At church I teach the 16 – 18 year old girls. This group is called the Laurels. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember why they got that name, but that’s the way it is. I’ve been looking for a good way to welcome the girls into my class as they turn 16, and I came up with this so-simple-why-haven’t-I-thought-of-this-before idea. I know a lot of my readers are LDS, so I know you guys will be able to put this to use, but once I saw my girls were wearing these headbands to school, I figured that the rest of the world might be interested in crowning themselves with laurels too.
With as frequently as the sad days descend around here, I pride myself on how hard I work to avoid the pity parties. For every weak day I share with all of you, there are hundreds more weak moments that I force myself past with a stiff upper lip. And then when I just cave in and need a day to feel sad and worried, I never indulge myself too long. I know I need to feel my feelings, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time on things that won’t solve any problems.
So, with that being my focus I set about kicking my gloom this weekend. I did my usual routine of indulging in things that bring me pleasure, I slept in, watched lots of lame movies, and then decided to tackle a smallish but nagging project so that I could feel like I had accomplished something. We picked up a bunch of plastic bins from Target, I busted out the good old P-Touch labelmaker, and I went through everything in Atti’s closet to see what still fit and what could be packed away.
As I was folding all those tiny clothes, I couldn’t help but get nostalgic about where he’s been. All the preemie clothes that we dressed him in in the hospital, threaded over tubes and wires; the clothes we were given from friends and marveled at, thinking he would never fit; the clothes that were permanently stained with spitup from the months and months we tried to get him to eat and keep it down despite the acid reflux. All those things that terrified me last year, are no longer an issue. He’s faced all those early threats and tackled them, I have no doubt that he’ll just keep right on going.
And then, if I needed another reason to kick off the self-pity, yesterday Atti decided to crawl:
Maybe he realized he was starting to freak Mama out and it was time to stop playing around.
If you’ve been reading along with me for any length of time, I’m sure that you’ve picked up on the roller coaster of emotions I’m on trying to parent my sweet little guy. Sometimes I wonder how different this would be from parenting any other child. Maybe I would still have days like today where I’m sad from all the pressure and worry I feel trying to help him meet his full potential. Maybe it’s just part of parenthood. Maybe it’s all hitting me harder because right now the stakes are so high for him.
As of yesterday Atti is 16 months old. His adjusted age, what he would be performing at if everything was perfect, is 13 months old. But he still can’t sit up independently, he can’t hold a bottle, he doesn’t crawl or walk. He struggles to eat mushy carrots.
I know I’ve written this post before. This is part of going through therapy. He has fallow periods. There are long stretches where it seems like he’s doing nothing, and then one day I’ll wake up and all of a sudden he’s got a new skill conquered. Those fallow periods are integral to therapy. He’s slowly building muscles, gaining size and strength, conquering all those infinitesimal steps along the way to achievement that I can recognize. I know that in a few weeks I’ll be in a new place, with new skills we’re working on. But the bigger he gets, the more these fallow periods wear on me.
This weekend we went to cousin Micah’s birthday party. 20 six year olds were running around having a wild rumpus while I sat on the couch with Atti just watching. I held the 7 month old baby of Bear’s cousin and I was absolutely shocked at the difference. The baby offered resistance. He stood on my lap like a ship captain. He sat up without my help. It was probably the first time I’d held anything other than a newborn in Atti’s life and the difference was heartbreaking. You tell yourself that he’s not that far behind. He’s not that different, he’ll just catch up. And then to feel it for yourself…it’s kind of hard to stay in your denial bubble after that.
So I gave the baby back, took Atti off his grandma’s hands, went back to watching the other kids run around, and thought about Atti’s future. He’s now 25 pounds of dead weight. What not too long ago was a delightfully snuggly little feature, is now serious work to carry around. His grandma is 5’2″ and already struggles to manage his little body. We are not far away from addressing using a stroller like a wheelchair, everywhere we go. And that would mean a whole lot more sitting on the sidelines and watching as all the other kids ran around and played.
Then on Monday we went to the birthday party of a friend of ours. They took over a little pizza place and we all got together to have a nosh. But we got there late so the place was really crowded and all the chairs were taken. We left the stroller in the car thinking that it would just be hard to manage and in the way, and we’d be fine once we were sitting, but then there was no where to sit. So we ended up standing against the wall trying to juggle Atti, the big diaper bag, and two plates of food. Then Atti choked on a noodle and barfed all over Bear, so we threw up our hands, apologized to our friends, went home and I’ve been despondent ever since.
There’s just such a steep learning curve to parenting this kid. He wants to move so badly. He gets so mad, he throws tantrums, he bangs his head against the floor. His tests say that he’s advanced in a lot of the emotional/intellectual aspects, so my little guy is already entering his terrible two’s, exacerbated by the fact that he cannot do what all the kids his age are doing. He gets mad, my heart breaks even more, and I can’t help but think about what our lives will be like if he never gets more mobility.
I keep trying to remind myself of that parenting mantra – Everything will pass. For good or for bad, everything will pass. During these fallow periods it’s so tempting to think that things will always be like this. That from here on out, this is what my life will look like. But it won’t. He may be going slower than other kids, but he hasn’t stopped yet. So I just have to find a way to hang in there.
All last week was gloomy and rainy and, sure enough, that was also the week that all the new patio furniture arrived. [As an aside - if you're looking for patio furniture, Overstock.com is awesome and has free shipping.]
I may not have been able to go put the new outdoor couch to work, but the rain is perfect for one thing – curling up under a blanket with a snuggly baby and sticking my nose in a good book.
Once I got started with the paper mache, I couldn’t quite stop myself. I came up with a technique for the big decor balls that worked really great – Mixing the paint right into the glue. It gives a super saturated color and saves another messy step and more drying time. So I had to keep going with this other idea I had.
Those party lights you see at the store are so expensive for what you get. 30 little lights for $25 doesn’t go very far before adding up to a whole lot of money for a festive atmosphere. These party lights are removable, so you can use an existing string of Christmas lights and then just take them off when it’s time to use on the tree. If I did the math I’d guess that for a string of 30 lights, I spent about $3.
Start with some water balloons, blown up just big enough to be round. I used two pieces of masking tape to prop it up – one secures the tail to the table, the other pushes against that little knot to keep the balloon from touching the table. Make sure you tie your knots are good and tight, these little balloons leak pretty easily and you want to make sure that you get all your layers on and dry before these balloons start shrinking. Working in small batches makes this a lot easier.
Mix up your glue. It should be about 1 part paint, 2 parts glue, and 3 parts water. But that is no where near scientific. Just water your glue down so that it’s easy to paint with, and then add enough acrylic craft paint to get it the colors you want.
Add the paper mache. You want to use white tissue paper for this so that the light will still shine through after you add all your layers. Tear it into small little bits. The smaller the bits, the fewer wrinkles you’ll get, but it will also be a whole lot harder. So choose your poison.
After a little experimentation, I think that three layers is just right for this project. Let them dry a while between layers, but not overnight until they’re all on. You will be fighting the clock against the strength of your balloons, so you’ll need to get all three layers on in one day. A blow dryer on the cool setting works great in a pinch.
Put a plastic ring in your hot glue, making sure that there are spaces in between the ring and the paper mache. These rings are used in crochet, so look in the aisle with the knitting needles, or the sewing notions. I found these ones at Michaels in the section with the quilting supplies.
The next time I make these I’ll take the rest of my paint and glue mixtures and paint that ring at this point to make it blend it. It’s not an important step, but those white rings are bugging me now.
Take a little bit of florists wire and thread it through that space we left so that it wraps around the plastic ring. I used green because it will match the string of lights I’m using. Put another bit of wire on the other side of the ring.
Since lights made for Christmas trees tend to have their lights closer together than the strings of party lights, I put a paper mache bulb on every other light on the strand. I think this actually adds to the effect, it makes it sparkly and festive at the same time.