Watercolor class

I’ve been playing more with drawing and painting since last fall. Partially, I’m hoping that with a lot of practice, I could possibly illustrate my own picture books one day. Plus, it’s really fun and relaxing!

My favorite picture book art is often watercolor, so that’s why I figured I’d focus on learning watercolor.

But I don’t really like the idea of spending a lot of time working on something that no one will ever see. So I started a new blog with a friend of mine, called Intelligently Adorable. It’s fun random little stories and facts, which usually my friend writes and I illustrate. That way it forces me to keep practicing and I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. I end up with a finished product that serves a purpose, and no one is paying for it so I don’t feel bad about how bad it is!

Anyway, I’ve been following watercolor courses online, but I figured it would be fun to try a watercolor class since I’m not working now. It’s just an adult ed class, not anything serious. I had my first class yesterday. It was interesting… First, I was the only person who was under 60! Also, the teacher didn’t provide as much instructions as I thought she would. Basically people just came to paint and hang out (they’ve all been in the class together many times before) and the teacher walked around providing occasional tips.

The teacher brings some still life items, mostly flowers, for us to paint (if we want, although some people painted whatever they wanted)… Here’s how my paintings ended up!

First I made this one. I like the way it looks overall, but I’m not crazy about the flowers. I was trying to follow the advice the teacher gave me about abstracting the cluster the flowers, but meh. They look weird.

This was my second painting, I like the way the pot looks, but the flowers are again kind of ridiculous. I should have tried to stay true to the angle they really were, but I didn’t feel like sketching anymore so I just painted without sketching. Guess I learned that lesson.

This was the last one. Looks like I got lazier and lazier and abstracted more and more! The lady who was sitting next to me did such beautiful painting that were very abstract and artsy, so I tried to copy what she was doing. Again, I kind of like the pot and the leaves, but the flowers look so bad! I don’t think me and flowers get along very well.

As of right now, I’m not sure I enjoyed painting still life enough to take the class again next semester, but I’ve still got two more months to go in the class so maybe I’ll change my mind! And hopefully I get better at painting flowers, oy.

How’s the stay-at-home mom thing?

We’ve been doing our new schedule for 4 weeks now and it’s going pretty well.

In the morning we usually walk Gabby to school. I put Callie in the stroller and she’s happy sitting the whole way there (about 20 minutes). On the way back she gets a bit antsy, but I’ve figured out she will stay seated without too much complaining if I give her a busy snack, like raisins. They stick together and stick to the box so it takes her a lot of time to eat them! Without Gabby walking, it takes us about 15 minutes to come back.

By the time we’re back home, it’s time to get Callie in the car and drop her off at preschool. Preschool wasn’t too much out of the way when Chris or I would be dropping her off on the way to work, but now it feels SO out of the way. The drive is 15 minutes there, then of course I have to drive back home after. I’ll admit I’ve considered switching Callie to a different preschool just to save me time (there’s one literally next door to Gabby’s school, how convenient would that be?!) but we really love our preschool and it’s been our kids’ other home for so long, it’s just not worth changing.

Anyway, by the time I’m back home it’s a little past 9am. I have to leave again to pick up Callie around 12 or 12:15 at the very latest, so that gives me 3 hours. At first I was spending most of my time doing dishes and cleaning the house and folding laundry, but then I realized, WHAT AM I DOING?! I can totally do those things with the kids in the afternoon… Actually it’s about time they help me, with some chores of their own. That time in the morning is mine. MINE!

So it’s taking some discipline to ignore the messy house and force myself to sit down and accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish, namely writing. I found it helps getting out of the house, so I’ve been going to the natural history museum one morning a week. I bring my laptop and find a comfy spot on a bench in their backyard area. I’ve also been doing weekly writing sessions with my picture book critique group, we mostly just meet to force each other to sit down and write.

Anyway, before I know it, it’s noon. I shovel some food into my mouth and then run out the door to pick up Callie. We’re back home by 12:45, kill 15 minutes, then we’re back out the door with the stroller to go pick up Gabby.

Gabby gets out at 1:30, then we stop by a park near school on the way home. A lot of times we’re not there for very long because someone needs to go potty (*cough*cough* GABBY! She doesn’t want to waste recess time by using the restroom at school!), but pretty often we end up finding school friends there and staying quite a while.

After the park, we go home and play in the backyard. I keep thinking I should do more educational activities with them. I feel so lazy sitting in the backyard reading a book while they play. But you know what, it feels so relaxing… for all of us. I think they’re happy being left alone, I’m happy doing my own thing, and they’re really learning to play together and entertain themselves and each other. It’s so nice to see the girls spend more time together.

Sometimes we spend the afternoon at the library, or the museum, or the beach. But usually, we’re all happy just being free. At home. Playing.

Walking to school

We’ve been walking Gabby to and from school almost every day, despite it being kind of a long walk. I put Callie in the stroller for most of the way, although she’s already getting sick of being pushed around even though it’s the first time we use the stroller much at all. I cannot get enough of this walk though, the shortest path cuts through a park and it is just gorgeous… Even on gloomy mornings!




Our new craft area

As I mentioned in the last post, I replaced our piano with a new craft area. I didn’t want to buy a whole bunch of new stuff, so I reused/reorganized some of the things we already had. The girls have been using it a ton!


Without the piano:


And finally the new craft area:


A very busy staycation

It feels like it was just yesterday I was announcing and preparing for my transition from being gainfully employed to becoming a stay-at-home mom, but apparently it’s been over 60 days since I’ve written that post. That cannot possibly be true, can it?!

The last couple of months of work nearly killed me. Chris had already started his new duties as VP at his company, working basically 15 hours days 6 days per week. Tell you what, my heart goes out to all the working single moms out there, because I was playing single working mom for a while there and it is a raw deal. I was happy to do it (knowing it was temporary!) to support Chris’ new opportunity and I’m so proud of him for stepping up into a leadership role, but cripes. That was tough. I was also feeling extra stressed at work preparing my team and project to function without me, and feeling guilty for letting them down. Ugh. So overwhelming.

Let’s just say January was an extra tough month for everyone. In the worse coincidence of all times, my in-laws were visiting us during that whole month. Poor them got to see us in the worse of times. We loved seeing them, but I don’t think we were very good company! We were so exhausted.

Anyway, my final day at work finally came in mid-February and it was bittersweet. I was excited to begin my new adventure, but very sad to be leaving a team of people that I love. After all, I’ve spent more waken hours with them than my husband for most of the last decade! Isn’t that crazy?

I paid myself the luxury of keeping the kids in full-time care until March so I could have two glorious weeks of staycation at home all by myself 8 hours a day! I had planned a very long to-do list of things I always want to do but never have time for, like cleaning the fridge or decluttering junk drawers. I had assumed I’d blow through that list in no time and find myself with so much free time to write and attack new creative projects.

I did not.

I did a few fun outings – shopping around downtown, shopping outside of town, a day in LA with my mom… But really, I spent most of my staycation working through my giant to-do list which, as it turns out, may take me the better part of the next year to complete. Seriously, I don’t know what I was thinking with that list.

Nevertheless, I got a lot (A LOT!!!!) done around the house. Cleaning. Decluttering. Organizing. So much cleaning and decluttering and organizing. So, so, so much.

I also got rid of the piano in the kitchen to make room for a craft area for the kids. I bought the piano used (thankfully for not much money!) when we bought the house because I wanted the kids to be exposed to music, but it turns out we have so much more instruments that take so much less room! I really wanted to move a lot of the craft supplies from the garage to the kitchen so the kids wouldn’t always be running off in the garage all the time (the one area not childproofed!) to get themselves activities. Especially now that we’ll all be at home much more, I really wanted to streamline that process.

Anywho. That’s all to say I spent entirely too much of the last two weeks cleaning and entirely too much of my very last paycheck on organizing trays and storage bins. But I feel a lot more ready now to start our new routine tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

Here comes 2016 and a new adventure!

I realize I’ve been quiet on this blog for the last year. I’ve posted a few of Gabby and Callie’s funny quotes, a few pictures, but that’s it. You guys, 2015 has been a really, really hard and really, really sick year for us.
I know we’ve had a lot of success in 2015. I got promoted Technical Team Leader, Chris got promoted to VP of Development at his company (just recently!!!), and I signed with a literary agent… just to list the big things that come to mind.

But, in a way, our successes has also been our own unmaking. Along with more responsibilities came a lot more stress, a lot more illnesses (mundane ones, but ridiculous by sheer volume), a lot less flexibility at work, and a lot less patience for the kids.
You know, when Gabby was born, I thought we just had to make it through the first 3 months of the newborn stage and things would start getting easier. Three months became one year. “Just gotta make it through this year and things will get easier,” I told myself. And then came the tantrums, then the second child, and then illnesses from two different daycare centers, and then the kindergarten transition, and then, and then, and then…

Well it’s been five and a half years since we started this journey as parents and you know what, I’m still waiting for things to get easier. The kids are more independent now than when they were babies, yes, but there’s always something. And now we’re dealing with those somethings with five years of exhaustion under our belts and more responsibilities at work, and you know what, I’m done waiting for things to get easier. If anything came out of 2015, it’s me realizing our lifestyle had to change. We need to MAKE our lives easier NOW. No more waiting.
Now the big reveal: I quit my job and will become a stay-at-home mom!
Well, that’s the simplified version. The plan is, for now, that Gabby will continue to attend kindergarten (obviously) but she will no longer be going to an after school care. Callie will continue to attend preschool every day, but only in the morning. That means I will have the mornings to myself, and the afternoons for the kids.
What I hope to accomplish with my new-found free time is growing my writing career (take advantage of that agent I landed!) and working on my own programming projects that I’ve been putting off for years. In other words, investing more time into my own products rather than someone else’s. So maybe “stay-at-home mom” doesn’t really say it all. More like “part-time self-employed stay-at-home mom.”
But, I refuse to leave my stressful job just to stress out about something else. So, who knows. My primary focus will be on the kids and making our lives easier and healthier.
I gave my boss plenty of warning time. I won’t actually leave work until mid-February. But I’m looking forward to a new adventure for 2016, one centered around family, pursuing my own dreams, and supporting my husband through this huge opportunity.
It is the most unsafe decision I’ve ever made in my life. What if we can’t make it without my salary? What if I can’t find another programming job later? What if I regret this? What if I hate being a stay-at-home mom? What if Chris loses his job? What if we need a new car?
But I think it’s the right decision to make for our well-being. Here’s to a new adventure!

Safety education

At Gabby’s afterschool program, they’ve been talking lately about safety. What to do if they are alone at home and a stranger knocks at the door, etc. She was telling me about it, and I quizzed her about different scenarios. What if it’s the mailman? What if it’s a woman who says “it’s mom” but you’re not sure because you can’t see her? What if it’s the mom or dad of a friend? What if they insist, yell, or won’t leave? What if it’s a person who says you need to come out to help mommy? It took a while, but she finally accepted that she shouldn’t open the door to anyone no matter who it is or what convincing argument they say.

Then she started asking other safety questions… What if there’s a fire? What if there’s smoke but no fire? It took a while, but she finally accepted that if there’s something wrong inside the house then she should get out even if it means breaking a window or a screen or whatever.

She thought about all of this. Then she gasped. “Mom! What if there’s a fire inside AND a stranger at the door?!”

I had to laugh. Of course she would find the hole in these rules. I didn’t know what to say other than “get out and run away really fast?”

Sounds like that would be a really bad day!

Knock knock

Callie made up her first knock-knock joke this week!

Callie: knock knock.

Me: who’s there?

Callie: chicken.

Me: chicken who?

Callie: chicken soup!

Already better than Gabby’s nonsensical jokes. (“Frog” frog who? “Frog banana see you!” – I don’t think Gabby really gets how to put together puns yet!)

Gabrielle’s axioms

I bought cookies last Thursday to celebrate me signing the agency contract and sending it in the mail. I get home and have this conversation with Gabby…

Gabby: What are we having for dinner?

Me: Nachos. I also bought cookies to celebrate.

(A normal person would reply: What are we celebrating?)

Gabby, dead serious: To celebrate nachos?

No. We are not celebrating nachos.