Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks for Small Things

This Thanksgiving I am finding I am thankful for the small things in life:

Finding creativity in small places,
Our son, teaching us that huge things come in small packages,
Small furry family members, for sharing our lives,
Our small living space so that we can grow closer as a family,
The small bits of time we have gotten to spend with friends and family this year,
And the small bit of sanity we get to reclaim when Toddlesworth is being nannied.

We promised we weren't planning on putting tons of food posts on this blog, but I think Thanksgiving will be one of the exceptions... we made some good food and we will get some pictures uploaded as soon as possible to talk about what we generally do for Thanksgiving and how this one differed from some we have had in the past.

I hope all of you readers had a wonderful time with friends and family, and remembered that we should try to be thankful every day of the year for what we have, not just one or thirty.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Toddlesworth Tuesday: Terrible Toddlesworth

It is becoming the usual to do Toddlesworth Tuesday posts on Wednesday. This is not how I'd like it, and for the last three weeks it has been a product of Toddlesworth himself. It is easiest to type when he is asleep and sometimes that is far later than we would like it. We are trying to create more structure in his, and all of our lives effective immediately. 
I am so thankful for the nights where he goes to bed easily (he even asked to be put to bed before nine one night this week-what did we do right on that day?!), but some nights he just isn't having it. He will say he is sleepy and ask to be put in bed and be cuddled, then proceed to toss and turn and slap us in the eyes and cry for an hour before he actually goes to sleep.
 
The first step in that direction is nixing the bottles. As I have mentioned before, he has been pretty much exclusively co-sleeping with us for a while now, and he has recently been sick. He has always had an upswing in bottle drinking when he gets sick, but this one stuck around longer than usual. Until a couple days ago he was still waking up and asking for a bottle several times a night, and might go through two whole bottles in the night. For the last 48 hours or so we have cut out bottles cold turkey. He has one bottle with a sippy cup type nipple, and several sippy cups. I expected a meltdown type reaction, but he has been only slightly disgruntled about it. When he wakes up and asks for a bottle, I'll give him some variety of sippy cup. He will do mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to get it in his mouth without spilling it on his eyes and ends up drinking far less than he had been recently. 

I did end up breaking the crib down as I had mentioned I might be doing. This has given us  a little bit more space and made the bookshelf/toy shelf more accessible to Toddles. We kept the mattress shoved behind the changing table as shown, to be used if needed.
I never explained the upside down lamp, and I wonder if anyone even noticed. Sometimes, you've just go to go with whatever works.
We have had very cold weather recently, but this has not slowed Toddlesworth's desire for walks.  We will stick him in a jacket and off he will go. When it gets too cold for him he will shiver very dramatically and ask to be carried back.
His nose and cheeks are so red from the cold here!
 We even went on a late night excursion to the state park. Lord Covington shined his phone flash light around and Toddlesworth tried to slyly sneak into puddles.


 
We spent a chunk of today prepping for Thanksgiving, but Toddles wanted to go on a quick exploratory walk after his nap.
 



 
 
 Here are some bonus pictures of the furry family members enjoying the family walk. Morpheus will endanger all of our lives for his ball, but a stick will do in a pinch.



That is this week in Toddlesville.   As a quick aside, some of my artwork was featured in a blog:  http://totusmelswunderkammer.blogspot.com/2013/11/octopus.html
It is pretty exciting for me, since I don't know the blogger; it is the first time a stranger has found my work likable. : )

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Deep Fried White Trash Vegan Evolutions

By Lord Covington, [additions by Lady Covington as so

For the better part of my veganness, I have proudly waved the white trash vegan banner.  What nonsense is that, you ask?  Well, the best example I've got is: "I am vegan, so therefore I eat tofu, but I am Southern, so the tofu is deep fried."  As far as I have been concerned in the past, vegan as a health choice was secondary or even tertiary to the ethical considerations.  So after being sure something was vegan my next concern was flavor.  I wanted to eat all the southern-fried-heart-attack foods I ate before, just with vegan substitutions.   It's surprisingly easy to eat less than optimally nutritious, fantastic tasting food as a vegan.  Know what's vegan? Oreos, Texas toast, almost all pasta noodles, baked potatoes, [mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, hash browns, tater tots]  and a great many cobblers.  White trash vegan paradise, my friends, is what it is.

      Combine our love of Fatty Mcgreasealot foods and the fact that we were poor college students when we met, AND that I've never particularly cared for salads; and it made for a whole lot of Ramen noodle or (GOD) butter noodle breakfast lunch and dinners for lady Covington and I in the beginning. [At our poorest and most desperate,] we even made some sort of "vegan fish patty" that was mostly just white flour and oil.  I have no idea why I just didn't burst open into a torrent of butter in those days.
   
      I've had a sneaking  suspicion that I was gluten intolerant for a number of years.  My younger sister has the same intolerance.  I've always felt a bit of bloated pain with my breads.  The problem, as you may have guessed, is that bread is so damned awesome.  And already being vegan, I had terrifying visions of me just eating moss, sticks and leaves ( or I guess you could call it salad or whatever) , with a somber resigned expression on my face.  This kept me eating things that my body didn't need in the name of my taste buds.  In the 1st year of Toddlesworth's life I began to notice a stiffness in muscles and joints that wasn't there before.  Then one morning I woke up with swollen hands such that my wedding ring was causing me pain.  No way was I going to be Captain Slug Body in my middle 30s.  Some little guy was counting on me to run around with him and carry him and generally be an awesome playmate.  I drew a line in the sand and stopped, cold turkey, on the gluten. I was surprised to discover that I don't miss it.  Sandwiches are a little more complicated now, but  it is completely worth it to not feel as though I have swallowed a brick after a meal.

So here's a snapshot of where my diet is/ is going circa the end of 2013.  I snack on snap peas, and Snapea Crisps ( by Calbee : PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT!).  I eat as much fruit as I do noodles of any kind.  I haven't eliminated corn chips yet, but most every other kind.   I still sometimes struggle with energy drinks, but I drink water as a normal occurrence now.  Lady Covington even occasionally gets me to eat a salad, because she understands the sacred mysteries of avocado.

[We are still a far cry from where I'd like to be. I want to move further away from processed foods, I want to buy healthful junk food when we do buy it, (rather than the Oreos I do still occasionally eat) and I want to make more of our food from scratch and in bulk.  I think part of my new years resolutions will be to take on a cooking project once or twice a month and learn how to make something (vegan margarine from scratch, gluten free breads from scratch, etc) as well as to begin trying to make some of our favorite foods up in bulk and freeze them. One thing is for certain, our son is being raised with much better eating habits than we ever had when we were growing up!]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Redefining yourself: Words and Image.

By Lady Covington

I am a big proponent of redefining yourself.

Sometimes it is about what is in a name: Choosing our own last name was one major way Lord Covington defined each other by our own expectations rather than those of society.  For the past several years I have gone by a unique shortening of my first name (like Topher instead of Christopher). Instead of Kimberly, I go by Imber. People tend to remember it, which is useful for meet and greets for work, and I hope eventually in the art world, if my work ever gets off of the ground.  There are tons of people who still use my full name, and I don't reject it, I just don't feel like it is 'me' as much as Imber is, in the same way 12 year old me is still me, just not the most current and accurate incarnation.

It wasn't the first time I had changed an aspect of myself. Growing up, I never felt very feminine. Not in the 'I'm a tomboy and don't care about that stuff' sort of way, (though I'm sure I was a bit of a tomboy), but more in the "I'd like to be pretty and wear dresses and makeup but that's just not me, I'm not one of the pretty girls" type of way.  I don't think I ever wore a skirt before leaving home to UNT. I fell in love with the gypsy/hippie long skirt look, and began wearing long skirts and peasant blouses. I even occasionally threw in a short skirt, if it was for a costume event.

Somewhere along the way, I decided pants were for suckers and avoided wearing them whenever possible. When given the opportunity to wear a uniform skirt for work, I did so, even though the tannish color was terrible. I wore knee length socks with them, which, thinking back on it, was probably not the best look, but heaven forbid I actually show my pasty flesh.  In those days I still spent a lot of time in pajama pants out of work, and several hours a day for each of us was spent in a Taekwondo gi.  When Lord Covington took the position in Corpus Christi, I checked outlets and thrift stores and upgraded my wardrobe to a couple cute skirt suits, a few miscellaneous skirts, and some pantyhose. Adding to my normal body image issues was the fact that the major wreck we had had happened about a year before our move, and I had a massive scar on one knee. So yep, I would still not be showing off leg skin. 103 degree, humid bay weather, and I was in black hose.

This would continue until I was pregnant with Toddlesworth. Amongst all of the scare inducing pregnancy horror reading was a line about varicose veins. I suddenly realized that my scar wasn't that bad. I decided I would take advantage of this time during my pregnancy to wear cute maternity dresses and avoid the pantyhose and restricting clothing.  I have a much expanded work wardrobe now. It is a good thing I found some more comfortable things to wear, since work and home life are so intertwined, I have to wear work clothes every day. It turns out that I really enjoyed wearing dresses and feeling cute. The only thing stopping me from doing so before were my body issues and self doubt.

I would not say I love my body. It could definitely be improved. However, I now feel that that should not keep me from feeling good in it. If I want to wear pretty dresses, I shall! I finally bought one of he adorable dresses I'd been eyeing off of ModCloth, and wore it to an art event.  Now I just have to figure out more excuses to wear it.  My next step is to learn to style my hair. I want to learn how to put it up in victory rolls, but beyond never doing anything more complicated than pony tails or buns, I'm facing the challenges of fine and flat hair. I'm attempting it every few days, and making a bit of progress.
 


Who knows, maybe I'll even start wearing makeup before I'm forty.

Have you ever redefined yourself, in small or large ways?

As an addendum: A friend recently gathered some resources for plus sized ladies to find pretty clothes. I'd like to share them here for anyone who might find them useful.
www.igigi.com
Torrid
Ashley Stewart
Lane Bryant
S.W.A.K. Designs
Pinup Girl Clothing
forever21
www.zulily.com (You will have to make an account)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Toddlesworth Tuesday: The Travels of Toddlesworth

By Lord Covington, [additions by Lady Covington as so]     

It may have all started with the stairs in the lobby.  Yes, our Toddlesworth has been as many places as his legs could toddle to, even before he could technically toddle.  He climbed said stairs before he could walk.  He followed it up with many a stair afterwards on the outside of the hotel, much to our initial terror.  These days, one of his most favorite phrases is "a walkin'?" .  Once we have begun to walk he will usually say " Wun?" before taking off, as if to demonstrate how one runs.

       One day we decided to take him to the state park.  It was really all down, or maybe up, hill from there.  It was just before dark in the spring.  I wasn't sure how he'd react when he got the  more steep trails that are basically stone stairs cut into a hill side.  His reaction was- "go! go ! go!"   He proceeded out ahead of us and immediately trod down to the dusk into the forest. Again, I found myself playing catch up with a one and a half year old.  His interest was in 360 marvelous degrees around him: sticks, rocks, bugs; EVERYTHING was a wonder to behold.  Incidentally, we soon discovered that the State Park was one place he could roam about and we didn't have to tell him not to touch everything, for the most part.  I have since come to the conclusion that this is something babies probably need. 
This is one of our favorite pictures of Toddlesworth, taken at the state park. That stick is bigger than he is!

       As much as he would run wild at the park, Toddlesworth loved the lake itself just as much.  As of this writing, he still cannot swim alone, but that has not once stopped him from doing what one might call a dive.  If we are at the park, he is moving inevitably towards the lake at the center.  He will stand in the water or on the shore, or in the wake of a boat engine if we'd let him get away with it!  the fact the waves of water would drag him into an enormous  lake without our vigilance doesn't bother him in the least.  He's basically fearless in the wild.

 [While I agree that he is *basically* fearless, running around in the wild has helped him find the limitations he does have, and reinforced that we will be there to help him surmount them. After he stumbles over a rock or on a step that is too steep, he will reach up and ask for a hand. After he has reached his limit of walking, he will turn to us with a pleading "hol'you?"  "Yes, I will hold you." and we will do the rest of the trail with him on our shoulders or in a baby backpack. (In  fact, when he was smaller and not as good at walking, he would bring us this baby-carrying hiking backpack that was as tall as he was and ask us for a walk.)

Since I worry constantly about him getting too much screen time, (I always envisioned being the crunchy no-tv type mom) I think it is fantastic that he will actively seek out active outside time, and we will continue to do our best to encourage it!]






Saturday, November 16, 2013

An Introduction to Our Atypical Home and Work, Part One: Home

By now you're aware that Lord Covington and I are pretty atypical individuals. Our living situation is also quite unusual.

Couples have various degrees of how long they can stand each other before needing a break. New couples will often be given the advice to be sure to cultivate separate hobbies. Lord Covington and I have always been on the pretty extreme end of spend-every-waking-moment-together. We also work pretty well together, as our various projects will attest. As a result, we have worked for the same companies since we first got together. We both worked at the cafeteria and the book store at college, and since about 2006, we have more or less been working for the same hotel management company. (We started off as desk clerks at one hotel and moved into lower and then middle management)

At the end of 2008, Lord Covington accepted a position to be General Manager at a hotel they had just purchased in Corpus Christi. This was about 9 hours away from where we were then living, and four hours away from our closest friends and relatives. We'd never been to Corpus Christi before, and jumped at the opportunity to try it out.  Our most recent move landed us in Brownwood, TX. We moved from Bayside to Lakeside, and were given the task of getting this hotel up and running, and eventually profitable. To that effect, we work many of the shifts and take care of anything that happens during the overnight shift ourselves instead of having a desk clerk during that time. The only way to do that and keep a good guest response time and a bit of sanity, is to live on property.
 This is one of the rooms at our hotel. We have a lovely place, and it is great to get away in for a weekend or week, but it is an interesting challenge to figure out life in a room this size for going on 2.5 years.

Add to that mix two large dogs and a toddler (we were expecting when we took the position and made the move here, so we've dealt with a newborn on up) and you have to come up with some space saving solutions. We didn't initially know how long we'd be living here, but it might have been as little as six months. It turned out to be longer, so some things have changed organically in the way the room is organized. An emphasis is on changing the room structurally as little as possible, and using the least damaging techniques (few screw holes, removable strips to hang artwork, etc.)
Below are pictures of how the room looked two years ago when we moved in and prepared for the arrival of baby Toddlesworth, compared with current pictures to show off some of the changes we've made in the last two years.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toddlesworth Tuesday: Talkative Toddlesworth

by Lady Covington

First, I know we're a day late, but better that than a day late AND a post short!

In the past week, Toddlesworth has begun being super talkative. He has gone from a couple two and three word 'sentences' ("I sit.") to four and five word ones. ("I pour the water out." "I got a sucker!") A couple days ago my mother was visiting and we tried our hand at a crane game. I won Toddlesworth a stuffed zombie, and for the next hour he happily declared "I got it! I got a zombie!" He also spent much of that weekend chasing his second cousin around being a zombie. (growling, reaching his hands out after her).

Toddlesworth has always been pretty good at communicating; we did baby sign language early on and the occasional sign still pops up. I feel like we're on the dawn of a new age though being able to process more complicated thoughts with him. Instead of just pointing to his bed when he gets tired, he will walk up to us, put his arm over his eyes and say "I sleepy. Bed. Sleep." Or if something appeals to him he will say "I like it! I want it!" While that last part is really cute when it is about

It might be boring to hear about someone else's kids developing vocabulary, but I promise it is awesome when it is occurring to you.


A few other things have been happening in the last couple of weeks, that aren't directly related to Toddleworths development.. We bought a new (used) vehicle, and we are dealing with fallout from one of the two automobile accidents that happened to us back to back last month. The weather here has gotten very cold very quickly, so our at least weekly trips to the state park have been put on hold for now. We may continue them once I have dug some winter wardrobe items out of storage.

I am working on a couple of posts to show of our living and working situations, and plan to include current living space pictures, so I'm also working on getting it picture worthy! I should be able to get the first part up tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Toddlesworth Tuesday: Toddlesworth the Conciliator!

by Lord Covington

This week my son taught me to shut up and dance.   

                To set this up , realize that Lady Covington and I have were often been self described "White Trash Vegans" for many years.  Think: deep fried breaded tofu!  Its easy to be vegan without being healthy: french fries, Oreos, and Skittles are vegan.  This, and our previous upbringings, have lead to an all too typical struggle with calories in this atypical vegan family.  While I wasn't aware of it at the time, Lady C had had enough.  I volunteered to make dinner that night, one of my both magnificent and humble curries.  I make the sauce first, using curry powders, coconut, or rarely soy, milks etc, and olive oil.  This particular time I was urged not to use any oil.  I didn't understand why I shouldn't do something I had always done.  She seemed angry with me.  I didn't, I'm not proud to say, react well.  I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to cooking. Maybe because it is a skill I learned well into adult hood, or maybe it's because Lady Covington has always been better than me with an effortless grace, but I didn't react well.  Her concerns were definitely coming from the right place, but it became a larger argument before we got to that.  Living in a one room space means that Toddlesworth is always present for every argument, much to my inevitable dismay.  This time, however, he had not only the last word, but the solution.
            At what I would describe as the peak of tension, he climbed from the bed where he had been silently watching us.  He dragged his music player we described here into the middle of the floor.  He turned it on to the Rockin' Robin song he dances to.  He then proceeded to pull me to the center of the rug by the hand, urging "come'n!" followed by Lady Covington.  He then began to dance.  What could we do? We danced.  Tension defused.
            After a few minutes of badly shuffling about my floor, I realized some things.  One: crap: dancing is hard!  Lady C was clearly correct, I need to be in better shape! Two, my son's personality is developing in ways that astound and make me proud.  Maybe we weren't really having all that scary of an argument, but he didn't react in the "normal" kid way of shame/guilt/fear.  I think he may just have been damn well tired of hearing it, and proposed a solution.  A solution that the two adults responsible for teaching him how to be were, at that point, no where near reaching on their own.

I desperately hope that he never uses these powers for evil.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rememberance

By Lady Covington

The 21st marked my second anniversary with Lord Covington. It also marked one year since the last time I saw my paternal grandmother alive. She passed a year ago on Halloween.

My father's mother, Billie Jean, was always one of my favorite people. Her oldest grandchild pronounced her name Bibi, and she was Bibi for the rest of us forever. She was always generous, loving, and kind to all of us children. When I got older I realized how much spark she had, how full of life she was.
At the time of her death, she had 10 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. Each one of us got a Christmas card and a Birthday card with a bit of money in it every year. She crocheted each new baby a blanket, and also bought each new baby born into the family a silver cup engraved with their name. In fact, a few days after Toddlesworth was born, she called me to get the spelling for his cup. It wasn't until she called for the spelling of Toddlesworth's name for his cup that she realized I'd named him after her. "His middle name is J-E-A-N" "Oh! Did you name him after me!?" "Yes, I did!"