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December Daily, my way

Creativity begets creativity ... finding time to do something that's not about professional work, household chores or the care and feeding of family isn't easy but it is necessary for mental health. At least it is for me. As I begin the process of putting myself back together I've come up with a few projects that make me happy to think about. For someone else it might feel like just another thing to do but for me, what I'm about to describe brings me joy and puts me in a place where I feel creative ... and happy. These are good things.

It's a little thing called  December Daily created by one of my favorite scrapbooker/writer/inspirational/crafty goddess - Ali Edwards. I've thought it looked like a cool thing since the first time I saw it in 2008. Last year, I gathered a few things while I thought about making it and this year ... I'm in.

It's an organic process, a little bit of this, a little bit of that ... easy, fun, perfect! It's something I hope to make an annual tradition because I think it's one of those things that's fun to do now but also a treasure to look back on the present, documented with photos and stories. When I think of the holidays this year - even today, Halloween - I get excited instead of overwhelmed. I think that's a good sign. Part of that is because I've learned   I'm learning to really just relax and celebrate the way that works for us instead of trying to match a picture in my head.

So, what is December Daily? For Ali's explanation and images click here. To read an article in Scrapbooks, Etc click here.For me this year, factoring in real life and budget, I'm using what I have around here plus one specific thing I'm on a treasure hunt for: a vintage children's Christmas story book. So far, I've assembled an  album with square pages, a bunch of holiday-themed magazine cut outs from over the years, paint chips, pictures from Christmas past, holiday-themed scrapbooking supplies and my red and green bins (ala Stacy Julian, another favorite source of inspirationand ideas). My goal here is to honor the original meaning of scrapbooking - key word being: scrap.

The essence of December Daily is to pre-make an album for 25-31 days of December and document some aspect of your daily life/holiday festivities as you experience them. As someone who has put off scrapbooking for far too long, I can attest to the fact that journaling in real life reads differently than in retrospect. Both are important, just different - and it's ideal to have a mix of both. This project is intended to be recorded in real time. Designing the pages ahead of time is the key, I think, to being able to keep up with it during such a busy time. Also: do it however works for you. For me, that means, I'm not going to do day-by-day exactly. My December Daily is going to be 31 pages dedicated to this December, the traditions we are creating and documenting details like our love of Satsumas, Zoo Lights, tree decorating, favorite ornaments, memories from Matt's and my childhood, etc.

One new thing I'm excited about is kicking off December 1st with the boys opening a present of new Christmas jammies and our box of Christmas/Winter books. I love the idea of creating new traditions and celebrating existing ones.

Care to join me?

Tis the Season

I'm seeing Christmas colors, decorations and advertisements out already. Which reminds me, tis the season to stock up on chicken noodle soup (or learn how to make it), Kleenex, Snot sucker outers (as much as the kids hate them I wish they made an adult version), honey, tea, Pedia pops, and whatever else your family needs or uses to keep comfortable when Sick shows up for rounds. (I wrote a few tips about this once.)

Speaking of tips, my friend Emily Chadwick shares some for staying warm and keeping your heating bills down here.

My most memorable Google search this week was at 3:30 a.m. trying to figure out how high was high for Jake's temperature. He had his vaccines and flu shot yesterday and was fine when he got them. Just fine. By bed time he was at 102.2 and then woke up in the middle of the night hot, shaking with 104. Luckily for me, not so much for him, the Fabulous Dr.K, was on-call. Having listened to my dad stumble to the phone in the middle of the night answering pages, I really, really do hold off on making those off-hour calls.

Jake's sick. Sam's sick. I'm sick (and sick of) dealing with some as of yet unexplained medical issues which have caused no shortage of Googling .... in short, my hands are cracking from all the washing and my nerves are raw.

But here's a funny Sam story:

I picked him up at school yesterday and asked the teacher if I could have the coat that was hooked around her arm. She said Sam had been "pretty sure, really sure, that it wasn't his." I looked at him. She looked at him. He looked back and forth between us before saying to me: "I don't like that one."

Gotta hand it to the kid - pretending it didn't belong to him worked better than having a fit. My clever little guy and I had a chat about needing to stay warm, and also about how important it is to protect Mommy's rep. We can't have people thinking I didn't send him with a coat.

"Okay Mama. But not that one."


Bottle or breast? Yes.

I seem to have stumbled upon an unintentional platform ... calling out the haters. As I work on the draft for my next week's column I have to keep my tone in check so I don't come across as a hater myself. The subject? Breastfeeding.

Hello, hot button.

At first I considered suing the La Leche League for emotional damages but throughout the course of my research I have discovered how much of the problem is that we are doing this to each other. With the looks. With the comments. With the smugness. It's really enough already.

I'm not pretending I can change the world by putting the bare truth out there, by bearing witness to the raw and real. But I truly believe hearing our experiences echoed in another's gives us courage to tell the truth out loud more often. It's one thing to say you support a cause, and another thing to choose silence when your voice might make a difference.

"You really want to put yourself out there like that, Babe?" Matt asked protectively.

"I kinda feel like I have to. This is what I do. You should hear some of these stories!"

The condensed version of mine goes like this - nursing Sam went smoothly. I suspect he'd still be nursing today if he hadn't gotten distracted by all the other things he could be doing during that time. At 16 months I bawled my eyes out when I realized I was done before he was and I so badly wanted him to stop nursing "naturally." (I'm learning to hate that word, by the way). With a little prompting he eventually stopped pumping his fists in the grocery cart - the sign for more milk - and we moved on.

Jake ... smooth start. Somewhere along the line my supply ran low and I didn't know it because he's built like a tank. The crying in the middle of the night I attributed to a host of other things, teething, traveling and such.

It occurred to me this weekend that the screaming, getting worse by the night, could be hunger. Could I really have been starving him out in my insistence that if I could nurse, I should? How could I have just run out? So I pumped to check the amount he might be getting - just a gauge - I am aware that babies are more efficient than machines. But, along with not being issued a third arm when I became a mother there are no measuring marks on my body to clue me in as to how much he's getting.

It wasn't enough. Not even close to enough. No amountof blessed thistle, fenugreek, or Mother's Milk tea was going to fix what this little guy needed:  a full belly. Now.

In case there was any confusion - to communicate as clearly as possible that this was not working for him, Jake looked me in the eye and then bit me hard. And then he cried some more. We played that scenario out more times than I care to admit.

So I got formula. And he is happier than he's been in a long time. He slept five hours in a row last night - his longest stretch of sleep in two months.

What I wish I could tell you is that it was as easy as realizing what he needed and then going to Fred Meyer to buy the formula and moving on.

But it wasn't.

First of all, it was in the middle of the night when I realized what was happening. I felt guilty for a host of reasons and then Google happened. I found a lovely site where a woman dressed down a new mom for "not loving her baby enough to give her what God intended." I wanted to write on her comments that God didn't intend for bitches like her to have blogs but what do I know about what God intended? Clearly, this woman is an expert. What do I care what this one, random woman thinks?

Well, she represents many. And it's painful to have your love and desire to do your best by your child called into question.

Out of all the responses I've gotten so far, not one single person has said "I chose to formula feed my baby because I don't particularly care about her." Because that is stupid. And yet, so many people - so many - make mamas feel like crap for not breastfeeding. We happen to live in a particularly pro-nursing part of the country - Portland was rated fifth among the best cities for babies by Parents magazine, cited specifically for its positive nursing culture. Which is awesome. Really.

What is not so awesome is the failure to mention the culture of hostility around mothers who either can't--or chose not to--nurse and feed their babies by bottle instead of breast.  

I think a mother should be able to feed her baby wherever she, and the baby, are legally allowed to be. I think a mother should be allowed to feed her baby from the breast or the bottle without feeling judged or condemned. For the record, I am rabidly pro choice. And by that I mean - I respect your choice, even if it's not the same as mine.

Speaking of which - I'm still interested in hearing your stories: bottle or breast? If you've had experiences on any spectrum with this question, I hope you'll write. If it's too personal to post here, shoot me an email.

Pumpkin Patch


Pumpkin Patch - first field trip

Testing … I lost all of Sam’s third birthday pictures, his visit with family, first field trip, first plumbing project … so I’m trying to figure out a better way to get a handle on my pictures. I don’t know what I did but all of a sudden – the card says I have to format it and no matter how many times I’ve clicked on it, I can’t make it work. Matt gave me the no use crying over spilled milk spiel. Milk, though, I can get more of at Safeway. Pictures of passing on a Red Robin birthday tradition? Not so much.

Potty training, cost analysis

Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words.

Sam fixing plumbing 
Sam & Matt fixing plumbing 

Here is Sam helping Matt access the main line for our sewer system as "they" troubleshoot the blockage no amount of plunging could clear. After several hours with Roto Rooter here it was determined that we need a new toilet. Did I mention that we have just the one bathroom?

So far potty training has cost me a few bucks for Thomas the Tank Engine underwear and disinfecting wipes, my sanity and a brand new $175 toilet. (Plus an as-of-yet unknown roto rooter bill).

The good news is: 1) we have a brand new toilet so I don't have to clean the old one before my inlaws arrive tomorrow, 2) we now have a video of our sewer line - let me know if you'd like to bring popcorn, and 3) I have a funny story for you.

A few days ago we were down to three diapers for Sam, plus a couple cloth ones he still fits into. He refuses to wear Jake's even though they are all the same, Sam insists the blue ones are his and the rest are Baby Jake's. He also has been refusing to nap. So I made a rash decision to start potty training in earnest, I told him if he was old enough to decide he didn't want to nap he was old enough to ditch his diapers. In retrospect, I should've waited until after my deadline because we've spent the last few days going back and forth from the bathroom, wiping up messes and doing laundry - or rather, since the toilet broke, watching it pile up and handwashing what I could. Potty training, or toilet learning or whatever you want to call it is one of the grossest things I've ever done. Really. Other people say it's not that bad ... and that's nice for them. I know it'll be over soon so we soldier on. But the kid owes me.

So things are going along pretty well, he seems to get the concept and prefers no big fuss to be made - I think I mentioned the first time he peed in the toilet I made a big fuss over it and he looked at me like I'd lost my mind. In fact, picture the look on Matt's face if I walked into the bathroom and clapped and cheered after he did his deal - and you've got a visual on how Sam responded.

I'm on the phone with Booker while Sam has to go. Booker asks if we've tried the Cheerio-as-target trick. I hadn't. I didn't think about it, I just got a Cheerio and tossed it in. Before I could explain Sam was like "Oh, I get it!" He hurried into the kitchen, grabbed a jar of Jake's carrots and tossed it in with the Cheerios and went back for "more of Jakey's dinner." I fished the carrot jar out and told Matt that funny little gem over dinner.

Or, at least I think I did. Matt swears I didn't. Because, he reasoned, if I'd mentioned all that, he would've pulled the toilet himself before calling out Roto Rooter. What do you think we found in the toilet?

Yes, the lid to the carrot jar.

Isn't that adorable?

p.s. I really feel the take-home lesson here is that Matt needs to listen better to my stories. Or, get on Facebook.


Work-Life-Balance. This is a phrase that comes up a lot these days. I even had a day, last week maybe (?) where I felt I understood exactly what that meant. Then ... things went to hell in a hurry. But that's just one way to look at it. While I've spent small chunks of time feeling sorry for myself, most especially when we had no working toilet and couldn't use the water .... we only have one bathroom so it's kind of a big deal.

My new working definition of work-life-balance is: life is busy. stupid stuff happens. so does awesome stuff. cope.

I've been working in the margins on my article for Metro Parent  but the margins keep getting smaller what with Sam's potty training (grossest thing ever), Jake's nursing strike and random round-the-clock night waking/screaming, Matt's being on call, Lucy's leg acting up again and the aforementioned plumbing problem. I have company coming this weekend and the article is due Monday. And somehow ... I finished the article in the middle of the night last night. I'm pretty happy with it. We'll see how it looks by the light of day. Sidebars are another, messy, story.

On the upside, I don't have to clean the toilet before my in-laws come because I'm the proud owner of a brand new one. Also, I have a new-found appreciation for being able to do laundry and dishes.

I read an interesting article my friend Suzie posted on Facebook:

Work-Life-Balance in progress: I had to laugh when a few days later I found out I won a cool award for my column and not ten minutes later I was stuffing liners into the boys' diapers! That is real life, baby - and I really do love it!

Bon bons and Bibles

I don't want you to worry, it's not that I've run out of things to say. It's just that some days it's really all I can do to brush the bon bon crumbs out of the covers. Speaking of which ... I'm being paged prematurely. We did enjoy a relaxing weekend with Matt's brother, sister-in-law and nieces! My article deadline is fast-approaching and I remain so grateful to have the chance to write about something that matters so much to me - preserving family histories. I'm taking plenty of "sidenotes" to share later, just little things that come up along the way. My journal is crammed full of sticky notes and such but I'll get caught up. Or not. Either way ... life is good.

Funny story. I got myself a Bible the other day. That whole not judging a book by it's cover? All crap. This is the coolest Bible I've seen. And shallow as it sounds, that matters to me. Matt asked me if I was aware that it was being marketed specifically to teenagers. Yes, I was. Maybe that's why it was so cool. There is actually room in the margins for notes and creative expressions. Like Leviticus meets Keri Smith's "Wreck this Journal."

What's kind of ironic about this whole bringing home a Bible story is that I got it at this bookstore in town that I've been avoiding because I got the idea in my head that "it's run by a bunch of Bible-bangers." My quote. Sorry. All that is to say I'm a little nervous about being all Jesus-y because I know that can really freak people out. Don't worry, I'm still letting the occasional F-bomb fly, by occasional I mean twice. This morning. Just me, being real. The reason I understand why people get turned off by God talk is that I feel the same way. This is a post for later, and I promise to revisit it because I have, if you can believe it, plenty to say. I've been blessed with all kinds of people in my life who believe all sorts of things and share honestly. And in turn, I do the same. If you give me your address, I'll be by with pamphlets later. Joking. See? Still me.

I'm also--in my scads of spare time--looking forward to reading this: Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax and this: Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt  and Frans X. Plooij.

If you're one of my friends who used to hang out with me during a time I'm so thankful Facebook did not exist, perhpas you're wondering "What's with all the God crap?" This quote kind of sums it up for me:

"Conversion for me was not a Damascus Road experience. I slowly moved into an intellectual acceptance of what my intuition had always known." - Madeleine L'Engle

You can go home again - sort of


On the leisurely walk home from our ninth anniversary dinner, my husband ruined everything. He had the audacity to suggest we take off next week on a family road trip.

"Not a chance," I responded to his eager request, killing both the idea and the good mood. 

See, I'm a planner. None of this impromptu business for me, thank you very much.

High on my list of reasons to justify my negative reaction was the fact that traveling with two children under the age of 3 sounded about as much fun as a bout of morning sickness. 

A few days later, we got the news that a cherished member of our family had passed away. And we made arrangements to head north for his memorial service. 

Since we were packing anyway, Matt brought up the vacation idea again.

Fresh on my mind was the reality that life ends when you least expect it. So, we hit the road for a 10-day road trip.

It was like Jack Kerouac meets Humpty Dumpty, in the sense we traveled with no reservations, but with toddler tunes playing in the background. In retrospect, this turned out to be a journey through our roots.

To share at the memorial, we stocked up on the food of my people - sausage, sauerkraut and Slivovica, a type of plum brandy. And we visited my hometown, which consisted of sitting in traffic near the Tacoma Dome as I pointed out the church where I was baptized.

We stopped at Sea-Tac to pick up my dad, who flew 5,400 miles to pay his respects to one of his best friends. I don't get to see my parents much, now that they are back in Slovakia, so this part of the trip was a highlight. 

We arrived at the hotel in time to meet my oldest friend for highballs, all eight of us toasting in one small room. Just like old times, only we were the ones in charge of making sure everyone got meals, naps and baths.

Somewhere in the middle of that sleepless night, I decided this family trip was a terrible idea after all. Never again, I vowed.

The next morning, we had a family reunion of sorts while celebrating Ujo Relo. 

Matt stayed at the hotel with the kids, and still managed to make an awesome kapustnica (sauerkraut soup, for the uninitiated) in the Crock-Pot. Never mind that we could smell it from the elevator. 

After parting ways with my family, we headed to the dock to catch the ferry for Bremerton, where we planned to visit my college roommate. We arrived just in time to wave as the ferry pulled out.

It would be more than an hour until the next one embarked for Bremerton. So Matt took Sam for a walk.

In the rear-view mirror I saw this Norman Rockwellian image of a little boy with chocolate ice cream on his face, waving an American flag in one hand and holding his dad's hand with the other. Maybe we should do more of this, I thought.

The sweet image stayed with me until we settled into our campsite near Puget Sound and discovered our mattress pump didn't work. 

While Matt might be considered a hardcore camper to some - OK, to me - what with that "no room for pillows, just roll up your sweatshirt" nonsense, he did his best to make sure we were comfortable. He even went so far as to blow it up, using the exhaust pipe of our car.

Pillows or no, I love that guy. We should definitely do this more often.

We continued north to Bellingham.

I had left my college town a full decade ago, in the Geo Metro with the mismatched doors and reddish hood, spray-painted by Gypsies, the strains of Pink Floyd blaring from the cassette deck. I had headed south to visit my boyfriend in McMinnville.

I returned this time with the same guy - the one I now call my husband - but in a professionally painted minivan with Thomas the Tank Engine playing on the DVD.

When we drove into the town where we first became an "us," we felt a temptation to visit our favorite spots and roam around campus. But during a loop through the neighborhood where we used to live, both kids fell asleep, and we decided to keep on rolling.

In truth, we were tourists now. We couldn't go back and visit what we wanted to because it no longer exists. The old us had faded into fond memories and evidence of our new life was sleeping peacefully in car seats.

We wrapped up our trip in Walla Walla, where we had an impromptu reunion with Matt's family. We woke up that morning with both boys in our bed, everyone tangled together, still sleepy but clean and happy.

The memory of that cozy scene is what led me to agree to Matt's next brainstorm, purchase of a dedicated camping van. I named her "I Wanda."

Nathalie Hardy is a local freelance writer who writes in the margins of her life with two busy little boys, a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting and a sweet, semi-trained Labrador. She invites your feedback at or at her website

And sometimes I don't

It feels so awesome to be working, juggling several deadlines and getting random home-related things done while procrastinating on said deadlines. It leaves a little less time for other things like blogging, so sorry for the silence after the "sometimes I suck" post ... it's really just sometimes!

So much of the time I'm totally in love with my  life-in-progress. But if I wrote about that all of the time I'd be one of thosemoms and we can't have that. Today is Sam's first field trip and I can't wait to watch the interactions between the other parents, teachers and kids. I'm as excited about that as Sam is about going to the "punkin patch."

As you know my primary mission as a writer is to bear witness to life as it is ... not a glamorized version, just the real deal. The mission statement over on my website is:

To tell the truth on paper. To encourage others to do the same. To advocate for the importance of telling our stories.

Speaking of which I've been busy working on my new article assignment on the subject of preserving family histories. See, that's an example of ways I love my life - workis something I genuinely love. I've talked to some super interesting people and while I've never so much as doodled my own family tree I'm so fascinated by all of this that I want to hop in the car and head to the Oregon State Archives in Salem.

Quiet time looking up information about people I've never heard of before is going to have to wait until later but there is something I'm excited to start doing now: preserving today's memories which become tomorrow's family history. You should know before I make this announcement that I haven't ordered one single picture (really, not one) since Jake was born! That would be less surprising if I hadn't been a regular at the one-hour-photo booth before. And you might recall my last attempt at Project 365 turned into Project nearly 180.

But still ... I ordered Becky Higgins "Project Life" kit and can't wait to get started on the bite-sized version of documenting the details of our days.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." 
                                    ~ Annie Dillard

Sometimes I suck

My name has officially been withdrawn from the mythical Mother of the Year contest.

But first let me describe the morning of the day my eligibility was waived. First, there was round the clock monkey business in Jake's room, but really I hold no grudges. Really. This is important for you to know, especially if you're one of the DHS people. I was still feeling weird about an incident the day before involving a mix-up with Jake's car seat where I thought he was buckled in already as we were driving a few blocks from home we pulled up next to a police car at an intersection. I was cheerfully pointed the police car out to Sam and waved. As I made it through the intersection I wondered why Jake seemed to be moving around so much back there. Not buckled. Nothing bad happened and I learned a good lesson about just always double checking, always. But still, those moments shake you up a little. I don't try to pretend I'm perfect, obviously here's a whole blog dedicated to what I consider the reality of mommying.

I wake up from a dead sleep to terribly loud music. Really people? It's 5:15 in the morning!I go to the window ready to climb someone's tree. No one is there. Oh my God. Someone's broken into the house! Really? To blast Lyle Lovett? Oh, Lyle Lovett. Sam, the little turkey, set the alarm on the radio downstairs after our little dance party.

Fine. I'm up. Shower or write? Never mind, both boys are up, thank you Sam and Lyle. Get everyone ready to walk Sam to school. He is so excited.

I am too. I have a lot of work to get done in that precious hour and a half where Sam's at school and Jake takes his morning nap. Oh, but wait! Jake has a new thing. He gets stuck in the seated position. Seriously. And then screams. But then doesn't take kindly to being repositioned. I'm at a complete loss. Finally I put his darling, but cranky, self in the swing and he falls asleep at 10:36. I have to be at school at 11. Perfect. How bad would it be if I left him to sleep here so sweetly while I run and get Sam? Stupid child safety laws. So I defy logic to follow the law.

I decide to try to gently tuck him into my very favorite piece of baby gear--besides the crib tent--the Ergo. I just got it from Sarah and Dave (THANK YOU) last weekend and am still learning how to use it. They mentioned an instructional video, I suppose I'll need to track one down. I pick up my sleeping baby, decide to move us over to the carpet where I proceed to hoist him onto my back and then somehow drop him. On his head. I think. I didn't see it because naturally, my back was turned. I suck.

First he screamed bloody murder, then gave me a scathing look as his screams faded to a hiccupy, massively guilt-inducing cry. Eyes, check. No major bumps or bleeding, check. Time to get Sam. Ergo, take two. This time I was lying on the couch ... never mind you had to be there but I'm sure it's NOT one of the suggested methods on the aforementioned instructional video.

We go to get Sam and I'm horrified to see I'm the next to last parent there. I hated waiting and worrying about my

parents being late to pick me up and promised myself that even though I'm chronically late I wouldn't do that with Sam. His first words when he sees me?

"Mama! I was so wuweed. And today we did number A for apple!"

Speaking of worry, I eventually decided to call the doctor's office to see what I should be looking for just in case, Jake seemed fine but what if he's bleeding in his head or something? The very patient Ms. V talked me through it and all was well until I learned this lesson:

What not to say to the Pediatric Triage Nurse: "feel free not to put that in his file." I was kidding but the pause that followed suggests, you know ... I should've stopped at a simple "Thank you!"
p.s. I just want to add that I don't think moms who make mistakes suck! In fact, exactly the opposite of that. I think telling the truth about screw ups makes us human which is, of course, what connects us.