Tag Archives: parenting

A hat and scarf set for Nana

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moms-set moms-set2I hope my mother doesn’t mind appearing in this blog post! I didn’t actually intend to inflict a posed photo on her, but happened to catch her trying on her new set in this bottom photo and thought it was nice, so I’m including it unless she asks me to take it down. I was going to knit my mother some fingerless mitts for her birthday, but she didn’t know it and bought herself a pair on Etsy. Apparently all instances of me knitting or intending to knit fingerless mitts are just destined to somehow go wrong. Anyway, I crocheted a hat and scarf for her instead. I’d bought the nice hand-dyed wool at a fiber festival a few years ago and never found quite the right project for it, but the colors look great with my mom’s green coat and greener eyes. She’s the best, and she deserves a lot more than a hat. There are very few other single factors in a woman’s life that can make as much of an impact to her quality of life–at basically any age–as having a great mom. If my girls think half as highly of me some day I’ll be lucky.

On a lighter note, we’re having one of those Christmas years where the tree needs to be up on a table where small toddling monsters can’t pull it down. Worth and Dorothy don’t remember having small trees before; they only remember being able to chose large trees the last two years. I’d like to say they were concerned about the safety of their baby sister and understood the charm of the small tree year, but in reality Rob finally offered them $2 each if they’d just shut up and act happy about getting a little tree. That worked. Merry Christmas indeed!

What a mess: One mother’s response to the latest mommy wars

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wipes

I think I need to weigh in on the articles and blog posts that have been circulating in the latest round of the “mommy wars,”–whatever that is. I’m not big on making sweeping judgments about other people’s lifestyle choices. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together working outside the home? Great! You’re a good mom, and you’ve probably got awesome shoes. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together while staying out of the paid workforce and raising your kids? Great! You’re a good mom too, but you’ve probably got less awesome shoes. (Like me.) Send your kid to public or private school? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine, and they leave your house for eight hours a day, which is clearly a good idea. Homeschool your kid? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine too, and I’m sure you have a reason for keeping them there that makes their relentless presence in your house worthwhile.

Now moving on to the details. Lately these so-called “wars” seem to have descended from these more obvious issues and into the petty realm of party and event planning, and whether or not you keep your house clean. I think these articles that bash a “culture” of Pinterest-obsessed mothers who plan picturesque birthday parties or set leprechaun traps are meant to make mothers who opt not to do these things feel better, but is that really the way to do it? Why are we giving other mothers a hard time at all? No mother is out there posting cupcakes on Pinterest or scrubbing her kitchen floor to make you feel inadequate, nor should they be asked to stop because of your negative response. What your house looks like is between you and the other people who live in it. It’s not about the articles or the bloggers or the playdate mamas. There is no vast conspiracy of military-industrial anything telling you to plan Pinterest holiday events or keep your mail slots beautiful. You do what feels right at your house, and let’s stop spilling ink on whether or not it’s a contest.

All the articles about how the Pinterest stuff takes it too far, and no one else’s house is really that clean, and every birthday party doesn’t have to be magical, and that’s not even really a holiday, blah, blah, undermine other mothers. Because mothers who plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who don’t plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who use Pinterest ideas to turn small holidays into big moments of wonder love their children. Mothers who would rather eat roadkill than handle glitter love their children. Mothers who are too up to their eyeballs in case work, or shift work, or depression, or a dirty novel to even notice this conversation is going on love their children. Making a plea to other mothers to stop doing whatever they are doing–whether it is icing gorgeous cupcakes, or cleaning their house before a playdate, or having a job, or not having a job–is not an act of sisterhood. It is trying to take another mother’s behavior and make it about you.

Maybe what we need is to stop talking about the behavior of other mothers. Maybe all the moms just need a nice shot in the arm of self-confidence and the space to get a grip on what is important to them and what is not, and then mind their own business. If you know you love your children, and you make your decisions based on what is right for you and for them, then what everyone else is doing is just not relevant.  And housekeeping, for pete’s sake, why is this a conversation in 2014? It’s not a ranked activity–it’s your own private thing. The dirty underwear on your floor is, quite literally, your dirty underwear (or to be perfectly honest it’s probably your toddler’s) and if it bothers you that much go and pick it up. And if it doesn’t then literally shut the front door and no one else will see it. No one on Pinterest or the blog world or uninvited to your house is going to know about it.

By the same token, if looking at photographs of “perfect” birthday parties or Hallmark holiday celebrations on Pinterest or blogs is some sort of trigger for you, why don’t you stay off Pinterest and the blogs? You are a grown-up. Read bodice-rippers or dirty fan-fiction in the time you would have spent “getting ideas” about how everyone else’s life is better than yours. That always puts me in a better mood, and I never end up spending $50 on new art supplies next day. But I’d like to point out that the problem is probably not that other people are posting blogs or Pinterest photos of parties and celebrations, but that you are responding to them by feeling inadequate. I doubt that anyone ever iced cupcakes just to make someone else feel bad. Get a backbone and say “I want to make these cupcakes” and then really do it. Or say, “I am never going to make these cupcakes, and I’m having a negative reaction to seeing other people’s cupcakes, so I need to work on my self-esteem. I’m going to remind myself that I’m a mother who loves her children, that quality mothering and cupcake baking are not actually correlated. Now I’m going to shut down this browser and stay away from cupcake photos. I will not resort to the middle-school coping mechanism of running down the mama who baked the cupcakes (who also loves her children) to make myself feel better.”

I’m a cupcake-baker. I have cute birthday parties for my kids. Sometimes I even have cute half-birthday celebrations for my kids and blog about them. Sometimes we totally forget about the kids’ half-birthdays, and if anyone happens to remember at the last moment we run to the corner gas station and buy packaged cupcakes. Or we don’t even bother. Sometimes my house is beautifully clean and my mail slots are worthy of Pinterest. Sometimes random piles of crap appear all over my house and there is no clean laundry and my mail slots overflow. Sometimes I like to browse ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes I like to read dirty novels and pay no attention to applesauce on the floor or the yogurt being dumped on the dog or the fact that yesterday was a Hallmark holiday I missed. And I LOVE MY KIDS. I don’t judge myself based on anyone else’s criteria because I am comfortable in my own skin. That is a gift, I realize, but it is also a choice. I honor that you are a good mother because you love your kids. I am not going to judge the choices you make about working or schooling or (the biggie!) crafty holiday decorations. I’m not going to ask you to lie about your house, or to lie about lying about it. Because you are your own person, and, like me, you probably keep your house the way it needs to be right now for you. And you love your kids.

Now I’m a little embarrassed that in a state where slightly more than a third of children live in poverty I have just spend an hour acknowledging any importance in the petty “mommy wars,” in which well-fed mothers argue over things that don’t really matter. Except that niceness always matters. And making some theoretically heroic summons of sisterhood for mothers to stop fussing over Hallmark holidays (if they enjoy it) or planning cutesy birthday parties (if they want to) or having a tidy house (or lying about it?) isn’t nice. It just isn’t about you. Take it or leave it. It didn’t become a contest until someone who felt like they were losing started whining about calling off the contest. You can decide what to look at it and what to avoid. Live you own life. Love your children. Go talk about things that matter. And if you have something to say to another mother let it be positive.

I’ll start. I honor you and the mother that you are. I don’t care what your house looks like, even if it is spectacular. I don’t care if you are baking picture-perfect cupcakes (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is lemon). I don’t care if you are picking up cupcakes from the gas station (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is that waxy orange with the white squiggle on top). I hope you are in an employment situation that feels right to you. I hope your children are in educational situations that feel right to you. I hope you have the self-confidence to look at ideas and tuck away what you like and discard the rest. I hope you realize how beautiful you are. I hope you realize that you are the right parent for your child. And I know you love your children.

Peace, Mama!

A get well kit and a painted hutch

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Dorothy and Worth are not feeling well today, both down with the kind of passing tummy ailments that seem to accompany childhood. Thankfully neither child tends to get too pathetic; instead they seem rather glad to be allowed the rare chance to zone out in front of some DVD entertainment on our dusty television while Mama washes icky sheets and, in this case, blogs. Even though the stomach bug has hit all members of our family on a semi-regular basis since our little germ-magnet Dorothy was born, the first symptoms still seem to find us scurrying to collect the supplies we need to recover appropriately. Of course every family has it’s own version of comfort or soothing foods when they are sick, but we gravitate towards the old school Gatorade, chicken soup, soda crackers and those preternaturally bright popsicles that come as liquid in plastic sleeves. Last winter it occurred to me that it might be handy to actually just keep all those items on hand so that when one of us gets sick we can skip the harried trip to Kroger. The problem was that such infrequently-used items kept getting shoved to the deep, dark recesses of the pantry where no one can find them, especially if Mama is the one sick and the person looking for the Gatorade is biologically incapable of moving other food items to see if it might be behind them. So after my last bought with the stomach flu, when I suffered through a recovery without the comfort of technicolor popsicles, only to find them the next day right where I had said they were, I got the idea for our Get Well Kit. The kit is just an old kitty litter bucket which I scrubbed clean, decorated, and stocked with our sick foods of choice. I closed it up and placed it in an obvious (I hope!) place, and then today when I needed bland, salty noodles for my ailing angels I knew right where to look. Now they’ll go on our regular grocery list and the bucket will be replenished with no extra gas money involved.

I was having some trouble with my old china cabinet. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a photo specifically of it, but I’m sure it’s appeared incidentally in other photos, like here.  It was a very pretty, traditional, glass-doored and glass-shelved oak cabinet. I lucked into it by deserving some good karma after my arm was broken when Dorothy was a baby–a friend who was downsizing gave it to me and my brother delivered it to me in his truck. I stuck in my dishes with my one good arm loved the thing to death in our old house.  In this house it never looked quite right. The very small dining room needed an anchor point, and so much furniture of the same color all crammed in just didn’t work. I’d have probably kept it anyway just because I was fond of it, if it hadn’t been for the unnerving combination of teetering glass shelves + all the dishes we got for our wedding + my son zooming through the house in a plasma car. It was an accident waiting to happen. New furniture wasn’t in my budget, however, and buying something to hold dishes on Craig’s List would require the use of a bigger vehicle than I possess. Then I saw a photo on Pinterest one day of a painted hutch with open shelving, where the owner’s white dishes stood out beautifully and didn’t appear to be on the verge of plasma car disaster. I found a similar hutch on Craig’s List at a secondhand furniture store not far from my house. I printed out a photo of my china cabinet and decided it couldn’t hurt to ask the owner for a trade. I was a little surprised when the owner accepted at once! My china cabinet good karma continued. Since my cabinet was worth more than the outdated (but very sturdy–I checked) hutch in her store she was happily willing to send a truck to pick mine up and deliver hers. We’d exchange no money. Perfect!

I had the men stick my new/old hutch in my garage for its transformation. The top, above, had two glass doors. I took one to a glass place to price replacing them with clear glass, because just a wee bit of glass up so high didn’t feel too dangerous, but the price was high so I decided to wait on them.

The bottom was a little beat up but sturdy and very roomy, to accommodate lots of extra dishes (I’m a dish hoarder; I’ve disclosed this before) and linens.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the garage with the radio and my electric sander. I knocked off the decorative railing on the middle shelf (kapow!) and decided as the paint went on that I actually really liked the look of the thing without the doors. I used a satin finish black paint and all new black hardware.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out. My white dishes look awesome against the black, and I can access them more easily as well as change out a few accent pieces seasonally. (My Louisville Stoneware out now is in honor of the local upcoming “holiday” of Kentucky Derby Day.) Although this hutch may not have the trade value of the cabinet I had before it is infinitely more valuable to me to have a piece of furniture that can withstand a plasma car crash without reducing my dish collection to dust, and I really like the way having something big and black in the room helped it look better overall. The room even seems bigger now without so many brown things in it. This could be dangerously habit-forming, though. I can totally see how furniture barter could become a slippery slope! Good thing the kids cannot be offered in trade…