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Sunday, June 29, 2008


BB is a daily amazement, always surprising me with new things she can do, new stuff she knows. She's fascinated with the phone (not an uncommon situation for a toddler to be in) and she's figured out that there is some sort of important connection between the telephone receiver and the piece of paper that we keep in the shelf beneath the phone (yes, we are such luddites that we never bothered to program our telephone and instead keep the important numbers on a tatty list!)

She definitely understands what you do: get the paper, look at it, hold it, get the phone, press some buttons, and magic happens!

Apparently she needed to do a conference call with some of her Hundred-Acre Wood pals...

She also knows she's not supposed to play with the phone -- not that this knowledge stops her, of course -- and when we go to take the phone from her, she'll hastily put it up to her ear and start saying, "Hi! Hi! Hi!"

Hard to be the convincing disciplinarian when I'm grinning because she's so danged cute! Sigh.

She also has started to learn her colors. I was reading a library book to her and BJ, an alphabet book, and when we got to Y she said clear as day, "Yellow!" This is especially neat because S tells a story about his earliest memory, which is of his first birthday party. He received a Big Bird toy as a gift, and he says he distinctly recalls the experience of the color yellow, the visual sensation as well as the word just filling up his mind.

Another recent discovery: the dining room chairs make a decent jungle gym. Gotta get this girl in a gymnastics class!

(Please ignore the dirty carpet!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Today was the annual summer picnic for BJ's playgroup, and we went in spite of a nagging sense that we'd be better off staying indoors. (BJ's allergies are a mess, and mine are acting up too, thanks to all the wildfires. Air quality is terrible!)

Glad we went, though. Nice to see the usual playgroup pals and have some good play time.

After running around all morning the kids took marathon naps in the afternoon. I got to rest, too! (Yaaaaay!)

I'm happy to report that BB is doing pretty well with the weaning and sleep issue stuff. She actually slept from 8 pm to 5 am! Was up for the day then, alas, but compared to where she was this is a huge improvement. May the progress continue!


Thanks to fellow Etsymom Happy At Home Handmade for including my Citrus Sparkler nursing necklace in this Treasury on Etsy.

I hope that someday I'll have enough time to snag a treasury once in a while.... I've only managed to curate one so far, a long time ago, but they are such fun!

Friday, June 27, 2008

BJ the Storyteller

This evening, while getting ready for bed, BJ started telling me a story. This was a first, so I grabbed a pen and took notes -- which absolutely delighted him; he kept trying to decipher my scrawls and jottings, looking over my shoulder as he went on with the story. As he watched, he was quite insistent about when I should turn the page. I've indicated each new "page" with a paragraph break below. Here is his story, verbatim:

"Once upon a time, when I was a kid, I lived in North and I got cold and I ate some snow. And there were polar bears and I saw some making bear prints in the snow. It melted into water.

"There were stingrays in the water. And I got stung by one. We put some sting ray center on it. Sting ray center is a kind of ointment you put when a sting ray stings you. I had it in my bag, in my luggage.

"There was big fishes. There was seals and otters and there was starfish at the bottom. One floated up and I got it and I looked at it and I saw some kelp and I saw some clownfish that were at the top. And I saw some dolphins diving on top of the water that I just got for me. And I saw some sharks that were at the middle and one floated to the top and I said, 'Wow, it's a cool shark!' And I saw a whale diving through the waves. And its spout went, Whoosh! And I saw a tuna fish. And I saw an angel fish. And I said, 'Wow, what a cool angelfish!' There's some salmon and there was cliffs at the top."

At this point, he paused. I asked him if that was the end, and he said yes. He asked what I was going to do with what I'd written in my book, and I told him I wanted to post it on my blog. His reply, quite satisfied: "Send it up. So they can know."

This is the second time he's used this phrase recently. Apparently my son is already tapped into the blogger's compulsion to share everything, "So they can know."

Friday Feature -- Gifts From the Heart

This week's featured Etsy artist is Allison from Gifts From the Heart. Her hand painted decor and frames are quite charming. Also, many of her frames are on sale right now. BB especially likes the bugs!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.
On May 4, 2008 I graduated from COLLEGE! I also have a 1yr old son, Colby. His daddy (Derrek) and I have been together a little over 2 years (not married yet, but working on that!). We are very "non traditional" family lol.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?
I mainly sell hand painted wooden picture frames. I am branching out though. I have started painting other kid room decor and occasionally a birdhouse or two. Around Christmas time I will do a few holiday things as well.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong? Etsymoms and the Indiana Street Team (The INcrowd)

What inspires your creations?
I use cute little quotes for my picture frames...or I try to make them match kids bedding that I've seen in stores or just think of things that I know kids like...animals, bugs, princess things.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.
Well, I got introduced to this by my best friend Hollie. She made my son's name in the wooden letters and painted them to match his nursery. Then she talked me into doing some picture frames...and I loved it! I've been hooked ever since!

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?
It's hard to just pick one! I have 2 things I really like. One of them are the "signs" or the "plaques" that I make: and the other is the wall pegs that I paint.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
creative, patient, trustworthy

What do you like about Etsy?
That everything is handmade. I love knowing that the items I buy were made by someone else like me who loves what they do. I love when I give someone a handmade gift and they can't believe its handmade because the quality is so good! I also like that it has helped me expand my business across the US.

What makes your shop unique?
My ideas are originals. I think of something and then create it. My items are a fun accessory to add to a child's room.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Just be yourself. Create what you like, you'll find someone else who likes it too. And just be patient. It may take awhile to get a few sales, but it will happen! Make sure you advertise and "network". Get your name out there!

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
I have a blog and Myspace.

Hope you enjoyed the interview! For more Mama's Magic Friday Features, click

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Visit with Grandma & Grandpa

Grandma C and Grandpa D are in town for a visit, so we've been keeping busy. Yesterday, we hung out at the house for a bit, and after rest time BJ and I had some nice solo time while everybody else went thrift store shopping. Came home with some real finds for the kids. Then they treated us to a delicious dinner -- a belated celebration for my birthday; thank you, GC and GD!

This morning, after my acupuncture appointment (which worked its usual miracles) I met up with them at the park for some playtime and a picnic. In the afternoon, we headed over to a favorite library (the one with the enormous aquarium). Hung out for a bit, nabbed a quick photo op in front of the gorgeous bougainvillea outside, then picked up BBQ for dinner. Yum!

So nice to see GD and GC!

BB giving BJ a "kiss"

What, both looking at the camera AT THE SAME TIME?!?

Yay for extra people around to take a family shot!

In other news, weaning BB has really improved her sleep for the past few nights. (KNOCK WOOD.) Last night she slept from 8 pm to 4 a.m. straight, then was patted back down by S without too much trouble and slept until shortly after 6 a.m. Considering that she was waking multiple times a night and nursing at least twice not even two weeks ago, this is huge. May it continue....

And my getting more sleep has really helped me say my farewell to breastfeeding. It had been more than 17 months since I'd had a decent night's sleep, and my sleep deprivation was really beginning to interfere with every aspect of existence. Life is so much happier when not seen through a haze of exhaustion!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

17 Months!

Happy 17 month birthday, BB!

It's such fun to see you exploring the world, discovering your own preferences, becoming your own little person.

You love to watch the world, especially from your little nook by the window.

(All the better as a place to hang out because it requires climbing to get there!)

You are a jellybean tyrant, demanding your daily bean quota with consequences to pay if you don't get it. (A jellybean a day keeps the biting toddler away, apparently -- but only if the bean is in the toddler's mouth!)

You love playing dress-up:

You are figuring out how to play with your brother (and he with you!)

You love to dance!
You are talking, signing, singing, running, tiptoeing, giggling.... you make jokes, turn somersaults, and give kisses and hugs. What an amazing little girl you are!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wet.... Weary.... Wearing Underwear... Weaning....

It was a wet weekend: yesterday, we set up the wading pool under the gazebo and let the kids splash around; today, we went to birthday party for one of BJ's playgroup pals, a posh pool party at a local country club. Both events gave BJ ample opportunity to employ a favorite recent "compliment," given out whenever my hair is wet -- "Mommy, your hair looks like cheese!"

Gee, thanks, kid. Really appreciate your announcing to the upper crust world that your mother is a cheese-head. Guess you didn't think I was quite self-conscious enough, wearing a bathing suit in public in all my pale, postpartum glory.

But in spite of that, we had a good time. BJ had a blast splashing around. It was BB's first time in a pool, and she wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but she did well so long as she had me or S holding her. After swimming, the kids did some play time and then had pizza. BB was enchanted by the "face painting" lady, and had her arms decorated with a flower and a butterfly. BB sat up at the little table with all the other 3 year olds, just as comfy as could be. The kids are really growing up!

When we got home, we were all tuckered out from the sun and the water. The kids took excellent naps, thank goodness. S and I are still pretty weary, though!

In other news, this weekend we've hit two more milestones: BB is no longer breastfeeding, and BJ is no longer wearing diapers. About the latter, I'm absolutely thrilled. He'd been only wearing them at night for some time now, and waking up dry for weeks, so we just took the plunge and put him in underwear last night. No problem! (Knock wood!) No need to "go" during the night, and woke up dry. I'm so proud of him.

About weaning, I'm feeling very bittersweet. I'm delighted, since no more nursing will mean (ultimately) better sleep -- all her feedings were happening at night. And I'm just so tired. S is too. Something needed to change. But I miss nursing already. Sigh.

We cut her down to one a night a few days ago, and she didn't protest too much, so last night we thought we'd cut out that last one. S was his usual amazing self, patiently rocking her and singing to her and reassuring her through what little fussing there was. He's been wonderful about bearing the brunt of the night-wakings through this. (Thank you, S!)

But ready as I am for us all to be sleeping better, it is difficult to let go of my baby, to think of her as weaned. There's nothing quite like the connection, the intimacy of breastfeeding. It's a beautiful, magical experience. I'm very proud to have breastfed both my children. And while the part of me that clings to symbols wishes, slightly, that we'd waited until her 17 month birthday (only 2 days away!) I realize that she's ready. And that's what really matters.

Friday, June 20, 2008

BJ says...

"I am afraid of the 'mmm-mmm' noise."

('Blue' is watching over my shoulder and says he wants me to write that in my blog and "Send it up. So they can know.")

(So now you know!)

7 p.m. 98 degrees

Happy Summer Solstice!

(With only one air-conditioned room in the house, it looks like it is going to be a long -- short -- hot night!)

Friday Feature -- StormyDesigns

This week's featured Etsy artist is StormyDesigns. Regular Mama's Magic readers may remember my previous post about Stormy, who was a featured EtsyBlogger in April. Her adorable ladybug zipper pulls are still on our diaper bag, adding their bit of whimsy and cheer to our boring black bag. You'll find this and many other beautiful and charming polymer clay items in her shop!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.
I like to read a good novel when I have time. I like to go fishing and camping, although I haven't been in years.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?
I sell polymer clay jewelry, including necklaces, pendants, earrings and bracelets that feature my hand-crafted polymer clay beads. I also sell accessories for the home such as vases, sculptures, bowls, mirrors and more, all covered with clay.

To which Etsy Street Teams do you belong?
I belong to Etsy Bloggers and PCAGOE (Polymer Clay Artist Guild Of Etsy)

What inspires your creations?
Other artists inspire me. Christi Freisen hooked me on sculpting. I saw her dragons and fell in love with them and had to make one. Jana Roberts Benzon does some amazing work with her Arabesque canes. Donna Kato, Lisa Pavelka, there are so many artists that have inspired me. I can spend hours looking at other artists' work. Nature and the colors and textures of the world around me inspire me as well.

Tell me a bit about your creative process and/or how you learned to do what you do.
I started working with polymer clay in April of 2007 as a way of making my own beads. I just wasn't happy with the prices at the bead store and a friend had told me about polymer clay beads and that I could make my own. So off I went to the craft store and bought some clay. I started out making just beads and quickly moved onto sculpture, which I love. I experiment alot with my clay, blending and shaping. I will create a really nice pattern and save it and look at it, envisioning what it will become. What kind of beads should I make with it or should I cover a vase or tin? Once I figure that out I will spend hours creating. Most of the time my clay dictates what I will make.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)?
My favorite item is my sculpted seahorse necklace. "Taffy" as I've named the seahorse, is my logo and on all my banners and business cards. Why is it your favorite? It's the first seahorse that I sculpted and I'm quite pleased with how she turned out.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
Over the hill LOL ;-) Seriously? Artistic, friendly, homebody
What do you like about Etsy?
I like the way the site is set up, easy to use & I love the teams.

What makes your shop unique?
My creations are what makes my shop unique.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
List, list and re-list. Don't list all at once though, spread out your listings. Keep at it, don't get discouraged, join a team and get noticed, make friends. Sales will come.

Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
You can read more about me and my work at my blog and also at my website The blog is updated regularly.
For more Mama's Magic Friday Feature interviews, click here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Plums of the Season

It looks like it's going to be another bountiful year for our plum tree. We planted it in memory of my beloved Chance kitty, and this is the second year that it has produced fruit. The branches are laden and lovely.

Today we had the first plums of the season, a snack out in the gazebo, fresh off the tree. Ambrosia!


Some new additions to BB's vocabulary:

  • bar -- "bah!" (as in, "cereal bar," a favorite snack. She'd eat these at every meal if allowed)

  • bean -- "beee!" said in a high exclamation (as in, "jelly bean." Her first sweet treat and she's rather obsessed)

  • doll -- "dahh"

  • baby -- "bee-bee"

  • tractor -- "tack-tur"

  • table -- "tai" repeated

  • video -- "vee-oh" (though she's more likely to just use the panting sign for dog, signaling her favorite video, Baby Einstein's "Neighborhood Animals."
She's also saying some phrases, including:

  • Dear Zoo -- "Dee Zu!" (a favorite book, and also one for which we have a felt set that she likes)

  • and, just this morning, she started saying, "Sit Down!" -- "Sih-Doh"

That last one isn't too surprising, given how many times she must have heard this phrase already in her short life. That's my little climber. She's turning out to be quite a chatty little girl!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wolves at the Window

I well remember how convincingly the childhood mind can create spectres from shadows, so I was very sympathetic when a tearful BJ informed me that there were "wolf shadows" in his room. I didn't see exactly what he meant, but the trees do cast some strange shapes on the front window shades, and that's where he said the shadows were. We've all heard of wolves at the door before, so perhaps wolves at the window is not that big a step for the collective unconscious to make.

It's unsettling to witness BJ becoming more and more fearful at night. I wish I knew whether this was simply normal developmental stuff, power of suggestion, or something else. It did seem to start about the time that we borrowed a book in which a bad dream plays a central role, so who knows.

What's clear is that he is extraordinarily sensitive to anything unusual during the night hours. Almost anything can set him off -- the hum of the clothes washing machine, the cats' meowing, the absence of his cup of water next to the bed. A few nights ago, our neighbors across the street were having a party, and BJ got upset by the noise. S went in to comfort him, and reported the following conversation:

"What is that noise, Daddy?"
"It's the neighbors, having a party."
"What are they saying, Daddy?"
"I don't know. What do you think they are saying?"
"Maybe they are having a cake and eating it and saying, 'Yum, yum, yum!'"

Because of course, if it's a party, there must be cake. (This "what are they saying" thing is another constant refrain with BJ these days. He wants a running narrative for the universe. Often it's posited in a conditional mode: "Mommy, what would the cats say if a frog was in our bathtub?")

At any rate, this past weekend, we finally installed a light-blocking window shade in the kids' room. It took care of the shadow issues, to BJ's relief. Also, the early morning sunshine was waking them both up about 5 a.m., ridiculously early. The next morning they both slept in until 7 a.m.!

Of course the morning after that, this morning, they were both waking up at 5 a.m. again, so it's not a foolproof fix, but we did manage to get them both settled back down again for a bit. BB is still waking and nursing one or two times during the night, so we have a ways to go yet with the sleep issues. But we're getting there.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

How blessed I am, to have such a wonderful Dad who raised me and to be married to a man who is himself an amazing father. They are two very different men, but each of them has a full measure of those qualities that are most essential to being a good parent -- patience, wisdom, kindness, loyalty, humor, and love.

Happy Father's Day, to my darling husband and my own dear Daddy. And best wishes to all those other fathers out there -- hope you all had a great day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday In the Park

BJ is feeling better, I'm happy to report, and BB hasn't shown any signs of being sick. (Knock wood!) So when both kids took early naps and woke up in decent, rested shape with several hours left before dinner, we decided to pack a picnic and head out to see some music in the park.

Blah Blah Woof Woof was onstage tonight, and what I heard of them was entertaining enough -- but since BJ clapped his hands over his ears and insisted the music was "too loud" unless we were quite some ways away, I didn't hear a whole lot. Once we found the proper spot, though, it was nice. The picnic was good, and the weather was gorgeous. BB had a great time running around and playing with my hat.
S called this look "Darth Vader Meets Sex And The City." She ran around quite competently with it totally over her face, didn't even stumble. Silly little girl.
Meanwhile, her brother was hanging out on the picnic mat (which I got for bday from S; love it!) and announcing, "I'm just going to lay down and touch the sky."
We rode the train and the carousel before the concert -- BB consented to join us this time, and her favorite conversation has already changed a bit to include this new chapter. But I think both the kids had the most fun just splashing in the stream and making pebbles kerplunk. Ah, the simple pleasures of Mother Nature.
Next time, when the weather is warmer, I'll pack a change of clothes and shoes and let them wade in a bit!

Our Little Narcissist

Nothing quite like talking to yourself, especially now that "hi!" is an important part of the vocabulary....


Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Feature -- DesignByNora

This week's featured Etsy artist is fellow Etsyblogger, DesignByNora.
Nora's shop features charming polymer clay jewelry and paper goods like this adorable bookmark. Enjoy the interview!

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

I just graduated from college in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Art, concentration in Graphic Design. I think that is a huge achievement for me, especially since I don't have homework anymore! Woohoo!

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

I sell mostly Greeting Cards and just started being addicted to making polymer clay earrings.

What inspires your creations?

Music, Movies, Nature, colors, the internet, other artists, other Etsyans

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

Thankfully, right now, the creativity is flowing very well! I can't wait to make my ideas into reality. But if I do need some more inspiration, I usually go outside in nature for a walk. I mostly learned making things by reading books, magazines, the internet or just trying it out.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?
I really love the new earrings I've been listing. I think they are so cute cause I would wear them myself (I do) and give it as a gift to family and friends (I have). It's just the perfect little gift!

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

perfectionist, enthusiastic, friendly

What do you like about Etsy?

The people. The aspect of the community is so great! I love how complete strangers come together to help each other out.

What makes your shop unique?
I think my style is unique in that I like very simple and modernist, almost minimal, designs. I believe that you don't need much to enhance your beauty or express how you feel.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Be very patient. Success follows hard work!

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

I have a blog that I try to update almost everyday.

I also started listing on iCraft, which I don't expect to sell anything yet cause it's a fairly new site. I just have my items up there so people can find out about me and see my work.
For more Mama's Magic Friday Features, click here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


BJ has had a thing for camels today.

"Mommy, what's the right way to pet a camel?" He asked this during lunch.

I didn't even try to come up with an answer. "What do you think?" I replied.

"The camel's back you pet," he replied, absolutely certain. "And on his shoulders." He then proceeded to illustrate, patting his own shoulder with great care.

Later on, after nap, he wanted to know what a baby camel was called. When I said I didn't know, he told me, "A camelet, mommy."

So now you know.


For the past week or so, BJ has decided to join me in singing BB her naptime lullaby. He makes up a different song each time, usually singing it in the background while I sing "Powder Blue" (courtesy of Renee & Jeremy) which BJ has renamed "Sleep My Little Baby."

Today, I decided to try to get his singing on video. I wasn't sure how he'd do if I wasn't singing along, but it turns out he enjoyed the solo. The visual quality is pretty poor, since the room was so dark -- apologies for that -- but it's really the audio that I was after. (Though his interpretive dance does seem to be an integral part of the performance... and who can deny the soothing element of someone almost dropping a plastic doll on your head, or the lulling quality of having your lullaby singer banging his head against your crib?)

For the record, at first I thought he was singing, "That doesn't work, that doesn't work...." and could barely contain myself at the time. Later, when watching the video with BJ, I realized he was actually singing, "Da-da's at work, Da-da's at work," which is really quite sweet. BJ confirmed this version, in between hysterical giggles at seeing himself on the computer screen.


If I was really a postmodern parent, I suppose I would have captured a video of him watching his own video, and I'd post it here as well. Granted, it was pretty entertaining -- but things haven't reached that point. Yet.

EtsyMom Interview (Director's Cut)

During the past two years that I've been an Etsian, I've been impressed again and again by my fellow Etsy sellers. Of course there's the amazing creativity of their shops, full of beautiful items made with love and care. Perhaps not surprisingly, given how much of themselves they put into their creations, they are really neat people, too.

In particular, the sellers I've met through the street teams have been remarkably kind. They answer questions, share the wisdom of their experiences, promote other shops, help solve problems, volunteer their time and talents.... it's really incredible how generous these folks are! It's part of what puts the heart in handmade, I think.

Recently, I had the pleasure of corresponding with fellow EtsyMom, AngelHearts, when she asked to interview me for the EtsyMom Newsletter. Over several days, we had a fantastic email conversation about creativity, Etsy, family life, and the challenges of balancing it all. She asked some important questions, contributed some excellent insights, and really got me thinking. (In other words, it was the kind of exchange that makes email a delightful thing rather than the burden it often becomes. Exhibit A for the latter being my inbox of late!)

Of course, being my typically verbose self, I wrote MUCH more than she was able to use, so she suggested that I post a longer version of the interview here at Mama's Magic. Enjoy!

AH: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Jen: Here's an assortment of info about me:

I'm a stay at home mom to two fantastic kids -- a 3 yr old boy and a 16 month old girl. Motherhood has definitely been the biggest challenge of my life so far. Also the biggest blessing.

In May, my husband and I celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary.

I was the first woman on either side of my family to go to college. I graduated at the top of my undergraduate class, with a double major in English and Women's Studies. I also have a master's degree in English.

I am a published poet and an aspiring children's book author. I've also completed the draft of a novel -- I'm proud of finishing it, but it was a process that revealed, without a doubt, that I am not meant to be a novelist!

Creativity is an integral part of who I am. Deep down, I'm a writer, but since becoming a mother it's been difficult to find the kind of uninterrupted time (and energy!) needed to give the muse her due. Most of my writing these days is blogging, here at "Mama's Magic."

So especially in the last three years, since becoming a mother, I've needed to find other outlets for those creative impulses. Crafting -- and beadwork in particular -- provides one important outlet. I like doing beadwork because I can pick it up and put it down and give it the little bits of time that I have here and there.

I've been a crafty person all my life, and I enjoy learning new things. I'm a self-taught jewelry designer. I sold my first beaded necklaces when I was a teenager. Over the years, I've done a little knitting, made a few quilts, learned how to weave baskets, and taken a millinery class. I've made a few mobiles (in fact, I was on the team that won second prize in Etsy's coproduction contest, for this mobile. I made the beaded bugs and butterflies and helped design and assemble the whole thing). I have notions of opening up another Etsy shop someday, featuring some of my other handmade goods.

Before becoming a SAHM, I was a high school English teacher. Other jobs I've held: I've taught creative writing, college composition, and swing dance.... I guess you could say that teaching comes naturally to me. I've also worked as a professional artist's model.

I was born and raised on the east coast, in Delaware, and I now live on the west coast, in San Jose, California.

AH: What do you make, and how is your product unique?

Jen: I make "Baby Friendly Beads" Jewelry for Breastfeeding & Beyond! So what the heck is that, you ask? You wouldn't be the first! (Though perhaps as a mom yourself you're familiar with the concept, lol!)

Breastfeeding jewelry comes in two types: nursing necklaces and reminder bracelets. Nursing necklaces are super-sturdy necklaces that are designed for mom to wear while baby is at the breast. Why would anybody need this? Well, most babies, sometime between 4 and 8 months of age, start developing breastfeeding habits that can be annoying to mom: pulling mom's hair, plucking or pinching skin, fiddling with clothes.... when I wasn't wearing my nursing necklace, my son was a hair puller and skin pincher, and my daughter seemed to be practicing to become a dental hygienist, always putting her hands in my mouth. A nursing necklace gives these busy babies a focal point, something to occupy their hands in a friendlier fashion than sticking fingers up mama's nose.

I didn't invent the idea of a nursing necklace -- they've been around for a while, and I personally learned about them in 2005, when my son started yanking at my hair and pinching my neck while he nursed. Desperate for relief, but determined not to stop breastfeeding, I couldn't find a nursing necklace that I liked. I wanted something adjustable in length, pretty enough to wear all the time, and not outrageously expensive. After doing some research, I decided to try making my own. And Baby Friendly Beads were born!

Though my necklaces are my biggest sellers, I also make reminder bracelets. These are strung on memory wire, one size fits all, easy to switch from one wrist to the other. They track nursing sessions by reminding mom which breast was nursed on last (or needs to be nursed on next).

Again, this isn't my unique idea -- there are reminder bracelets out there ranging from the very simple (heck, when I started breastfeeding, I was using an elastic hairband for the same principle!) to the very complex (using dangle charms and patterns in the bracelet to record time). I found that after those first few weeks, I didn't need to keep track of time between breastfeeding sessions, just which "side." I've spoken to many moms with the same experience. The simpler version of my Baby Friendly Beads bracelets works fine for that, suiting the needs of many breastfeeding moms. They can also be something to help distract baby's hands, and they are designed to be sturdy, beautiful, and interesting.

I think my product is unique, just by nature of it being breastfeeding jewelry! It's a privilege to make something that helps out other breastfeeding moms and babies.

But even within that little niche, my Baby Friendly Beads are unique for several reasons. They are different from the usual nursing necklace design, which is a beaded loop attached to a plain choker cord or chain. Mine are a beaded pendant with additional beads on the upper (choker) part of the necklace as well, and these upper beads are strung loose on the cord so that baby can slide them around. I often use semiprecious stones in my designs. I use a single length of cord for the entire necklace, so there's no risk of the pendant part breaking off. I also don't use any clasps or findings; each necklace is secured with a strong double knot. Also, as I mentioned, they are adjustable in length: a sliding bead closure that I developed just for Baby Friendly Beads allows the necklace to go easily all the way to choker length from full length (which is usually about 26 inches around, putting the pendant about at breast level, where baby can easily play with it). You don't even need to take off the necklace!

I have been wearing my necklaces for more than 3 years now, through the breastfeeding of both my kids (my daughter is still nursing) and so I can say from personal experience that they are strong and made to withstand a lot of tugging and pulling and playing! In fact, I'm so confident in the construction of my necklaces that I offer a 1 year guarantee and will restring for free if they break during that year of use.

Another unique aspect to my jewelry is the custom birthstone design that I've created. This is my most popular design. All of my necklaces are one of a kind, so that's unique as well.

AH: How did you find Etsy, and how long have you been involved?

Jen: I heard about it from some online crafter friends, and the rest is history! I joined in February of 2006, when Etsy was still in Beta, when it only cost a dime to list an item.

AH: Any advice for the newbies?

Jen: Find a niche, follow your heart, and make something you’d be proud to use or wear yourself. If you love your product and make it your own, you’ll also find success. Also, network!!! Etsy is a fabulous place, full of friendly folks. Read the forums, join a street team (or four, like me! lol!) and take advantage of the great resources available through the Etsy community!

AH: I want you to know that I am amazed by how much of your story is very like my own, down to being an English major in college and aspiring writer, poet, lifelong creator. The only thing is you actually followed through with ALOT of the things that I pretty much gave up on (for myself) 20 years ago when I started my family. It is very inspiring to learn of someone who actually does the things in life they start out to do or really want to do. I know our Etsymoms will be inspired as well. (Not that I didn't want to have 4 children and spend the last 20 years raising and molding them as our future leaders, etc...because I do believe that is the most important job we will ever have on this earth).

Another question for you to ponder might be...How do you juggle family time, designing and creating, listing and networking on Etsy, PLUS all the other things you are involved in? I know this is one of my biggest challenges, and to get EXTRA things like this done, I have to stay up really late at night, lose alot of sleep and drink alot of coffee. Any other advice?

Jen: I have to say that it's really heartening to hear that it sounds to you like I have something to show for where I am right now -- aside from these two amazing kids and a great family life, of course, and this little cottage industry that I'm getting off the ground -- because as my birthday approaches I've been having the yearly set of self-doubts about what I have and have not accomplished.... It was really therapeutic to be forced to sit down and write it all up. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.

As far as your question.... It's all about time, isn't it? Balancing time -- or, perhaps more accurately, balancing all those *claims* on a creative mom's time. Juggling it all is a real trick. Like you, I never get enough sleep. I drink too much coffee. Laundry piles up, dishes go unwashed.... I'm afraid I don't have The Answer to how to make it all work. (If I did, I'd write a book and make a million!)

For me, finding the right craft was very important. For me, it would be very draining to make something that I didn't feel passionate about. I feel very fortunate that my business allows me a small way to bring something beautiful and useful into the world. (And with gas at more than $4 a gallon, the extra grocery money doesn't hurt either, huh?)

Another key was figuring out how to modify my work practices so that I didn't need huge blocks of time. It made such a difference when I realized that I could string a bead here, a few more there, when I saw that I could fit creativity into the little corners of time that I have here and there, in the early morning or late night or naptimes. I didn't have to finish a whole piece all at once to be successful. It was important for me to see that as a revelation instead of resenting it as a grudging compromise.

It was also a big deal when I dedicated a space in the house for my beadwork. I got very little done if I had to unpack everything from high up on the shelf where the kids couldn't get at the choking hazards (beads, wire, cord). Our house is small -- the kids share a room and our guest quarters are a futon in the living room! -- but I moved around some stuff in our bedroom and claimed a corner just for me. Virginia Woolf was right about that 'room of one's own' stuff!

I'd also like to add that I've found the most happiness and personal satisfaction when I'm able to *stop* focusing so much on All The Things I Have To Get Done. When life becomes one big "To Do" list, I'm pretty miserable. So I do my best to let things go. In my business, and in my personal life, I keep my expectations reasonable and I prioritize. For example, I'm absolutely faithful about packaging up sales and sending them out quickly, but I don't always manage to list something new every day. (And in my personal life, I've become much less concerned with housework. Does it really matter that my kitchen floor is a little sticky?)

I guess it comes down to being kind to myself and my limitations, to realizing that I can't do it all, and that it's ok. There's this pernicious idea about SuperMoms, and it can be really challenging to just say, Enough. I am doing enough. And to be happy with that. It helps to remind myself that every moment with my children I am providing them with vivid examples of how to live life. I don't want them to think that being a good mom or successful person means running around all the time and being stressed out and having all sorts of pressure to get everything done NOW. I want them to see me as a joyful person, one who has plenty of time for them. But at the same time, I don't want them to think that Mommy Has No Life, that being a good mom means sacrificing every moment to the family. Again, it's a balance, a juggling act, and not always an easy one!

For me, as far as personal satisfaction goes, as far as not feeling like I'm going to drop something any moment now in this complex juggling act that we moms are always doing -- it comes down to trust in the big picture, reminding myself that I'll have time to work more on my writing and my crafting when the kids are older. At the same time, I try to focus on now, to live in the moment. Time is all we have, after all, and I know I won't get this time back. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to be at home with my kids, to share all these hours and days together as they grow and learn and become their own little people. I totally agree with you that this is "the most important job we will ever have on this earth."

I'm extraordinarily lucky to have a husband who is both supportive of my creativity and able to show his support by giving me time on a regular basis. (His work schedule is fairly flexible, thank goodness.) I wouldn't be able to do even a fraction the things I do without his help.

I also have to say that I'm in awe of people who have more than 2 kids. I can't even imagine four! Wowza. Hats off to you! I'm sure you must have a lot more experience than I do with balancing all this!!!

AH: There is one more question that goes through MY mind a lot, and maybe other Etsymoms and moms in general. Do you have or feel a nagging hint of guilt at all, especially when the laundry is piling up, or dishes, etc., when you are spending time with your "hobby" "craft" or "business?" And which one do you call it?

I know it is different with everyone as to which category their Etsy shops fits into, but in your case what is your perspective on this? Do you have to be making ANY or alot of money to call it one or the other? Does this make sense? I know I am pulled in so many different directions and therefore sometimes I feel like I don't do any of them to the best of my ability. I know this all goes back to the "juggling" act we mentioned before, and you really have good advice on this, but I guess as a mom who has spent so much time totally devoted to husband and kids, now I feel a twinge of guilt when I am working on projects or listing, etc.

But at this point in MY life, I feel like I almost HAVE to do something even if it's just a hobby, for my own sanity. My kids are 20, 17, 14, and 9, so this does give me a little breathing room, but still there is that small voice that I'm not doing enough for them.

I think the problem really is that at times I have done too much and even overboard to the point that NOT doing that is really hard. I am trying! And reading stories such as yours helps me more than you know to realize it's OK to be who I am and do what I want, because ultimately it does make us better parents and role models for our kids. Did I answer my own question? I hope it helps answer a lot of mom's questions and addresses some things we all deal with but are too ashamed to ask or admit.

Jen: Wow, you ask some good, hard questions! And yes, I think you answered your own question there... but that isn't gonna stop me from answering you anyway, lol! ;-)

Guilt has been a big issue for me, throughout my entire life. My mom tells a story about me when I was a kindergardener -- apparently, somebody in the class had done something bad, but the teacher wasn't sure who, so the teacher had everybody put their heads down on the desk and said we'd have to sit there, missing out on recess, until the guilty party came up to her desk. Apparently, I sat there sobbing with my head down, inconsolable, even after we were all allowed to get up -- I was convinced that if I had to be sitting there with my head down, I must have done something wrong, must have been guilty of *something*!!!

It's funny to think about now, but honestly it is indicative of a deep element in my personality.... So yeah, you could say that I have a nagging hint of guilt when I take time away from my family duties in order to do stuff for myself and/or my shop!

But I think that this story is really telling in another way -- I was feeling guilty EVEN THOUGH I HADN'T DONE ANYTHING WRONG!!! And I try to remember exactly that when the guilt hits me now. There's nothing wrong with us moms wanting and needing something for ourselves, even when it means taking some time away from the family. (Maybe *especially* when it means taking some time away from the family. Because if you're so busy that the *only* place time can come from is to take it away from family duties, then the balance is probably a bit out of whack.) Of course one could take this to extremes -- as with anything -- and I never let it get so bad that we have to eat off paper plates or wear our underwear inside out.

But I absolutely believe that it is essential for me to value my own sanity and my own peace of mind as something that matters more than doing the laundry or washing the dishes. So yes, I totally get what you're saying!!! Sometimes Mama just has to put herself first, ya know?

Of course you and I are not the only ones who deal with these conflicting emotions; I've had similar conversations with many other moms. It really is a tough one. I know that I want to be able to do it all, to give *all* my energy to *all* the things in my life that seem to need it. Because they are all important! Kids, husband, family, home, my own employment and interests.... each of these things could become a full-time job!

So with so many things to do, so many demands on her energy, there's got to be a way for mom to replenish and refuel, or she burns out. It's just that simple. And for many of us (I'm betting, for ALL of us Etsymoms) being creative is a great way to renew those energy stores. Etsy can be a wonderful source of support and validation for that creativity. After all, how many other ways are there for total strangers to appreciate the things we make -- even to the point of paying us money!!!

As far as what I call this Etsy enterprise that I'm involved in, that's been evolving over the years. I absolutely started out with this being a hobby, and that's what I called it... I was happy to have my supplies paid for through the few sales that I made here and there. I don't really call it a craft, mostly because that term has other meanings for me, personally; writing is my "craft" and beadwork is my "hobby."

I'm starting to think of my shop as a business and trying to move it that way, but for me the term "business" has a cold feeling, and I don't ever want to feel less than warm and passionate about the things I make. And with handmade in general, I think, that warmth and passion is part of what customers are looking for. I like the term "artisan" for that reason. It's warm, human, individual -- much more so than "businesswoman" -- but it also has a connotation of professionalism and expertise, more so than words like "hobbyist."

(Being a poet, I spend waaaay too much time thinking about labels, terms, etc. Ain't ya glad you asked??? LOL!)

In conversation with friends, I tend to refer to it as simply, "my Etsy shop" or my "Baby Friendly Beads" or my "little cottage industry." When talking with customers or other professional folks, I call it "my home-based business." I call myself an "artisan" or simply say I'm a "maker of beautiful things."

Thinking about the connection between terminology and money, I don't think what matters most is how much money (if any) that a shop makes. Though of course if you're able to pay off the mortgage through your Etsy shop then you definitely have a business! It's more an attitude, I think.

AH: Wow right back at you. What a great, insightful reply to my questions. I hope they weren't too personal or prying, but I think alot of moms will relate to your story and situation and give them even a little bit of hope that this Etsymom, wife, entrepenur thing CAN be done. Is it going to be easy? HA I say, what in life is?

I do think you have an awesome attitude and lots of great advice to share with our team. And thanks for that story about GUILT... You are so right, I do believe a lot of how we feel and think today goes back to how we were raised and situations we went through growing up. Thus my point in case about the perplexity and importance of raising OUR kids, hopefully with a better attitude about life, a super sense of self, and a sincere empathy for others.

At least that's MY goal...impossible as it may seem!

And that's where we wrapped things up. Whew!

Thanks again to AngelHearts for taking the time to interview me and for suggesting that we share this longer version of our conversation. I spend so much time talking and writing about family and kids; it was great to have the opportunity to ramble a bit about myself, my accomplishments, and my goals.

And for those of you who have made it to the end of this very looooong post, a little reward: (no, it isn't an additional commentary track. Promise.) On purchases from my Etsy shop, just mention "EtsyMom Director's Cut" in notes to seller while checking out, and I'll refund your (U.S.) shipping charges to your PayPal account!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poor Boo, BJ -- Happy BB

Well, no wonder BJ was such a grouch yesterday -- it wasn't merely a conspiracy between him and his sister to make mama's birthday a difficult day. He woke up this morning with a fever of 100, snorky and miserable. No doubt he was feeling pretty rotten yesterday. Poor boo.

As a result, BB and I got a little girls-only outing this afternoon: met up with A and C for some time at the park and a visit to the farmer's market. I felt badly that BJ couldn't join us -- he saw me looking up directions just before I left, read the name of the park on the computer screen, and started wailing about how he wanted to go too. Happily, the prospect of watching a movie with dad calmed him down almost immediately. And I have to say that it was really nice to be out and about with only one kid!

BB still kept me plenty busy, of course. She has long wanted to be out of the stroller at places like the farmer's market, and since I didn't have to worry about BJ today I was able to allow her that freedom for the first time. She loved it, especially because it allowed her to pick up random bits of filth off the ground: cherry pits, tiny pebbles, scraps of paper.... it's too bad that you can't safely harness the natural tendency of children to gather trash and use it to make the world a cleaner place. (You can't, of course, because they'd try to put it all in their mouths. Yuck.)

BB's verbal skills are really blossoming. In the car this afternoon, she kept telling me about the "moo!" and pointing out the window. No, she didn't see a cow; the moon was just above the trees, plainly visible. She loves to ask us to read a "buh," and recently she's come to the point where she'll actually sit still for us to comply. Some favorite books at the moment:
  • Whose Mouse Are You?
  • Goodnight Gorilla
  • Goodnight Moon (locating the mouse in each picture is a particularly fun activity for her)
  • Little Cats ABC
  • My Garden/Mi Jardin
  • Trashy Town
  • Bubble Bubble
  • Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?
  • The Tallest Tree
  • On The Road (companion volume to the Baby Loves Jazz CD. Not much interest in the CD, but she loves to point out things in the pictures.)
  • The Great Big Book Of Things That Go (or something along those lines; it's one of those vehicular volumes that are nearly impossible to read aloud, but she surely loves it!)

She has quirky ways of requesting each of these, usually a combination of sounds and signs. I really want to get some more of her baby signs on video, because I predict that very soon they will be replaced by spoken words. It's fun and fascinating to witness how quickly she's developing, but I'll be sad to see the signs go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Birthday Picnic

This morning, at my request, we had a little family outing: a picnic at one of the local parks. The kids were both having a bad case of the grouchies, so it was good to get out. Kudos to S for dealing with more than his share of tears and crabby kids. Happily, they were less fragile once we arrived at the park, but it was still a challenge to please everybody.

BB, of course, wanted nothing more than to run around brandishing a stick. I have yet to see this child stop herself and decide she's run too far from us!

BJ has been really relishing his food lately, taking an hour or more to eat a meal. (Or, when I'm frustrated with him, I call this excessive dawdling.) His soy butter and jelly sandwish occupied his attention for almost the entire time that BB was running around.

Hey, at least one of them is willing to sit still, right?

After lunch, we ran around a bit at the playground. Summer camps have begun, so it was pretty crowded with older kids, but we found a bit of peace inside the concrete tunnels.

And what fun to find ducklings in the pond! A nice follow-up to the weekend attempt at Vasona park.

This evening will be low-key, just the four of us. We'll order Chinese takeout and share a small bakery cake. No big party this year, which is fine by me! As it is, I can hardly believe it's my birthday already, and I'm not really in much of a mood to make a fuss about it.

Happy Birthday to Me, from Etsy!

So sweet of the Etsybloggers to notice my birthday in the team blog. Thanks, Cozy!

And I have to admit that I'm a big enough Etsy nerd that I did indeed check their birthday section just so I could smile at seeing my avatar listed there for today. (Yet one more reason to love Etsy.... what other online venue would have a special section just to say happy birthday to its sellers?)

In other Baby Friendly Beads news, I am thrilled to say that I now have 200 hearts! I've also been receiving some lovely feedback lately. Guess I must be doing something right with my little Etsy enterprise!

Monday, June 9, 2008


On Saturday afternoon, we joined our friends L and J in a quest for ducklings. S came along, too, which allowed us to be daring and hike in without the stroller.

We went to Vasona park, which turned out to be a bit ambitious, since we didn't leave until after 3:30 p.m. It was nearing dinner time by the time we'd walked around the lake and finally spotted some baby birds -- I think they were baby coots or baby grebes, not ducklings, but that was close enough.

Alas, I didn't get a chance to snap any pictures of the "ducklings".... we were really getting into meltdown territory, and had lots of ground to cover in order to make it back to the car. (And, as I mentioned, no stroller, so all of us were pretty tired by the time we got home!) But I did take some of the geese. Lots of goslings this year!

Unfortunately, J's fascination with the overhead light in the car led to a dead battery for me this morning -- I knew I should have checked to be sure it was off! But I forgot.... thank heaven for USAA's roadside service. They were at the house in less than 30 minutes!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I Am, After All, Still a Feminist

Those who have known me for a while might find it a bit strange -- perhaps even disheartening -- that I have been ever-so-silent about politics throughout the last few months. Granted, I have no pretensions towards the editorial page, and a larger historical record has never been the intention of this little corner of the Internet. I stick mostly to the quotidian cares of family life, my own creative endeavors and those of fellow Etsians, and that's mostly fine by me. Therein lies "Mama's Magic." (Mostly.)

Some may call it navel-gazing. (Or navel-gazing by proxy, given that so many of my posts are about my kids. Hey, at least I didn't make y'all look at pictures of their little raisin umbilical cords.)

But much as I enjoy my mommy-blogging, I am, after all, still a feminist -- and our country has just witnessed a remarkable Democratic primary. Throughout it all, I have said nothing about either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Not because I don't care. Not because I've had nothing to say. Mostly because I'm forever at least a few days behind on whatever news is breaking, so by the time I think to say anything here, it's already been said elsewhere, in a more articulate fashion.

Once again, that is the case. But lest an entire historical moment go unremarked here, I wanted at least to provide two links that you might want to check out. (Thanks to S for bringing them to my attention. I really should read The New York Times more often. But time for that has to come from somewhere, and somehow it just doesn't seem to happen.)

I think both make some excellent points:

Gail Collins' What Hillary Won

Judith Warner's Woman In Charge, Women Who Charge

And I say that as someone who is both an Obama supporter and a fan (though hardly a rabid one) of Sex and The City. Even though I did not vote for her, I'm saddened to see Hillary's campaign come to a close, and I'm deeply grateful to her for putting up with all the crap that came along with campaigning as a strong woman hoping to make history. I remember enough from my Women's Studies classes and see enough of what's happening today to know in my heart that we are far from being a post-feminist society. I only hope that someday, in my lifetime (or failing that, while BB and BJ are still around to see it) we will get there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Feature -- Wild Olive Kids

This week's featured Etsy artist is fellow Etsykids member, WildOliveKids.

I love her her children's aprons -- especially this funky "Princess Pirate Punk" apron!

She has also recently added a line of bandanas to her shop.

Enjoy the interview!

Tell me two (or more!) interesting things about you.
I love to sew and have sewed bathing suits for Hawaiian Tropic. I also own a 24-hour answering service in my home and work a whole lot.

What do you sell in your Etsy shop?
Kids aprons and dresses.

What inspires your creations?

Fabric and color. I am definitely a fabric-oholic.

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

My mother and grandmother sewed so I was taught when I was young but didn't really care for it that much till I had my first son.

What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?
It's hard to choose. I love all my things but this one especially. I'ts just so cute.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?
considerate, smart, hard worker. OK thats 4.

What do you like about Etsy?
Everything. It's the most amazing place with the most creative people.

What makes your shop unique?
My aprons are not like anyone elses. The items I sell are unique.

What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Do what you love and list often.

For more Mama's Magic Friday Feature interviews, click here.