Friday, August 30, 2013

School Photos: Keeping us Humble

I think we can all agree that one of the best parts of back to school is the photos.  School photos in general are awesome, funny, and terrible, but they are necessary to human development.  Is that going too far?  A little bit?  Probably, but I'm sticking with it.  School photos remind us of all the awkwardness, the fun times, the carefree days of childhood.  Most importantly, they keep us humble. So very humble.  So now, for your viewing pleasure:

 Miri and her sister, Talia, circa 1991.  Because every first grader needs a good briefcase, right?

Meg and Melissa.  We have since dubbed Megan "Queen of the Floral Jumpsuit," because apparently, she had several.  Of course she pulls it off quite well.  

And then there's Jill.  No, not any of those studious girls at the table.  She's the one huddled on the floor.  Playing it cool.

Another gem from Miri (middle) and Dafni (left) and their sister, Talia (right).  Again, briefcases. I just can't get over the briefcases!

Lis (conveniently pointed out by the red arrow) looking adorable in the late 80s.  Many of her schoolmates, however, are really rocking some rad hairdos.

Finally, that's me (Lindsey) in first grade.  So many things about this picture, the most important being how happy we all look.  Also, you should know, those bangs and those braids (and on alternate days pigtails) were pretty much my hair style from the ages of 4-9.  I had no say in the matter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's Okay to not Like Absolutely Everyone*

Growing up in a small town, everyone knows everyone. The people you know in daycare (before you even hit preschool) are the people you graduate with, and then you go off into the world for awhile. But before that, when you're growing up, your friends are those around you. When I was little there were a few rules regarding friends. I know there's a much longer list, but a couple that stand out now are:
  • Everyone in your class gets a Valentine; everyone.
  • If you were going to have a birthday party you had to invite all of the girls in your class (there was also that rule that you had to have your room clean in order to have anyone over, let alone have a party. Needless to say, I very rarely had friends over because my room was very rarely clean...if ever...)
I must have cleaned my room at least once in my childhood... 
As a kid, these rules were great and wonderfully inclusive, and I appreciate my parents having these types of rules. It's never fun to be left out, and it is so important to show kindness to all. Having worked as an educator in the public schools, I only appreciate this further. Having said that, now as an adult, I'm working on being okay with not having to like everyone.

Let me clarify. I like people. People are awesome. Everyone really does bring something special to this world, and I appreciate that. As I grow into myself, I have realized that I don't necessarily need to be everyone's best friend. In fact, I don't need to be everyone's acquaintance. There are some people whose personalities click and friendship comes easily. There are some whose personalities don't click but somehow the friendship still works. And there are some people who are just not meant to be friends, and that's okay.

It's okay to not like absolutely everyone you meet.*

In my life, both professionally and personally, I encounter a wide range of people. The older I get (and maybe this is the Matlock-and-Antiques-Roadshow-watching, I'm-too-old-for-this 80-year-old coming out in me) the more I find myself thinking “I don't think I'd like being friends with them.” Now, this thought isn't mean, or rude. It's just more self-aware. I am more conscious about bringing positive people into my life because it's the positive people who inspire me. It's the positive people who encourage me. It's the positive people who make me want to be a better person.

*Now, having said all of this, I hope you can read between the lines and know that just because I am aware that I don't necessarily like someone or want to be friends with someone it doesn't mean I am promoting being mean, rude, or inconsiderate. Like I said before, I really do believe everyone brings something special to this world, and everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. It's also important to remember to respect yourself by letting the right kinds of people into your life. I want to spend my time, which is really my most valuable resource, with people who are positive, and I want to be that person for others.

Is this something you've struggled with? How have you found your friendship balance?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Facebook Freshman

In 2004 Mark Zuckerberg created a little project in his dorm room that would later be known as Facebook. In 2004 I was preparing to enter my final year of high school. Writing a song about The Scarlet Letter was probably my most notable project in 2004, but sadly no one is listening to my Hester song on their iPhone. In the beginning of 2005, MySpace was losing its ability to be the only cool website you went to to upload your first real selfie and hang out with your internet friends you met once at a garage band concert. I counted down the days until my official college e-mail was created so I could join Facebook and cyber-mingle with the college-bound kids.

I wanted to meet all the people.

I quickly joined the official Augustana College Class of '09 Facebook Group and began sending and accepting friend requests. Everyone was eager to make new friends and I wanted to know everyone before I stepped foot on that campus. Facebook allowed me to become an internet stalker before it was creepy and addicting and, well, normal.

Facebook helped me make that nervous journey to the first day of college.

Oh, L.

My first day of college wasn't until September so I made good use of the entire month of August to meet up with many of my new Facebook Friends. I met L in the '09 group. I found out she lived about 45 minutes away from me and we began chatting it up on AIM. Facebook chat had not been invented yet. We agreed to meet up for lunch and shop at Target. (Some things will never change.) We were instantly real-life friends and relieved that the other wasn't a complete weirdo. We later found out that we would live in the same dorm and be 1 floor apart.

My 18-year-old self was certain that arriving on campus as a single person would be the dumbest idea in the world. J and I talked almost daily and agreed to meet up before school started. He was cute, funny, and really smart. He was a huge goof-ball and a total band nerd. I thought we were perfect together. Unfortunately, he met up with a different girl before school started and snagged her as his girlfriend.

With J out of the picture, I quickly moved on to J the Second. J2 was on AIM alert. My computer would ring whenever he logged on. Facebook enabled us to share only the best pictures of ourselves and I thought he was cute, funny, and athletic. We agreed to meet on campus a few weeks before school started. I wanted to buy my books and he said he needed a few things as well. He pulled up in a truck and I was happy to see that he looked just like his picture. Then, he hopped out of that truck and I realized that profile pictures lack the ability to confirm height.

Ah, remember those lovely wall posts? A and I were only about 25min away from each other so of course I was going to drive to her house and meet her. According to my LiveJournal it was my first "dude someone rolled their truck in a ditch and we have to all leave now because the cops are probably coming but we aren't really sure so let's just all leave anyway because we are in the middle of nowhere" party.

My freshman roommate was a bit shy and left no communication trail on my wall. I tracked her down on Facebook and found out she lived about 40min away. I drove to her home and met her family. We then ate Panera and talked about how we were excited to be on the track team together. We worked out who would bring the microwave, the fridge and the futon. We were pumped that we would not have a television.

Lessons learned: 

L ended up dating my high school crush and crushing me in the process. (He was a year older than us and was already attending the college when we arrived.) I had told her everything about him during that summer and I'm pretty sure she used this secret intel to snag him.

J and I became good college friends. We never dated because I ended up with a boyfriend the first weekend of college. He's the only one on this list who is actually still my Facebook friend. He's a doctor and happily married to one. He's still a total nerd.

J2 was one of the nicest guys, but shallow 18-year-old me could not handle dating someone who was shorter than me. We stayed in touch throughout college, but quickly drifted apart.

A and I lost touch. We hung out a bit in college, mainly subway lunches and floor gatherings since we lived on the same floor.

My roommate and I did not kill each other. She was studious and I was never in our room. I would call that a success.

Facebook made my move-in experience easy. I had several internet classmates and it made arriving on campus so much fun. I wasn't nervous to meet new people. I was excited to finally meet all of the other people I had chatted with. Not everyone is as open as they once were on the internet and Facebook is no longer limited to just college kids, but don't be afraid to put yourself out there.

If you make a fool out of yourself, no one will remember. Well, unless you're friends with me...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

One of my best and oldest girlfriends came to visit me for a few days. We have been friends since first grade and have grown up together. Now in our mid-twenties, we spent a lot of our visit reminiscing over how stupid we used to be. We discussed the things we would have done differently, the mistakes we made, and the hindsight that we have now. It got me to thinking how much easier things would have been if I could have given myself a good kick in the pants when I was young and dumb and wonderfully skinny.

It's too late to save myself, but maybe there is someone out there who is reading Les Miserables during geometry class that could benefit from my mistakes.

So, a letter to my 16 year old self:

Dear Me,

Right now you're probably eating cheese fries or a candy bar, or maybe you're double fisting both at the same time. And you know what? Knock yourself out. Eat more junk. Exercise even less. You'll only be able to get away with it for a few glorious years. Enjoy them while you can. Oh, and buy a bikini and wear it as often as possible.

Stop caring about who's popular and start caring about who's interesting. The best kind of people are those who are never afraid to be purely and entirely their weird selves. Don't alter yourself to fit in with the crowd, and don't waste your time with the people that do. Popularity ends with high school so don't put too much stock in it. That guy that put a beetle in your hair is unemployed and that quiet kid from the Czech Republic has a law degree from Harvard.

Speaking of Harvard . . . college is expensive. Seize all the opportunities for getting college credits during high school that you can. They're about a hundredth of the cost. Remember how you didn't want to walk a $20 check down to the office so you could get three college credits for your stupid interior design class? Yeah, you're an idiot.

College is expensive but that doesn't mean you have to race through it. Sure it's nice to be done fast, but it might also be nice to spend more than an afternoon picking your major.

Also I don't know why you think you're Haitian, but you have pale skin and freckles. So start wearing sunscreen.

Travel travel travel. This will be your only time to travel again until you're arthritic and break a hip coming down Machu Picchu. Don't stress about money, you're broke anyway, quit making excuses and go see everything you can. Eat new food, meet new people, and get stuck in an airline strike in Italy by yourself for two days with no money and no luggage.

Spend a little more time with your family and a little less time with your friends. I know it's not the cool thing to do to spend Friday night watching Rosemary's Baby with your mom, but that's who's going to be there for you for the rest of your life. Don't put those relationships on hold just to spend more time drawing parallels between your latest breakup and the lyrics of a N'Sync song.

And lastly, a mean boy will tell you that your new tan sweater makes you look like a baked potato. Wear it anyway. That boy is a loser.

Now go eat some cheese fries for us.

Future You

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year - back to school!

Does everyone remember this commercial?

That guy is me. Minus the kids. I don't have children in school.

For some odd reason, I am in love with the first week of school. I still remember the smell of the first week of school I used to imagine it smelled of hope and new beginnings (though I now realize it is actually a combination of  bleach and Elmer's glue).

There was nothing quite like opening a brand new box of crayons. Running your fingers over the multicolored points that represented endless possibilities. Speaking of endless possibilities: New notebooks. NEW NOTEBOOKS! In fact, to this day I have never completely filled a notebook.  I usually get about half way through and the call of a fresh pad of paper beckons me to abandon the old and christen the new.

I may sound like a crazy person, but to me the first day of school is akin to New Years day. I remember my first day back to school after a nearly two year hiatus. I was a transfer student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (go, Rebels!) and extremely nervous to be back but beyond excited. It was a fresh start, and though I my new supply list was void a brand new box of Crayola's I did revel in the feel of the glossy text book sheets against my fingers. I loved the challenge of a new year, a new environment, and the opportunity of an education.

I am a sucker for the first day of school, which is probably why I married a teacher and also why I majored in Elementary Education. I've enjoyed dozens of my own first days of school, witnessed countless others as my husband ushers in a fresh crop of students each year, but suddenly I am faced with a whole new world of firsts. My oldest daughter is preparing for Kindergarten next year. KINDERGARTEN! It will probably be my best and worst first day of school to date. This morning I drove my dear little darling past her new school. She'll be participating in a special Pre-K class this year. Half the students will be "typical peers" and the other half will have various special needs. The typical peers will help model behavior for the special needs students, while all the students participate in the standard state curriculum for preschool. My daughter has been invited as a typical peer.

As I drove her past her new school I pointed it out of the window. Her eyes grew wide with anticipation, her little legs started kicking with excitement and she asked, "Is that really my school, Mommy? Do I really get to go to a REAL school?" Being an emotional wreck as I usually am, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy at her enthusiasm for learning and the prospect of a new beginning.

I loved every first step on my journey to my degree, and I love that no matter how old or young one might be, you are always being afforded opportunities for an education.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Fabulousness of This Link Post Defies Titling

Or maybe it's that I suck at naming posts. I'm not lying about the fabulousness, though. There are at least two links in this collection that caused me to stare open-mouthed at my screen for several minutes.

I'm going to keep this list short, because you can easily spend an hour or more on the first link, and the second link gives you a lot to scroll through. The third link is awesome slash important, the fourth is heartwarming, and I think all together that's more than enough material for one Friday.

First: forty maps that explain the world. There's a map showing which countries are most and least welcoming to foreigners, one breaking down the world's writing systems, one showing where people smoke the most cigarettes every year, one rating the best and worst countries for being a mother, and one showing the earth as seen from space over a twelve-month time lapse. It is fascinating and way more than you can really take in in one sitting (each map has links to analysis of the data), but so worth the time you'll spend. 

Second: ballet dancers in random situations. This is just beautiful, at times funny, and so impressive. I tried to pick a favorite but couldn't, so then I tried for a top five and ended up with fourteen. We'll just go with one of my favorites, and you'll have to look for yourselves to see the rest.

Third: Hollaback! is a movement to end street harassment. You can document incidents, share your own stories (click that link to see why sharing stories is good), and learn how to safely intervene when you see someone being harassed (this can be as simple as a knowing look to the person being harassed, who will instantly feel less isolated). If you've ever needed somewhere to vent about being catcalled or are just looking for a cause that's easy to support, go check it out.

And, finally, your warm fuzzies for the day: this story of a ring, traded by an American POW in World War II for some food, that finally made its way back to the soldier's family seventy years later.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

10 Books My 1-Year-Old Loves

Perhaps we aren't quite ready for Harry Potter yet, sweetie.
Disclosure: I'm experimenting with the Amazon Affiliate program on this post, which basically means if you click any of these links and buy these books, the blog gets a small percentage. I tell you this not to urge you to buy any of these items, but to tell you that if for some reason you decide to buy any of them, you may as well support the blog at the same time, eh? This did not influence my choice of books and the opinions are entirely my own. And CB's.

I don't know what it is about this age, but suddenly my baby, who at first just kind of tolerated me reading to her or flipped through the pages of one or two books and then headed off, has decided she LOVES books. She goes over to her book shelf, grabs a book, thrusts it toward me (there is really no other word for the way she gives them to me) and then crawls into my lap when I pat it and sits there for half an hour reading book after book. I love that this is part of her developing curiosity, and I hope for many years of reading together.

However, some books are understandably bigger hits than others with the 13-month-old attention span. Here are a few of our favorites right now (most of which have been favorites for at least a month or more).

The Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain
This book was universally loved by my brothers and me when I was little, and my little one loves it just as much. She especially loves when we get to the little bears with shivers and I make her shiver, and when we do a big chomp as they go up the spooky old stair over the alligator. The text is short enough that she sits through it really well again and again.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont
The illustrations in this book are so delightful that it would be hard not to love it just for the joyous color and crazy-looking kid, but the text is so fun and musical, and as the child paints each body part it gets funnier. It's a pure delight, and even my small child loves looking at the colorful pictures and having me tap each part of her as the child gets more covered in paint. "Like an Easter egg, gonna paint my LEG! Now I ain't gonna paint no more!"

The Adventures of Bert by Allan Ahlberg and Raymond Briggs
This bizarre little British book has been a favorite with all of my nieces and nephews, and now CB loves it too. I think the love stems from the first couple of pages where you are introduced to Bert and his wife (Mrs. Bert) and told to say hello to them, but NOT to Baby Bert, who is sleeping. Then you turn the page and wake the baby up, and he cries very loudly. CB loves waving to the Berts and waiting for the cry. Bert has other adventures, like getting stuck in his shirt and being chased by a sausage, but waking up the baby by turning the page has always been the biggest hit.

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?  by Dr. Seuss
Not all Dr. Seuss books are favorites yet, but this one is beloved. She loves the sounds, and when we get to the sound of the hand on a door, she knocks on her head as soon as she sees the picture (because that's what I always do on that page). It is beyond adorable. There's a nice shorter board book version, but she'll usually sit through the whole thing now if I make the sounds exciting enough.

Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit Counting Primer  by Jennifer Adams
We have about five of these so far, and she loves them all. I think her favorites are a tossup between P&P and Jane Eyre, probably because she quite likes counting books right now, and having me count the things out for her. I have a feeling she'll like Moby Dick more in the future, because it's her daddy's favorite.

Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz
This has actually been one of her favorite books for a long time, and it is now so well-loved that the flaps all have reinforcing tape on them because she's ripped a couple of them and the rest are totally dog-eared. She loves the babies, she loves lifting the flaps, and now she's starting to point to her belly button.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
This book is so fun and rhythmic. I highly recommend using your baby's belly as a drum as you read it. By the time CB was 10 months old, she'd started beating her tummy drum as soon as she saw the cover of this one. I might have it memorized. Maybe. My favorite part is where there are some monkeys saying hello to each other (Hello Jack! Hello Jake!) and when CB started waving, she would wave to the monkeys when they said hello. (Basically, we love a book that invites waving.)

Are You a Cow? by Sandra Boynton
Sandra Boynton is just the best, and I love all of her books (and her CDs!) but we are particularly taken with this one right now because of the big animal faces, the very short text, and the duck. My favorite line is "You are not a hippo. You are small. They are big." It cracks me up for some reason. Maybe you have to be there.

Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings by Matthew Van Fleet
This was a gift from my mom, and it is delightful, but not to be perused by a solo baby, as it is a little fragile. However, she is in love with the fun illustrations, the folding pages, and the delightful textures. The sticky frog tongues and the sandpapery sharks are my favorite, but CB loves the wooly lamb.

Hug by Jez Alborough
We picked this book up on a whim from a zoo gift shop because the little monkey's name is Bobo, which is what we called our baby until we picked her real name. (I think this came about because my husband suggested "Jimbo" as a possible baby name, and I told him that was a monkey name. He said, "No, no, you're thinking of Bobo." Thankfully, we had a girl and put off that discussion a little longer.) The illustrations in this book are so adorable, and the only words in the book are "Hug," and the monkeys' names, but the story of a little monkey looking for his mommy is still kind of touching and sweet. I'm excited to read it as CB gets older and can try to figure out what's going on in the story for herself.
10 months old, reading with Daddy 
What are your favorite books for little ones? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Make your very own Hobbes! A (kind of) Tutorial

Decisions about nursery decor are easy when your husband has a years-long love of the comic Calvin and Hobbes and you find out that your first born child will be a son. Basically, you will be inspired by all things Calvin and Hobbes. This will be really fun and exciting for you until you decide that you want an actual stuffed Hobbes to watch over your little boy in that nursery and you remember that Bill Watterson (creator of the comic) was- and remains- adamant that his beloved comic would never be commercialized.

Good on him, I say! Except...couldn't he have made an exception to spare me hand sewing my very own Hobbes? No? Okay. I suppose I can handle it. Or can I? I'll let y'all decide how I did, but in the meantime, who wants to make their very own Hobbes? Oh, you do? Heaven bless you, I suppose let's get started:

Step Uno) Gather your supplies. Yes, that is sandpaper included in the supplies and yes I am serious. The tutorial I found required me to gather sandpaper for a sewing project. More on my outrage about that fact later.

Not pictured: Polyfil stuffing. If you are anything like me, you will have included it in the sewing supplies you told your husband you wouldn’t need any time soon and he could go ahead and store in the attic. Whoops.

2) Print off and cut out the pattern pieces. When the tutorial tells you that you should really use card stock for the pattern pieces, go ahead and tell that tutorial to shove it. That is five sheets of card stock I will never get back. Learn from my na├»ve trust of all things I read on the internet: regular paper works just fine. And it’s cheaper. Win/win!

Congratulations, you have officially completed the easiest step in this whole process. It's an uphill battle from here.

3) Time to cut out Hobbes pieces! Pull out some fleece and try not to kick yourself too hard when you realize that you bought- no joke!- enough fabric to sew Hobbes four times over. Just think of it as spare Hobbes skin for when you inevitably screw something up.

4) Let’s start to sew! Go ahead and tear yourself away from the TV in your front room and head back to your sewing room. Try not to suffer from Netflix withdrawal too badly during the short walk away from the Netflix-compatible TV to the Netflix-playing laptop set up on your sewing desk. Whew. You made it. At this point you might want to write a note reminding you to check if Netflix addiction is an actual thing and, if so, what to do to cure it.

5) After restarting Netflix, you are going to start sewing Hobbes’ round little body. Sew his tummy onto his…other tummy…part (yeah, that sounds about right) and then sew on the tummy bottom. Which, I suppose is the Hobbes bottom.

5b) Set aside the Hobbes body. Now, clean out and tune up your sewing machine because things are all sorts of wiggety-whack up in there. [This step may not be necessary for those of you out there who remember to clean out their machines every time you do a sewing project with felt. I am not in that group, so this step was more than necessary for me after the 4th of July felt banner project I did a few weeks ago.]

See? Wiggety-whack sttches.

Sixer) Let’s get back to the sewing, shall we? Pick that Hobbes body back up and stuff him! If you are following this tutorial correctly you will recall that you had left the Polyfil stuffing up in the attic when you initially gathered your supplies because it is hot as Hades up in there and you were tired. Well, folks- now it’s time to drag your lazy self up and retrieve that Polyfil. If, like myself, you are lucky enough to find a bag of Polyfil in a random Tupperware bin stored in your attic, then go ahead and stuff up that tiger’s body! Stuff it a little, stuff it a lot- go with whatever level of stuffing tickles your funny bone. Whatever that means.

Step seven) Arms and legs! This is where you have to start worrying about things like matching seams and thread colors. I disregarded both of such things. After a brief internal debate about unpicking and restarting, I simply vowed to do better going forward and moved on with my life. I feel really good about that decision.

Left arm = no matched seams.. Right arm = matched seams. Choose the right, people. Match your seams.

8) Now this next step, the ears, is going to seem deceptively simple, but it's not. There are things to think about like curvature and fluff and balance and symmetry. None of those things are my forte, so were my ears rather imperfect recreations of what I saw on the online tutorial? Yes. Did I actually unpick this one and try again because it was just that bad? Yes. Was the second attempt any better? Marginally. Did I leave it at that? You betcha. Let’s all keep in mind that this project is intended for an infant whose own ears may very well be crooked himself, so who is he to judge??

9) Carry all your sewn Hobbes parts back to your front room so you can continue to feed your Netflix addiction in a more comfortable setting. Be warned: you will lose a Hobbes arm or a leg somewhere along the way. Try not to panic. This does not necessarily mean sewing him a whole new arm, but it may require crawling around the floor of every room in your house looking for it. Including rooms that you didn’t even go in because arms and legs are round and they roll.

 10) Now that you have all your Hobbes parts assembled, you are ready for it- the hand stitching part. When you started this project you of course trusted the person who created the tutorial that hand stitching the stripes on will look so much better. This was back before you realized that tutorial dude is much more of a perfectionist than you will ever be and yeah, you probably should have just sewn those puppies on with your sewing machine. Hindsight. Ugh.

10b) This next step is optional, but highly suggested: eat some dinner.

10c) Now that you are nourished and all that, take a deep breath and get ready for a doozy of a next step. Break out the needle and thread and start stitching! That’s right. By hand.

Step the eleventh) Let’s start with the eyes. This is where the sandpaper comes in. At first you are going to diligently follow the instructions in the tutorial you are using. You will purchase round black buttons and then proceed to sand the edges into an oval shape, since Hobbes’ eyes are oval-shaped in the comic. About halfway through sanding the first button you will realize that you are actually sanding a button and begin to rethink your life. No amount of accuracy is worth that jazz.

11.5) Throw away sanded buttons and cut some oval eyes out of scraps of black fleece. Just do it. You will feel so much better about yourself.

Ahhhhh, feels good, doesn't it?

#12) Carry on with slipstitching everything on. Arms, legs, muzzle, stripes…basically any tiger parts that have yet to be stuck on him need to be hand sewn. Pause as needed to work the blood back into your fingers.

You will be tempted to leave Hobbes stripes-less at this point. Resist the urge. He really is so much cuter with stripes.

Step # (unlucky) 13) Continue sewing on stripes.

13.1) Still sewing those stripes? Good.  Because you will be for days. Perhaps if you are the kind of person who does not feel a need to do things like cooking, eating, doing dishes, getting off the couch occasionally, or showering, then you can finish sewing Hobbes before collapsing into bed that first night, but if you find that other pesky life tasks are getting in the way of your sewing of stripes, then brace yourself for the long haul. Good luck with that.

13.2) At some point in the stripe-sewing process you will feel incredibly proud of yourself and be struck with the desire to show them off. You might pick your husband to brag to. If you do, said husband just might comment that he thinks the stripes need to look more “tiger-y.” If this occurs, try and remember that his comment may have seemed insane, but it was actually an sign that he is taking a healthy interest in your child’s well-being (because what child can develop normally while in possession of a tiger with boxy stripes?). Go ahead and adjust the stripes as necessary so that they look more “tiger-y.” Your marriage will thank you, even if your fingers do not.

13.3) Stripes. Keep sewing. NOT EVEN JOKING IT WILL LAST ALL WEEK.

XIV) What?! You’re done sewing on the stripes?? Hallelujah glory be- you are done! You have a bona-fide, self-made, slightly imperfect stuffed Hobbes on your hands. Now go toss that thing into your kid’s crib and take a nap. You deserve it.

The kicker is going to be when our little Bean has absolutely no interest in playing with Hobbes when he gets older...Sigh.

If you got through all of that and STILL somehow want to make a Hobbes of your own, I obviously found this tutorial more than satisfactory, so I am sure you will too! I wish you luck and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


August 18, 1920 will forever be remembered in the history books as the day women were given the right to vote. Twenty-nine simple words that changed everything- "The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

Ninety-three years is not all that long ago. When my grandmother was born in 1919, her mother did not have the right to vote. I'm so grateful for my foremothers that fought so long and so hard for this right. This right that allowed me to vote in my city's primary election five short days ago. Did I think of those foremothers as I cast my ballot? No. I should have, though. I'm remedying that now, by thinking and reading about them tonight.

I love this article about how the deciding vote came from a young Tennessee state representative who was against giving women the vote until he received a note from his mother that included these lines: "Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!" and “be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt (a suffragette) put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

The website A Mighty Girl has this great list of books to teach children about the suffrage movement. For older teens and adults, I recommend the film Iron Jawed Angels.  If you're in the mood for a fun parody video paying homage to the suffragettes, here's one:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cue Rebecca Black...It's Friday, People!

In case you were living under a rock last year HERE is the song that inspired the post title...and the reason I secretly hate when Friday rolls around because I inevitably hear this song in my head at least once.

Ashton Kutcher's advice on life to teens attending the Teen Choice Awards went viral this week and it seems to have resonated with a lot of people. 

Shannon Hale's Austenland has been made into a movie and THIS is why it is imperative that you see it. I for one have been looking forward to this one for a long while. Shannon Hale is witty and charming and if you haven't checked out her books you should really remedy that immediately

Speaking of books Lauren Graham (aka Lorelai Gilmore) wrote a new novel: Someday, Someday, Maybe. The story of Franny Banks, a struggling actress in New York City in 1995. Semi autobiographical, this novel is extremely sweet and hilarious and if you are a fan of Graham you will enjoy this book. 

I find myself chuckling several times a day at THESE MEN who have captured toddler-hood in a very real way for me. Check out all eight episodes of Convos With My Two Year Old (As re-enacted by me and another full grown man). My personal favorite episodes are HERE and HERE

Have you seen THIS COMMERCIAL for Narrated by farm animals as an added bonus. I actually went to to check it out and came across a man who is looking for "a sexy confident woman that I can laugh with, love and be proud to share a life. She must be able to handle a hard working, hard loving man. Preferably a woman with the land for me to work and to build us a house on. Oh yeah, I can build a house from the slab up with my own two hands. And I would love to build her dream house with a wrap around porch for our rocking chairs! Must enjoy ATV's."  So if you are sexy enough for his standards and a land owner, this young man would really love to build you a house with his bare hands.

I found a few things on Pinterest that I one of THESE rings or THESE hand or footprint projects. Also how hilariously adorable and or unrealistic is THIS invention (and does it come with the baby)?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Silent Thief: Motherhood, Depression, and Finding Myself

Today's blogger prefers to remain anonymous. 

When I had my son, 3 years ago, he was sick and early and had to stay at the hospital for a while. It was HORRIBLE, but as soon as he was home we easily got into a groove and life was perfect.

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I was really sick and uncomfortable.  So when she was born I hoped and prayed that things would get back to normal.  Happy, crazy, busy, fun, and normal.  But it didn't.  I figured it was just the stress of two kids, or that I was tired, or my husband was gone too much, or whatever.  After months and months, it didn't get better.  I just kind of adjusted. I figured motherhood with two children was just that hard.  I thought, "There is no way I could EVER have more. This is too much!"  I never had energy to do anything, I couldn't handle going anywhere without my husband, and we never left our apartment.

Finally, just before my daughters first birthday, I recognized that I was not okay, that something had to be fixed. I talked to my wonderful husband, we called the employee support line, and they referred me to a therapist.  It took me a few weeks to call her and then I almost chickened out of the appointment.  When I finally went, she was late.  I got in the car and almost drove away,  but I somehow got the courage to go back in.

And it was great.  She let me talk, I cried, she understood, and she told me I was depressed. I thought "No, I am not depressed, have you seen my kids? And have you met my husband? I have NOTHING to be depressed about!" So we discussed what depression really is, and I learned that you can have a perfectly happy life, and still be depressed. Chemical imbalances in your brain cause you to not be you, to be angry and sad and stressed all the time.  I learned that depression is a real medical condition and it was very humbling for me.  I was of the "you can handle it, just work through it, depression isn't that bad, or really real" school of thought. I was so wrong.

At first she thought it was my thyroid, which had been diagnosed as being under-productive a few years earlier.  I went to an endocrinologist and he told me my thyroid was fine.  I had been misdiagnosed.  I had been taking meds for years for something that wasn't wrong.  I stopped taking them, and felt a little better.  But it still wasn't right. The endocrinologist referred me to a psychiatrist, and I called after a few weeks.  They were so busy they couldn't see me for 3 months. I told them not to worry about it.  I then waited another week, and looked up a different one.  I called pretty quickly, and they said they could see me the next week.

I was very nervous to say the least.  I had been finding ways to put off dealing with it every way I could. I felt so weak, and like I was at fault. I worried that my husband would think he didn't make me happy. I worried that I must be the worst mother ever because I didn't find enough joy in my children.  I worried that I would go and they would say to me "It's all in your head, grow up,  you're fine you big whiner."  I went and he was the nicest guy.  He knew how I felt before I could even explain it.

Apparently, I had a classic text book version of depression.  There are 3 kinds of depression. Mine was chemical rather than situational.  I agreed to try taking medication and went home. I took it for 4 days and I noticed a HUGE difference. For the first time in a year I felt like a real person again. It was bright outside again, I wanted to play with my children.  You know the movie Tangled?  She sings  "And at last I see the light, and it's like a fog has lifted." (You just sang that, didn't you?)  As cheesy and rehearsed as that sounds, it was exactly how I felt.  I couldn't believe it.  It wasn't a magic cure-all and I have still had to deal with my emotions, but it was great.

My doctor told me I had undiagnosed Postpartum depression that had just gotten worse and worse. He said that PPD is often referred to as the "silent thief of motherhood joy" (or any joy, really)  and that so many women suffer from it, but never know or seek help. So many women are missing out on the wonderful happiness that you can feel when your body is working the way it was intended to work.  It's really scary for me to share this story, because it's SO very easy to think, "I am so weak, I should be better/stronger/bigger than this."  I am working through that, and I do believe there is a medical cause for it, but it's so easy to slip into that.

To the thoughts of insecurity and not being good enough. It's the easiest thing to listen to someone who doesn't think depression is real, and to feel like less than a whole person for being so weak. I have learned that depression is a real condition, and it can be helped, just like any other illness. It is very real.  It is not just in your head. You are not alone if you are depressed, it is something so many people struggle with. Don't suffer alone.  It's not your fault.  It can be better.

It is scary and hard to admit a weakness.  Everyone feels that. No one likes to admit that they are weak at something, that they are less than they want to be in some way.  But you need to know that any problem or illness you have can be dealt with. For me it was depression and I had to find my path to treatment and ultimately working through it and being happy again.  No matter what it is you are going through, you are never alone.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask for help.  But it makes all
the difference. If you have no strength left, find enough to ask someone else for help. Let them help you, let them give you some strength, you can do it. You can be happy again. I am.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Historical Fiction about Girls

I hope you noticed that I said about girls, not for girls. Some of these books will be more universally appealing than others—Number the Stars, The Green Glass Sea, The Book Thief, and The Ruby in the Smoke, especially—but I personally know boys who have appreciated all of them, and the same is true for adults (YA is not just for teens!). Four of them are books I loved as a child, and still love as an adult; the rest are books I read for the first time as an adult, and I enthusiastically recommend them all.

The Hope Chest, by Karen Schwabach
I've been so excited about this book ever since I started it, because it's the only junior or YA fiction I've ever seen that tells the story of the suffrage movement, and from the inside. It's written from the perspective of two young girls, Violet and Myrtle, who run away to join Violet's older sister in fighting for suffrage. Such a thrilling and well-written story (and if the title turns you off, let me tell you that I felt the same way and don't worry—it's much more interesting than it sounds).

This has been one of my favorite books ever since I can remember. I have always loved fiction about World War II, and it takes place in Denmark, which is an uncommon setting for American children's books. It's a short book, and the action is quick and exciting.

For me, this entire book was lovely, but I've also heard that it took some people a little while to get hooked, so just make sure you give it a good chance. Fans of Downton Abbey, especially, should appreciate it for the romantic atmosphere; it's set in early-1900s England, narrated by seventeen-year-old Cassandra, who lives with her family in a dilapidated old castle. Her father is a struggling writer, her stepmother communes with nature, and her new neighbors/landlords are rich Americans with two unmarried sons. The recommendation writes itself.

The premise for this book is fascinating and unique—eleven-year-old Dewey goes to live with her father in Los Alamos, where he is working on the Manhattan Project. I just loved the setting, and the characters and story are likable and engaging. It was really lovely to read about a girl with an aptitude for science.

I feel like you have to have been living under a rock to have missed at least hearing about this book. It's about a German girl named Liesel, who steals books and lives with a foster family in Munich during World War II. And it's narrated by Death. I think I just told you everything you need to know.

Karen Cushman is a really fantastic and popular writer of historical fiction, for good reason. This is my favorite of her books, about a girl in thirteenth-century England whose greedy father is trying to marry her off to one of several horrible suitors. She's smart and independent, and I liked her more than enough to overcome my annoyance with the phrase "corpus bones."

I've loved this book since about third grade, and I was absolutely giddy when I mentioned it to a sixth-grade boy at the Orem library, spent about three seconds describing it, and he grabbed it saying it sounded interesting. It is! It really is.

I liked this as a kid, too, but it wasn't until I reread it last year that I learned it was based on a true story. Historically fascinating, and the kind of book that sounds like it should be boring—person stranded alone on an island for several years? What would they do all the time?—but is absolutely not. 

There are a few books that have been passed around my family, read by my parents, my teenage brothers, and me, and loved by everyone. This was one of the first; it was part of the curriculum when my brothers were homeschooled, and they loved it so much they made everyone else read it, too. 

This book sat on my sister Talia's bookshelf for most of our teen years, and for some reason I formed an unfavorable opinion of it based on the cover, without ever having picked it up. When I did decide to read it one day, I had to laugh at myself, because it is an excellent, really engaging mystery (and I don't even especially care for mysteries). There are three sequels, but unfortunately I thought each one diminished in quality, so if you want my recommendation I would say just stop after the first.

I read this a few years ago for the first time, but I saw the Megan Follows movie when I was younger, and the book is just as much fun to read as the movie is to watch. I think Megan Follows is brilliant as Anne, but that wonderful personality comes across just as well through the text, and if you made it to adulthood without having read it (like I did), you really should remedy that soon.

Honestly, I feel like any book that was written before 1920 but still appeals to kids (in its original, unabridged form) is worth checking out. I was a voracious but impatient reader, and I loved this book. What child (or adult) doesn't love the idea of a secret place all their own?

Obviously. Scout Finch is smart, good-hearted, and independent. She's a great character and an excellent narrator for a brilliant book.

I loved this book when my parents gave it to me for my twelfth birthday. I grew up watching the Katharine Hepburn movie, and I have always loved this story. It's quiet and comforting to me, driven not just by the relationships between the sisters, but by each sister's personal journey of discovery. They have such lovely relationships, and the characters are just imperfect enough to be beautiful instead of annoying (probably because they were based on Alcott's own family).

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Having, as I do, a complete and utter lack of interest in stories about the American West, it took me 28 years to finally pick up this book even though I've been hearing about it basically my whole life. I now know that it is for good reason. Caddie is a delightful character, and the story moves quickly enough that even if you are like me and don't care for pioneer stories, you'll enjoy this.

The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy
Historical fiction is supposed to take place at least fifty years in the past, and The Wild Girls  is set in the 1970s so it doesn't technically count. It's such a great book, though, and it definitely does have the feel of a different decade, so I decided to include it anyway. The characters are lovable and the book handles serious issues well—neither too heavy nor too lighthearted in its treatment of them, and just right for the age group.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Classical Hipsters, Readers, Body Language and more

Happy Friday! Behold, a beautiful array of things that I love around the internet to kick off your weekend.

Because it makes me laugh, this ridiculous collection of pictures of classical sculptures dressed as hipsters:

A lovely story about a dad who read to his daughter every day for nine years:  which made me feel better after reading this article, which kind of depressed me (but maybe that's just because I freaking love kids books and having my 13 month old bring me one and climb into my lap so I'll read it to her.)

This is great advice about talking to your daughter about her body.

And here is a great one about the way women think about their post-baby bodies, and why on earth everyone acts like it should all be back to normal immediately - or ever.

In case you haven't seen it yet, this is an awesome video of Dustin Hoffman talking about how his experience playing a woman in Tootsie changed the way he feels about women.

I really love this blog post about being sensitive when you ask people when they are having kids. It's a good reminder that you just don't know what's going on in someone's life, and that decision is incredibly personal (and probably none of your business).

I think these Where I Have Loved You Canvases are adorable, and you could totally make it just Where I Have Lived if you didn't want to be all mushy. (I love you, Debra!)

This Oatmeal Cookie and Salted Caramel Cinnamon Ice Cream looks divine, doesn't it? I want to eat it right now. (Anyone want to come over and make it for me? No? Shoot.)

This is a beautiful article about letting our children help us learn how to slow down and enjoy life.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Narrowing Path

I've been reading a fantasy series by Ursula K. Le Guin, and a quote in A Wizard of Earthsea clarified something I've been thinking about. The reference to a mage in the quote must be taken in the context of a wizarding world.

"You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that a man's real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...."

I believe every child has wanted to be an adult at one point because then they could do anything they wanted anytime they wanted, or so they thought. While there is some truth to that wishful thinking, there is a lot of truth to the above quote.

Honestly, if we didn't have to have a job and work, how many of us would? Not many. Or we would just work a little here and there. How many of us would go to bed at a decent hour, mop the floor, and weed the yard if we didn't have to? Not many. We would do it sometimes but probably not enough.

A child's concept of adult life is like a Peter Pan Never Land imaging. When you're an adult you can go to any restaurant you want any time. You can watch whatever you want. You get to tell other people what to do. Nobody makes you eat your vegetables. Nobody makes you do homework.

As children turn into teenagers, they test their new found freedoms with mixed results and learn from experience. They learn to be responsible, hopefully, and a good contributor to society.

As teens turn into adults, they learn that technically they have the ability to choose to do whatever they want, but there are consequences to all choices and making the right choices, though potentially boring, seems to be the best way.

Many people find rules, laws, religion, regulations, demands, and instructions to be prohibiting of the free lifestyle their inner child still craves. In truth, like the quote, those rules show a path where one must go and do if they want to achieve true happiness and peace.

There are as many variations of this path as there are people, but there is still just a narrow road that leads to true happiness versus temporary indulgence and amusement.

Regardless of any laws, commandments, and rules, can I stay up all night tonight while drinking and having unprotected sex with strangers and throwing rocks through windows? Yes, I can. Yes, you can. Yes, anyone can do that. Can I do that without any negative consequences? Absolutely not.

Any person at any moment can choose to do bad or good, but most choose to do good because they have learned that all choices have consequences. So can I go do drugs tonight to relax my mind after a long week? Yes, but more importantly, will I? No, because I don't like the consequences associated with it.

Can I go to bed at a decent hour after eating vegetables with my dinner tonight? Yes, but more importantly, will I? Hopefully, because I do like the consequences associated with it.

Yes, we all have the power to make infinite choices of good and bad at all times, but we stick to the narrow path, not because someone told us to, but because we know it leads to true happiness, which is always worth having.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Stay At Home Mama

I wanted to write down some of my thoughts on being a stay at home mom. This week we had a bit of a financial hiccup and I sort of had to make the decision all over again about whether I wanted to continue staying at home. Before I say anything I just want to add that there are a lot of ways that women choose to balance work and family based on their own individual needs- my situation may be different than another woman's situation and therefore my choice is different. I don't mommy judge anyone, nor do I think there is one right way to raise your family. But here are my personal experiences-

When I was 19 I worked full time and went to school full time, I only had time to eat one meal a day, I usually got home from work around 11 pm, then had to study, then had to be up at 7 am for class. I thought I had the most exhausting life... Then my aunt and uncle went out of town and I spent a week with 3 kids ages 3, 4, and 5. Making meals, getting people ready for school, bed time, bath time, and every meal a blood bath over who got to drink out of the hello kitty cup. Every morning after school drop off I drove to 711 to get myself an industrial size Red Bull and cry quietly in the parking lot. My dumb 19 year old self had NO idea what true exhaustion was.

So my days haven't quite culminated in that yet! No toddlers and just the one kid is much more manageable but like that week, these last five months have been the most exhausting of my life. I was originally planning on returning to work part time, and I did- for a grand total of three days. I was working from home, waving a toy at Cooper's face with one hand while trying to type with the other hand and I glanced over at him and realized he had just smiled for the very first time and I missed it. I quit on the spot. In three seconds I made a major life decision (which weirdly is how I make all of my major decisions, I really need to start some pro's and con's lists or something...)

To me working was easy, I had one job and I was good at that one thing, it gave me validation to accomplish tangible things. Now as a stay at home mom I feel like there are a million jobs I have to be good at. And sadly I really suck at a lot of them. For some reason I feel like the actual motherhood part of it is very small and that I need to be a professional seamstress, an interior designer, a gourmet chef, an amazing crafter! Suddenly there are a lot more things to fail at, and a vast amount of people that are just really a lot better at those things than I am. Most days I go to sleep feeling like I failed at everything. And when I don't fail, there's no positive affirmation, no tangible things to show for my day, my to-do list is usually longer than the one I started the morning with...

A few days ago we recieved some new information about our hospital bills that would make our tight budget even tighter. For a few days I toyed around with the idea of working part time, I looked around, I set up an interview and then I really gave my situation a second thought. Being a mom is exhausting, it is a job that never ends, and most of the time it makes me feel super inadequate. But it also makes me see the bigger picture. It makes me see that if we can cover our expenses with me staying at home, it doesn't matter if I can't buy a bunch of fun things for myself. Spending time with Cooper doesn't even register on the same playing field as replacing all my dishes with fiesta ware. I don't need to spend my weekends going out to eat, shopping, and seeing movies anymore, they're all experiences Cooper renders absolutely miserable anyway. I don't need to go on vacations where I sit on an exotic beach somewhere with my husband, I can go on a road trip for Cooper to see his grandparents.

So this week has taught me to be grateful for my budget, to be grateful I had to say no to going and getting a pedicure because that means that every morning I get to wake up to a little man who usually has all four appendages stuck in his crib bars and needs someone to help get him out. It means I get to spend all day playing and tickling and reading stories and singing songs. It means I am there to see the first time Cooper realizes he has feet. It means I have time to really get to know my boy and be the only person that knows things like Cooper's thighs are really tickelish and that he loves to stare at the microwave. And if I have to paint my own toenails to do all that then it's actually a really easy choice to make.