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Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Feature -- AllSweet

This week's featured Etsy artist is AllSweet, a fellow member of EtsyBloggers, EtsyKids, and EtsyMom. (She also belongs to EtsyGeorgia and EtsyBead -- she's a busy lady!)

For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.
I was raised by my Great Grandmother so I'm semi "old fashioned." I love that she raised me. I believe in sharing the love and try to volunteer as often as I can.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?
Hair bows, headbands, jewelry for children and adults, childrens never know what I may put in there.
(Note from Jen: You really do never know -- take this Elvis necklace, for example! Is he adorable, or what?)

What inspires your creations? Life in general....a butterfly, my kids, the color of the sky. Everything I come into contact with serves as an inspiration.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.
I've been sewing since I was a little girl. I spent most of my life with my Great Grandmother. She had me sewing by the time I was 6 or 7. Everything else just fell into place.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

This Pink and Black Pirate Skull bracelet. I really liked how the colors all worked together so nicely and the little bling added to the focal bead.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Happy, Pleasant, Tired

What do you like about Etsy?
Etsy is wonderful because it allows so many crafters to come together at one place. You can find so many OOAK things on Etsy that you may not have ever found without it.

What makes your shop unique?
I'm not sure that it is unique haha I do use handcrafted polymer clay focal & accent beads in my childrens jewelry.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Always remember to have fun and think outside the box :)

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I don't know if it's the heat, or fighting off the cold, or what -- but for the last few days BJ has been napping again.

This afternoon, I actually got to take a siesta too, while both he and BB slept.


I feel lately like my sleep debt has gone into an adjustable-rate mortgage situation -- the rates are rising, and I don't know how much longer I can make payments. Much less make good on the principal. A nap here and there helps, a lot. But it's been ages since I got more than 2 hours of sleep in a row, with BB doing the night-noshing that she does.

I've been told I will sleep again. Someday. In the meantime, I fear I'm beginning to understand why sleep deprivation is used for torture.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Studio Time

I had a very therapeutic jewelry making session this morning. It felt so good to be in my own head, focusing on my own two hands. No tiny noses to wipe, no sticky fingers to clean, no diapers to change. For at least an hour or so, anyway!

The whole time, Socks was curled up on the bed, keeping me company. He's about the same, which is about all we can ask for. And since the bedroom where I work is the only room in the house with a/c, I got a lovely respite from the August heat.

I've been having fun working with brown hues, combining them with blues, pinks, and yellows. Here are some of the results. If you like what you see, check out my Baby Friendly Beads Etsy shop!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not So Good

BJ's recent phrase for anything he doesn't like is "Not So Good." He's picked this up from S, who tends to dance around saying anything is outright "bad." So BJ will annouce, "Lunchtime is not so good, Mommy." (He was busy playing.) Or, "That song is not so good." (Because it was something other than They Might Be Giants being played in the car.... heaven forfend!) This afternoon, he informed me that my dancing was "Not so good." I was proud of myself for resisting the urge to stick out my tongue at him.

Actually, "Not So Good" pretty much sums it up around here these past few days. BJ has a cold, BB is teething with her second tooth and now seems to have caught BJ's runny nose. Chrysanthemum has developed a tear along her side and it seems irreparable -- and it also appears that the toy she originally came with is no longer for sale, except through in Japan.

Sigh. If ANYBODY knows where I can get Critter Cubes, made by Sassy (or even just the little mouse figurine) I will be eternally grateful, as will BJ. I've contacted Sassy directly with a desperate plea for help, but I have a feeling I may be needing to find somebody who knows Japanese and can navigate the Amazon site to order it for us.

But even worse than that, our beloved cat is ailing.

Socks was diagnosed with bone cancer back in the early spring, and up until Sunday night he'd been doing remarkably well. A slight limp and a huge thirst from the pain medications, but otherwise quite fine and very much himself. Still getting around well, still athletic, still wanting to play and harass our other cat.

Apparently, bone cancer in cats is very rare, so our vet had a hard time giving us a sense of how things would play out. We opted not to do any heroic measures (chemo and amputation) and instead decided to let nature take its course and palliate the pain as needed. Based on her experience with large breed dogs (where bone cancer is more common) she'd expected Socks to live maybe a month or two.

So we're blessed to have had him around for many months beyond that. But the vet warned us that things would get ugly, that his bone would eventually break. This seems to have happened on Sunday night. He jumped down from the window and must have landed wrong. He spent much of the night biting and licking at his leg, and running around as though trying to flee the pain and leave his limb behind. Absolutely heartbreaking to see.

On Monday we talked to the vet and decided to see how he'd do on some stronger pain medication (Buprenex, a narcotic) and prednisone. He seems much better. Sedated, of course, but also still something of himself. He's still eating, which is good, and he's still seeking out our company, wanting to sit on a lap and purr and be stroked. No longer frantically licking or biting at his leg. The limp is worse, but he's still getting around okay. We are going to try to keep him with us as long as he seems reasonably happy and not in such pain that he's shutting down. Just taking it day by day.

Perhaps the most difficult part of all this is anticipating how hard it will be to explain it all to BJ. We've been reading him books to try to do some preparation -- specifically, "Cat Heaven" (which makes me cry) and "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney." He likes "Cat Heaven" especially, and the other night when we were out looking at the moon and listening to the crickets he told me about how there are crickets on the way to cat heaven. It squoze my heart something fierce.

Before he adopted us, Socks was a neighborhood cat. He walked in and introduced himself the very first night we spent in this house. (We had the windows open and hadn't yet put in screens.) As S put it last night, Socks is "a prince among cats." He's patient with the kids, handsome, athletic, and a total sweetheart. We're grateful he has shared his life with us for a while. I just hope his last days are good ones.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

When Baby Bites

Lots of folks claim that the time to wean is when a baby starts getting in her teeth. I understand their thinking: one moment you're relaxed and blissed out from oxytocin while baby nurses happily..... and the next, you're yelping with pain. I have to say I'd forgotten just how excruciating bites on the breast can be.

Well, BB reminded me this week. Her first tooth has come in (you can barely see it, in the lower gum) and the second is close behind. But, as I was with her brother, I'm committed to breastfeeding at least through her first birthday. Which gives us at least 5 months to teach her not to bite.

Heaven help me, it better not take that long!

I'm remembering all the tricks and tips I picked up when BJ started nipping at the nipple, so I figured I'd share some of them. First: try to suppress the automatic reactions to being bitten. As soon as baby bites, the instinct is to yank away her wee mouth with its teeny razor teeth -- just get the source of pain away as quickly as possible! Resist this instinct. It damages your nipples, startles the baby, and in extreme cases can even hurt her if you move really suddenly. Also resist the urge to yell, because it will either scare baby (which can lead to a nursing strike) or entertain her (which can lead to the dreaded biting game: baby bites, Mommy shrieks, baby giggles with delight and bites again to see if Mommy will keep making that funny noise).

So far, the one thing that has consistently worked with both BJ and BB is what I call the "mother-smother" move. I perfected this counter-intuitive technique when BJ was about 9 months old. I really, really wish I didn't have to remember it now, but I find it's coming back to me very quickly.

Here's how the "mother-smother" works: as soon as baby bites, or starts to, pull her into your chest. Gently but quickly press her face against your breast. This will cover her nose, which in turn makes her open her mouth. Voila! She's no longer biting you!

It feels strange to do, and baby doesn't usually like it, but hopefully a few repetitions will reinforce the NO BITING rule. Of course you don't really want to smother your precious baby (even though your darling sugarpie just BIT YOU and you have tears in your eyes and possibly blood on your bra). So only smoosh her face into your body for long enough to get her to let go of the nipple.

I find it's also helpful to enforce a brief break from the breast when baby bites. Not too long -- maybe 30 seconds -- but long enough to make your point. (And long enough for you to stop whimpering and assess the damage.) Tell baby, "No biting!" Be firm but don't yell. This is also a perfectly acceptable time, IMHO, to employ pseudo-profanity. But no yelling. Trust me, the last thing you want is a biting baby that you have to coax back to the breast because you've frightened her into a nursing strike!

Another good idea is to pay really close attention to what seems to prompt baby to bite. Is she biting because she's done nursing? Is she using you as a teether? Does she usually bite at the beginning or the end of a nursing session? See if there's a pattern that can help you anticipate the biting and stop it before it occurs.

With BJ, the biting really was a brief phase. I think he thought it was just so cool that he had these new teeth thingies, and he wanted to try them out, chomping on everything he could. Including me. The biting would flare up when his teething got really bad, but thankfully he never bit hard enough to break the skin, and giving him something else to teethe on usually worked.

If I get off as easily with BB, I'll be glad.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Feature -- Wrapsberry

This week's featured Etsy shop is Wrapsberry, a fellow EtsyMom and EtsyKids member. I personally adore her Halloween (or dress-up) Pirate costume!

EtsyMoms really do make the coolest stuff. For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you. (Hobbies, achievements, favorite something-or-other, family situation, jobs, etc…)

My second child was born at home and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love to write and have had articles published in homeschooling and parenting magazines.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

Blankets for the entire family with a unique design that allows them to double as pillows, Eye Pillows for adults and kids, and Tote bags that convert into full size towels. More ideas on the way.

What inspires your creations?

Necessity is the mother of invention. When I see an unmet need, a lightbulb goes on. I am also inspired by color and texture in materials and landscapes.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

You know that term, thinking outside of the box? Well, I don't believe there IS a box- the only limitations exist in our own minds. I try to find new ways of looking at things and new ways to use things, improvements that can be made to existing ideas. I scribble ideas and drawings on every imaginable surface whenever the mood strikes me. Usually there is a lot of revision and testing of materials until I get that "aha! moment." When I get an idea, I can't think about anything else until I have the final product in my hands. The creative process is very motivating for me. And of course, all of those thoughts jumbling around inside my head keeps me up at night!

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

My Sea Wrap has to be my favorite simply because it is completely my own in concept, style, design and execution. I gave a prototype to my daughter for testing and it truly won my heart after experiencing it's function and seeing my daughter's delight in using it.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
ambitious, creative, unconventional

What do you like about Etsy?

So many things!! I love the sense of community amongst sellers. I love that buyers can approach sellers comfortably. I love the variety of products for sale. I love that artists are being supported directly and can own their creative process.

What makes your shop unique?

I enjoy using sumptuous fabrics and colors in unusual ways. My blankets are unique not only for their design, but also because I have added a center of fleece making them very warm and functional. I try to have a variety of products that can bring decadence into our every day lives.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

It sounds cliche, but I believe that if you do what you love the rest will follow.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations? My blog.

If you like what you see, be sure to visit Wrapsberry at Etsy!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No More Naps

It's been a full week, between BB's teething and BJ's decision to stop taking naps. Have I mentioned that he's not napping anymore?

Yes, as of about a week or so ago, he is no longer napping. He's only 29 months old -- all my sleep books would lead me to believe he should continue taking a nap until he's 3 or 4 years old.

But nooooooooo. No more naps for BJ.

Happily, I've now learned how to say that without a note of panic in my voice. Oh, how I miss those naps, though. (My mother, if she could, would be sure to remind me that I stopped taking naps at six months old so I should quit whining and accept the karma I earned as a wee baby.) It's nice to have the one-on-one time while BB naps (and she better keep on napping, that's all I have to say) but it sure makes for long days. He goes to bed around 8 or 8:30 p.m. and wakes between 6 and 7:30 a.m., so he just seems to need less sleep than most of his peers.

That, or the sleep books lie. Which is also possible.

Today I really thought he might nap anyway, since we had the playgroup over for a Popsicle Playdate this morning and it just tuckered him out both emotionally and physically. About a dozen kids and their moms, running around in the sun, hyped up on frozen sugar and artificial dye -- now that's a recipe for good times! Actually, we did enjoy ourselves quite a bit. Though the crowd got to be a bit much for BJ about halfway through, at which point he started pleading, "Go inside! Go inside!" I was very grateful that S had stayed home from campus and was able to help by taking BJ in while BB and I hung out with our guests. Hey, at least BJ didn't break into his "No Kids! No Kids!" routine, as he has been known to do.

He recovered his equanimity fairly quickly, once he had a full belly and the full attention of both his parents. When BB went down for her nap after lunch, BJ started yawning and wanted to snuggle up and read some books. I tried to tempt him with "Special Mommy-BJ Nap Time!" but he wasn't going to be snookered in. He remains the napless wonder, and I think that's just how it's going to be from here on out.

Photo Shoot

We took some time yesterday for a photo shoot. I wasn't sure if we'd remember to do it on BB's actual 7 month birthday, which is tomorrow, and since I'd already dolled her up in the beautiful dress given to us by WonderfulDay for the Etsy baby shower I thought it was better to go with it while we had the time.
Unfortunately, BB wasn't full of smiles. Her first tooth has broken through the gumline, but it isn't all the way through and it's still giving her fits as best as I can tell. Poor boo. She did grant a few of her adorable grins. They were hard to come by, though.
Taking pictures of two kids is about as easy as herding cats. We got one good shot, out of dozens:
BJ was feeling very sweet, giving BB kisses when she started crying.
Of course BJ insisted on having Chrysanthemum take part. For a while, after he was done kissing, he was having the mousie give a few smooches. Too stinkin' cute. But it led to the predictable outcome, when BB wanted to turn a kiss on the hand into a grab:
But she's mine, Mommy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Playing House with a Mouse

BJ continues to entertain and astonish us with his attachment to Chrysanthemum, the little purple mouse. She is now eating with us, sleeping every night in BJ's bed (perched on his right shoulder so she's there on the pillow with him), and going almost everywhere with us. She's been to the park, the mall, the grocery store, the thrift store.... playdates and restaurants and parties....

She's now an integral part of daily rituals. Before every meal, BJ announces, "Chrysanthemum! It's time for dinner!" Doesn't matter if it's breakfast. He gets really mad if S or I try to call her for a meal. (Tried it once in an attempt to get him over to the table more quickly. Won't be doing that again!) She goes with him to wash his hands, she comes along when it's time to read books, and she "helps" him use the potty.

Just the other day, he informed me that I actually have three kids: BJ, Chrysanthemum, and BB. (Note the order, please.) The mouse is his "little baby sister," and he's often more solicitous of the toy than he is of BB herself.

This isn't surprising, I'm sure -- isn't it easier to work through sibling issues with a rubber object that won't talk back? Chrysanthemum doesn't grab his toys or demand my attention at inconvenient times. (Though I am paying a fair amount of attention to her, as is S. Especially when she runs errands with us. She's portable, which is nice, but also small enough to lose easily. So we're constantly checking to be sure we still have her with us. And yes, I've scoured the Internet to see if I could stock up on a replacement or two, but so far I've had no luck at all. I live in fear of her getting lost!)

By far my favorite Chrysanthemum moment so far was a week or so ago, when BJ announced, "You are going to nurse Chrysanthemum." He still has pronoun confusion, so for a moment I thought he wanted me to breastfeed her! But no. He was going to do it, and he proceeded to clamber up into the rocking chair, arrange the Boppy pillow on his lap, lift his shirt, and put the mousie's nose on his stomach.

"Is she nursing?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, looking quite satisfied.

He sat in the chair for a few minutes, sprawled back against the cushions. (I wish I looked that relaxed nursing BB these days! She's getting so wiggly it often looks like we're wrestling.) Then he got up and went about the rest of his toddler business, with the mousie clutched in his hand.

I was tickled the first time this happened -- and even more so now that it seems to be an ongoing activity. I think it is incredibly sweet that he's modeling such nurturing behavior. I'm sure he'll be absolutely mortified someday to learn that he tried to breastfeed a purple rubber mouse. He'll probably deny it. But here's the evidence.

I hope that the mortification stage is short-lived. I do what I can to resist gender stereotypes in my parenting, especially when it would stifle the child's natural curiosity or human potential. I know I can't combat these powerful cultural forces all by myself, but I believe that I can make an important difference, and I do my best. I'd like to believe that I'm raising the kind of boy who will grow into the sort of man who will be touched, someday, remembering that he showed such kindness and gentleness.

Now if I could only get him to be so consistently kind and gentle with his flesh and blood baby sister, BB....

For more about the ongoing adventures of Chrysanthemum, see here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'm a Featured Artist!

A big thank you to Happy House Quilts for making me a Featured Artist! You can read the interview here.

Her blog is really nifty, with some really insightful thoughts about art, kids, and life in general. Check it out!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Las Madres Luau

Today was the second annual Luau BBQ for our playgroup, and I was once again amazed, reflecting on how quickly BJ has grown. Last year, he and his buddies were very much still on the baby end of the childhood continuum. Now, they are kids -- little people with big opinions.

It was a lovely family day, about evenly split between chasing the kids and hanging out in the shade.

We listened to the Hawaiian band "Kapalakiko," watched some hula dancing, and chowed down. (This year, thankfully, S wasn't stuck volunteering at the grill.) Turns out BJ really likes spam musubi -- spam sushi! He insisted on unrolling it and eating the seaweed, rice, and spam separately, chipmunking it in his cheek for some time (that's what he's doing in the picture with S) but he ate it all. Finger-lickin' good!!!

Note the stylish choice of lei. BJ insisted on pink and spent most of the day wearing it like a bandolier across his chest. Or around his shoulders. Not quite clear on the concept.

S also had a chance to use his juggling skills, when BB wasn't hogging the balls!

BJ had insisted on bringing the juggling balls along when he heard that our friend A would be there with her son E. E and BJ have a long running game of "Ka-Pow!" in which they toss a juggling ball to the ground while yelling (you guessed it) "Ka-Pow!"

(Not all that creative, granted, but considering our family joke that all my childhood games were terribly boring and monosyllabic -- Witch, Boat, Tag, House -- I'm just happy to see that BJ is expanding his game nomenclature to include two syllable words.)

S and BJ went over to the playground for a while, and BB and I chatted it up with some of our playgroup friends.

Our playgroup is just one neighborhood group of many in the Las Madres organization, and today's event was for all the 2005 kids. Becoming a Las Madres mom has provided a real lifeline for me. Being a SAHM is work. And often isolating work at that. The other moms in our playgroup are immensely supportive, the socialization with the other kids is invaluable, and beyond that it gives us something to do.

One can only run so many errands, and much as I enjoy the company of my kids, it is enormously gratifying to check the calendar each week and look forward to playdates, mom's nights out, field trips, and other get-togethers like today's family party. I'm sure I would have survived the last two years without Las Madres, but I'm equally positive that I wouldn't have been nearly so happy and well-adjusted if I'd been all on my own, every single day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art)

Today we took a trip to MOCHA, the Museum of Children's Art up in Oakland. We met my sister-in-law J and her 19 month old daughter M. MOCHA runs an open art studio for kids, and we spent several hours there after lunch. Had a great time: paint, glue, glitter, and a gooey modeling dough that M was particularly fond of.

Plus, somebody else does the clean up! What's not to love?

It was especially nice because S joined us. That's one of the lovely things about working in academia: we're never going to get rich off of his salary, but we are incredibly rich in time. His flexible schedule has been a godsend.

I adore watching S with the kids. Such an amazing Dad, so patient and encouraging. I'm lucky to have such a partner. He helped BJ do his first honest-to-goodness gluing project. (I've been too terrified of the mess to do anything more than gluesticks at home!) Who knew what fun you could have with cardboard, corks, plastic shapes, and glitter?

BJ's favorite activity was painting, and it's clear that his preferred color of paint is red. He seemed quite pleased by how organized the paint setup was: each little pot of paint in its own place, each with a matching colored paintbrush. Great care was taken on his part to be sure that red went with red, blue with blue, etc.

He's getting really good at painting swirls and circles!

BB was entertained too, with so much to look at. She's still teething with that first tooth cutting through, so when she gets especially excited she starts drooling. (That's what's on her chin in the first picture.)

We had a great time hanging out on the beanbag chairs and watching the kids do their art and taking in the creative atmosphere. Lots of things were dangling from the ceiling, and since danglies are easily one of her most favorite things right now, she was just delighted. A heart hanging in the doorway caught her interest especially, and she took her very first "steps" (with S holding her fingers) in an attempt to get over to the doorway and take a closer look. I wasn't fast enough to catch it on camera, because I was helping BJ and my hands were covered with paint at the time.

The whole time she was panting like a dog (which is what she's doing in the second picture above). This is definitely her first consistent use of a baby sign. What started as the sign for "dog" has morphed into "Wow! That's SO exciting!" Just melts my heart.

Friday Feature -- The Rocking Pony

This week's featured shop is The Rocking Pony . For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

We're blessed to have a child with Down syndrome. Our daughter was born in North Pole, Alaska. We lived there for 3 years.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

"Modern, trendy gear for hip, little ones." Mostly blankets, bibs, and burpers, but adding more things all the time.

What inspires your creations?

The kids. I need things myself, so I make them. Only in fun patterns and colors.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

I learned to sew from my mom, and made a lot of my daughter's clothes when she was little. I made bedding and nursery gear for the boys, but they're all now into the stage where mom-made is NOT cool. I sew for kids who are still appreciative.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong?

EtsyMom, EtsyKids, Etsy for Animals

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?

My Just the Essentials Diaper Cases with a Back Pocket. I made myself one in the guitar fabric. It's truly a life-saver for rumpled diaper syndrome in the bottom of the diaper bag.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Mom, Wife, Creator

What do you like about Etsy?
That I can meet so many other creative people in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

What makes your shop unique?
My individual style. Even though it's a blanket or a bib, I'll add a decorative touch, contrasting thread or something to make it a little different than ordinary.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Believe in your work, and be patient. Don't undersell yourself.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
My blog! It features things from the store, the family and life in general.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Name It, Mommy!

Apparently, one of my magical motherhood powers is the ability to name everything and everyone. At least, that's what BJ thinks. I might as well be Eve in the garden, as far as he's concerned.

Talk about responsibility.

For some time now, he has been in this naming stage. It started several months back, I think before he was even 2 years old. When he didn't know the word for something, he'd insist, "Name! Name! Name!" He always repeated "name" three times, ever since the first time he started doing this. (Are the mystical properties of the triad innate, I wonder?)

While he will still occasionally use this phrase when he wants to know the name for something, he's gotten more sophisticated. For a while there, he would say it when he wanted to let us know that he knew what something was called. Before we could answer him, he would say the word himself, beaming with pride.

Now it has mostly morphed into, "Name it, Mommy!" I hear this dozens of times a day. It is especially challenging when we're in the car. Sometimes I can catch what he's referring to, but more often things fly by and I have no earthly idea what he wants me to name. Sometimes he's okay with that, and sometimes he isn't. Sometimes I can puzzle my way back to the original object. Sometimes it would take magical powers indeed to figure it out. At any rate, it makes for interesting conversations in the car:

"Name it, Mommy!"
"What color was it?"
"Was it a fire truck?"
"Was it a stop sign?"
"Were there other colors?"
"What other colors?"
"White. And Blue."
"Was it a flag?"
"Was it an American flag?"
"Yes," he says with great satisfaction. "The United States of The Merica."

(I simply adore how he says the simple word "yes." Such emphasis and gusto behind those three letters. It's slowly shifting to "yeah," as an affirmative response, and I find I'm already nostalgic for his "yes" replies. Just as I'm sure I'll miss it when he figures out that he lives in America, not The Merica.)

At least when it's naming things I can be reasonably sure that I know the word in question. With people it's not nearly so definite. We were walking into Trader Joe's last week, and we saw two kids in the frozen food aisle. "Name those kids, Mama!" BJ demands. Whenever we go to the park, he asks me everybody's name: "Name that man! Name those ladies! Name that doggy, Mama!"

Heaven help me if I don't know who they are. To his toddler mind, it's inconceivable (and inexcusable) that I wouldn't know. My inclination to honesty -- telling him I didn't know -- was getting me nowhere. Correction: it was getting me straight onto Meltdown Highway, with little chance of a U-turn in sight.

So for a while there, when pressed, I was just making up names willy-nilly. Then I figured out real fast that that was a REALLY bad idea. It turned out that BJ remembered every name I'd provide. I found this out the night after we went to the zoo.

"Name all those kids at the zoo, Mommy."
"Honey, we don't know all those kids."
"Name them."
"We didn't know their names."
"Name them. Name them!"
"Name! Name! Name!"
"Okay, their names were Tom and Sally."
Silence while he considers this. Then, a satisfied nod, and soon off to sleep.

Amazed, I thought I was off the hook. But the next morning he wanted to talk about the two kids we'd met at the zoo. And when I couldn't remember their names -- and gave them different made-up names, instead -- he would have none of it. After asking me several times to name them, and much frustration as I reeled off a list of incorrect names, he must have taken pity on me or something. "Tom and Sally, Mommy," he informed me, with a hurt look.

I confess that these are now the default names for all the unknown kids we encounter, unless it's likely that I can or will find out their names. We've now met "Tom and Sally" at the grocery store, the post office, the park, the mall....

I know this ruse isn't sustainable for much longer, so I got wise recently and started having him introduce himself when he insists on names for folks. I don't always do this, since we're also starting to try to teach stranger danger stuff; it's an extraordinarily delicate balance to strike, alas. But we're managing.

I'm really fascinated to see how comforting it is to him to have a name for someone. Along with the naming phase, he's been in a "No Kids!" phase for several months now. If he's in a mood and other kids are present, and especially if he doesn't know their names, he'll declare, "No Kids! No Kids! No Kids!" (There's that triplet again.)

I think this has to do with jealousy issues surrounding BB's arrival. It started at about the same time. He's been very good about her for the most part -- but the corollary is that he doesn't want to share the world with any kids he doesn't know.

If he knows their name, though, he's usually fine. Might even be induced to share. And if knowing someone's name can get a toddler to share, then you really do have to admit that names have power. Significant power!

Seriously, though, it's one of the oldest, most fundamental bits of wisdom. (It's why God doesn't want to reveal his name, and it goes back even further than that.) It's a deep, deep magic. And, apparently, it's so simple that even a 2 year old gets it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


One of my very favorite things about my kids is how easy it is to make them happy. Joy comes to them as naturally as breathing. Their unselfconscious surrender to laughter and silliness is a daily lesson to me.

Exhibit A: BJ's delight in a strawberry donut.

We bought it this morning at the Safeway -- he's getting savvy enough to ask for what he wants at the grocery store. Usually, I'll indulge him a little. He eats pretty healthy stuff for the most part, so a little fried sugar isn't going to do too much harm.

Of course he insisted on sharing some with Chrysanthemum.

The most reliable way to make BJ happy these days is to let him play around with letters or numbers. For quite some time, he's been delighted by all things alphabetical or numerical. He knows his alphabet forwards and backwards, thanks to They Might Be Giants "ZYX" song. (We must listen to TMBG's "Here Come The ABC's!" in the car. Or else.) He's just a snick away from reading, has lots of sight words and is starting to sound out words -- all very exciting! -- and he spends a good deal of every day playing around with his letter and number puzzles.

When he's not acting out "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" (climbing letters up the coconut tree) or "Chicka Chicka 123"(climbing numbers up the apple tree), he's arranging and rearranging things. Because he's been so kinesthetic in his learning, by constantly manipulating these puzzle pieces, he can recognize letters and numbers upside down and reversed, as well as upright.

Just last week, he gave me a true demonstration of how adept he is with his number recognition. We'd gone to get his hair cut -- we go to a place that specializes in kid's cuts, so they have lots of toys for the little ones. Not surprisingly, he wants to play with a number puzzle. It has the numbers 0 to 9, but 1 and 5 are missing. "One and five are on an adventure," he says wistfully when I hand him the puzzle.

I try to convince him that it's ok, he can play with it anyway, but he's having none of it. Immediately he starts scanning the room, eyes darting about as he's buckled into the little toy car that doubles as a kid's barber chair. Less than 30 seconds later, he starts exclaiming, "Five! Five!" and pointing. Both the hairdresser and I look, but can't see what he might be looking at. There's a shelf and some plastic drawers, but no 5.

About the tenth time he said it -- "Five, Mommy. FIVE!" -- I saw: upside down and flipped backwards, the puzzle piece was jammed against the side of a transparent plastic drawer. He was SOOOO happy when I brought it over to him, and, if possible, even happier when I found the "1" piece in the same drawer.

The hairdresser was amazed and started chattering away to her partner in Vietnamese. I admit, I'd love to know just what she was saying! I won't soon forget how happy BJ was. Numerical order had been restored; all was right with the world.

And about all it takes these days to make BB happy is giving her a chance to move around. (Almost as guaranteed as breastfeeding. Almost.)

She just rolls and thumps her way around the house, delighted with herself.

For some time now, I've kept a card with a Rumi quote. It's a gentle reminder for me, and it seems to ring more true with every passing year:

Listen to me. For one moment, quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.

These days, much of the time, and mostly because of my kids, I'm beneath that cherry tree, with petals in my hair, smiling.

Tangled Up in Blue

BeadJewelryShopGirl is the gracious host for this week's EtsyBloggers blog carnival. She asks: "What's your favorite color?"

A quick look at my Etsy shop leaves no doubt. Color me blue -- cobalt, cyan, denim, azure.... the peculiar shade of the sky or the color of my little girl's eyes. In any hue, this color soothes my spirit. (Except for blue ice cream. That's just wrong.)

What's interesting is that my blue Baby Friendly Beads jewelry sells best, too. Guess that blue is a popular color for breastfeeding moms -- mebbe because so many of us are wearing jeans as we watch the kids, so blue is a natural to coordinate. When I've sold out, I've even had folks ask for more blue nursing necklaces and had to do yet more blue beadwork for my shop.

Not that I mind! I have more blue beads than anybody could honestly need. (And yet I keep buying more. Hmm.) Most of my clothes are blue. My engagement ring is a sapphire. A very good friend of mine even made blue my moniker, many years ago.

Blue and I go way back. When I was in the first grade, the teacher asked us to write a theme: what one thing we'd change about ourselves. My response: I'd change my eyes from brown to blue because my mom has always wanted a daughter with blue eyes.

I must have brought this home and showed it to my mother, whether in pride or rebuke I couldn't say. Mom, understandably, was horrified. To her credit, instead of pretending it never happened, she not only turned the event into a family anecdote but she also saved the ratty big-lined paper with my seven year old's scrawl as evidence. We found it in the hutch recently and had a good laugh.

Another reason that blue is my favorite color is the linguistic complexity surrounding such a simple word. It can refer to so many things -- from music to moods, embracing qualities both sudden (out of the blue) and sexual or profane (blue language). I find this all fascinating and could talk until I'm blue in the face (heh)....

My other favorite color is purple, kissing cousin to blue -- blue with a good smack of lipstick, you might say. Next in line is green. I guess this shouldn't be surprising -- did you know that some languages don't have a vocabulary to distinguish green from blue? (Gotta love Wikipedia.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Feature -- Happy House Quilts

This week's Friday Feature is an interview with Jodi of Happy House Quilts. Enjoy!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.

I am an Art Therapist. I received my Master’s of Science degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School. My Master’s Thesis was “Separation Anxiety as Seen in the Drawings of Chronically Ill Latency Age Children”. I loved being a coordinator of the MDDA (Manic Depression and Depressive Association) chapter at the psychiatric hospital whereI used to work. I loved it because members from the community were there for wellness and to focus on daily coping skills both individuals with the diseases and their families. It was powerful stuff each Thursday night!!!

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong?

NH Street Team NESTY (New England Street Team)
VAST (Visual Artist Street Team)

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

Quilt Inspired Accessories and Craft Kits for Daily Life: Coffee Quilts™ for hot or cold beverages, Hair Quilts™ for women and children, and Ruff Quilts™ for pets, Quilt Clamp Fridge Flowers™ and Threadibilities Craft Kits™ for school age children and pre-teens.

What inspires your creations?

Nature, Children’s Art, Food, Color

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.

I have always loved crafts. Ever since I can remember I preferred to create things over sports or many other activities. I minored in Art in college with a Major in Psychology, and I went to graduate school for Art Therapy.

Part of the curriculum was learning about various media however textiles never entered the equation until I be came a mother and then began watching HGTV and Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson. I studied that show for several years even video taping it to learn and relearn techniques. Much of the time I would try the projects and out of this was born much of my home d├ęcor. I have always worked on small projects or samplers as the kids don’t let me work in large chunks of time. But small works for me as I like to make practical items and much of them are small.

Now I am diving into needle felting and it’s so enjoyable and cathartic! After a tough day with the kids I can just stab that needle into the felt and find relief…and ultimately end up with a product that is useful, unlike the frustration that was with me to start out with. The process of creating is as therapeutic as the end product is expressive.

What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?

I would have to say the Threadibilities Craft Kits™.

I love being able to combine my Art Therapy background with my Happy House Quilts (@Etsy) shop! The thought of offering something to a child that enhances their self esteem, teaches them a life long skill of sewing/crafting and encourages family time or socialization with peers is a wonderful thing to me.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

How to describe myself…hmmm…Friendly with a capital F, Passionate about what I am doing at the current time, and Creative (I just have to create or I really start to lose my bearings, it helps me stay centered!

What do you like about Etsy?

I love the community, the inspiration, the ease of having my own shop without the excess work of a full website. When it’s a one woman show with 3 kids in tow, you have to streamline somewhere!

What makes your shop unique?

I think I have a unique vision to adorning hair and home. I prefer expressive work, OOAK pieces over mass production that other shops produce. I think my Art Therapy background is unique too, as it helps me develop the Threadibilities Craft Kits™ to suit the age group and maximize the time spent with your family…because, let’s face it…time is fleeting!

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?

Make sections! Get over to the forums and educate yourself. Join a street team and participate in it. You reap what you sow…provide awesome customer service to all not just customers, because the contact you make today could be a customer tomorrow. Also know that you just can’t “build it and they will come”. You really have to market yourself outside of Etsy everywhere you go. I have 2 craft fairs lined up this fall and think this will help drive some of my business.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

For more Friday Feature interviews, click here.