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Friday, July 27, 2007


The latest update in the adventures of the little purple mouse that BJ has named "Chrysanthemum" -- she now has a tail.

She came to us without any tail at all. She was part of a toy set labeled "safe for under 3" and thus required to be entirely without anything that might be pulled off, chewed off, or otherwise turned into a choking hazard. Long skinny piece of rubber? I don't think so.

We've had the toy since BJ was about 6 months old, and he'd play with it occasionally, but it wasn't until about 2 weeks ago that he selected out the little purple mousie and attached himself to her. Ever since, it's been clear that her lack of a tail troubles him. (Never bothered him before!) He finally remedied this by rooting through his Legos, finding an orange Lego square that had a little red string "tail" attached to it, and carrying that around with him wherever Chrysanthemum went. He would try in vain to get it to stick to her little rubber rear, eventually contenting himself with just placing it next to her and every so often moving the purple doohickey at the end of the red string so that it touched where a tail would have been.

After watching him do this for three days, I decided that I'd rather give the little toy a permanent tail than deal with the inevitable meltdown that would happen when BJ lost the precious orange Lego. So I pulled out some white ribbon and a needle and did the deed. I just pray that my crafting skills will be equal to his toddler ability to pull things apart. I told him that if he pulls it off I won't be able to fix it. So far he's been quite gentle with her. We'll see.

I'd take a picture, but she's snuggled up in bed with him. Lucky little rubber mouse.

So here's a pic from before she was surgically altered by yours truly. You can see her and the orange Lego "tail" that BJ tried to give her, alongside her name, which he has spelled out using letters from his various letter puzzles. (Yes, he did it by himself; yes, he's only 2 years and four months old.) He used the Kevin Henkes book cover as a reference to get everything in the right order, but even so we were duly impressed.

In other impressive events, BB is now crawling. It's a commando crawl, often on a diagonal, but it is definitely forward motion. She still rolls a lot to get where she's going, but she's quite proud of her new ability to head for something straight on. Unfortunately, that "something" is more often than not whatever BJ is playing with. So far she hasn't gone for Chrysanthemum, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time....

And the winner is....

Congratulations to Elizabeth F. at The Whole Family! She is the lucky winner of one of my Baby Friendly Beads nursing necklaces. It was such fun to do this giveaway -- thanks again to Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer for hosting it!

Friday Feature -- Deedaloos

Every Friday, I feature an interview with one of my fellow Etsy sellers.
This week's featured shop is another EtsyKids member: Deedaloos.

Who are you?
Sometimes I ponder that question myself so I'll keep it simple. My name is Kim and I live in Loudon NH. I am married with two children, Kristen is 3 and Matthew is 7.

What is your Etsy Shop Name?
Deedaloos, which most people mispronounce as I made up my own spelling. if you'd like to know where it came from, check out the about me section in my etsy shop!
What EtsyKids items do you specialize in?
I make these great scuba-style swimsuits and, knit fabric pj's and lots and lots of quality fun fleece hats which I won't list until Fall! I also make breastfeeding tops in tank, short & long sleeve styles!

What do you like about Etsy?
It's so laid back and the variety of products and people is overwhelmingly spectacular!
What do you like about creating?
I just love to look at the end product and know that I did it. I love it when I make something for my own and they truly like it and want to wear it!
What do you love about your business?
I love to create high quality products at a fair price and then pass them on to others.
What is your favorite product right now?
Right now, I would have to say it's the swimsuits since Summer is here and I love keeping my little one's skin protected for our beach trips! This year, I expect her to be a camo queen but even in camo, I know she's going to stand out amongst the other children.
What makes you unique at Etsy?
My variety of products and the name is certainly going to be one of a kind with a history to match!
What makes you unique as a woman?
I'm not really sure, you'd have to ask my friends and family that one. Oh, the stories they would probably tell . . .

What do you love about Kids?
I love their simplicity and innocence in the way they perceive and react to everything that goes on around them. The way they tell you that maybe we should "drive" to Concord when you say "let's run to Concord".
What are some other sites to find out more about you and what you love to create?
Right now, I'm more inclined to direct you away from the computer and to a book since we all spend waaaaaay too much time at our computers. Nancy Cornwell has several books out on working with fleece that include a large variety of projects and they are worth every penny. I mostly use the books as a reference tool at this point.
For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy 6 months, BB!

BB turned six months old today. (How the heck did that happen?) It's been a whirlwhind half a year, more blessed and crazy-busy than I ever could have imagined. She's sitting up now, and almost crawling. It will be interesting to see when she actually crawls; since she's figured out how to roll everywhere she needs to go, the motivation to crawl may not be all that strong.

We celebrated with mini-brownies for dessert. (No, BB didn't get any. She'll have to wait for the second-hand breastmilk version! But she gobbled up her banana, served frozen in one of those marvelous mesh bag feeders.) BJ joined us in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" and blew out BB's candle for her. He then shared some of his brownie with Chrysanthemum, his little toy mouse, recently named thus because Kevin Henkes' darling story is BJ's favorite book this week.

Chrysanthemum has been the main character in most of BJ's imaginative play for the last few days. It started with an elaborate and slightly disturbing game of his in which he pretends to almost vacuum up the little mousie (by nearly running it over with his plastic popcorn popper push toy) and then "saves" her at the last minute by moving her to the rug. And not just anywhere on the rug, mind you. It's one of those play rugs from Ikea printed with a road running through landscapes (desert, forest, city, ocean) and Chrysanthemum must be placed on the beach or all bets are off.

I have no idea where all this came from, except that we actually managed to vacuum the house this week, which is a rarer occurrence than I would wish. Apparently it made quite an impression on BJ.

This afternoon, we made Chrysanthemum a house out of Lego blocks. You can barely see her there in the middle; she's a little purple rubber thing. Looks a lot like a cat toy, actually. (It's a fine line between cat toys and kid toys in this house, I confess.) It's really fun to see BJ's imagination leaping and bounding into existence. He was so proud of what we'd built!

And there in the background you can see our first attempt at watercolor painting. He did the red and I did the blue. He's getting so good at making circles! It's very impressive.

I'm sure that I'll barely get turned around twice before BB is a year old. Soon she too will be painting and building and making her own intricate amusements. Blink, and the seconds swoosh by, the days dissolve. It's absolute cliche, but nonetheless true, and still astonishing to experience.

Monday, July 23, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish...

It's been a fishy week around here:

  1. My latest Baby Friendly Beads creation was an Asymmetrical Fish necklace, finally giving a home to two purple fish beads. It's an unusual color combination for me. I've been trying to work outside my usual color schemes and design patterns recently, which is a fun challenge.
  2. When I found those two beads swimming at the bottom of my stash, I also found a little blue fish bead, which inspired my entry into the Bloggy Giveaway. For details, see this post.
  3. We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, our first "just us four" family outing since BB's arrival.

BJ had a blast. It's the third time he's been, and this time he really knew what to expect. He got such a kick out of seeing the jellyfish. Jellyfish have a bit of a family mythology, I suppose, since S was stung by a Man O' War during our winter semester spent abroad in Martinique. (Almost 15 years ago, now!)

One of BJ's favorite things to do is to look through our photo album from the trip and exclaim, "A Jellyfish stung Daddy's Belly!" (Yes, I took a picture. I am my father's daughter, after all.) And then he blows raspberries on S's stomach with a lot of zest. And spit. (He also gets great delight out of seeing the pictures of me in a bikini and shrieking, "Mommy's in a hot zucchini!" Yes, he means bikini -- and no, he didn't learn it on his own. Thanks, S.)

BB's favorite part was the "waterbed" in the (most excellent) Splash Zone kid's area. She had enormous fun rolling around here! She was also quite entranced by the sardines.

BB also did a lot of sleeping, and S and I joked that we ought to have been recording the sounds of the crowd and the ambient noise of the water to play for her when she sleeps (instead of the white noise we currently use).

BJ really enjoyed the touch pools this time around. In previous trips, he just wasn't quite sure what to do with them. This time, though, he poked and prodded and stroked with the best of 'em. The kelp seems to have made a particular impression, as he has repeatedly told me that it "felt like broccoli."

Bright blessings on the makers of my Sutemi carrier; it's the only carrier I've found that is at all comfortable for an all-day excursion like this!

Overall the day was much more relaxing than I would have anticipated. And hey, any trip that ends both with a new alphabet book and with both kids zonked out in the car has to be counted as a success!

Cold Brewed Coffee

It's official: I'm caffeinated again.

I'd quit drinking caffeine more than four years ago, back when we started the TTC thing that resulted in BJ. It wasn't too much of a hardship, at first, since I'd never been a hardcore coffee drinker and I'd cut out soda some time ago. Really it simply meant switching to decaf for my morning cup of tea (Earl Grey, Chai, or Boston's Mint Tea, with honey).

Because I was breastfeeding BJ, on general principle I continued to avoid caffeine after he was born. Given his poor sleep habits, the idea of a caffeinated baby was too horrific to contemplate. And since he weaned himself at 15 months because (as I discovered two weeks later) I was pregnant, I just kept up the caffeine ban and struggled through those groggy mornings and long afternoons.

Ye gods, it's weird to realize that I've either been pregnant, or breastfeeding, for more than three years now.

I guess between BB's all-night noshing and BJ's early waking, it was only a matter of time before I needed a morning jolt beyond a cold shower. I started by switching back to caffeinated Earl Grey, but that wasn't cutting it. I found myself longing for iced coffee around 2 pm most days, but no way was I going to pack up the kids and head to Starbucks.

Then, a few weeks ago, our newspaper ran a recipe for cold brewed coffee. I tried it on a whim, and now I'm totally hooked. I was skeptical about the food writer's claims about how much better it would taste. Mostly, I liked the idea of being able to set it up the night before and not wait for it to cool down before icing it.

But she was right. Cold brewed coffee is smoother and richer tasting. The recipe makes just enough for me to have a cup of iced coffee in the morning with enough left over for a smaller serving around lunchtime.

I add a teaspoon of sugar, mix with equal parts milk, and pour over ice. Yummmmm!

Cold Brewed Coffee

1/3 to 1/2 cup coffee (medium grind)
1 1/2 cups cold water

Stir together in a glass container with a lid (mason jar, small crock, etc.) Let sit 12 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, pour through a coffee filter. (I've discovered that the yogurt cheese inserts for my yogurt maker double as a perfectly sized insert for use with a filter over a tall glass. You can also just line a small strainer with a coffee filter.) Dilute to taste and serve over ice. (The recipe suggests equal parts water and coffee, but I like equal parts milk and coffee, with a splash of cold water to keep it from growing too much hair on my chest.)

The really funny thing? BB still isn't sleeping through the night, alas, but I swear that since I've started up my morning coffee she is sleeping for longer stretches. Sometimes a whole 4 hours!

Getcher Free Baby Friendly Beads!

Baby Friendly Beads is happy to announce that we are participating in the Bloggy Giveaway hosted by Rocks in my Dryer. I am giving away a Baby Friendly Beads necklace for free! That's right, absolutely free!

What is a Baby Friendly Beads necklace, you ask? It's a nursing necklace, pretty and practical, made to help out breastfeeding moms (and babies) when their little ones reach that pinching, poking, pulling stage.

Designed to keep baby happy at the breast, each necklace is also crafted with mom in mind. Baby can hold the pendant or slide the beads on the necklace cord itself. Since both necklace and pendant are made from one continuous length of cord, there's no chance of one part breaking off from the other. These necklaces are sturdy: I do not use any findings or clasps, because they are often the weakest part of a necklace, and each is secured with a double knot in the back. (If your necklace breaks during the first year of use, assuming normal wear and tear, I will restring your beads for free!) They are long enough for mom to put on over her head and for baby to comfortably play with while nursing, but they can easily be shortened all the way to choker length simply by sliding the adjustable bead at the back.

If you would like to enter the drawing for this free necklace, simply leave a comment on this post. I will be doing a random drawing from these comments sometime between 12 noon and 11 p.m. on Friday 7/27 so be sure to leave your comment before then. Also be sure to include some sort of link to your blog, email, etc. so that I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.

Be sure to check out the other great blogs who are participating in this giveaway. And thanks a bunch to Shannon for coordinating it all!

Here's a picture of the necklace I'll be giving away. (For free! That's right!) Apologies that it isn't of the usual quality for my Etsy shop.... one of the cats jumped on my lightbox this morning and broke it. True story. Sigh. Mom always said the pets caused more damage than the kids ever did, and I'm starting to believe her...

Anyway, it is a lovely little necklace, featuring a cute blue fish and cobalt blue and silver beads strung on black cotton cord.

Fine print: this is open to US residents only. Sorry -- international postage just isn't in the family budget this month. Also, you agree to my Baby Friendly Bead common sense caution: nursing necklaces and bracelets should never, ever be used as teethers or toys. (Even for babies without teeth!) Though all my jewelry is designed with a baby's safety in mind, cords are a strangulation hazard and beads are a choking risk. By purchasing Baby Friendly Beads, you agree that I am NOT responsible for any accidents or injuries that may occur while using and wearing the jewelry. Always use under adult supervision, and please use common sense when wearing and using the jewelry.

All Baby Friendly Beads designs, images, and descriptions are copyrighted. Do not reproduce or resell without my permission.
Thanks for playing, and good luck!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Feature -- ALaineDesigns

It's Friday again! This week, I will feature ALaineDesigns. She makes absolutely adorable kids clothes and totebags. She's an EtsyKids seller, and she's one of the amazing Etsy folks who were kind enough to send me a baby shower gift, a lovely event which I wrote about here.

Who are you?
I am Jessica. Stay at home mom to my beautiful baby girl and inspiration, Arden Laine. Formerly a higher education administrator, I took the plunge into motherhood and left that career behind for a new one.

What is your Etsy Shop Name?A Laine Designs

What EtsyKids items do you specialize in?

Onesies, Toddler T's and Tote Bags. I have a large variety of stock designs but I love custom designs!

What do you like about Etsy?

I like the Etsy community. I like that it puts a high value on all things handmade.

What do you like about creating?

I used to be in a pretty fast paced environment that I had to use a lot of structured creativity in. I like now, that if I have a vision, I can just move forward with it. I like the outcome of the item. If I think it's especially cute or if I get good feedback on it.

What do you love about your business?

I love selling. I have always been a sales person. I remember going door to door at about 8 years old selling things I had made. Once, I went door to door selling these little pom pom things. They were 50 cents each. What a deal! I took orders for sizes and colors and delivered them a couple weeks later.

What is your favorite product right now?

The Twosie Tin is my favorite. Two onesies of any designs (stock or custom) in a cute windowed tin, tied up with ribbon. I think they are VERY cute

What makes you unique at Etsy?

I think there are a lot of people who do the same type of thing I do at Etsy. Looking into their shops, I see a distinct style from each of them. I think my designs have a style as well and that style is what makes me unique.

What makes you unique as a woman?

What makes me unique is my ability to identify with people on many levels. My experience in business, education, and as a stay at home mom have rounded me into a person that can see through many sets of eyes.

What do you love about kids?

Well, I'm new to kids as mine is less than a year old. But there's something magical that happens when a kid learns something new or sees something he/she has never seen before. I love how kids explore their world.

What are some other sites to find out more about you and what you love to create? I am exclusively at Etsy!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cardboard and Contact Paper

Admittedly, it's a decor choice more shabby than chic, but ever since having kids I've become a whiz at using cardboard and contact paper. These two things together have solved more household problems than I would have imagined possible.

It started with childproofing. We live in a Craftsman bungalow that was built in the 1920's, which has its charms and challenges. As you can imagine, many of those nifty childproofing devices simply aren't made with older homes in mind. Take those handy doorknob covers as an example: they don't quite work with antique glass doorknobs. Those plastic fireplace door locks? They aren't worth a thing if all you have is antique wire curtains.

I often remind myself -- somehow, our parents (and us kids!) survived without all these doohickeys. So I can do the same, if I have to. Given enough cardboard and contact paper, that is!

One of my favorite things about our house is the built-in china cabinet in the dining room. It has style and history and a neat mirrored area in the middle of the top. I thought it was great before I had kids, and I really appreciated it right after. It turns out that this area happens to be perfectly sized for a baby's changing pad, and at the perfect height. Who would have thought it? The mirror keeps baby entertained, so it makes for an ideal diaper changing station.

But my affection for this element of the house quickly waned. The cabinet has antique glass in each door, and as I watched BJ learning how to walk, I realized it was a terrible accident waiting to happen. The moment he took his first adorable, stumbling steps in the vicinity, I immediately visualized, with horror, what would happen if he were to pitch headfirst through that fragile, 70+ year old glass.

We couldn't move it -- being a built-in, and all. Removing the glass didn't seem like the best option, though I considered it. Then, after scoring some contact paper through Freecycle, I cut pieces of cardboard to fit over the glass, covered them with contact paper, and then used double-sided tape to fix them to the glass. Now, if a toddler falls and hits one of the doors, the glass will probably still break but the cardboard pieces will act as a cushion and keep the kid from being sliced up by jagged edges.

Last summer, when BJ was fully mobile, I was almost at the point of taking down the cardboard & contact paper inserts. But then I got pregnant again, and I figured it would be easier to just leave them up until BB is running around on her own (which will be soon enough, I'm sure). So this is what it looks like for now, and how it will remain for the forseeable future. Not exactly Sunset Magazine, but it certainly is functional!

As for that open fireplace? Again, I cut cardboard to fit, covered it with contact paper -- white this time, to match the trim in the living room -- and stuck it in the opening. Voila! No more crawling around in the soot!

This week, I put together yet another fine cardboard & contact paper creation. Lately, BJ has been very concerned that his baby doll does not have a bed of her own. (He's been doing a lot of imitation parenting: feeding his baby while I feed BB, trying to dress and undress his baby, and putting her to sleep when BB naps. Very cool.) Rather than buy something, I asked BJ if he wanted to make something together. Of course he said yes!

For our little project, I took a spare cardboard box, cut it into a rough cradle shape, and covered it with contact paper. I had him help "measure" by holding his finger where I would need to cut. He had a great time doing that and helping to smooth out the contact paper. As an extra bonus, BB was entertained by the wadded up sheets that we'd peeled off the back of the contact paper.

It was a great way to keep all three of us busy for a good half hour, and he was very proud of the end result!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Hundred Hearts!!!

Well, it's taken more than a year, but I finally have one hundred hearts in my Etsy store! I checked this morning, as I do most mornings, and I'd reached the coveted number. My own heart did a little happy dance. What a nice way to start the day.

And the really cool thing is that only two of those hearts are people who knew me before my shop opened (my sister and my mom). Amazing to think that since February 13, 2006 there have been 98 people who found my shop and liked it enough to "favorite" me.

Just for fun, I used the arrows to scroll back through the hearts (gotta love the Etsy eye candy). It was really neat to see the avatars of so many people that I now recognize. Many are sellers I've seen on the Etsy forums or people I've met through the street teams that I belong to (EtsyKids and EtsyMom). Some are folks I'd now call friends. Isn't the Internet an amazing thing?

Next goal: 100 sales! (Only 67 to go....)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Feature -- EnchantedDandelions

On Fridays, I'll be featuring fantastic shops, artists, etc. First up is EnchantedDandelions. She's a fellow EtsyKids member and has adorable things in her shop for kids.

Who are you?

Good question, LOL. Well, my name is April. Stay-at-home AP/NFL momma to Abbie (2y) and Isaiah (12m). Wife. Bookworm. Vegetarian. Nature lover. Crafter. Just a few of many words that describe me.

What is your Etsy Shop Name? EnchantedDandelions

What EtsyKids items do you specialize in?

Although I'm just starting out, I hope to focus on Pocket Playmats. Made out of felt, these playsets are the perfect size for appointments, eating out, roadtrips, or just playing at home, while inspiring creativity and imagination. I also offer Loopy Loveys, knitted baby hats and flannel baby wipes. Who knows what's next, though!

What do you like about Etsy?

I love that everything is handmade. In a world quickly becoming overrun by huge chainstores, and with a 'cheaper is better, everything is disposable' attitude, I find it very refreshing.

What do you like about creating?

For me, I use my crafting time as "me time". A chance to take a break for myself, to challenge myself, my skills, my creativity. It gives my brain a chance to stretch its legs. LOL.

What do you love about your business?

Being able to work whenever I want, between naptimes or in the middle of the night. And in my PJs. *wink*

What is your favorite product right now?

The Pocket Playmats, as they give me the chance to be as creative as I want to be. I'm even anticipating getting custom orders, because I look foward to that challenge of creating the perfect playset for that individual person.

What makes you unique as a woman?

I am very strong-willed, and I don't conform to society's image of the perfect mom. I also feel that I am very compassionate, and am able to connect to many different types of people.

What do you love about Kids?

They are so free-spirited with no barriers. They don't let anything get in the way of their dreams. They say what they mean and do what they want.

What are some other sites to find out more about you and what you love to create?

You can check out my blog at for updates on both my shop, as well as my crazy family.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I heart handmade

When an object is made with care by loving hands, it becomes more than merely a thing. Call it magic or something else, but I think it takes on a bit of spirit from the artist who made it. It has a story, a snippet of soul.

Granted, machine-made things have a story as well. But it is often a depressing one, a narrative about finding the cheapest way to make the largest number of replicas of something to meet a manufactured desire. A story with any number of tragic subplots. Made and sold in a soulless manner, too many of these things are intentionally disposable and end up in the garbage, sooner or later.

Andy Warhol was on to something with his Pop Art images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and the like. The effect of media saturation -- in effect, repetition -- stole something vital from them. Made them both larger than life and less than alive. It's similar when something is factory made. (Even more so, when that something is 'supposed' to be artistic, I believe.) It makes millions of perfect replicas -- the same shirt, the same shoe, the same silver wedding band. Each might be pretty, functional, perfectly fine -- but none of them has the heart of handmade.

When something is made by hand, imperfections become a source of individuality and beauty, rather than just being flaws. It's the same way with people, isn't it? The quirks, the wrinkles, the laugh unlike any other, these are the things that make us beloved to each other.

Plenty of savvy folks and thoughtful philosophers have said this sort of thing before, in ways both more articulate and more thorough than I can manage at the moment. There are lots of folks who are extremely passionate about the handmade movement, and I think the world is a better place because of it.

But these issues are not simple. I know I have quite romantic notions about all of this. Much as I wish it could be otherwise, I know myself. I'd run melancholy mad without the many comforts and the immediate gratifications that are hallmarks of this plasticized, mass-produced culture.

I admit it: I own my share of things Made in China. I boycott Walmart, but I shop at Target. (On a single income in Silicon Valley, we can hardly afford to do otherwise.) I wear mass-produced shoes from Payless, and I've even been known to think they were cute. But I also shop at thrift stores and try to reuse what I can. I recycle. (And Freecycle.) I compost and vermicompost. I garden and shop at farmer's markets. Also, more and more, I shop at Etsy. And I deal with all those contradictions as best as I can.

I find myself thinking often these days of a cartoon in the recent New Yorker. Two kids are in a nearly bare room, with just a bed and a dresser. One kid says to the other, "My parents sent back all my stuff that came from China." I laughed, but ruefully. Every time I read another headline about imported toxic toys, or deadly pet food, or contaminated produce, I find myself wondering....

Is it too much to want to know where my food comes from? Who grew it, or made it, and how? Is it too much to wish I could be absolutely certain that every bite of every meal I serve is safe for me and my family to eat?

Is it too much to long for a time in which almost everything one owned had meaning, was necessary, was meant to last?

Is it too much to wish for less plastic in my life, for more handmade?

Is it any wonder I heart Etsy?!?

In today's mail was my latest Etsy splurge: a lovely playsilk from GreenBeanBoutique. BJ has had lots of fun running around with it. Mostly waving it around in the air and shrieking, "Play! Play!" It's not entirely clear if he's attempting to command it or merely narrating his own actions -- either way, he's having an excellent time. BB likes it too for peekaboo. Who knew a pretty square of fabric could be such fun?

It probably won't save the planet, but it makes me happy nevertheless, watching him dance around with it and knowing it was made by hand, with love.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Studio" Time

I'm happy to say that the little lavender desk is doing a bang-up job so far. I was able to spend two whole hours today, uninterrupted, working on some new necklaces. The time just flew. I got five necklaces made and two more in progress before my time was up. Bless S for giving me that sort of time to lose myself in making something!

Then, thanks to BB taking a brief and unusual nap this afternoon, I was actually able to take some pictures so I could list one. I can't remember the last time I was actually able to make something and put it in my Etsy shop on the same day.

Check it out! Preppy in Pink Baby Friendly Beads. I've been really pushing myself to experiment with new and different color combinations (instead of making yet another blue or purple neckace, lol!)

It was a little frustrating when BB woke up before I could get pics of the rest, but I'm trying to focus on what I did get done, and be happy about that, rather than get my knickers in a twist about what is yet to do.

Actually, that pretty much sums up my life right now. All about the attitude.

Quirky Kids

Every kid I know is quirky, because they haven't yet learned to suppress themselves in an effort to meet social norms. It's one of the things I like best about being a mom -- living with a little individual who is absolutely and unashamedly himself, quirks and all.

One of my favorite BJ quirks right now is what I've taken to calling his "Toddler Jedi Mind Trick." Whenever he's telling you something that he wants you to agree with, he punctuates his words with a repeated and vigorous nod of the head.

For example, I'll ask him if he is ready for lunch. He says, "BJ and Mommy (nod) do letter (nod) puzzle (nod) then do lunch (nod, nod)." He then runs over to the puzzle and looks at me expectantly, still nodding. Has he picked this up from me? I don't think so. I really think he's come up with it on his own, in an attempt to encourage us to tell him, "Sure! Yes! Absolutely!"

It just cracks me up to see him do this. When he gets really emphatic about something, I worry he'll give himself whiplash!

Other BJ quirks include:

  • Stopping to hug every conifer tree he sees, while being sure you know that he knows it's a conifer. (He's usually right, too.)
  • Picking a sprig of lavender almost every time we go out to the car.
  • Insisting that anything alphabet or number related must be arranged in the proper alphabetical or numerical order. Or else.
  • Laughing at beets. (He's been convinced for a long time now, that beets are an inherently hysterical vegetable. If you ask him, "What do we do with beets" he will reply, "We laugh at them!") We also must visit the beets in the produce section of the grocery store, every time we go. So that we can wave at them and say, "Hello, beets!" and then laugh at them.
  • Singing the Greek alphabet with his father.
  • Informing us that "E eats Endive!"
  • Asking to listen to They Might Be Giants: Here Come The ABCs! every time we get into the car.
  • Bringing his lizard and starfish puppets with him when we go to the mall.
  • Bringing the letters P and O with him when we go to the post office.
  • Counting -- and touching -- the big red spheres in front of Target stores.
  • Delighting in the experience of getting dizzy, while saying "BJ dancing!"
BB is still a bit too young to have many of her own quirks. So far, they are expressing themselves in a particular fascination with her own toes and in a taste for wooden spoons. But give her time. It's one of the things I look forward to the most -- watching her grow up into her own, unique, quirky self.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Second Child Syndrome

It's bad enough that we only have managed to get two framed photos of BB on display. (As compared to the two dozen or so of BJ.... We've taken tons of pics of her, though admittedly not as many as we did of him at the same age; not that this is a bad thing, considering the insane number of pictures involved!) He's my avatar for my Etsy shop. He's on my Etsy banner and my business cards. Even though her crib is in their room, it's still "BJ's room" in the household parlance. Now he's threatening to take over the blog as well!

What can I say, it's a classic example of Second Child Syndrome.

Can't have that, so on the "pictures worth a thousand words" principle, here ya go, fresh from the download, taken just yesterday:

Mommy's sneezes are funny!
(What is it about faking a sneeze that makes it the universal baby joke?)

I love my toes!

Look where I rolled, Mom!

This last one says so much about the Second Child Syndrome. She has apparently decided her mother's housekeeping doesn't cut it -- once upon a time, when BJ was learning to crawl, I vacuumed compulsively. Now, I'm lucky to get it done once a week. Thus, the poor dear has taken it upon herself to dust under the futon for me. There are some serious dust buffaloes under there. It's amazing she's not visibly grey!

Which is another indicator of Second Child Syndrome: if I'd come into the room to find BJ under the futon, I would have grabbed him in a panic and washed him up immediately. (Actually, it would have been highly unlikely that I would have even left him alone in the room in the first place under such circumstances.)

Not only did I leave her there to explore. I grabbed the camera and documented it.

Sorry, BB.

Color Kittens

I'm always fascinated to see which books BJ latches on to. Some months ago, it was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3. Eating the Alphabet has been a longtime favorite, as I've mentioned. For the past two days, it has been The Color Kittens. He is even trying to read it by himself!

What's especially interesting is how he seems to be processing some major concepts as we read. He gets repeatedly upset at the part in the book where the kittens go to sleep. And in all that brown, the sun went down, and the colors began to disappear in the warm dark night. "You want the colors to come again!" he'll wail. (He's still working on the you & I pronoun distinction.) He's seriously upset at the notion that the colors would no longer be there, even though they show up again on the very next pages.

I wonder: what, exactly, is he processing here? Mortality? Interesting to note that the other book he's really into these days is Cat Heaven . We're trying to prep him a bit because one of our beloved kitties has been diagnosed with bone cancer and probably will die very soon. We've been careful not to overdo it, and I don't think he's overheard any conversations about Socks dying, but he's an observant child and a careful listener so it's hard to say.

I wish I could have met Margaret Wise Brown. She's given the world such an amazing gift with her children's books. If you believe (as I do) that words have power, it just blows the mind to ponder how many times her words have been read aloud, how many parents know the words to Goodnight Moon by heart -- how many children have drifted into dreamland with those words. It is the best kind of magic, I think, to weave words into a spell as masterfully as she does in her writing.

I don't need fame. (Or even want it, really.) But a wee morsel of that kind of magic would go a long way towards feeding my hungry muse. If during the course of my lifetime I could have tasted the true thing, even just a little bit, I would count myself content.

But back to BJ. He's so funny: he's decided I'm Mama Hush and he's BJ Brush. (Hush and Brush are the two kitten characters in the book.) We've read The Color Kittens at least a dozen times in the last two days, and I have no idea why he suddenly decided it was the book to read. After we read it twice yesterday, he asked for "special Mommy and BJ time painting!"

He's finally gotten to where he'll fingerpaint without fuss. Used to be he'd get all squicked because his fingers got dirty in the process. Now, so long as he has a way to wash his hands whenever he wants to (which is frequently), he's happy. Hence the yellow bucket. I think he was just as happy watching paint flecks float in the water as he was smooshing colors around on the paper.

Until this morning, I didn't fully realize how important his creations are to him. (Until this morning, I doubted he even remembered making them from one day to the next.) But as soon as he woke up, he wanted to see the pictures he'd made the day before. "You see all the colors again! Again!" he insisted. I think he feared that they had disappeared, like in the book. I had to carry him out in pajamas and bare feet into the backyard and show him where I'd left the paintings to dry. He had to get down and physically touch them before he'd even think about sitting down to breakfast.

I'm so glad I didn't have to dig them out of the trash! I'd actually contemplated balling them up and tossing them when we had finished, since until now he's never seemed to care too much about his drawings or paintings. But for some reason I remembered what my mom had said the last time they were visiting. After they'd painted together, I went to throw away the papers, and she said, "Don't let him see you do that. It will make him think what he makes doesn't matter."

It matters.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Ye gods, but it's amazing how fast the kids are growing. BB and BJ both seem to surprise me with something new, every day. This morning, it was BJ piling up all his stuffed animals and informing me they were "the zoo." Later this afternoon, he was trying to spell out "numbers" with his foam letter alphabet, all by himself: "NUMR." BB can now make it all the way across the kids' bedroom, just by rolling!

It's astonishing to look at them -- to look at her, and remember when he was that little; to look at him, and realize that all too soon she will be walking around and talking and becoming her own unique self.

One of BJ's latest fascinations is the garden. He just loves going out with me to water the plants and to talk about the flowers and vegetables. He is especially entranced by the sunflowers. Is it because they, too, seem to be getting visibly bigger almost by the hour? (The fence is 6 feet high, and they topped it some time ago -- and they haven't even gotten their flowers yet!)

I'm glad to say that my typically brown thumb is getting a wee bit more verdant these days. The plants are thriving, and S and I are already starting to get bored with zucchini. Not BJ, though. If it grew in our backyard, he wants to eat it. (Not always too much of it, mind you, but at least a bite.) He also wants to name it, repeatedly and alphabetically if possible. He can tell you that we have beets, basil, canteloupe, cosmos, daisies, honeysuckle, lantana, lemons, lettuce, lobelia, marigolds, mint, nasturtiums, plums, pumpkins, snap peas, strawberries, sunflowers, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini, to name a few. (Note to self: next year, must plant arugula, edamame, fennel, some gourds....)

After all, this is the boy who learned his alphabet, in part, by memorizing Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z.

So for all you parents will picky toddlers out there, try planting a garden! It's amazing what it will do for your kid's vegetable intake. And everybody knows, you gotta eat your veggies to keep growing like this!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Timers are a Mom's Best Friend

The heck with diamonds -- I've never been much into them anyway. (Maybe it's those creepy DeBeers commercials, the ones with the bejeweled shadow figures. Always made me think of the shadow imprints that remained after nuclear holocaust. Or perhaps it's simply that a diamond's glitter is far too glam for me. Besides, there are many other ways I'd rather spend that kind of money.)

These days, timers are this girl's best friend.

I have a basic countdown model that looks like this:

I originally bought it back when I was working as a professional artist's model and needed to time my poses. (The 20 minute poses were the most challenging.) Now, it is one of my most important parenting tools. I use it for so many things! Stuff like:
  • time-outs
  • time-ins
  • countdowns
  • potty training

I first started using the timer with BJ when we began instituting "time-outs" as a disciplinary tactic. Initially, the whole time-out thing was too much fun to be much good, due to the novelty of the timer (Push Buttons! Beeps! and, most importantly, Numbers!) but now that he's used to it, the threat of a time-out is often enough to get him to stop doing whatever he shouldn't be doing. (Pulling the cat's tail, poking at BB, eating birdseed from the feeder...)

I find that using the timer works much better than just watching the clock, because it keeps me to my word. BJ is (so far) really good about sitting through the entire time-out, and I think it's because thanks to the timer two minutes doesn't become five when I get distracted with changing BB's diaper.

I began doing special "time-ins" after BB was born, to (hopefully) stave off jealousy issues with BJ. When BB is napping and I get the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with BJ, I'll say, "It's a time-in! Special Mommy and BJ Time!" And I'll set the timer for some amount of time that I can be reasonably sure of being able to devote to play with him. Sometimes I'll do this without the timer, too, so he doesn't feel like our time together always has to be on the clock. BJ really likes the Special Time, with or without the use of the timer. He's taken to announcing them on his own; when we were out watering plants this evening, he gleefully told me, "It's special Mommy and BJ time giving plants a drink!"

I began doing what I call "countdowns" out of desperation, after BB arrived and I needed a new way to cue BJ that Mommy Was Busy. (Pleading or yelling just wasn't gonna cut it anymore.) If I needed to do something like check email or make a phone call, I'd set the timer with enough time (and to spare) to get done whatever needed to get done. Usually nothing over five minutes. Then I'd tell BJ I needed a countdown, and assure him I'd be done by the time the beeper went off. This works brilliantly, so long as I stick to the agreement and don't try to buy more time. Often, he can be entertained simply by watching the numbers change. As the seconds tick off, he goes into his rocketship routine: "Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Blastoff!" (And then does it all over again with the next ten seconds. He will do this dozens of times, given the chance. The kid does love his numbers!)

This morning, I discovered another great way to use the timer. We've started potty training in earnest, with today being his first opportunity to wear Big Boy Underwear instead of diapers. He went the entire morning, from about 9 am to noon, without a single accident. I set the timer to remind us every 45 minutes for him to try to use the training potty, and he had a great time running to the bathroom whenever it went off. (Peed every time, too! Yay BJ!) Before nap, he wanted to put back on the diapers, which fit in perfectly with my master plan anyway.

So I put away the timer for a while, but I was sure to put it someplace I'll be able to find it easily. Heaven knows what I'd do if I misplaced it!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Not Exactly Virginia Woolf

It's nowhere near "a room of one's own," but at last I have (re)claimed a little corner of the house for my creative endeavors. It's a small spot, 24" by 30", beneath a window in our bedroom. I hope that this little lavender desk will make a big difference, symbolically and practically, in how I'm feeling about my life these days.

I have a good life. An amazing and beautiful life. Wonderful children, a devoted husband, loving family, good friends. The luxury of being able to choose to stay home and raise my own kids, to experience the miracle of them, all day and every single day. I am profoundly blessed, in a bounty of ways. I know this, deep in my flesh and clear in my mind.

But lately, there's also this .... dissatisfaction. It's like a secret spring that bubbles forth when I least expect it. It can dampen entire days. Good days, days that should be full of pleasure and wonder. One moment I'll be delighting in BB's baby gurgles or laughing with S as we watch BJ running to a redwood tree -- his chubby arms outstretched and lips puckered as he announces, "I'm hugging and kissing conifers! Mwah!!"

The next moment, I've unwittingly stepped into a puddle and am irritated and impatient. I'll mop it up and try to block off the little stream that had seeped in somehow. I'm not entirely sure where the source of all this lies (and the notion of serious spelunking to find out is daunting, to say the least) but I know that my best efforts at plugging it up are not succeeding.

So, something has to change. Life as a mother is abundant with joys. I do not deny this. But the time and energy required to take care of BB and BJ has meant that I've cut off almost all of my superfluous, creative existence. I am Mom. Sometimes, when there's time, I am Wife. But I'm not much more than that, these days. There just aren't enough moments in the day for anything more.

It's nearly impossible to remember, sometimes, that before the kids were born I was a Writer. I had an entire room devoted to My Creative Life. Admittedly, the computer in that room was the household computer, and S was known to spend several late-night hours there after I'd gone to bed, engrossed in some computer game world. And the study doubled as our guest room, so I had to give it up whenever friends or family came to visit. But most of the time it was my room. My space.

I wrote poems. Letters. A (very rough) draft of a (very long) novel. Email, of course. I wrote essays and short stories. Nearly every day, I wrote something.

Now, I'm a Mom. Who writes occasionally. My study has become the nursery, and the computer is crammed into a tiny nook off the kitchen. It feels like an entire section of my spirit has shriveled up and even as it is drying out, the spring that would renew it is bubbling, bubbling, beginning to boil.

And even so, my heart has grown enormous, brimming full with an incredible and sometimes overwhelming love for my children. I wouldn't trade it. Of course I wouldn't. But more and more, I thirst for the time and energy -- and space -- to nurture that artistic aspect of myself. To source the spring, let it run clean and cold, and drink deep.

Since Writing is nearly impossible for me these days (as opposed to these jottings, which somehow seem less daunting) I try to compensate by making pretty things and jewelry, mostly my Baby Friendly Beads. I'm thinking of starting up a second Etsy store to sell some of the other random things I've been making: beaded doodads and mobiles, mostly. We'll see.

For now, I'm just trying to be content with my little corner of the bedroom. At least it's a little space I can call my own, for beading or work on the laptop (perhaps even for Writing). I'm hoping I can sluice my creative spring to that space, rather than letting it stagnate or boil dry somewhere inside me, invisible.