I refuse, I refuse, I refuse!

My husband and I went to a holiday cocktail party the other day. One of the dresses I currently own probably would have worked, but most of the people we were mingling with were upper level management type folks. Since the hubs is looking for a new job with said peeps, we decided to go dress hunting to see if we could find a more sophisticated looking cocktail dress.

I say we because, I will tell you, I am not a girly girl. I can put on mascara, but not without scratching my eye at least once. I don’t even own lipstick. I have to hunt down my cherry flavored chapstick if I want to give my lips color. So with my husband home and my girlfriends all at work, he came with me for moral support. I don’t do shopping. I especially don’t do pretty dress shopping for a fancy, but not too elegant, cocktail party at whiskey distillery. The whiskey, by the way, was really good!

Some of the dresses I tried on were a bit more flattering to a woman’s curves than I was use to. We started half-joking about wearing a body suit of some sort underneath to flatten out the lingering loose skin and not-a-six-pack abs that I have. Once we found a few dresses we both liked we looked  for body flattering under garments.

Now here is my disclaimer. I am not what anyone, myself included, would consider overweight, fat, chunky, or any other unflattering description that women use to describe themselves. I workout, not regularly, but often. I eat healthy, but I also enjoy the food and the company I’m with when I eat. I don’t overeat and I don’t do sugar or a ton of fiber-free carbs. Am I as toned as I would like to be? No, but I also don’t workout as regularly as I should to be that toned. Do I still have some flabby areas? Yes. But, again, I have a body that I am comfortable with. I don’t struggle with body image. I’m strong enough to pick up all of my kids, in shape enough to run (okay, jog) a 5k, and I can keep up with the 5 little rascals who run around my house every afternoon.

The first undergarment I tried on was like super tiny panties. My loose skin / tiny amount of flab hung over like a muffin top that would make Martha Stewart’s pastries green. The second one I tried on was like wearing granny-panties underwear that came all the way up to the bottom of my bra. It squished everything out the leg holes. So the third one that I attempted to wear was like a swimsuit that had legs attached. Now imagine it was a swimsuit that was 5 sizes too small. I could barely get the darn thing on, and I’m really not even sure I even had it on correctly. I couldn’t grab enough of the fabric to try and wrestle it around to what I thought might be the correct position.

These undergarments made me cry. Ugly cry. I began to doubt myself and the “shape” that I was in. These undergarments accentuated everything society deems a flaw on the female form. Then, I got angry. I was angry at myself for doubting my comfortableness with my body, and I was angry at society for allowing women to live with the pressure of needing to have a “perfect” body. I have had 3 children and I enjoy food and I refuse, REFUSE!!, to be judged for that.

Let me tell you right here, right now, that you are perfect! You don’t need pounds of makeup to be pretty. Accentuate that beauty that you already have. You don’t need to lose tens or hundreds of pounds to have a perfect body. You are already perfect. And maybe you should lose some for health reasons, but those should be the only reasons. Please, please!, do not let society dictate to you what you think your body should or should not be. It’s not their body, it’s yours for you to do with what you want. Granted, everything we do do to our bodies has consequences, but those consequences are ours, and not for society to dictate.

It took me many minutes before I was ready to checkout with my husband. Once I was able to stop angry crying and tell him what was rolling around in my head, his words were kind and supportive. One of the many reasons I love him so much. They were along the lines of “I know you’ve struggled with the way you’ve viewed your belly in the past, and you’ve worked hard to not let it bother you, but I think this attitude is the healthiest of all”

There are many things to be judged on, but not this. This ceaseless judgement by society about the way we look says a lot about the way we view ourselves individually. I see you, and I will not judge you for the way you look, but for the way you treat others. You are awesome and loved for you!

-Tracye

P.S. For those of you that are looking for determination to make a difference in your health, I strongly recommend Betty Rocker. I love her workout videos, she always has a modification for those of us that can’t always do the move. I also love her encouragement, and the few recipes of hers that I have tried. And, I was not paid to say any of this, she really is awesome in my opinion!

Experience over Stuff

I hate stuff. Not all stuff, just the mindless, meaningless, dust collecting, environment trashing stuff. You know, the stuff that we don’t need, but that we buy anyway so that the person we’re giving said stuff to feels like they got enough. It’s ridiculous and it drives me crazy! My husband and I are working really hard on not getting out family this type of stuff and attempt to pass them off as gifts. So instead we’re focusing more on giving less gifts as well as making sure the gifts we do give are 1. meaningful and 2. experience oriented. To that end here are the gifts we’re giving the kids.

The oldest is getting a sewing class from JoAnn’s, the Redwall book series, a music player, and the Wings of Fire book series from Santa. The middle is getting a sipping and painting class, DC Super Hero Girls, 1 still to be determined gift, and the Amulet book series requested from Santa. The youngest is getting a backstage pass to the zoo, a building class, a personalized apron to go with his love of cooking, and Dr. Suess books requested from Santa. They are getting each other a single gift each, and they are getting a few to be shared items from the big man in red, but that’s it.

And what about those pesky extended family gifts you ask? Those are also experiences. For my side of the family (parents, and sister and 2 kids) we are going to Great Wolf Lodge. For my husband’s family (parents, 1 sister and 2 kids) we are also doing a resort type gift, and for his out of town sister we’re doing a dessert experience and I’m making them messy bun hats. Anybody that doesn’t fit into the immediate extended family group doesn’t get a gift. Yes that includes my great grandmother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sorry, not sorry.

The present is the presence of family at the extended family holiday get-together. When my husband’s family did extended family get-togethers the hosting family picked a charity and participating families would gift a donation. My extended family plays games and catches up on each others lives. The one exception is that my aunt usually gets the 18 and under kids a small useful gift like a blanket. I’d much rather ooh and aah over seeing you and enjoy playing games together than pretend to love some ridiculous last-minute gift that will more than likely be re-gifted to a charity cause.

There are lots of experience ideas out there. Please trust me that the gift recipient will remember the experience, especially if it’s an experience they get to do with you, or a gift to help an experience or hobby, much more than a thing you picked up at the last minute. Think of something they like, and send them on their way. I promise it will be worth it.

 

Woah, how time has flown!

You guys, I have been super un-busy and mostly loving it! I’ve had numerous posts that I’ve wanted to write about rolling around in the back of my head. Instead of letting it bother me that I am not getting them written I’ve recognized that it bothers me that they’re not written down and refocused on slowing down and not doing things. That’s not to say I’ve just been sitting on my bottom doing nothing all day, although, let’s be honest, I did take the time to do that for a little while.

Here’s a little back story. My kids and niblings are all in the same school at the same time. I made very lofty goals of taking a week off to relish the lack of running around and then kicking my day into high gear to get lots of things accomplished. These goals included working out on a more regular basis, running a business, writing this blog, and keeping my house immaculate. Can we say over-achiever? Yes, yes we can. And how, you might ask, did these goals fair? Well after the first week of doing nothing I got sick, then the kids got sick, then I made Halloween costumes for a month, then I ate all of the Halloween candy and got really angry at myself for doing so, then the holidays kicked in. In between all of these things I attempted to continue my goals and was my own worst enemy when I didn’t meet said lofty goals.

With all of these things going on my husband is also in the middle of finding a new job. We were told in May that he was going to be laid off coming January, and in November they asked him if he was okay not coming into the office any more. They’ve already found his replacement and the replacement is doing really well, thus he no longer needs to come in on a daily basis, although he is still on call if something should happen. It’s been really nice having him home and we’ve had our fair share of lazing around. But I can only handle so much lazing around, which hasn’t helped tame the negative nelly in the back of my mind yelling at me for not getting things done, either. So after reading Joshua Becker’s post about not giving yourself enough credit and a serious heart to heart with myself, I took a few days to refocus my goals to be more in line with 1 being attainable, and 2 my own goals of living simply.

So really, this is just a long drawn out way to say I’m attempting to get back on track but also being more kind to myself and recognizing that they little steps do in fact count as steps.

 

Find Your Village

This last weekend we had our monthly potluck. This month our theme was Foods of Africa. There was so much delicious food! We had jollof rice, barbecue from South Africa, briouat from Moracco, and a tasty grilled chicken with lemon sauce.

I started the monthly potluck because I missed my friends. Before we all had kids we would see each other in a regular basis. A few of us lived downtown near each other, more of us worked downtown, and we were all willing to drive the little distance it took to get to the party. Once kids came into the picture attendance rates plummeted, mine included. We began to only see friends at birthday parties or random events spaced far and few between. When we did see friends at these events it was a quick hug and hello before the hosts ran off to attend to their extended family that had joined the celebration. As a stay at home mom, I missed not only my friends, but the adult interaction that comes with going to school, work, and community events.

It was a slow go at first. I made the potlucks be the first Saturday of every month starting in the early evening. That way people would be able to have the majority of their Saturday to do whatever they needed to, and then they could come hang out with friends for the remainder. For the first two potlucks my sister was the only person that came. She very kindly asked me if I was sure these people were my friends. I assured her that yes, indeed they were my friends, and gave her her the oft misquoted line from Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come (really the quote is he will come).

After that, more people showed up. The goal wasn’t ever for everyone to show up every month, although, the more the merrier. The goal was to have something every month that people could attend if they could. Every month the invitation includes the line “As always, if you make it, wonderful, and if not, we look forward to seeing you next time.” I never wanted anyone to feel pressure to make it. I wanted people to feel that they weren’t alone in whatever they were going through. There are some people who make almost every single potluck. We have some people that have never made it; and we have the people in between. Heck, just this last year I have only made it to a few.

The potlucks are loud, crazy, and chaotic. If everyone shows up we have 16 kids under the age of 15, plus all of the adults that belong to them, and a few adults with no kids. It’s rare that we get everyone and there have certainly been months when only a few people have shown up. But the most important thing is that we all get to hang out, reminisce, and let the kids run around without the added stress of hosting a celebration with various family members judging.

Every month the potluck theme is different. Some theme’s only lasted once. Other themes are waiting for an old theme to drop off before being implemented, like seafood.

  • January – Breakfast foods
  • February – Asian foods
  • March – European foods
  • April – Italian
  • May – Mexican foods
  • June – Halfway to Thanksgiving
  • July – Grilled foods at a pool or park
  • August – It’s too F’ing hot to cook (bring food from the store)
  • September – Desserts
  • October – African foods
  • November – Halloween’s last hurrah
  • December – Comfort foods

It’s not a perfect village, but it is one amazing group of people. Find your village. It won’t be perfect. It won’t fulfill everything you need in a social setting, but it will help you realize that you aren’t alone. There are others going through some weird crazy stuff. It’s not just you.

Wonderful Chaos of Fall

Ahh, October. The lovely time of year where the chill starts to creep into the air and flights of fancy dance around the coming holidays. It’s the time of year where you discover that $20 you “lost” in your sweater pocket, that your boots really should have been replaced last year, and that the easy Halloween costume your kid swore they would wear this year has been replaced with “the most amazing” (read: complicated) idea.

This year, we were going to have random princess warriors and ninja warriors using the costumes of years past for Halloween. Last night I was given the rude awakening that instead this year’s creativity would revolve around a Fire Queen/Demon, Poison Ivy (the good one), and a Blue Zombie. First of all, what??? When did Poison Ivy go good? I must have missed that particular phase in the comic books. Nonetheless, it perfectly matches with my blooming botanist. The Fire Queen theme also aligns fairly well with the metamorphosis my oldest has been pushing through. Double digits are coming quickly for this young lady, and she is taking her growing up head on. The Blue Zombie really found me dumbstruck. This kid has been wanting to be a Red Ninja ever since his sister gave him the costume for his birthday. Alas, I think this one might actually be the easiest.

We spent most of the evening looking through pictures of what each costume might entail.

The Fire Queen images we found that we liked the most were these. Absolutely stunning! One day, when I grow up, I’m going to be able to sew like this!

Then she drew her own ideas for the costume. Big ideas here! Notice the strings placed underneath the skirt and in the red wig to look like she is on fire. Also, the emphasis that there needs to be a comfy part of the skirt on the inside, because the tulle is itchy. I don’t blame her; it really is itchy. Finish off the costume with a crown of flames and some red make up, and we’re golden…or at least on fire.

Poison Ivy, the good one, should be a little simpler. A bright green twirly dress, some green leggings, and a belt made of vines. This, I can do!

She also drew her own version of what the costume should look like. Note the emphasis on a twirly dress, with poof, of course. Tights, some slip on shoes, and “green all the way.”

I’m glad we recently got a Michael’s coupon in the mail. Now all I need is to find a couple for JoAnn’s Fabric. I’m pretty sure I can make the same twirly dress for both girls, one long and in red for the the Fire Queen; one shorter and in bright green for Miss Ivy. And making twirly dresses with a circle skirt pattern shouldn’t be too hard – fingers crossed of course! I wonder if I can find a bright red flat sheet for the dress. The kid is only 5’3″ so finding cloth long enough for her dresses is a pain in the tush.

The Blue Zombie is going to be a second hand store accomplishment. Find some blue jeans and a blue long sleeve shirt of some kind. Paint his face a lovely grey, and muss up his hair a little more than it usually is. See, the easy one!

What is in store for your Halloween costumes?

 

Beginnings of Baby Blanket #3

I am back to knitting Baby Blanket #3 now, albeit slightly distracted by reading. I have begun the self-doubt phase of the project by wondering whether I should really make all 6 squares out of two colors (light blue and dark blue) or make the squares out of all the colors, but then one color needs to be doubled. Decisions, decisions. This is why you should just stick with the pattern, except I’m too hard headed to do that. Smarter not harder doesn’t seem to apply to me and directions – whether it be cooking or arts and crafts.

There are 8 patterns of squares, so I will probably stick with making each pattern with 2 colors. But then I need to decided which 2 color schemes to duplicate. Ugh! I drive myself crazy trying to figure this crap out!

  • Light Blue/Dark Blue
  • Light Blue/Light Brown
  • Light Blue/Dark Brown
  • Dark Blue/Light Brown
  • Dark Blue/Dark Brown
  • Light Brown/Dark Brown

I have made the first 3 squares of the Garter Stitch Waves in my light blue color. I need to make them in the dark blue (or brown, or light brown, or hey let’s throw a purple in there somewhere… head, meet desk).

First of the garter stitch waves pattern

I also decided to add a set of squares to use up the variegated yarn I had purchased to go with the blue yarns. The blanket I was originally going to make was a mile-a-minute blanket, which uses variegated yarn in the middle, and then two separate colors for the border and connecting stitches. Not wanting to hold the yarn for another blanket, I looked up variegated yarn patterns. I discovered mind-blowing Entrelac patterns. I was stunned at the beautiful patterns, all using variegated yarn. I have to say, we are one creative society! I picked up this dishcloth pattern on Ravelry, written by Criminy Jickets, and immediately decided they needed to be included in the blanket as well.

Garterlac pattern using variegated yarn

This pattern is definitely worth the extra brain capacity it took to make it. Because of this pattern I have learned how to add a stitch by knitting in front and back of a single stitch, learned how to knit backwards, learned how/where to pick up stitches along the side of a piece, and became more comfortable with ripping out stitches. I’ve always been afraid of ripping out stitches for fear that a stitch would slip and I would wind up losing it in the pattern. Still a little afraid of that, actually. It is so much easier to do with crocheted work, in my opinion. But with this piece it was easier to find the stitches after tearing little bits out.

So far I have 3 garteralc swatches and 3 wave swatches. Next post will hopefully have the color dilemma solved, and a few more swatches made. Oh, and the next book I’m going to read is Moby Dick. What are you creating or reading?

Squirrel!

Last post I mentioned I was starting Baby Blanket #3. And then I fell off the blogging face of the earth. In reality I got distracted with The Minimalists’ newest challenge of deleting 1,000 photos in 11 days. You guys, I had over 17,000 photos! I still have many, many more to go, but this post gave me the confidence to sit down and just do a few at a time. I found it much easier to go through one month at a time. And once I started deleting by months, I stopped counting how many I actually deleted. I know I did more than just 1,000. You should do it, too! It’s incredible how many “just in case” photos we take, and really, we only need 1 or 2, not 10-20.

The Minimalists “Delete 1,000 Photos in 11 Days”

I also got distracted with the Great American Read being hosted by PBS. It is “a list of 100 best-loved books chosen by the American public and a panel of literary and publishing professionals” (PublishersWeekly, Jan 17, 2018). Of course, being the book lover I am, I had to compare it to my own reading history of books I love; create a checklist so that I could track the books I haven’t read yet (or, let’s be honest, want to read again); and dive down deep into the lovely waters literary imagination. You can find the original list of books here. When you take into account some of the series of books in the list, it becomes a much more daunting list, but still, such a fun activity to tackle. The first book I picked up to read is “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. I’m about half way through as of today. I figured I would go through all the books we already had before heading to the library for the ones we’re lacking.

 

While I have been distracted, I haven’t been fully lost. Next post will have the squares I have knitted in my spare (haha!) time

 

Knit Along

I finished my middle kiddo’s baby blanket this weekend.  I would normally add the word “finally” in that sentence, but a good friend of mine once told me that you complete it when you complete it. When you add the word “finally” you aren’t noticing the accomplishment. You’re putting the emphasis on time you weren’t completing the project, instead of the joy of accomplishment. And what joy there is in this accomplishment. Seeing the joy in her eyes as she picked out the trim, and then watched it come to life has been heartwarming. Now that it is finished, she is delighted to use it in all the wonderful ways a 7 year old can possibly use a blanket.

Now that it is finished, Baby Blanket #3 is ready to begin. I’ve always wanted to do a sampler type afghan, but never wanted to start until all the baby blankets were finished. Then, ding! The epiphany I had was to make Baby Blanket #3 be a sampler square afghan. Why I didn’t think of that sooner, I’m just going to blame it on mom brain and be happy that I did come up with it.

After searching for which patterns  I wanted I came across Martin Storey’s Mystery Afghan Knit-a-long. I already have yarn (not the yarn he uses, of course, that would be too easy), and the patterns he uses are not so difficult as to be daunting, and not too boring either.

Week 1 is Garter Stitch Waves. You can find the pattern here. I’m using Red Heart Yarn because it’s what I had already bought. I’m using two blues, two browns, and a variegated yarn. He doesn’t use variegated yarn in any of his squares, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to add that in, but I’m sure I will figure it out. As I finish each week I’ll post pictures and comments here. If you’re joining me, I’d love to see your work in the comments! Happy knitting!

Packing a Good Lunch

Now that school has been back in session for a weak, I am reminded of my least favorite part: packing a lunch the kiddos. Trying to guess which foods the kids will dislike the least in an attempt to pack them something healthy, delicious, and easy to eat – the ever elusive trifecta. Why they don’t like the same things at school that they do at home is beyond me. The other issue my kids like to create, is their distaste for sandwiches. Granted, I get sick of sandwiches, too, however, this year my middle kid has challenged herself to go the whole year without taking any for lunch. More power to you, kiddo!

Early in our school lunch making days I stopped packing my kids’ lunches for them. I was sick to death of throwing uneaten food into the compost because “insert eye-rolling reason here.” There was nothing more frustrating than having them try a food at a store and then having them snub it after you’d brought home the obligatory 50 pounds of it (thank you, Costco!). Plus the added stress of me making their lunch, on top of all the other things I needed to help them keep track of, was making me grumpy. So, I stopped. After giving them the option of making their own lunch, or getting the cheese and lunchmeat sandwich the school provides if a student forgets their lunch, they readily accepted the challenge.

Now my oldest is in 4th grade and is very adept at making lunch, but getting there took some teaching. We have a piece of paper on the fridge that has each food category needed for a healthy lunch. Each category has a list of examples that fall within that category. Having this piece of paper helps immensely in teaching them what foods fall in each category, creating an easy flow for them to make their own lunches, and helps cut down on the wasted foods. Plus it gets a little bit of word recognition in there, too. They are far more likely to actually eat the majority of the contents in their lunchboxes if they’re the ones to pack it. They’re not going to pack something they dislike, after all.

Knowing they’re following these general guidelines for a healthy lunch is a huge relief. It also provides longterm lessons about choosing healthy, well-rounded meals, and lets them be creative about what they can, and are willing, to eat. We let each kid pick their own items from each category, and voila, you’ve avoided having to make their lunch for them (albeit they still need a few gentle reminders about quantity, and staying focused), they’re learning valuable lessons, and the amount of wasted food is significantly decreased. A win-win-win all the way around.

Below I’ve included the list that my kids have used to pack their lunches, as well as some of their favorite combinations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their favorite combinations are as follows:

  • Apple slices, nut butter, tomatoes, and granola bar
  • Hard boiled eggs, cereal, bell peppers, peaches
  • Tuna, crackers, cherries, sugar snap peas
  • Yogurt, berries, zucchini, rice sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Quinoa, pears, carrots, pretzels
  • Grapes, cucumbers, hummus, naan

Most of these items are kept on the lower shelves of the fridge and pantry so that they are easily accessible. I have the kids make their lunches either after dinner, or while I’m cooking dinner. That way they can use up any leftovers, or, if we’re having noodles or rice, they can get a little scoop before any sauce is mixed with it. Worst case scenario they have to make lunch in the morning and we’ll eat breakfast in the car on the way to school. They also have a separate cupboard for all of their lunch containers, so that they can easily make their own lunch with minimal help from us.

As our kids have gotten older, like most kids, their food quantities range from “constantly grazing” to “picky minimalist”. The amount of food they pack in their lunches has always been up to them, with a firm minimum of 1 serving from each category. If they’re eating more, they can certainly have more from each category, with a few exceptions from the grains category. We’re not going to let them head to school with 1 blueberry and a double serving of pretzels. They have a fairly decent idea of how hungry they get at school and will pack accordingly, especially as they get older. Putting minimums helps the younger ones as they start recognizing portion sizes.

Whatever you can do to make it easier for them to pack a healthy lunch, and keep yourself a sane parent, do it! You’re providing the healthy choices, they’re choosing how much of each they’re going to eat, and there is less wasted food and frustration.

An Essential Summer – Back to School

Today is the first day of school for my older kids. My youngest starts kindergarten next week. I always find it amusing to look back at my beginning-of-summer self. She has so many plans to keep the kids entertained in an educational way. She’s mapped out the city’s parks, made weekly lesson plans, and fantasized about the knowledge the kids will glean from their summertime fun. She has so much hope!

End-of-summer me is in awe that teachers of 25-30 beautiful minds can actually keep on schedule, both during the day and as the year progresses, engage the kids, and not have a head of patchy hair. End of summer me is eternally grateful that I am not a teacher, not a home schooler; and to those of you that are – you are magnificent! Kudos to you!

At the back to school picnic I asked one of the teachers how his summer was. “It was essential” he replied. If there is a more appropriate description of summer, I’m not aware of it. Essential to recharge and reintroduce yourself to the world. Essential to pause and reflect on the beauty of what surrounds us. Summer for teachers isn’t all a vacation. It is also planning sessions, education sessions, and  preparation for the onslaught of germs, questions, kids, and parents – also essential, but not as glamorous.

Summer is essential also, I believe, to serve as a reminder to all the parents what incredible beings our teachers are. To be the ones that inspire, build confidence, teach, and love, basically to be an additional parent, and not just to a few kids but to over 2 dozen kids, is a task few of us envy. Our teachers are an essential part of our children’s lives and they don’t receive nearly the gratitude that they deserve.

So if you are as grateful as I am that your children are starting school, don’t forget to thank their teachers. And if you can thank them monetarily, ask them if they have a classroom wish list that you can donate from, get them a certificate to an arts and crafts store, book store, coffee shop, or bring in “office” supplies, or a favorite bottle of wine (Apothic Red is our favorite) . Because, let’s face it – these people are incredible!