The Age of Yes

A quick little post of encouragement for you. If you’re like me, you’re trapped social distancing with a gaggle of kiddos at home. It’s really easy to get stuck in a pattern of “no” when you’re being bombarded with requests from your kids. This isn’t fun for anyone. Your kids are looking for some fun, you’re looking for a little sanity and “no” doesn’t help solve either of those problems.

Here is your permission to say “yes”. Let them play in your too-big-for-them shoes? Let them learn how to tie a tie. Let them play in your makeup. Let them dig a hole in the yard and fill it with water (check first with your local utilities group first to make sure there aren’t any gas or electric lines!). Let them figure out how to bake some cookies. Let them “swim” in the bathtub. Just say “yes”! Let them be kids – after all, that’s what they are.

Now, this isn’t blanket permission for them to go hog wild. You still need to set your boundaries and expectations that they clean up whatever they get into (and you’ll still have to help them a little bit). What a great way for them to learn something other than their normal daily school and get to explore a little bit. And yes, this will be a little extra messy, and a little more fun, and a little more wild, but what great memories, and learning experiences they will gain! I would much rather they remember that they learned how (or how not to) do something, than that they were bored out of their minds for months and they weren’t allowed to do anything but twiddle their thumbs.

If you’re working on schooling your kiddos, then let your “yes” time be in the afternoon once all their mandatory stuff is done. You can also limit it to one big yes each day – that way you get to keep a little bit more of your sanity. You’re in this together – what would you have liked to have done if you were the kid?

Finding the Normal

While we all are trying to find our new normal in this time of uncertainty, I am looking for the little bits of old normal to bring strength and courage to our household. This afternoon we were given the official stay home mandate. As we’re coming up on 2 weeks of the kids being permanently home it was a stressful thing to hear. To say that life has been difficult and that we’ve all been on edge is laughable. I know there are some families out there who would describe their last two weeks at home as the definition of a shit show. It hasn’t been easy. But here is where we look for the little tidbits of pleasantry to help bring peace and a sense of balance to life.

When I woke up yesterday I heard the birds chirping their good mornings, and the sunrise was a blaze of raspberry red. It was a good reminder that spring is coming, along with all the freshness it brings. Despite what is going on in the big world, there are all the little things patiently waiting to be discovered again. The smell of fresh brewed coffee, or a warm cup of tea; The green shoots of grass poking out of the soft earth and the new buds on the trees; Seeing the house sparrows flit around our yard and the robins perched on our fence. I remembered that I am looking forward to smelling the blossoms of the crabapple tree living next door to us.

My other favorite bits of joy include fresh bed sheets, the smell of clean laundry, the smell of warm bread, a clean mirror, a quick set of body weight movements (squats, sit-ups, and pushups), sitting in the sunshine, reading to a kiddo, and popcorn. Funny little oddities that can bring a moment of joy to cherish.

We got our seeds out yesterday and made our planting timetable. We’re going to try and do the square-foot gardening method this year, as opposed to following the row planting directions on the seed packets – cross your fingers for us! Today we got to the planter beds to sow the early start seeds and enjoyed the smell of fresh tilled earth. It was fun to play in the dirt and look for worms. It brought a sense of control to an otherwise out of control time.

So while you’re busy trying to wrap your head around all the big that is happening in the world, don’t forget to enjoy the little things. Because without the little things to bring focus, the big things only seem insurmountable. It’s the little things that get us through. One of my favorite sayings is the question “how do you walk one thousand miles?” and the answer of “one step at a time” – Find the little things my friends, and enjoy them for the small packets of joy that they are.

Stir Crazy

Are you going stir crazy yet? We’re doing our best to not eat our young. Both of us are working from home, I’m also homeschooling the kids, and trying to keep my sanity by knitting and crocheting. The biggest thing that has helped us thus far is keeping a schedule with the kids. Us, too really. The need to keep a scheduled was dramatically emphasized today, our first saturday, when we told the kids they could do whatever they wanted and that there wouldn’t be any school today. That went down like a wagon on a hill.

We’ve made a few adjustments from our old normal schedule to allow the kids to sleep in a little longer (7 am wake up instead of 6:30), and a little more leisurely breakfast. But dinner, bedtime, and making sure we still get some education time in is still a standard.

Currently our schedule for the kids looks like this:

7:00 Wake up, make beds, and make sure rooms are clean

8:00 Breakfast and breakfast clean up. Once they’re done with breakfast clean up they can play or read until school starts.

8:45 -9:00 We start “school” between 8:45 and 9:00. One kid will start on their writing prompt. I googled writing prompts for kids and picked my favorites. I also have the kids email their teachers once it’s their turn for “screen time.” For each writing prompt they need to write an appropriate amount of lines – 1st grade is 3 – 5 lines, 3rd grade is 5+ lines, and 5th grade is two paragraphs. They also need to make a drawing to go with the writing prompt.

While kid 1 is doing the writing prompt I’m giving another kid individualized math help. The third kid is either playing math games or typing games online. This is also the time that they can use to email their teacher. After 20-30 minutes we rotate.
10:00 Once each kid is done with their rotation they can read four about 30 minutes. This needs to be a just right book so that they can read while I finish helping the kiddo I’m working with.
10:30 I send them outside to play. They need a break. I need a break. We all need some sunshine. It’s a good time all around. Sometimes this will be riding their bikes around the park, or playing in the yard. Around 11 I start making lunch.

11:30 – 12:30 lunch and lunch cleanup. Once cleanup is done they have another 30 minutes or so to play

1:00 We start “school” again. The afternoons are for science, art, baking, etc. Since these things take a little bit longer than 20-30 minutes this gives us enough time to complete a whole project.

3:00 I try to keep “school” hours pretty normal. Once we’re done with our afternoon project the kids are thrown outside again. They can come back in whenever they are ready, and are free to do what they want.

I hope you are finding your groove in this time of adjustment. I know it’s been extremely difficult for some of you, and I wish you nothing but the best. Hang in there. You can do this!

February Knitting

I was given some more (!) yarn from a friend who had signed up for a knitting club, but decided she didn’t like some of the patterns. Yay for me! One of these patterns was for a stuffed bunny. I had never made a stuffed animal before, but was willing to give it a shot, especially since my youngest’s teacher just had her baby.

Using Mary Maxim Baby Blankie yarn, you have enough yarn to make two of these adorable stuffed bunnies. The kit came with enough stuffing for the first bunny. Luckily I had enough stuffing from making letter pillows for my kiddos to stuff a second bunny. I wasn’t planning on making a second bunny, but when the kids remembered a good friend’s baby was turning one, they insisted we make the second one for her.

This was a really fun knit and I look forward to making another couple. I hope these bunnies are loved as much as I loved making them!

I’m still working on my Celtic cabled scarf. Because I’m making this scarf from my stash, I’m hoping that I have enough yarn leftover to make a matching hat, or even better, hat and gloves! We shall see. Here is my progress:

January Knitting

I have been knitting for years. My mother-in-law taught me and I’ve been going strong ever since. I love the different things I can do, and between knitting and crocheting I am pretty confident I could make anything I put my mind to. In the last two years I was given two large stashes from a friend, and my great-grandmother. I made a promise this year that I would go through my now gigantic stash before I would buy any more yarn. It’s worked…mostly. I did buy some yarn to make my sister a scarf, but it was only two skeins. With three kiddos I have a lot of “down” time while I sit at various practices, so I was able to do quite a bit of yarning in January.

Here are the things I made in January to get through my stash:

Crocheted blankets for identical twin girls

The first project I made in January were blankets for a friend’s identical twin girls. I crocheted these blankets using the Purl Soho Crochet Four Points Baby Blanket pattern. However, instead of making 4 corners I only made two per blanket and sewed them together along the diagonal. I used the remaining yarn from one blanket to sew together the other blanket. This helped with the idea that although they were different, they were still a part of each other.

A poncho – color change every two rows knit in stockinette.

The next project I made was a poncho for my nephew. This is stockinette stitch, with a color change every two rows. Instead of making two rectangles and sewing them together, I made one really long rectangle, and then sewed end to the side to make the wrap. The reason I didn’t make two pieces to sew together was because I didn’t think I had enough red to finish the project. It still worked for what I wanted, but I think next time I will make the two pieces like you’re “suppose to.”

Cables in action
Completed cabled cowl

My next project I used up some yarn I had given my oldest as a project to work on while she recovered from having her tonsils removed. Needless to say she got about 20 rows into her scarf before finding something else to work on. I tore out what she had done (with her permission, of course), and got started on my first real cable project. The yarn is one skein of Caron Cake Bumbleberry

I had done cables once before but it was one big cable, and I wasn’t very impressed with it. I knew I needed to practice cables to do a Celtic cabled scarf I’d been eyeing some yarn for, so this was my chance. I was inspired by Hana Paimen’s Cable Braids Headband since there wasn’t an edge, which is what I haven’t liked in other cabled patterns.

Sunset Hat with scrap yarn pompom

When I bought the Caron Cake yarn for the cowl, I found a bunch of Caron X Pantone kits on clearance, and decided hats would be fun to make for all the kids. After making this first one, I will not be making hats for all the kids, but I will probably make a multi-skein something or the other in the months to come. But this one did go to my niece, and it matches her personality really well. This pattern is called Sunset Hat by Emily Dormier. I added the pompom from the leftover yarn I had from making the hat. It was a fun pattern to follow and I will make the hat again, just with different yarn.

Waldo’s Fisherman Rib Cowl

We get more than a few super chilly days here in CO and my oldest was concerned that the gentleman holding the door open for the kids coming into the school needed a scarf, or something to keep him warm. This was a very fast project – it took two days from start to finish. I used unlabeled yarn but followed the Seaman’s Cowl pattern published in the Seaman’s Church Institute’s Christmas at Sea Program.

I got one more project cast on in January, but am still working on finishing it. Here is a sneak peak at what’s on my needles:

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!


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.


Halloween Costumes are (almost) Finished

I’m not really sure how it happened this year, but the costumes for the kids are done. In record time. I’m even going to have time to make my niece’s costume. She wants to be Unicorn Girl so she can wear a multicolored dress and a horn. I’m definitely seeing the appeal!

Here are the completed costumes.

Fire Queen aka Fury Demon from the Depths of Hell

First I needed to make a skirt. It took me 20 minutes (20!!) to try and decide which color skirt I thought she would want: black or red. It took way, way too long to realize I could just make a reversible skirt and then I wouldn’t have to worry about which color she wanted. Way too long. I’m still shaking my head.

After making the reversible underskirt I got my butt kicked by tulle. There is a reason tutus aren’t cheap and it’s because tulle is a pain in the tush to work with. I bought 15 yards of tulle – 5 yards each in red, orange and yellow. Folding, cutting, refolding, untangling the tulle, and untangling the scissors on repeat for 15 yards of tulle was terribly frustrating. To make the tulle skirt all I did was sew a piece of elastic into a circle, and then loop the tulle into a knot around the elastic. The tulle likes to bunch up so she might have to run her fingers through it a few times to have the pieces straighten out. She was also able to make herself a crown of flames from the leftover tulle pieces. She used the same tying technique around a large ponytail holder that we will wrap around a bun in her hair. Should be awesome!


The Good Poison Ivy

To make this dress I decided to find a tunic pattern, and then make the skirt portion longer so that it would actually be a dress. I should have just bought a dress pattern, but that’s okay. This dress was a learning experience in why it is important to measure your subject and compare sizes before cutting out all of the pieces. I originally cut out the pattern and fabric according to the size 8 on the pattern. After completing the tunic portion I had her try it on. It might as well have been made for a 4  year old. Instead of buying a new yard of fabric I cut out 4 pieces from the scraps I had for the front and back in a larger size via guesstimation, which is why you can see a seam down the middle of the front of the dress. After completing the tunic I folded the fabric to make a circle skirt, and then sewed that onto the bottom of the tunic. I decided against making the leggings (I’m good, but I don’t think I’m that good!) so I ordered them from Primary and they should be here by Tuesday.

My blue zombie has changed his mind (again!) and now would like to be Spiderman. I’m pretty sure that costume will be purchased from a local retailer. Heck, even Peter Parker had a hard time making a Spiderman costume.

The next costume I am going to make is for my niece. Originally she wanted to be Rapunzel from Tangled. From there the costume changed to “Rapunzel with a blue and pink and purple dress” and then to “unicorn girl with a purple and pink and blue dress and a horn, please.” So that’s next on my list.

The fact that 1. I don’t hate my sewing machine right now, and 2. I have the time to make a Unicorn Girl costume is invigorating! I almost feel like I could take on making clothes from scratch. But lets not get crazy now! That can wait until the summer! Or maybe we can make pajama pants for Christmas. So many ideas!

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.