…no car.

This was gonna be tough. Because not only did I like my reliable little family car, but I was Used. To. It.
The comfortable seats, the scent of handmade soap I’d used as air-freshener, its non-descript color that hid the muddy pawprints always on the hood…it always started and I could always expect the same things from it, as long as I kept it well-serviced.

So I started looking for a “new” (used) car. I’m no people expert, but I imagine that most would probably pursue the nicest, newest vehicle they can afford. That’s what makes sense, anyway. I saw plenty that looked nice and were in my price range.

But I realized I didn’t want to get used to something else. I really just wanted my 14-year-old plain-jane car back. Same make, model, heck, even color would be nice. Of course, I own that my expectations can be…unrealistic. But sometimes I actually end up with exactly what I want, regardless of how ridiculously specific that is. I recently found something nearly identical to my last car, for a good deal. If I end up with this vehicle, it would be awesome, like getting “my car” back.

But if I end up with something else…I guess it’s really just an opportunity to remove myself from my comfort zone a bit. That’s how we grow and become more resilient and flexible, both important traits for survival and happiness in life. “New” is difficult, but maybe not such a bad thing.

(There might also be a message in here about paying more attention while driving…uh, yeah. Don’t be a distracted idiot like me. Pay attention while driving!)

How about you? Do you find it hard to adjust to forced changes? Or do you seek out ways to stretch your comfort zone? Comment below!


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5 Thoughts You Have While Falling Off Your Deck

 

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My deck…with a broken rail

Every now and then, I start to think that I’m oh-so-smart and might actually sort of…have it together.

Then, I have a moment of profound stupidity that humbles me down to a reasonable level. Nothing has triggered more of these moments for me than the rite of passage that is motherhood. Maybe not even when I was a hormonal teenager who broke three DVD players in a row. As an Aspie with her head in the clouds, I can be horribly unobservant, and I’ve always managed to be creative at maiming myself too. I’ve cut myself on cardboard, managed to knock an actual chunk out of my eyeball with a ruler, tumbled down steps in a goth Halloween costume, and recently accidentally drank hydrogen peroxide thinking it was water. But this last moment takes the cake.

While hubby was gone, I was out on our deck a few days ago, baby-proofing the wooden railing by securing some woven wire fence to the posts–leaning over the posts due to the awkward angle it took to attach it. This system worked fine until I leaned over a post that was attached by an idiot…less than expertly.

An unexpected *crack* later, I was hurtling head-first toward the ground 8 feet below.

In the .07 seconds it took me to hit the ground, I had just enough time to think some frenzied thoughts that went a little like this:

OH SHI–

Well that was stupid.

Will I live?

Maybe I’ll get lucky and just be paralyzed.

Or break something. Never done that before. I’ll cross it off my bucket list.

*THUNK.*

The most horrifying thought was, that wee one was standing by the rail I had just broken through. The second I was aware I could actually move, I hauled butt back up the steps and yanked her away from the railing. God was surely looking out for us–she was too short to fall through the opening, and somehow I ended up with nothing but some bruises, a scraped thumb and a very sore tailbone.

Folks, I learned my lesson. Don’t do ANYthing even remotely risky without a responsible, driving adult home. Hubby has since re-secured the post (whoever built the deck used screws only about half an inch long), and I won’t be leaning over things that can’t support my weight again. Hubby would like to add that if you ever have any safety-related projects to tend to…don’t put them off!

Sooo, surely I’m not the only one who needs some parent-proofing! Got any parenting blunders/survival stories you’d like to share? Share them below!

 

Some Changes

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We’ve had crocuses like these for a couple of weeks already

Happy March, everyone… Spring is on its way soon! It’s been the warmest winter here I can remember, hardly any snow or ice, days in February that reached into the 70s…very unusual for us.

But other than the weather, there is a change coming to the blog as well. With wee one becoming more and more adventurous and free time even less free, we’ll be cutting back posts a bit–to basically whenever there’s a chance! And with a vegetable garden that needs fenced, tilled and sowed, chores piling up, and side endeavors to pay off our second mortgage, my hands are pretty full. You may see fewer posts, but we’re still here, just probably in the middle of cleaning carrots off of the wall, or *attempting* to grow potatoes. So stay tuned! 🙂


 

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