Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade Friday: Bags I slaved over that my children ignore

Two days before Christmas I had the brilliant idea to sew bags for each of the children.  Sebastian loves bags and Adele spends much of her time trying to find a way to get to my purse and pull everything out and dump it on the floor, scatter it with her feet, then chew on it.

So I thought, "Hey! I can sew marginally well.  I'll just make them each bags!"

I cut the fabric out during the afternoon when they were otherwise occupied, probably napping, and ignored all of the baking and cleaning I probably should have been doing instead.

I didn't really measure anything, just cut all the lining, which was leftover linen curtain from a massive hemming job, the same size as the outer material, which was what I had on hand.  I actually wanted to use a different fabric for Adele, but it hadn't been washed yet and I didn't want to wait.

The straps were made out of the same material as the lining, and also weren't measured, just eyeballed and all cut the same size.

I'm still working on figuring out my new
camera, thus the blurry photo.

I sewed everything that night after the kids went to bed, and it only took a couple of hours, thankfully.

Do you recognize Sebastian's material?  Check here.  I promise I won't make him carry the bag and wear the pants together.  (Unless of course he wants to.)

I cut two pieces of outer material for each bag and two pieces of lining, then sewed the sides and bottoms of the outer sections, then the lining.  Then I sewed the straps only on the sides, then turned them right-side-out, which has to be the most irritating part of sewing.  I hate it.  It never works right and usually I end up putting a whole in whatever I'm turning, plus my shirt, with the little turning tool.  Plus it just slows everything down.

The A and S were so Sebastian would know which
side Santa put his presents on, and also that the
kitchen, that he is entirely unimpressed with, is for both kids.

After that fiasco was finished I folded the raw edge of both the bag and the lining and pinned it all together with the straps at the edge of each side.  I will freely admit that I also hate ironing as I'm sewing, and allowed myself to skip the next step, which was supposed to be to iron the seams so as to help with the sewing.  (Sorry, Mom.)  I shouldn't have skipped it because as a result the seams at the top aren't as straight as they're supposed to be, plus the straps migrated as I was sewing some and don't line up like I'd prefer them to. 

I sewed this seam at 3/8 and then just right at the edge to get it to look a bit better.

And I did make myself iron the finished bag since the straps were wonky and looked unfinished.

And after all this hard work, they've both barely noticed the bags.  I only got this picture because I forcibly put the bag on Adele's shoulder.  (But isn't my entirely staged photo adorable?)

I pointed the bag out to Sebastian a couple of days ago and he was just like "Oh.  Okay."  Then he walked away to play with cars or something.

But I don't feel hurt or upset.  I like the idea of something homemade for them under the tree, and will probably continue that tradition every year, be it socks or a sweater, a dress or a pair of hats. 

I have no doubt that one day both children will appreciate my sacrifice of time and energy, plus the multitude of needle pricks I received as a result of sheer clumsiness this year.

Just not yet.

(I have so much stuff to show you guys that we'll probably still be talking about what I've done in the past month in March.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Motherhood & More: Every day calls for a New Year's resolution*

I am not what you’d call a New Year’s resolution person. I have a hard time drumming up enthusiasm for making resolutions I know I won’t stick with. And even if I do, it probably won’t be for more than a couple months, so by April I’m already back to forgetting to floss every day.

And even when I do make a list, it is exactly the same every year: stop eating so much; exercise more; make room for vegetables; stop watching so much TV; read more real books, not just Facebook updates; save money; make sure the house is clean every night before I go to bed; be a more patient and caring mother; drink less coffee; drink more water; and floss. Basically, totally change who I am.

Every year, it’s always the same. And most of the time I don’t live up to the standards I’ve set for myself. So that usually means around this time of year much of my energy is spent rolling my eyes at all the advertisements aimed at people and their resolutions. It just seems so silly, and so false, at least to me, the person who doesn’t follow through.

My husband is a list person and at the beginning of every year we sit down to resolve to make changes. And he’s much, much better than I am at the whole process. He likes to make resolutions, and enjoys the challenge of sticking to them and will hold out much longer than me.

And I understand the appeal, I really do. I like the idea of starting over, clean slate, this is the year I finally stop finishing my kids’ leftover food because even though I tell myself those calories don’t count because it’s not technically my food, they totally do.

And the beginning of the year is a good starting off point, a designated time when the resolve is put into practice.

But I think about the things I’d like to change about myself every day. All day. It always seems to be on my mind. When I sit down during the kids’ naptime and relax, I usually see the dusting that hasn’t been done in weeks or the clutter that is taking over my counters and think I’m not living up to my full potential. Or whenever I watch TV I think I should be reading instead. And when I lose my temper at the child who rolls away from me for the sixth time during one diaper change, I worry I don’t have the ability to mother the way I’m supposed to.

And what it seems to boil down to is that I just don’t think I’m good enough as I am. Obviously there are always ways to improve myself, and my list above is indication enough. But I don’t want it to be a negative thing. I don’t want to feel like I need to change because there’s something wrong with me, and that’s where a lot of the popular resolutions seem to be centered.

When I make a resolution I try to change something that affects my health or my children. And while I might never floss every day, even if only for a week the beginning of the year, I will at least try to stop finishing my children’s lunches. And maybe eat more vegetables.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on December 28, 2011.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas*

I think I might finally be a grown up … ish. 

You see, my whole life, as far back as I can remember I’ve loved everything about Christmas.  I’d plan cutting down the Christmas tree from my parents land well in advance, like the first cold day in October.  I’d bundle up and go out for a walk, looking for the tree that was the most uniform, the most well-rounded, the most Christmassy.  I’d usually pick one that was entirely too large for our living room, but no matter, usually that tree would be lost among all the others by the time Christmas actually rolled around.

So it was about the anticipation, the preparation.  One year I went through a Christmas craft book, planning all the stuff I’d make for my family.  I think I was 8, maybe little older.  There were lists of ornaments and pictures and food that I would painstakingly and lovingly create, complete with a timeline and schedule.  I finally realized that it was a little ambitious and so decided to just make chocolate covered cherries the morning of Christmas before everyone else woke up.  But the day arrived and unfortunately for my family I was just too busy opening presents to mess with things like asking my mom to turn on the stove and measure ingredients and, you know, cook them for me. 

And every year I’d wait so very impatiently for Christmas to come because with it came excitement and joy and gifts and family and food and songs and sometimes, on the most fantastic and special of Christmases, snow.  There was one year most people around here probably remember that included not just snow but lots of it, and super-cold weather.  It was so cold, in fact, that my cousins, my sister and I went ice skating in our boots on a pond close to our house.  I count that as one of the best years.

But of course there was the one year I snooped and found out what presents I was getting before Christmas.  And that, my friends, was the most disappointing of all Christmases.  It’s the anticipation, the surprise that I enjoy, so much more than the gift itself. 

And so you’d think that being an adult, growing up and having that excitement shift to my children would be a disappointment.  But it’s not.  Not at all.  In fact it now is so, so much more exciting because I get to relive everything, every excitement over decorating the tree, every thrilling rewatching of The Polar Express, every new retelling of exactly how Santa comes into our house, or how it’s Jesus’ birthday but we celebrate by giving each other presents out of love through the eyes of my 3 year old.  And this boy loves Christmas.  He reminds me so much of myself this time of year because he just gets so into it.

And that makes Christmas so much better because I get to create this wonderland for him, and for my daughter, who, while not completely aware, is still excited about taking the ornaments off the tree or touching all the lights. 

My husband and I are responsible for starting our family traditions, maybe keeping some from our parents, maybe creating our own.  And while we do that, we’re creating our own family, our own memories that maybe will be talked about lovingly in 25 years by our children to their own children.

And that is why I think I’ve sort of grown up.  Christmas is no longer about me, what I want to do, what I want to create.  It’s about the little kids running around my house singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

And I couldn’t be more satisfied.

*I wrote this for the newspaper, then realized that I was turning in my column a week early and it wouldn't run before Christmas so this one wouldn't work.  It's been a busy few weeks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas is a time for wallowing in self-pity

I am not feeling very jolly.

I have days full of Christmas spirit, where I’m singing carols and forcing ‘The Polar Express’ on Sebastian for the 13,900 time because it’s magical, damnit, and you will enjoy it.

But then there are days where the to-do list is longer than the entire season (which starts in October now, apparently),and my house is a mess of discarded socks from every single member of this family and tree needles and mixing bowls from those cookies I forced myself to make while the youngest one whined at my feet because she has a cold and my legs are covered in snot and flour.

Like today.

And I love this holiday, I really do.  I love everything about it – the carols and decorations and movies and smells.

But it gets to the point that I’m trying to make it special for everyone else around me and so much energy is spent thinking about others that I don’t have time to just sit back and enjoy it myself.  Like I used to.  Like I did when I was younger.

Part of it may be that this was also a big holiday for my grandparents, who died years ago.  I miss them more around this time of year because everything makes me remember the full-house get-togethers we used to have, how they squeezed their five children and all of their children and grandchildren into one small room full of chaos.  Or how the grandkids took turns putting Baby Jesus in the manger, since you couldn’t put him in until Christmas Day because he wasn’t born yet, obviously.  Or the glass tree candy jar that always, always contained red and green m&ms.  Or how the smells of lasagna and fried chicken permeated the house.  And how much they enjoyed the time spent together at Christmas.

So in the midst of rushing and tasks that need to be done, I get a little melancholy for how things used to be.  I miss being a kid and having someone else try to make my holiday magical.  And I miss things being simpler.

But I have to, as they say, put on my big girl panties and carry on.  I don’t have the luxury of wallowing in melancholia.  And I will be fine later, especially when I see the excitement in my kids’ faces, because it will be there and will saturate everything with happiness, including my moodiness.

I think I’ll go watch ‘Polar Express.’  Or maybe bake some more cookies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If you want out it’s up to you, indeed

Last Friday was probably not my most bestest moment as a mother.

You see, I had to go to the grocery.  I figured mid-morning would be a good time to go since we’d be out after Adele’s 15 month checkup anyway.  Also I didn’t want to interrupt eating time or nap time and as any mother of young children will tell you, interrupting either of those things basically means that you’ve committed the equivalent of cutting off your own hand.  Or ear.  Or something that is really important but once you’ve screwed with it you’ve completely messed up your system and will spend the rest of your days cursing yourself for being that stupid.

Where was I?

And so we went.  Usually both children are fantastic in the store, with only an occasional flare-up.  I mean, the early days with Adele weren’t what you’d call good, but also not completely awful.  But I was worried about her since she’d just gotten three shots in her legs and I didn’t know how she’d take not being in a comfortable environment.  But I thought I’d chance it since it needed to be done.

We first headed to the Christmas section of the dreaded Wal-Mart (or ‘Star Store’ as Babash calls it) because I needed to find a way to wrap the gift I hadn’t gotten yet for a gift exchange some friends were having on Saturday. 

And that’s where it started, and it only got worse the longer we were in the store.  And I had a long list so we were in there a long time. 

Sebastian was not very happy that we couldn’t spend 20 minutes wandering through looking at all the Christmas stuff because I AM IN A HURRY WE HAVE TO GO FAST STOP ASKING!

And then we went to the toy section to find a game I wanted for this gift exchange, the fishing game where the polls are little magnets that attach to the fish when they go around on this little spinny thing and they open their mouths and I thought it would be cute but all I could find at first was a spongebob thing and we all know how I feel about him, right?  And there was a spiderman one and a princess one and how hard is it to have a toy without a licensed character on it?  Assholes. 

I finally found what I was looking for, but not before someone decided that he wanted this game for himself and wouldn’t stop crying after I told him that it was to give away, not to keep, and he cried and he cried and I even went so far as to threaten to take him to the bathroom and spank him if he didn’t cut it out but that didn’t work, probably because I didn’t take him to the bathroom and spank him.  I didn’t want to spank him because he wasn’t intentionally being a little shit, he just was over tired, which is the only time he acts like that, and plus the bathroom was all the way at the front of the store and I was all the way at the back and at that point I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible, and not stop for spanking breaks.

I thought maybe some orange juice would make him feel better, because sometimes when he loses his shit like that he’ll ask for milk to make him feel better.  But that didn’t work, even though I opened it and gave it to him in the store, which I hate doing. 

And finally he’s crying so loudly, saying “I just want you Mommy!” that I stop trying to force the situation to end itself and pick him up.  I hold him and rub his back right in the dairy aisle until he settles down and gets back in the cart, calmer, though not calm.

(And Adele, by the way, the one I was worried about, was completely fine during all this, kind of looking around like ‘What the hell is his problem?)

And so we continue on with bouts of unpleasantness and every so often a motherly figure giving me sympathetic looks or maybe even attempting to cheer Sebastian up, which I greatly appreciate.  When you’re dealing with an unhappy child in a public place, no matter that you know it happens to everyone, it still feels isolating and like everyone is judging you and your parenting,and how calm you can stay in the midst of turmoil.

And I do okay.  But when I get close to the front of the store when I realize that Sebastian hadn’t put the top back on his juice all the way, and we’d been trailing oj all through most of the store.  My stomach drops and as I awkwardly clean up what I can with the two wipes I have in my purse while simultaneously trying not to show my butt crack or underwear since every single one of my jeans, no matter how ‘high rise’ they are, fall right down when I squat.

And it was in the middle of this, the awkward squat, the sopping-with-orange juice-wipes that I shove into my purse, the whining child, the exhaustion, that for half a second I thought about just walking away.  Just leaving the cart full of children and cream cheese packages and baking supplies and walking out the store, getting in my car and driving away.

I fought back the tears and piled in the rest of my groceries into the cart on top of the children, paid and left, a little stronger, maybe. 

But then as I was driving home, it occurred to me that I was so traumatized by this experience that not only did I not change the radio station when the ‘Red Solo Cup’ came on, but I also found myself singing along out of deliriousness.  But no matter, Zac Brown Band’s ‘As She’s Walking Away’ came on next, and that song makes my heart happy.  It also reminds me of my tween country years.  (Don’t make fun of me for listening to country you snobby hipsters.  It has its place.)

But then after that Reba McEntire’s ‘Fancy’ came on, which we all know is the best song ever written about a mom throwing her daughter out to be a whore in the name of moving on up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Friday: Soft pretzels I made a long time ago but am only sharing with you now

Hey!  Look at this thing I made a long time ago but couldn’t show you because I was too busy knitting and also parenting, maybe not in that particular order, but maybe yes, and now I’m also knitting but can’t show you any of it because they are all gifts and there is a slim chance that the person the knitted gifts are for actually read this website, so here, look at these pretzels.  I made them in September.

They were delicious but could have cooked a little longer in order to make them super delicious.  The recipe is from smitten kitchen.  Except I made the big ones, not the mini ones.

But I’m not picky as I love almost anything in bread form, especially the homemade blueberry muffins I made from scratch this morning that my oldest was too busy whining for ‘Bee Cereal (generic honey nut cheerios)’ to take the time to eat one, the ungrateful child.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unless of course they want me to cut their food up. But only if they buy me wine first.

I think I have an ear infection.

I mean, I’m not sure because it started hurting really badly yesterday after I jammed a q-tip into it which I know you’re not supposed to do but it was bothering me and I thought that would help.

It didn’t.  And now I’m left with a really sore ear that may or not be infected.  But I don’t go to the doctor ever because I’m a strong woman who doesn’t need things like modern medicine and will probably self-medicate with wine tomorrow night anyway when my children are at their grandparents’ house and Chris and I go out with the neighbors. 

So the only question is do I put it directly into my ear or just drink so much I forget that it’s hurting?

Decisions, decisions.


This morning while I was brushing my teeth Sebastian came up behind me, hugged my backside and said that I had the biggest butt he’d ever seen.

I’m almost positive he was saying it complimentary. 

I mean, I won’t say that a little bit of me wasn’t hurt but there’s no way I can scream at a 3-year-old for hurting my feelings, stomp off and slam the door to the bedroom to drown myself in chocolate and tears. 

He’d just come after me wanting some of my chocolate and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be in the mood to share.

So I just said thank you.  Much less therapy bills that way.

Plus I’m semi-okay with the size of my butt, in that I know that I could be more proactive about reducing its size, but I figure that the more time I spend focusing on it the less time I have for doing things like eating chocolate.


I can’t wait to go out on Friday.  I’m afraid I’m going to lose my ability to communicate with someone who is old enough to drive a car or buy me booze because I spend most of my time arguing about why it isn’t okay to have pretzels before you’ve had your breakfast, or why you can’t watch TV or play a game on the computer for hours at a time.  (Because I said so, that’s why.)

And so I’m craving consistent adult conversation.  It isn’t helpful that Christopher has been immersed in homework for the past few weeks.  Plus I see him all the time.  I probably know what he’s going to say before he says it anyway.

So, if I don’t screw it up by cutting up someone’s food for them, Friday should be good.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go yell at someone for kicking the wall in his room while he’s supposed to be napping.  (Because I said so, that’s why.)