Sunday, December 29, 2013

My 2014 Theme in One Word

I'm in the midst of planning for the New Year. There's something irresistible to me about the shiny goodness of a brand new year and I love setting goals and making resolutions.

Remembering what they are and doing something about them once the shine of the new year has worn off is another story, though - I definitely need to work harder on that!

One of the things I've done for the last few years is picking my "word of the year". Since Ali Edwards has trademarked "One Little Word" and I don't actually take her classes or do her album project, I'll just refer to mine as my yearly theme.

As usual, my word came to me without much trouble. I've got some behaviors I'd like to change, and to my surprise they're all related:
  • Too much idle reading and Facebooking online rather than working on my blogs or businesses
  • Too sedentary - not enough exercise
  • When frustrated with my kids,I tend to disengage, instead of gently teaching what I want them to learn
  • Hubby has pointed out that during arguments, I tend to just shut down and stop talking
I'm an introvert, and need lots of quiet alone time. That's not going to change. 

But in order to grow my businesses, protect my health, mother effectively, and nurture a great relationship with my husband, I need to "stay in the game" and be willing to get my hands dirty, so to speak. I can't be passive anymore, with my time, with my health, or with the hard parts of my closest relationships.

At first the word I chose was "active", which is the opposite of passive, and encompasses all the things above.  But I am more motivated by a verb than an adjective. I need something I can use as an exhortation to *DO* something.
This is a logo designed by Nick Harrison. I love that it's simple. And hot pink.

So I decided on ENGAGE. It has multiple meanings, but I like the energy it represents, especially within relationships. Staying engaged rather than passive and disengaging when things get frustrating. Engaging in regular physical activity. Engaging in activities that further my businesses instead of wasting time reading articles about taking action.

I'm planning to make myself a handstamped sterling silver cuff bracelet with my word on it so I've got a constant reminder. As I've done in the past, I can make bracelets, keychains or necklaces in copper, brass, nickel silver or sterling silver for you too. Email or contact me via Etsy if you're interested! I'd love to work on a project for you.

So, what's your word for 2014? I love hearing what other people are working on!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Creath Family Holiday Letter: Temporary One

I usually have this post written by Thanksgiving weekend, but we've been traveling two weekends in a row which is highly unusual for our homebody family.

December is shaping up to be a challenging month for us. We pulled T out of her preschool due to safety issues and mismanagement, which breaks my heart because the teachers and program are excellent. But having active construction while the kids are in session, and putting kids in a building that failed inspection just a week ago are no bueno in our book.

We also decided to "camp out" in our living room at night so that we can all be together rather than sleeping in separate houses while our house is being remodeled. It's actually working pretty well but we now have to coordinate logistics between what we bring to our house and what we are leaving at my parents' place, and when we're spending time at each. BabyM still continues to wake several times at night but we'll tackle that issue later.

And if that weren't enough, Spike has been diagnosed with kidney failure and a tumor in his bladder. He's 13, so we're lucky to have had so much time with him. We're keeping our fingers crossed and loving on him as much as we can.

Well, that's a depressing beginning for a holiday letter, isn't it? 

Now on to the good stuff - we are 2 months into a HUGE construction project to turn our house into our perfect *forever* home. There's something for everyone - BabyM finally gets her own room, the girls get a playroom conveniently across from my new ENORMOUS craft room, TJ gets his own office with a door, and the dogs get their own half of the yard separate from the kids.

T turned 4 in September and some of her favorite things are: 
  • Vancouver, Canada (we took a mama-daughter trip there last weekend)
  • Her new Kindle (early Christmas present)
  • Playing pretend, usually involving food preparation of some sort
  • Vienna Teng's new CD AIMS (yes, I am heavily influencing her choice of music)
  • The all-Christmas music radio station
M turned 1 in October and she currently likes:
  • Walking! (This is new, and she still crawls about 50% of the time)
  • Stacking cups of all kinds
  • Tackling her big sister, then hugging her
  • Lint and dust bunnies
  • Her toddler group 
Peanut is 11 and doing pretty well considering his age and size.

TJ started his new job at ESPN in February and likes it a lot. In April, I decided NOT to go back to work at Microsoft after my maternity leave with M. It's been fun and challenging to be home with the girls, but I love the more easygoing pace of our days.

I also continue to make handcrafted stamped metal items and jewelry in my Etsy shop, Anandi's Laboratory. In August, I started a new venture, making custom handcrafted scrapbooks and photobooks at The Papercraft Lab.  I'm pleased to say that I got some nice publicity, and have exceeded my initial sales goals.  (Wouldn't be a holiday letter without some bragging, right?)

My parents spent June through October at their place nearby in Redmond, which was great. We just returned last week from visiting TJ's family in Tucson, AZ, and were able to schedule a quick family photo shoot there so we can finally update the photos on our mantel!

If you're still reading this far, thank you for indulging me :) Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014!

(c) Kristi Lloyd Photography, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Christmas Miracle and Gifts for 1 and 4 Year Olds

Last night I finished our Christmas shopping for the girls. A week before Thanksgiving, no less. I'm on fire!

Thanks to our huge construction project and the fact that we're living temporarily in my parents' condo, this Christmas cannot be about piles of *stuff*. When we were packing up our house to move out, I realized how much we have accumulated that we don't even use - clothes for all of us, toys that no one plays with, random kitchen gadgets. I'm no minimalist, but I love the idea I read somewhere about keeping only what's "useful, beautiful, or loved".

So with that in mind, I finished off my Christmas shopping last night on Amazon.

For four year old T:

Amazon Kindle Fire HD (8GB, no ads)

This is her BIG present. I'm rolling my eyes a bit at the idea of a four year old having her own tablet, but I think it's a sign of our technological times, and she will actually get a lot of educational (and fun!) use out of it. We have two trips coming up, and we'll give it to her early to keep her occupied on the plane and car. I chose the version without "special offers" for an extra $15 to minimize her chance of clicking and purchasing something accidentally.

I'm still working on setting it up (I'll write another post later), but will load up a few kids' books, fun apps, music and videos for her. This also means I'll get my phone back at restaurants and waiting rooms!

Tickets to "The Snowman" at the Symphony

Seattle Symphony has an awesome Discover Music series for older kids (6-12) where real symphony musicians play and the conductor explains the music.  The entire show is about an hour, which is perfect. This year they will show the movie The Snowman while the symphony plays the score live. I think T will love it.

Like most kids, T is a born scientist who likes to study the world around her. Because she wears glasses and hasn't yet mastered the idea of closing one eye, things like kaleidoscopes, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars are tricky. This magnifying glass set will be perfect for inspecting slugs (she loves them!) and the fine print on various boxes that she's always asking me to read.

Owl Babies is one of my all time favorite kids' books and T loves it too. This summer at one of the excellent Spanish Story Times at our library, we found out the book has been translated into Spanish. It's a pretty simple story so I can probably manage reading it to her. And soon she'll be able to read it to *us*!

This set of beginning reader books was recommended by a friend. T is very close to being able to read - she has a lot of sight words memorized, and can sound out other simple words with some help. She really wants to read by herself and studies her books carefully for hours (and has memorized many of them!)  So I'm hoping these simple books will be good practice and encouragement for her.

For 1 year old M:

Yes, this sounds crazy. But these little cups are her favorite toy at our toddler group. They're metal, make fun noises, and she loves to nest and separate them. She also loves to put things in them, hand them back and forth to other people, and pretend like she's giving you something to eat. $5.79 for 12? Awesome.

This is another find from her toddler group - when the music teacher brings these out, the babies go crazy. M loves them - they have thin handles and are light, perfect for chubby baby hands. We'll need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't break, but they are quite sturdy.

Hand Kite and Wooden Eggs

More hippie crunchy toys for BabyM. Watching her interact with the simple toys at her toddler group is amazing - she is so focused and interested in them. I found this Etsy shop, CakeInTheMorn, through a search and fell in love with their wood toys.

The "hand kite" is a smooth wooden ring with a large silky scarf tied to it. The eggs are solid heavy wood, good for putting in things and figuring out gravity and balance. I think they might fit in the nesting cups - we'll have to find out!

For both girls:

Christmas PJs from Old Navy

Since T now wears regular girls' sizes, and M is still in baby sizes, I couldn't find any matching pajamas.  I probably could have looked at Hanna Andersson, but we have a LOT of pajamas already and I didn't want to spend a lot. But I love the idea of special December PJs, especially when we cuddle up and do our Book Advent. T got penguin and snowflake PJs, and M got some cute red ones with a Christmas mouse.

I'm happy with our short list of presents and love that many are things that will be enjoyed through the month of December. I've found that both girls get overwhelmed when there are too many boxes to open and new things clamoring for their attention. Having just a few presents on Christmas Day will be much better, I hope!

What about you?  Have you started your shopping yet?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Tuesday Lovin' - Passenger and Amazon MP3 Impulse Buys

I spend a lot of time in the car as a cliche suburban stay-at-home mama. Most of the trips are short - to/from preschool, grocery, Target. So I listen to the "regular" radio a lot rather than plugging in my phone to listen to *my* music.

Every now and then I'll hear a song that makes me buy it immediately. I love you, Amazon MP3, for those impulse purchases from my phone.

Passenger's "Let Her Go" was one of them:

I have a weakness for British and Irish male bands and singer-songwriters. What I love about this guy (and yes, Wikipedia tells me it's a guy and not a band) is that you can clearly hear his accent. It's so delightful. :) On a side note, his real name is Michael David Rosenberg, which seems way too serious for a musician.

Since I loved the song so much, and the album was only $6 ($5 now!!) compared to $1.29 for the single, I bought the whole thing, and BOY am I glad. This is absolutely my new obsession - every song is amazing. I love that you can clearly understand his lyrics, which are often brilliant.

There's a song called All the Little Lights which made me weepy while driving the girls to the zoo yesterday - it talks about how every time you feel love, you get another little light in your heart, but how they also go out when something bad happens. He draws such a lovely picture with his words and simple music.

He does have some kid-inappropriate language, but I feel strongly about purchasing music the way it was intended by the artist. If T starts to pick up on it, I'll rethink listening to it in the car.

I really hope I get to see him live. Let me know what you think!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Five Year Journal - The Easy Way

**I like to consolidate all my writing here. This originally appeared on my blog at The Papercraft Lab a few months ago.

I get lost in the Internet sometimes, clicking around to different blogs, reading papercrafting message boards, browsing Etsy shops.  A few weeks ago, I found a really neat DIY project - making a five year journal.  Each day of the year has a page, and you write 1-2 lines on it for each of 5 years.  After the first year, you can look back at what you did that same day the previous year. Very cool, right? As expected for women in my demographic, I pinned it to my "someday" list of projects.

Right now, I'm trying to get my business off the ground. I'm also home with 2 little kids all day, since preschool is not yet back in session. We're currently in the middle of a home addition project, which means we need to find space in our house to move things out of the construction zone - aka massive decluttering. I don't NEED another project right now, no matter how cool it is. 

As is the Way of the Internet, I got another nudge to do this by Laura Vanderkam, one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She talks about keeping a short file of "awesome things" as a sort of quick journal.

The final push was via email from a close friend. She sent me a DesignSponge post about making (guess what?) a five year journal. Hah. Clearly the universe is telling me I need to do this now.

It's something that appeals to me a lot. I have a daily planner where I've been jotting down daily memories to include in our family's Project Life scrapbook, which details our day-to-day lives.  (more on that in another post!)  But when the year is over, I'm not sure I want to keep this planner around.  

So I finally gave up the idea of *making* a five year journal, because I don't have time for that right now. I went to Amazon and ordered one.  I had several options, and chose the robins-egg-blue one from Chronicle books, thanks to its hardcover and elegant gold lettering and pages. 

I started writing in it back in August. Sometimes you just have to choose the solution that works best now and gets those memories on paper, instead of the pie-in-the-sky DIY project, no matter how cool it sounds.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Three bits of parenting advice that changed my life

My friend J and I have known each other for 22 years. We met in college, became roommates, and now live in the same city. I don't see her as much as I'd like, thanks to busy family schedules and a lake that separates us (though let's not be dramatic, it's only about a 20 minute drive.)

Not only is J generous with her hand-me-downs, she has given me a few pieces of parenting advice over the years which are pure gold. These were not unsolicited drive-bys - they were little gifts that came when I asked questions on the parenting e-mail list we're both on. Her younger child is a couple of years older than T, so she's got more experience, but recent enough that she's still got useful details.

Baby Zombie Eye

If she hadn't told me about this, I would *still* be wondering why my kids never nap and wake up 10x a night. It was THAT life-changing for us.  When T was about 12 weeks old, I posted a question to our email list about naps. When did we expect babies to be on some kind of schedule?  How do we accomplish that?

Most of the answers came back as "it's still early", but only J gave me the info that changed our lives significantly.

She told me to keep an eye out for T's "tired signs" and mentioned her baby used to get this glassy-eyed, unfocused look when she got tired (long before she'd get fussy). Once she saw that, she'd try to put her down for a nap. Experienced mamas, this sounds so obvious, right? But as new parents, we assumed that a newborn would just fall asleep wherever she was, and we didn't have to *do* anything about naps.  Hah!

So we made a plan. T's other tired sign was nice and obvious - yawning. We counted yawns. When she got to Zombie Eye or 3 yawns, we'd put her down for a nap - nurse her and put her in the crib in a darkened room with white noise. If we got to the 2 hour mark without seeing these things, we'd try for a nap anyway.  And O. M. G.  This worked wonders within days.

Prior to doing this, T would stay awake for HOURS (because we were too dumb to realize she needed help to get to sleep!). One day at 8 weeks or so, she was up for 9 hours STRAIGHT and then cried for the next 3 (who wouldn't!).

We tried the same tactic with M, except she doesn't typically get Zombie Eye until it's too late, after she gets to the fussy stage.  M's tired sign?  Eye-rubbing!  Again, super obvious, so lucky us.  But with M we had to be even more vigilant because she masks the tiredness and gets her second wind easily when people are around playing with her.

Don't get me wrong - we were blessed with two fairly good sleepers.  But we never would have discovered that had J not given me this magic advice.

No Power Struggles 

J told me there were a few things you couldn't make a kid do: eat, sleep, and use the bathroom.  If you try, you'll get stuck in a horrible power struggle. It's better to avoid getting into that position.

Again, *so* brilliant. It got me out of the mindset of "she *should* be doing xyz", or worse, "she *has* to do xyz". I keep this one top of mind, and trust that my girls will do these things when they need to, with our help and routine, of course.

This helped me get through potty training with T and her current habit of waking up in the middle of the night to play in her room. It makes me less crazy when M gets up at 1am and is ready to PARTY. We just go downstairs and she plays in the gated living room while I nap on the couch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still annoyed when they don't do what I (think I) need them to do, but I don't get all dictator-y about it. Most of the time, anyway. I'm still a work in progress.

Fair Isn't Equal

J told me this one before I was pregnant with BabyM so it didn't really sink in at the time, though I recognized it for its brilliance. She said her grad school adviser told her that fair didn't mean everyone got the same thing - it's each person getting what they *need*.

*So* true for siblings, especially those with different personalities and big age gaps.  M doesn't have the attention span for more than one or maybe two short board books, while T would love to read together for hours. I don't try to make sure I read the same *number* of books to both girls.

I know M loves it when I just sit in the playroom with her and let her do her own thing. T wants me to participate actively in her games. What fills each of their cups is pretty different, despite them being sisters in the same house with similar temperaments.


I'm grateful to have a wise friend like J! What about you - what did you learn about parenting that rocked your world?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This has gotta be the good life

We've been working on proposals and plans for our upcoming remodel since early this year. It's been a slow process, and for a patience-challenged person like me, painful. I'm ready to move in already! I finally got used to the wait and thought about the remodel in the future with an unknown start (and end) date, "sometime in 2014".

Except now, it's *really* starting on Monday. Our city approved the construction permit yesterday and at 7:30am on Monday, guys are going to show up to dig a hole in our yard. 

Technically, they've already started. They spent the last week building the fence that will separate the dog area from the kid area in our yard (they'll finally be able to play outside! and not in dog poo! yay!), removing our deck and hot tub to make way for the addition, and taking off the siding to prepare. We also got a new furnace since ours conveniently decided to give up last weekend.  (When it rains...)

But these things still seemed like preparation, part of the many steps and meetings we've had since April. We still didn't have a *real date* when construction would start, and consequently, didn't have the project plan of when it is supposed to be done.

But now? It's ON. And this means we need to get moving on all the interior selections - bathroom counters, flooring, paint. Cabinet hardware and lighting. There are a million tiny decisions that all affect the final price. Many of them are things we genuinely don't have an opinion about, and each item has hundreds of choices. I totally understand why President Obama doesn't choose his own clothes each day. It makes my brain tired, too, to have to evaluate tons of different, mostly equal options about things that aren't going to really affect the quality of our lives.

TJ and I are pretty good at working through decision-y stuff like this. It's very similar to when we were tossing around names for the girls - I bring a handful of options and ask him to choose, or at least eliminate the ones he hates. He brings a few options as well, sometimes. 

There have been a few perfect, lightning-bolt, "that's it!" choices so far, just like with our girls' names. The countertop in the girls' bathroom is Cambria Whitney, a sparkly engineered quartz that's mostly white with silver glittery specks. I love me some sparkle. The photo does not do this justice.

The cabinets in the master bathroom are going to be a deep espresso, almost black. In the girls' bathroom, they'll be a rich reddish brown. Both are shaker-style with very clean lines, like the kitchen cabinets we redid in 2004 and still love.

We found a carpet style that we both like that's got a sort of irregular horizontal line pattern in it, but can't finalize the color. We know we want laminate flooring through the downstairs, including the playroom and craftroom, but again, can't narrow down a color. 

We have no freakin' idea what kind of floor we want in either bathroom. To reduce costs we want to consider alternatives to tile, but TJ hated the funky Marmoleum.

We haven't really thought about paint at all, except that T is VERY SURE she wants pink. I hate taupe-y colors and things that are not-really-a-color. TJ does not want our house to look like Rainbow Brite threw up in it.

So we're kind of stuck and still have a ton of decisions to go. Luckily we have a neighbor who just earned a certificate in Interior Design and she's going to help us. Our first meeting with her is today and I'm so excited to get some of these things narrowed down.  

All these decisions are floating around in an "open loop" inside my head, and it's bugging me.  I can't visualize the room from all these individual pieces - it's so different from putting together a scrapbook page or a card because I can't just lay it all out and look at the end result.

But oh, the luxury of getting to design brand new living space. Lest you think I'm complaining, I realize this is totally a first world "problem". I am so grateful for this chance to make our house into exactly what we need.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams

Antique copper door dividers in living room/dining room We are about to embark on a HUGE construction project at our house. In fact, we've been in the design process for months, and we're now waiting for the final permits before construction starts. It's been so long that I can't believe it's actually going to happen.

We're living in our "forever" house, at least while we're in Seattle. We fell in love with it as soon as we saw it, and it was the first house we saw. But it's not a house for little kids. It's a crazy 70s multilevel house, so each floor has a couple of rooms and then a half-staircase to the next floor. The kids' bedrooms are two floors away from ours. Great when they're 16, not so great when they're under 5. 

So we consulted with a few local design/build firms and chose one, and they came up with a fabulous design for us, something we never would have thought about doing. The design process actually lived up to my expectations - we gave them a list of our priorities, and they designed an addition that met nearly all of the Pri 1s and 2s (yes, I'm a software geek). 

So our new theoretical addition will have all bedrooms on one floor, an extra bathroom for the girls, an office for TJ, a play room, air conditioning in the bedrooms, and (wait for it) a 13x17' craft room. O.M.G. I can hardly believe how awesome that's going to be.

Some observant readers will remember that this is one of the items on my Mondo Beyondo dream list. And at the time I made my list in late 2011, firmly out of reach. We weren't inclined to take on such a huge project and we weren't sure about staying in Seattle (well, one of us wasn't). 

But then my craft room sprung a leak earlier this year, and we started thinking again. What if? It's been both fun and terrifying to go through the process - looking at different room layouts, choosing countertop surfaces and carpet, assigning rooms to the girls, writing huge enormous checks in exchange for large sheets of paper (so far).

If all goes well, construction will start next month, and it'll be 4 months or so before it's done. We'll probably have to camp out at my parent's place nearby for a while (fortunately they don't use it much in the winter). I'm sure there will be many disrupted naps and frustration with the noise and dust.

But in the end, we will have a house that fits us perfectly. And I just cannot WAIT.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The lazy woman's blog post

Gratuitious sleeping baby photo
My goal has been to blog regularly for my new crafty blog at The Papercraft Lab. This week I blogged every weekday, so yay!  That means this blog has been sadly neglected. So I'm going to take the Friday Night Easy Way Out and point you to some of my posts over there.  I'm trying to write about easy ways to capture family memories, so they're not all crazy-crafty "Ain't nobody got time for that" kinds of activities.  

Here's what I wrote over there this week:

Scaling an Artisan Business - super exciting news about The Papercraft Lab featured in Fast Company!

How to Find a Family Photographer - updated from a post here last year

How to Have a Successful Photo Shoot - recycled and renewed from an old post here last year

No More Wasted Space - a scrapbook layout and coming to terms with whitespace in design

Photo Lab Friday - a new series on how to (quickly) edit your photos to make them shine

I'd appreciate if you could subscribe to the new blog - there are convenient links in the sidebar over there to add to Feedly or your reader of choice.  Especially if you've been coming here to read about craftiness, scrapbooking or easy photography tips.

In my ideal world, I'd like to post here on weekends, and there on weekdays, since that Lab is my new business venture and the closest I'm going to get to "work" these days. But I make no promises.  This weekend is the girls' birthday party (hooray for siblings born with birthdays 12 days apart!) and hopefully a fun trip to the zoo if the weather pseudo-cooperates.

What's going on with you?  Are you still out there? I haven't abandoned you, I promise.  :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Proud to be an American

American Flag 12-01-2009.
American flag made out of recyclable plastic by artbikemike on Flickr.  Love this.

Seeing the flurry of patriotic statements about "never forgetting" and the associated flag-filled images on Facebook gave me that same uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that I felt in 2001. So I wrote this as my status:
12 years later, I'm still uncomfortable when I see all the 9/11-related patriotism and statements. Yes, it was a horrible act of violence. But I will also never forget being viewed by my fellow Americans with distrust just for being brown and looking "like them".
I'm sure, in my 900+ Facebook "friends" there were those who thought this was inappropriate to post, or thought it was reasonable collateral damage for what "they" did to us.  Thankfully they kept their thoughts to themselves.  (I've unfriended some already for making offensive comments about Lunar New Year, racial slurs against our president, and general assholery after the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict.)

Yesterday a friend told me that the new Miss America is Indian-American. I was stunned, and even though I think beauty pageants are stupid, sexist and outdated, I was just a little bit thrilled.  I've written before about how I feel invisible in popular culture.

As it turns out, the "article" he linked was actually a collection of really ignorant and racist tweets posted after Nina Davuluri's win was announced.  You know, the usual stuff calling her a terrorist, foreigner, blah blah blah.

I'd love to say I was surprised to see them, but I'm not.  You see, I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in the 80s. It was mostly white and Catholic, neither diverse nor liberal, and the polar opposite of where I live now.  As a child I was taunted for the color of my skin, my parents' religion, my "weird" name, told to go back to my country (uh, born in Pittsburgh, thanks), called "camel jockey", etc.

My experience is sadly not unique, as my friend N wrote so eloquently yesterday. While I can thankfully say that I really don't encounter racism anymore, many still do.

I'm rolling my eyes at CNN and other news media picking up the racism/ignorance angle and being so shocked about it.  I mean really, are there people who think this stuff doesn't exist in our "enlightened" times?

But another part of me is thrilled that (at least some) mainstream media is calling it out as unacceptable and defending Nina Davuluri's "right" to be chosen as Miss America.  (As stupid as I think the whole idea of Miss America really is.)

So maybe the times, they are a-changin'.  Just a little.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So, I have this other blog...

I started another blog for my crafty pursuits, in support of a new business I'll (eventually) launch.  For now, I'd love it if you'd clickety-clack on over there, and maybe add it to your reader if you like the crafty stuff.

I'll still blog here about our regular life, but if you're wondering why I've become scarce and less crafty, it's because I'm posting those things over at

If you'd like to subscribe to it, I'd appreciate it greatly!

Here's the feed link to copy-paste into your reader of choice:   

(Apparently Feedly thinks it's hiding.)

Hope to see you there, my Internet friends and "friends".

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This too shall pass

On our way to school!
Today I dropped T off for her first day of her second full year of preschool. I'm not very sentimental about it, since she's been in preschool since she was 2.5, and she still has *another* entire year of preschool before she's eligible for kindergarten in our state.  Never mind that she's academically ready for K now.  Sigh.

I'm somewhat amused that she'll have almost as much preschool as I had college, and more time than it took me to get my Master's degree.  But she loves her school, and (mostly) so do I. 

I realized something this morning when she was getting ready for school.  When she was 2 and still sleeping in her crib, I lamented the fact that as soon as she woke up, I had to go get her, change her and get her breakfast. My day started when hers did, and it was often long before I would choose to wake.  If I had my choice, I'd sleep until the kingly hour of 9am at least.

Last year, I brought her a complete outfit into the bathroom, she'd get dressed by herself and come upstairs for breakfast. I was pretty excited about that.  This summer, she's been getting up herself, choosing her own outfit and coming upstairs completely dressed *without my intervention*.  Holy crap!  How did we get here? 

Now, obviously, Baby M runs my schedule, and when she's up, I'm up.  But (and I'm sure I'm jinxing it here), for the last week, more often than not, she's been SLEEPING THROUGH THE ENTIRE NIGHT, y'all. Like 7pm to 6:30am. No milk at 11pm or 2am, or both.  No perplexing screaming for hours at 3am.

When I wrote about being resigned to cosleeping back in March, I couldn't even imagine this. We transitioned BabyM to sleeping in her crib in May, and that was a rough couple of weeks.  She regularly woke up twice a night, which is astronomically harder for me than once a night, for some reason.  And then, she slowly started waking only once, and usually it was *before* our bedtime - how courteous.

So far in such a short time. I forget how all these daily parenting annoyances fade away in weeks. Sure, they are replaced by others, but it's a hard job with ever changing requirements, so I expect that.  It seems like the annoying habit or extra work will last FOREVER, but it doesn't.  

It's only taken me two kids and four years to realize this! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Project Life 2013: Not Quite Chalkboard But Still

On Saturday I got to craft *all day*, thanks to a fundraiser crop for the Komen 3 Day Walk.  I went with my friend J and we shared a table for 9 hours. She made 35+ layouts, while I did 2.75.  I am really, really slow. But since I love the process, that's fine.

The first thing I tackled was this Project Life layout. I had visions of doing a "chalkboard" theme, with the chalkboard finish paper from an old DCWV paper stack.  I bought some awesome liquid chalk markers and was excited to use them for this layout, after drawing all over the mirrors and glass in our house.  However, I'm not much of a doodler and the markers were broader than I prefer for Project Life so I didn't quite get the chalkboard effect I wanted.  I still like the simple color palette, though.  Click for larger images.

July 15-28: pseudo chalkboard

July 15-28: Thatha time, crawling!, Date Night and water play

July 15-28: Making lemonade, Spanish story time, #nsale, food

Details, details

Aside from the black chalkboard paper, the printed 3x4 cards I used were from the Scraptastic Project Life kits. I picked the ones that fit the chalkboard or black, white and aqua theme.  The grey and white tiny letter stickers are from the Target $1 section. And they're even repositionable!!  I know, right?!  I bought two packs.

I also made liberal use of a Heidi Swapp embellishment pack I've had for ages - polaroid frames, rub-ons and little "liked" stickers. I also used a ton of adorable doily rub-ons from Christy Tomlinson, which I received in my Pink Paislee warehouse box. For some reason, I adore doilies, though I really am not into frilly, girly embellishments. I (mostly) hate flowers, lace, and anything vintage.  But doilies?  Sign me up! 

The "moments" puffy sticker, adorable chevron cloud and what I think is a lemon (?) are also Pink Paislee, from my box.  You can't see the washi tape too well on the black background, but it's a graph paper pattern, with the word love and little pink hearts in lowercase. It's from Freckled Fawn, and super-cute.  I also went to town with some Freckled Fawn grey, black and white enamel dots.  I love having those in neutral colors!

As you can tell, I love mixing and matching products, and that's probably what takes me so long to complete these layouts. This one took me 4 hours, but I was also chatting and snacking while working on it.  But it's almost a perfect representation of my style - consistent color scheme, lots of journaling, lots of photos and fun supplies to play with.

Here's a slide show of all my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Friday, August 09, 2013

Currently 3

I guess I'm on the "once a quarter" schedule for this prompt.

I've dropped *all* TV watching.  I caught up with Grey's Anatomy before the Season Finale (May, maybe?), got annoyed with Glee after the shooting episode, and then just stopped watching TV entirely. I did see the movie Up a few weeks ago and was once again completely weepy during the opening sequence. Apparently I'm not alone, according to my Facebook friends.

I discovered how easy it is to borrow Kindle books from our library, so last week I read Maeve Binchy's last book (sniff), A Week in Winter.  I've now read all of her fiction. I loved it when I was 10 and still love it now. She's consistent in her style, but I noticed that her later books definitely showed the shift in culture of Ireland over time.  I also checked out Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother on a reco from a friend, and enjoyed it. Some of the later chapters were really beautiful.

I took T to see the Indigo Girls last week and she LOVED it. So we've been listening to them on shuffle in the car. Thankfully they have a lot of albums, so I'm not sick of it. Considering I discovered them in high school, it is surreal to be listening to them with my DAUGHTER.

Project Life 2013, of course. I've also started an online scrapbooking class challenging me to dig into my prodigious stash of supplies. For the next four weeks, there will be 3 challenges per week. That's twelve layouts, in case you were lazy and didn't want to do the math. That will get me a significant chunk of my "favorite photos" album done, which I'm excited about.  Tomorrow I've got an all day crafty session planned, at a fundraiser crop. I had to miss the last one, because M was only a few weeks old. Super excited about that.

Out of sorts, a bit. Part of it is likely sugar withdrawal from the new Whole30 I've started.  BabyM is teething, so she's a little angry about that, especially when it's time to sleep. Can't blame her, but man, we've had a LOT more crying the past couple of days. She's usually not much of a crier.

T may be dropping her nap, as evidenced by her staying up until 11pm the last couple of nights because she's "just not sleepy". Which had to happen sometime, but it's hard to know what she needs when she's got dark circles under her eyes.

How to spend the last 3-4 weeks of our summer break. Thinking of stepping up the "Mama School" activities as we've had lots of playdates, Story Times and other things keeping us busy.  Just bought books on teaching reading and Singapore Math, so I get to keep my Asian parent street cred, right?

Yesterday I got to hold my friend A's 2 week old baby, and OMG. So tiny. So precious. So lovely. I can't believe how big my own BabyM seemed after holding BabyC.  That was a gift, to see how far we've come in 10 months, and another reminder to really live and notice what's going on with my girls.

Now your turn!

Linked up with Kristin, who's running the Currently project.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Something to talk about

A friend posted a link to the New York Times article following up with the moms from the "Opt-Out Revolution" 10 years ago.  It's an easy read, so go take a look and come back.  I'll wait.  :)

It didn't seem entirely surprising to me.  Of course it's hard to return to work after an extended time out, of course you'll earn less money than if you stayed, and of course you won't be able to just "jump back in" where you left off.

One of the things I heard a lot when I was contemplating quitting my job (and it was a lot of contemplation, 3.5 years' worth) was how irresponsible it is to stop earning my own money.

It's all about one's personal risk tolerance, though.  I think it's also about the natural balance between focusing on NOW vs the future.  Some people are planners and risk averse, so they are more likely to make decisions now that will ensure fewer bad things happening in the future. For example, keeping a good job now because who knows what might be available a few years from now.

I thought I was in that category. When I learned to drive, I would figure out a plan that involved the least number of lane changes required, because changing lanes seemed more dangerous and terrifying to me.  I'm not much of a gambler. I have no desire to skydive, bungee jump or parasail.

I won't lie. I am freaked out about not having my own paycheck.  (Though my Etsy shop is doing a good job sustaining my craft supply addiction.)  But I am (mostly) zen about The Future.

Maybe I'm being naive or blissfully ignorant about the Bad Things That Could Happen but I don't want to make decision out of fear of what might happen. If the trouble comes, then I'll go back to work full time. I might be penalized for "opting out", but I'm aware of that.  My more relaxed days now are worth it *to me*.

The lesson I learned from the NYT article, though, is a HUGE one. I think it's essential for both partners to continually evaluate the arrangement and TALK ABOUT IT.  All the freakin' time. Until you're sick of talking about it.

Are we happy where we are? Are expectations unrealistic or uncomfortable? What does the money situation look like now, and in 6 months?  Do we want to trade places?  What's bothering you right now about this arrangement?

I guess I read the article differently from most - I felt like the key issue with all of the women interviewed was in their marriage, not their decision not to work. It seemed like in some cases, the mom was the default as the stay-home parent, when maybe that wasn't the best choice. In other cases, it seemed like the partnership shifted over time and the new expectations or desires were not explicitly discussed. But I saw that as a communication issue, not "proof" that "opting out" is a bad idea universally.

In addition to my husband, I've known several people, both male and female, who took a year or longer break from working for all sorts of different reasons. I'm heartened by the fact that none of them have had issues finding interesting, well-paying work when they were finally ready to go back.  That inspires me to keep working on constructing the life I want right now.

So for now, I'm still waiting for that perfect part-time PM job to come along.

It takes a while for it all to come together.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Project Life 2013: Simple as Cherry Pie

I got sidetracked by making "real" scrapbook layouts and put off this Project Life spread for a while.  I had a little crafty time to myself this weekend, thanks to hubby and I trading off. He got a motorcycle ride and car show with some of his buddies and I got a couple of uninterrupted hours in the craft room all by my not-so-lonesome. Bliss.

A few months ago, I came across a Craigslist ad for a Project Life Cherry Kit, including binder, page protectors, dividers and most of the cards for a screamin' deal. M and I went to pick it up while Big Sister T was at preschool. I think it was one of the older style Project 365 kits, as the cards are smaller than in the newer kits. 

This week I wanted to use my *actual* Project Life cards instead of matching and cutting down patterned paper, so I decided to stick with that Cherry kit, and mixed in a few coordinating cards from a Clementine set I bought from someone who was splitting her kit. So the color palette ended up yellow, red and orange, which is great for mid-summer.  Click for larger photos.

July 1 - 14: Phone photos, holiday, baby photo shoot

July 1-14: Card made just for me by T & assorted Instagram goodness 

I also went through my stash and reorganized everything, and found a couple of sheets of rub-ons from my friend J, with whom I exchange cast-offs and extras. Something I've realized from making non-PL layouts is that I like a lot of repetition to bring disparate elements together. So I tried to use a LOT of the rub-ons, not just one or two like I'd normally do.  

Rub-ons are also *fantastic* embellishments to put directly on photos. I don't like manipulating them in Photoshop to add funky text or digi stamps, so I can get a similar effect this way.

July 1-14: Magformers (best toy ever!), phone photos, tons o' journaling

I am all about the stories, and am often too long-winded even for all the slots in Project Life.  This week, using the Design F page protector with all those 3x4 slots was super fun - enough for lots of little photos AND lots of journaling.  I also embraced the photo collage this week, and just used Lightroom to create my own templates.

You saw it here first: Pom pom bullet points

I did my usual "bullet point" summary for the week.  (You can take the girl out of Microsoft, but...) This time I used tiny 1/4 inch craft pom poms to add a little dimension. So if this becomes a huge trend in scrapbooking, remember you saw it here first. Hah.  The words on the flower are from those rub-ons I mentioned earlier. It was a Thanksgiving set, but there were plenty of non-holiday words to use.

And I didn't have to mess around with wet glue, I just used my favorite Micro Glue Dots. They are awesome for every tiny embellishment, including sequins, beads and now tiny pom poms!

I've got lots of interesting photos this month since I'm taking the BPC Phone Photography class. It's been great inspiration to really *see* what's around me as I go about daily life and not wait for some dedicated photo time that may never happen. I'm looking forward to starting the layout for the second half of the month with all these fun mobile phone photos!

Here's a slide show of all my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Like I was poison in your mouth

I live in a crunchy city on the "Left Coast". Mamas routinely breastfeed in public without covering up. (I high-five them in my mind, because I'm not brave enough.)

BabyM flat-out refused to nurse in public around 5 months old. Life was just WAY TOO INTERESTING to worry about milk and definitely not under cover. Trying to wrangle a wiggly baby and not flash my fellow diners in a restaurant was good times.

So I stopped breastfeeding in public. I had a giant stash of milk stored up for my return to work (which didn't happen) so we had plenty when she *finally* deigned to accept a bottle around 6 months. I had nearly given up hope of anyone else feeding her at that point, so hooray for small victories.

But we kept nursing at home and she became super quick and efficient. She outgrew needing to be nursed to fall asleep and in a stunning turn of events, I can put her down in the crib in the mythical state of "drowsy but awake" and she actually, amazingly, puts herself to sleep.  This was unheard of 2 months ago and the cause of much despair around here.

The only constant with a baby is change.  At almost 10 months, BabyM is apparently ready to do everything at once - in the last 3 weeks she's learned to sit up from lying down, rolls around in both directions, *crawls* and is growing 3 new teeth at the same freakin' time.

The one thing I didn't expect to change - our easy, efficient "nursing relationship" - did.  I'll spare you the details, but it started to hurt a lot.  I was dreading her feedings. This was all new, since this amazing baby showed up on Day 1 knowing exactly what to do. 

My best guess is that her new teeth are affecting her latch, *and* she's growing like crazy and really hungry. When we give her a bottle, she drains 5-6oz in just a few minutes. She wants to eat and get on with her day. She also eats unbelievable quantities of solid food - actual person-sized amounts.

For a couple of weeks I've been pumping and feeding her, but I hate it.  One of the awesome benefits of not working anymore is not having to pump several times a day and feeling the stress of "do I have enough?". 

The freezer stash is dwindling - we have 2 weeks' worth of occasional bottles left.  I know I could spend time and $$$ getting a lactation consultant to diagnose what's going on. Lord knows I've used Dr. Google to self-diagnose as well.  I could drink the tea and take the supplements, which I've done in the past for T.

Or, I could supplement with formula for the next 1.5 months until we can introduce regular soy milk and use this as an opportunity to slowly wean her so I don't quit cold turkey and become Hormone-Crazed Angry Mama.  

It's taken me weeks to come to terms with this, thanks to the propaganda machine. I know logically that formula != "poison" (like some would have you believe) and that whole generations were raised successfully on formulas less nutritionally advanced than what's available now.  Big sister T was essentially prescribed formula by her doctor at 9 months since she was so low on iron and it was better than holding her down to force the nasty iron supplement into her mouth.  

BabyM isn't allergic to anything as far as we can tell so our options are wide open, unlike with T.  BabyM eats *everything*, including carpet lint, so the term "exclusively breastfed" means nothing at this point. 

But that little voice inside my head is telling me I'm being lazy and not trying hard enough to fix the nursing issue.  It's telling me I should breastfeed BabyM *exactly* as long as I did for her big sister, which would mean continuing in some form for 4 more months (ouch!).

It shouldn't be this complicated or guilt-inducing, right?  So today I took the first baby step. I wanted to make sure we had a backup option for M when our freezer stash of breastmilk runs out. I can't pump enough to get her through a day.

I found the "just in case" formula I bought before M was born. It expired in February so I threw it out. I wondered if it was a sign.

Then I realized I had a can of the same brand powdered stuff as well, likely a free "gift" from somewhere. This was a new experience for me - we always used the ready-to-feed for T. I got my chemistry on and made up a bottle very carefully as per the instructions. 

And she drank it down like it was sweet candy juice from heaven. Seriously, I think she drank it faster than any bottle of milk she'd had before. Well, then. I feel good that we have options.

I've given myself a couple more weeks to figure out the nursing stuff and see if there's an obvious, easy solution. I'm disappointed at how much internal angst I'm having over this. I know logically everything will be fine, but there's that nagging doubt when I consider taking a different path than I did last time.

But that's the crux of parenting, isn't it?  You have no idea whether or how any one decision is going to affect THE FUTURE. You just take a breath, pick a path that you think is right, and get moving. Kind of terrifying and kind of awesome all at the same time.

I feel like I should end this post with something uplifting, like "Go forth and conquer."  So, um, yeah!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Scrapbook Obsession Continues

Last year I started an 8x8 album for scrapbook layouts of favorite photos. I got the idea from (of course) one of Cathy Zielske's books.  I started with a cheap post-bound album I found on clearance somewhere. I soon realized I prefer the 3-ring binders, so I bought a gorgeous WRMK bright blue fake leather one from Target. It makes me happy every time I see it, and now there are 3 layouts in it!

Click for larger photos.

I was flipping through Clean and Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel and found this layout I wanted to "scraplift":

p. 91 in Clean and Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel, by Cathy Zielske

I loved the simple bands of color to the right of the photo and the small strip of patterned paper.  I started trying to copy this one with different papers, but it wasn't working for me.  After a lot of shuffling, cutting and trying different things, this is my result:

T at 10 months.

I learned that I *can* use a 12x12 layout as inspiration for an 8x8 as long as I'm cognizant of how much less space there is.  In this case, my photo was only 3.5x5", I made fewer "stripes" on the right side, and I used a thin strip of silver Martha Stewart tape instead of another piece of cardstock at the bottom.

I'm still learning about layering, but I love that the black and yellow papers are both subtly patterned, yet still seem to match even with that crazy hot pink floral strip.  (Others may beg to differ.)  

Acrylic star and Simple Stories SNAP! sticker
Star sequin (love them!) and Amy Tangerine Yes Please roller stamp

My journaling is often long-winded, like this blog, and I knew I couldn't get by with just a simple caption like in the layout above, so I turned the right side of the layout into a "pocket", a trick I learned from making a LOT of mini albums.  The journaling card is a cutout from my current paper obsession, Amy Tangerine's Yes Please 6x6 pad, so it's pretty small.  I made sure that the paperclip to pull it out is easy to get to from the top of the page protector.  My pet peeve is interactive elements hidden underneath a page protector - I definitely don't want people taking my layouts OUT of the album.

This photo is a favorite of mine, not just because it's cute and T is wearing an AC/DC shirt, but because it's the first time it occurred to me to do an impromptu "photo shoot" with her.  This was before my fancy DSLR camera, when I was using my Canon S90 point and shoot exclusively.  

While doing this shoot, I learned about making sure the background doesn't have anything distracting, seating her near good light, and understanding that small babies don't have infinite patience so I'd better get that photo quickly before she slithered off the chair and fell on her head. That was a pretty important day in my journey to becoming a decent photographer for my family and I was rewarded with a couple of awesome shots of my girl.

I'm realizing that I work best in stages instead of one long session. The first night I chose the photo, papers and a few embellishments and laid them out roughly together then went to bed. My brain was working on it overnight, apparently, because the next morning I had some good ideas. I finished this on the 3rd day, with the journaling, stamping and the lone star sequin. Next time I'll do the stamping *before* assembling the layout, so I don't have to hold my breath hoping I don't mess up the whole thing at the end.

Obviously I'm having a lot of fun with this, and I'm looking forward to filling up this album with more 8x8 layouts of my favorite photos.  (There are a LOT.) Sorry, non-crafty blog readers!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sanford: 8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Layout

After making that last scrapbook page, I wanted to do more.

I had a story to tell about Sanford, our little fox friend from IKEA who was purchased to be T's lovey (and solution to her sleep problems). Alas, that didn't work, but she liked him. He came to Ireland with us last year and became my first ever Instagram photo subject.

T gave him (well, all 3 of "him") to BabyM earlier this year to help her sleep. M loves chewing on his nose as she's falling asleep and I got a great picture of her sleeping with him.

Click to see larger photos.

Sanford, 8.5 x 11 layout

I had a vision of putting the three photos in a strip but the orientations wouldn't quite allow for that. I tried to create visual triangles with the gold items and the black accents.

Tab cut from American Crafts gold foil cardstock

My favorite Dear Lizzy paper makes another appearance!

I like playing around with the elements on the pages - it's like solving a puzzle about where things should go and what should be added or removed. I don't always know why I'm doing it, but I have a Spidey-sense of what looks right or wrong.

This started with the bright and lovely Citrus Twist May scrapbook kit along with a few items from my own stash - the black and white script washi tape to match the awesome Snippets Thickers letter stickers, and the gold foil "hello" tab and paper doll strip I cut on my Silhouette Cameo (love!).  I also used the cute Blinks of Life gold-foil journaling card from the June Studio Calico Project Life kit.

Learning to layer was my goal here, and I had to consult some online galleries to see how different people approached it - what do you do when everything starts looking too square and blocky, or what happens when corners don't quite match up.

I don't love this as much as my previous scraplifted layout. I'm discovering that I like a lot of whitespace and repeating elements. I have trouble with asymmetry and things not being straight, though I need to work through that to avoid making really boring pages.

But the cool thing is I'm starting to figure out my preferred style. And the only way to get there is to practice, aka, make more.  Yay!

sharing is nice

Related Posts with Thumbnails