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December 2011

{December Daily} revisited; deadlines avoided

I’m on deadline. So, naturally I’ve written the thank you notes from Sam’s birthday – in October. And one to the staff at the hotel we stayed at over Thanksgiving – Holiday Inn Express in Troutdale. And the Mayor and Council of my town … I’ve scrubbed random spots on doors and walls I’ve managed to ignore for 18 months and after this post I suppose I’ll have to actually get back to it.

Or … I could spend 40 minutes messing with my  December Daily video because I’ve been meaning to do that since April when many of you couldn’t see what I’d posted. Turns out I used a copyrighted song in the background and that killed this video star.

Inspired by the awesome Ali Edwards, December Daily is a project I will hold dear because participating in it brought me light and kept my focus on the positive during a particularly dark period of my life. Anyway, here’s take 1,000 for those of you who asked:

December Daily 2010

This album turned out exactly the way I wanted. How often does that happen? My favorite part though is that it’s the first time I’ve finished something I’ve started just for myself. If there’s a deadline or it’s for someone else I’m all over it but things that are just for me get put on perma-hold. Or, rather, they used to.

I thought that was my favorite part until Sam saw me get the album out with our other decorations and has asked to sit down and read it together several times a day. I love, love, love that!

For more about my whole December Daily process, click here for archives or on the “December Daily” in the category cloud to your right.

I would love to hear from any of you planning to join in this year. I’ll share more about my current plans for THIS year’s book … but first I have to write the final drafts for my column and book review. Really. I’m on it.


Christmas Pajamas

I get these ideas … and often I let them go as quickly as they came but some get stuck in my head and I decide to do things like sew Christmas pajamas. For all four of us. You should know that I don’t actually sew … or that the last time I attempted something like this (Stockings and a receiving blanket) my neighbor friend the lovely Loretta Willard had to bail me out at the last minute. (Literally as I was going into the hospital to have Jake she handed me the blanket I’d meant to make all finished, washed and ready for baby xo).

Anyway over the summer I found this pattern for  pajamas I thought would be fun to make for Christmas. I finally opened it last week:

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When I got the thing unfolded I was confounded. I  wanted to sew pajama pants not build a house! I’m not so much a numbers girl, nor am I particularly good at following directions. I understand this doesn’t make me a likely candidate for sewing projects. But like I said, I had this idea …

A few weeks ago I went to the fabric store for my material. I mentioned it to a friend and smiled at the long pause that followed. I know he was thinking something along the lines of: but you don’t sew. I explained that I was making pajamas. Another pause and then he said: “Nathalie, your life is a self-made adventure.”

And you know what? I took that as a compliment. I love for that to be true. It makes life interesting. Besides, learning new things is said to help ward off Alzheimer's.

So then I almost gave up after messing with that pajama engineering project but Matt mocked me and I couldn’t resist … plaid pajamas for you my friend. Super plaid. With a matching shirt.

Matt: We’re going to have matching pajamas?
Me: Well, more like coordinating.

Matt: Oh my God, we’re going to have matching pajamas. (Still laughing thinking this will never happen.)

Me: If I go through the trouble of making them you’ll wear them, right?

Matt: Oh, honey. You bet. Barely able to contain his amusement.

Me: You so should not have mocked me.

He was surprised the next morning when I hung the first pair from the doorknob.

He was impressed when I hung the second pair the next morning.

He looked mildly concerned when I handed him his pair the third day.

“Oh my God honey, you made me kulats!”

They were awful! And much too short.

But what kind of a jerk wouldn’t wear something so lovingly made by his wife? He did request I figure out a way to add a few inches to them. Wait ‘till he sees my fix. And the matching shirt I made out of his old company T-shirt. Surprise!

The surprise was kind of on me though when I tried mine on and found them to be hideously tight. Like for sure I’ll bust a seam. But at least I know how to fix that now! I’m out of material so luckily I found a clearance $3 top that will work perfectly to hide the hideousness. The ruffles, however, are adorable. Well, on the one leg. The other is kind of a hack job.

The whole thing is really kind of a hack but I’m good with that. By the way, I ended up finding an awesome  tutorial on my beloved Pinterest where you use your own pajamas for the pattern. And still there were mistakes. So many mistakes that Sam thinks the seam  ripper is called “the mistake thing.”

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The cheerful, Christmassy mantra that got me through the hours I spent with my seam ripper was: I don’t care if I have to staple these f@#$&*@ we are wearing these damn pajamas!

Anyway,they’re done. And they are awesome, in a way. They remind me of what my friend Sarah calls “aggressively homemade.” Love that expression. We’re not going to eat in these. Or play in them. You know what? Maybe we won’t even sleep in them.

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Here they are ready to be unwrapped tomorrow night before we read our first round of Elf on the Shelf. (Check local listings but the movie is playing Friday on CBS!) I even made our little Elf his own sleeping bag because I am totally geeking out on being a holiday mom. I love this part of the gig!

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Oh, right the pajamas …

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Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Oh my gosh! I could make matching stocking hats. Ha!


Shifting gears

start over

I’ve been in sort of a rut of overwhelm lately. I got sick for a couple weeks an started to wonder if I’d ever feel better. To my delight, I feel better than before. I feel like someone finally plugged me back in! I didn’t realize how depleted I was until now. I’m getting out of that rut by shifting gears into forward motion. It feels like the emotional equivalent of learning to drive a stick-shift.

I’ve started this post a dozen times because my mind is full of stuff I want to share. I suppose, then, that it makes sense to start with the apropos topic of “re-starting

It was on my mind because we’ve had a lot of endings, shifting and re-starting around here.

Matt being unemployed is, obviously, a huge ending, shift and opening for a new beginning. What that door leads to is starting to crystalize, but I’ll wait until we know more before I elaborate on that. (Remind me to post about the moment it became real that he wasn’t going back to his job and what that meant to mine).

Like an unexpected breeze, I’ve had doors swinging open while others are banging shut and it’s taken me awhile to process all that’s happened and what it means. The condensed version of my professional story is that the job I got a few months ago required me to work in all of my margins, meaning that very little else beyond the basics got done personally or professionally.

As any of you who’ve been on unemployment know, it’s a fraction of the income your household might need to run on. But you sure learn to manage—even thrive—on less which is a skill I’m sure will serve all of us forever. But, still – it’s a huge shift.

I immediately went into my “what can I do to fix this” mode and started exploring other avenues of income without taking anything else off my plate. Not surprisingly it wasn’t long before I totally lost my balance and wasn’t doing anything all that well. Love that!

Blessings in disguise are easier to recognize with the laser-vision of retrospect and mine came in the form of a job I loved doing coming to abrupt end. (Long personal story but it wasn’t anyone’s fault …shifting priorities meant the company lost funding for the project.)

Then no one signed up for my journaling class which I barely had the time to promote and was probably starting at the wrong time of year. Given that I had little time to promote it … it would’ve been crazy stressful to fold into my life. No matter how much I wanted to! I’m taking all my planning, notes an ideas with me for a future online class and until then will use my blog to continue developing that dream into reality.

As I’ve alluded to, this hasn’t been the happiest year of my married life. Which has evolved from a near-ending into a re-starting of sorts. It’s kind of awesome and takes it’s own level of energy to maintain.

Then of course there’s the job I signed up for 4 years ago, being the kind of stay-at-home mom I wanted to be for my boys. I’ve been here before, my priorities out of whack, knowing I needed to find balance because they are among my top priorities.

There is a time I would’ve said they are THE priority. But four years into my mothering gig I’ve learned that’s not true.

I can’t make them a priority before my own self. This is not, as some interpret it, permission to hide behind “self care” as an excuse to ignore my responsibilities. It is rather, the essential truth that if I am not nourished, invigorated by exercise, rested and creatively engaged in something of my very own I can not be the kind of mom I want to be.

And that leads me to the re-starting I did last weekend. (Holy long verbal detour!) Between my two computer crashes this year, I lost a significant part of my novel-in-progress. Between that and all that’s gone on, I’ve been scared to re-start writing it. Really, really scared. So I pretended I didn’t care. But besides my love of family, I love writing. I don’t just want to write my books. I truly believe I need to. And when not actively in pursuit of that dream it’s like I’m out of alignment.

So I started. Back to slow and steady. And solid effort.

One last thing … before I can do any of that well, I have some demons to deal with. In my heart, in my brain, at the gym and my pantry. More on that another day. I mention it only because, for whatever reason, it’s coming to a head and also needs my attention. It’s okay, it’s a good thing.

And it’s time.

Alight then, longest post ever, right? I’ll save the details of my pajama project for another post.


Birthday Basics

Google alerted me that my November column ran yesterday. It’s rare that I miss it. By rare I mean that it’s never happened before. Yet another reason to love my Google Machine.

That reminder reminded me that I still haven’t posted my link to last month’s column on going back to birthday basics, so here it is complete with the pictures I promised my mom I’d post. Of course, I have to add my “after” commentary as well.

The column:

http://www.newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=getting+back+to+birthday+basics--1318449035--1791—hardy

The prep:

Because I took a totally different, low-key approach to Sam’s birthday party this year (read the above article), I actually enjoyed every aspect of planning for his party. And somehow managed to pull off a darn good party without all the stress of last year. I spent approximately $60 on the whole thing. Due to our  restricted budget at the moment the party was kind of his gift, and since he requested that we gave little gifts to his friends, that counted as part of his present and he was quite happy with that.

Another thing that helped was starting the planning process well in advance. It made it possible to get what I wanted without paying extra for any of it. I broke it down into doable tasks and had fun all the while. This is not something I’ve been able to do in the past when I was stuck in my procrastination by perfection cycle.

First up was picking a theme that would be fun and flexible and totally Sam. We discussed some ideas, train-theme, book-theme and finally settled on camping. It was perfect!

I hit up the Google Machine and found this insanity:

http://www.hostessblog.com/2011/03/a-camping-inspired-birthday-party-adventure/

That kind of inspired my column about going back to the basics.

Sam and I had fun making these toilet-tube decorations inspired by my beloved Pinterest:

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I made the cupcakes to look like mini-campfires with chocolate rocks, Reece’s Pieces and pretzel sticks from Winco’s bulk bins and dye-free gummy bears from Trader Joe’s. Lest it look like I’m bragging, the frosting I made was totally disgusting.

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I used Matt’s old Play Mobile toys to decorate the tray. Note: It was a terrible idea to use real rocks in addition to the chocolate rocks.

Another fun Pinterest-inspired idea was having the kids go “fishing” for snacks. They dipped pretzel, carrot and celery sticks into blue-tinted cream cheese to go“fishing” for goldfish.

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Cute + Cheap + Fun + Easy = Perfect! 

For the invitations I ordered camping theme stickers from Oriental Trading company and printed the necessary information in a triangle shape.

For the favors I ordered compasses, mini-flashlights and some bandanas which I used to tie the compasses, flashlights and granola jars into hobo sacks. Note: this was an unnecessary expense and I won’t do it again. The flashlights were cheap and the granola would’ve been plenty. Also, sticks don’t jive with the 3-and-4-year-old crowd.

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Note: I wrapped these in wax paper bags and made labels on my computer in colors that matched our theme. I have them saved if anyone wants them. They just say: “Happy Camper (Name).”

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For entertainment we played London Bridges, Hot Potato and Freeze Dance. And, of course, the main attraction: a tent pitched in the playroom.

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I’d love to post more photos of the kiddos but I don’t have permission from everyone’s parents and I think it’s super important to honor the privacy of other families, especially in our digital age.

Of course, none of this was the highlight of the day. For Sam it was all about the birthday stars. A story for another day!