The (Thanks)Giving Tree

Oh, November, you have a hard row to hoe. The middle child of year’s end wedged between the delightful youth of October with its sugar induced, ghoulish campfire stories and elegant December with its twinkle light covered gifts. Poor November, no elaborate decorations, no holiday parties, no cinematic tributes or television specials. The eleventh month of the year has always seemed like three weeks of waiting in the livingroom for the turkey being prepared in the most slow and torturous way.

Dutifully, at the beginning of the week I packed up our vampires and devils, pumpkins and skeletons, ghosts and goblins into their box and returned them to the garage. And with that action I realized how utterly bare our house seems without them. Not the cleansing spareness that I welcome with January’s fresh start flavor of minimalism – but a boring, empty feeling.

I felt our November needed a makeover. And thus the Thanksgiving tree was brought in.

Every year we do a gratefulness challenge. Most of the time it is just a list that my kids scribble down on notebook paper, while I post mine in status updates on social media. This year I thought it would be snazzier if we made it a more visually appealing affair. I brought in a branch from our backyard, placed it in a large mason jar and anchored it with stones.  We then traced our hands on construction paper, cut out the silhouette and wrote something we are thankful for on them. A bit of yarn to hang them with and voila! November has a decorative, crafty tradition that underscores a core value of our family – appreciating what we have.

photo 1photo 2 
photo 3photo 4

I love our tree and I can’t wait to see it covered in colors and joy by the end of the month. However, I think that our November has room for more. So the second tradition we are doing for the month of Thanksgiving focuses on the second half of the word: Giving. We begin by donating outgrown clothing and toys to our local rescue mission and follow that up with putting together some cold weather bags for the homeless in our area (ziploc bags filled with gloves, a hat, a scarf and some socks) and choosing a couple of new toys to donate to Toys for Tots.

“November is usually such a disagreeable month…as if the year had suddenly found out that she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it. This year is growing old gracefully…just like a stately old lady who knows she can be charming even with gray hair and wrinkles. We’ve had lovely days and delicious twilights.” – L.M. Montgomery

Advertisements

The Autumn People Present DIY Halloween Decorations

“For these beings, fall is ever the normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth….Such are the autumn people.”  – R. Bradbury

Okay, so perhaps we aren’t quite that into fall, but my family definitely enjoys its Octobers. We count the month leading up to Halloween as family activity time with an enthusiasm only matched by the Advent season. October is the time when we take outside to hiking trails and bike paths, giddy with the lack of humidity. We spend the month cuddled up with Goosebumps and showings of Hocus Pocus. We make costumes and trick or treat. But it is safe to say we have the most fun decorating.

Every year we make a homemade decoration or two. That is how this necktie wearing Dracula ended up in our house. He has hung around for five years and has yet to sell a single used car. He’s very friendly though!

"I vant to sell you a volksvagon!"

“I vant to sell you a volksvagon!”

Dracula is made of craft wire and art foam, fabric and felt. He was a little bit of an endeavor. Last year we went with the quick but temporary balloon spiders. This year I wanted a craft that was both simple, quick and reuseable. Enter peel and stick wallpaper.
IMG_3282As you may have heard (from countless other blog posts) I work for a company called Spoonflower that specializes in custom, digitally printed textiles. One of our most versatile products is a woven wallpaper that goes up like a sticker but doesn’t damage walls and if stored on it’s backing can be reused. I thought that it would be the perfect wall decoration so I went through the ample halloween related designs and picked out my favorites (if you click on the images it will lead you to the design, in case you are interested) and ordered them in swatch size.
IMG_3283
IMG_3284

IMG_3285 IMG_3286My personal favorite is this design – but due to the size of the figures, I needed to order a two foot long roll, which gave me exactly one of each.

Once I received them, we set to work cutting them out.

IMG_3290

Remember, they have adhesive so don’t sacrifice your good scissors!

A swatch size did not give me the full bunting, however it did give me enough flags for my purpose and the ones that were cut off could be cut so that they were independent stickers.
IMG_3287       IMG_3288

Soon we had a massive pile of spooky stickers!

IMG_3291

And then it was time for the fun part: I set the kids loose with the stickers. They had the freedom to put them wherever they wanted without fear of messing anything up. They got pretty creative.

IMG_3295

IMG_3296 IMG_3297 IMG_3298

The bunting was my personal project and I am thrilled with how it turned out. All the fun of a bunting without the hassle of sewing it, hanging it etc. It worked so well and looks so cute I am going to get some for birthdays, Christmas and everyday use!

IMG_3300

The best part of the project is that it took less than thirty minutes to complete and our house was covered with unique decorations. I saved the backing in hopes of using them next year, but my boys insist that the decorations are just going to move into their rooms come November 1st.

I would write a meditation on autumn and change, hibernation, self care and such, but I have costumes to sew! Happy Crafting!

Kids Aren’t For Everyone or How the Myth of Total Motherhood Hurts Everybody aka Parents: Treat Yo’self

Have you ever been asked when you are going to procreate? Or when you are going to bring a sibling into the world to join your current child? Or asked why you haven’t gotten pregnant yet? Or if you are trying? Or why the hell you have so many kids already? Or if you are going to ‘try for a girl/boy’?

If you have lady parts of any configuration of one or more of these questions have likely been put to you at some point in your adult life. That is because “motherhood” is an assumed part of being a woman. More to the point, what goes on in your personal uterus is considered part of the public domain. In general society, these questions are considered “normal” rather than extremely invasive, presumptive and rude.

This is something that needs to change, but it is going to take time, generations of time. We unfortunately have no control over other people. We can answer politely, give them a big ol’ “Nun’ya” or simply walk away, but we can’t stop them from continuing to ask every ovary owner the same jerk questions. We can’t stop these people from assuming motherhood is what all females regardless of race, class or area want to participate in.

Something we can control is ourselves. We can control the equally pervasive ideology that goes hand in hand with “mandatory motherhood” and that is the concept of “total motherhood“.

Total motherhood is the assumption that all child rearing responsibility rests solely on the mother. That once a woman begins the raising of a child she absolves herself of any and all worldly pleasures outside of said child. She alone must bear the weight of choices regarding the human she is in charge of. That any choice she might make will be the end all be all of her worth as a human, including but not limited to: feeding/sleeping/dressing/educating and cleaning the child.

In short, “total motherhood” is the philosophy that in order to be a good mother one has to be a martyr.

That, my friends, is complete bullshit.

Having children is not a walk in the park. It takes sacrifices. One must give up their time and boat loads of money for the care and keeping of kids. You have to be ready to give up sleep when your baby is awake in the middle of the night – depending on the child this could last for years. You have to be willing to cancel plans at the drop of a hat because your child becomes sick unexpectedly. You have to be able to show up when they need you.

Also: kids are grody and you are going to have to be okay with dealing with ALL of the bodily fluids…on your couch, bed, floor, bathtub AND person.

Considering all of that, is it really so shocking that a good portion of women would like to opt out?

Yes parenting takes sacrifice, but the cult of “total motherhood” when internalized takes it roughly one hundred steps too far.

I have heard mothers say they haven’t been out of the house without their child since the kid was born (and their child is four years old).

I have heard parents judge anyone who sends their child to daycare because they should be “raised by their parents, not strangers”.

Moms who skip taking care of themselves.

Parents who don’t go on dates.

People who literally give up every facet of themselves in order to focus their entire lives on the small being they are caring for.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? My experience has certainly shown this to be true. I tried the whole total mother/cult of domesticity thing. My only joy came from my child, his milestones, his giggles. However, I felt trapped, alone and miserable for a good portion of the time. And I spread that misery to the rest of my family.

This is not to say one can’t stay at home and be happy. I also found happiness being a stay at home parent, after I quit martyring myself.

I am one of the lucky ones, I figured out early that if cared for myself, I could do an exponentially better job for others. When I took time to recharge my child had a lot more giggles and I could handle tantrums without feeling quite as frazzled.

For me writing, yoga, sewing and running help my overall life satisfaction. Sometimes it is as simple as reading a book, drinking a latte at the coffee shop while it is still hot or taking a walk alone with my dog. The ability to be a person who is not in charge of another person, if only for an hour, is enough to remind you of who you are.

Everyone needs space to think.

Self care is important because YOU are important.

So reach out, build a village. If you have family just *dying* to watch your little one, let them. Coordinate with other parents to swap childcare every other week. Hand the baby to your partner and take off for the grocery store (go on and stop for a coffee and a cookie to eat on the way). Let the pre-schooler veg out in front of Thomas the Tank Engine or Frozen and watch a movie OF YOUR OWN CHOOSING on your computer with headphones.

Find a way. Find yourself. Your kid will thank you.

They probably won’t thank you until they are thirty or so, and then it will probably not be a thing they say to you, but trust me.

Oh and while you are at it, tell everyone to lay off your sister/cousin/friend who is child-free, because that is the most understandable decision a human could make.

When Black Cats Prowl and Pumpkins Gleam

It’s that time again. There are clues everywhere. The sound of cloth dragging through fallen leaves time, a scoot and a crunch. The scent of sugar and burning yard waste on the air. The sight of a cape whipping around a corner. The atmosphere is electric with the promise of chill and suspense.

Halloween!

It is fast approaching as I rush about collecting the last items for costumes and send my children searching out their plastic pumpkins which lie in some forlorn corner of the house, dusty and forgotten since last year.

Halloween holds a special place in our family. We have a LOT of traditions associated with the end of October. We make a new decoration each year, we also have a group costume, we carve pumpkins, we watch spooky movies (Hocus Pocus, anyone?) and we go trick or treating. One thing we do not do however, is encourage our children to go into a sugar coma give our kids a sack full of candy to consume.

We aren’t health nuts, but if you could sum up our parenting style (and lifestyle too, I suppose) it would be: all things in moderation.

The kids bring home at least a pound of candy every year easily. There ain’t nothing moderate about that.

So, rather than allowing them to binge on sugar we have yet another tradition. This tradition’s name is *The Sugar Sprite*.

Rather than being the “bad guys” and having to take away all the sweets we encourage an exchange with a mythical creature. The children are entitled to as many pieces of candy as they are years old, which they choose with the greatest of care. The rest goes into a big bowl placed near the door. In the dead of night the Sugar Sprite swoops in, takes the candy and leaves a small surprise gift for each child.

(Actually, what happens is after bedtime my husband and I invite our friends over to watch a scary movie and to eat all of the candy. Shhhhhhhhh.)

Although, the exchange is voluntary our kids have never opted for the candy and this has been going on for eight years.

The Sugar Sprite usually spends about $20 bucks on two gifts, which is a whole lot less than the copay for two dentists visits to have cavities filled.

Why I Don’t Hit My Kids

I know, I know, we’re all disappointed by the lack of creative title but this particular post is written to forsake artistry for honesty, cleverness for clarity and I intend to be as straight forward as the title suggests.  (Now to see if my intentions prove themselves truthful).

I don’t hit my kids and when I say that I mean I do not: spank, swat, switch, tap, pop, smack or otherwise raise a hand nor any other instrument with the intention to cause them the sensation of physical pain.

(Now immediately I’m going to head off the objection that people who spank their children are not intending to cause them physical pain, but to correct behavior. The act of spanking is an attempt to correct behavior through the motivation of avoiding the repetition of physical pain.

That is what it is.

If you can not resolve yourself to this plain, technical fact of the matter you and I have something in common. The fact that I can not reconcile myself to hurt my children purposefully, even a little bit, is a main reason I don’t favor this form of parenting.)

My main reason, aside from the one addressed above is: hypocrisy.

Every single day, from the day they gain control of their limbs until they day that they fully grasp the concept I remind my boys, “We don’t hit.” or “Be gentle.” In my opinion the “Do as I say and not as I do” method of teaching is ineffective.  Children model their behavior after the adults they see around them – it’s the reason why my two year old likes to sweep for example.  Smacking Jimmy for whacking Suzy in the back of the head is only going to teach him that hitting another kid will get him hit- it doesn’t teach him that hitting is not okay.

Which of course comes to another point: hitting is not okay.

Continue reading

5 Things to Share and 5 Things to Forget from Childhood

Objects in the review mirror may appear cooler than they are.

Having children is a sure fire way to find yourself reminiscing about eons ago when you were young with an infinite amount of passion to spend on cartoons, toys and candy.

Some things we never let go of (Star Wars or The Princess Bride for instance) so we are certain of their awesomeness as no time has lapsed in our viewing. However there are some that are only echoes of how our 8 year old self viewed them and it isn’t until you’ve revisited in the hopes of sharing with your kids that you learn the awful truth.

The truth that, unfortunately, 8 year olds are not always the best judges of quality as the first half of our list will demonstrate.

Things from Your Childhood That Didn’t Hold Up

5.   ALF

I kill ME!

I wish it weren’t so, but it is. The live-action sitcom about my favorite cat-eating space creature is a turd sandwich. It pains me to write that, I was obsessed with ALF when I was a kid. I had cups, t-shirts and hand puppets in his likeness, I spouted his catchphrases and watched both the original show and the cartoon religiously but the proof is in the pudding. The writing is horrendous, the acting is terrible and it’s just not funny.  Don’t believe me? Then you may watch the “hilarious” moments reel  and judge for yourself.

Continue reading

Car Sickness Survival Tips

Summer is upon us and that means car trips, whether you’re driving a couple of hours or a couple of days if you or your child  is prone to motion sickness the fun can be decreased quickly – especially if you find yourself scraping vomit out of your backseat on the shoulder of the expressway in 90 degree heat.

Between my own experience being  kid losing her cookies and the parent stuck cleaning up the aftermath I have picked up a thing or two about making the best of a queasy situation.

Continue reading