Friday Nights are My Favorite

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Hands down, there is no part of my week that’s better than Friday night. It’s the most laid-back, chill time of our week. And, it’s all about the four of us. No plans, no place to be, just us having our awesome, same-every-week Friday night routine. And, it’s perfect.

First things first. I get home from work around 6pm and make myself a nice big cup of strong, black coffee. This is essential because I want to be able to stay awake long enough to enjoy as much of Friday night as possible. And, I’m old and tired, so if I don’t drink coffee, I’ll be asleep on the couch by 9pm.

Craig and the kids are already home. The kids are likely in the basement playing or outside running around with friends. I sip my coffee and talk to Craig about our day, plans for the weekend. And, most importantly what delicious food he wants to cook Saturday and Sunday, so I can make the grocery list.

At some point, we determine our dinner order. We get dinner every week from the same neighborhood joint. Nathan’s obsessed with their blue cheese dressing, and it’s Craig’s own personal Cheers!. Craig heads over to the restaurant and places the order once he gets there, which gives him some time to sip a beer and talk to friends and neighbors he runs into there every week. This usually means I have 30-40 minutes of quiet time to weave, read, write, catch up on social media or watch tv. By this point I’ve moved on from coffee to beer/wine/bourbon, whatever suits the day.

When Craig gets home, we all sit together to eat. We have a weekly contest of who has the “Poten-tater” (ie.longest french fry). After we eat we often play a game together or watch a movie. Sometimes there’s a dance party. Always there’s lots of laughing and poop jokes and nonsense.

Then it’s bedtime for the kiddos. And, Craig and I settle in to watch some tv…which usually results in him falling asleep. This is the only point in the week that I ever have control of the tv. So, I often pour myself another drink and watch my shows from the DVR into the wee hours of the night.

The whole evening is the perfect combination of having fun together, and getting quiet alone time that I so desperately need to recharge. And, it’s maybe the only part of our week that doesn’t ever feel rushed. I hate rushing, but I’m always, always rushing. It’s unavoidable. Rushing to get to work, rushing to get home, rushing out of the house, rushing back to the house. There’s never enough time in the day. Except on Friday nights when it all miraculously slows down and we’ve got nowhere to be, but home. And nothing to do, but just be our little family in our little corner of the world. Friday night, it’s exactly where I want to be.

 

Now’s Not the Time

Been thinking a lot lately about unsolicited opinions. I’ve always really struggled with being graceful when presented with advice and opinions about my personal life that I didn’t ask for. Not from people that are close to me, but rather from people I barely know at all. I really hit my breaking point on this during my pregnancies. A pregnant belly is like wearing a sign that says, “my whole life is totally up for discussion” even if we’ve never met before this very moment. I remember thinking that pregnancy was great and I’d be happy to go on being pregnant for many more months if only I could do it without having to speak to anyone.

I’ve tried to let this feeling go, and chalk it up to the fact that people mean well. They’re only trying to help. But, lately I’ve come to realize that it’s not the advice in and of itself that makes me crazy, but rather when it’s given. If I’m struggling with a decision, it’s absolutely, 100% helpful for me to hear the thoughts and feelings of the people I trust. So I can take it all into account, and make my decision from there. But, if I’ve already decided on something….please just keep your advice to yourself. Who exactly do people think they’re helping by jumping in when you’ve told them you’ve decided to do something and saying they’d do the opposite. At that point, you’ve gone from advice to judgment, and I’m not sure who that helps.

If you truly have someone’s best interest at heart, wouldn’t you simply offer support in whatever they’ve decided? Rather than sitting in judgment of their decision? I’m still going to keep working on receiving advice and judgement gracefully, but I’m inclined to give some advice of my own, think before you speak. 

What’s My Patience Temperature?

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I’ve been working on a campaign over at The Land of Nod called #celebratetuesday. You can read more about it here. The basic idea is that life with kids is chaotic and hard, but the little moments mingled amongst the hectic every day are the ones that weave together to create the story of your family. So, no need to try to create epic events and memories or live up to impossible standards in order to be a good parent. Just give what you can each day to your kiddos and all those little happy, silly, ridiculous moments will add up to a happy childhood, even if they do feel few and far between some days.

We partnered with Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind on some posts. This was her first post. She talked about how some days she’s the mom that lets her kid push the kid cart in the stores, but some days she’s not. And, that’s okay. Reading her post, I was struck by an observation of my own parenting rhythm. I’ve learned that it’s important to me to take my “patience temperature” before agreeing to an activity with my kids. I’ve learned that if I force myself to “be the parent I think I have to” but I really don’t have it in me that day to enjoy it, it ends in disaster. On the flip side, some days my patience is overflowing and I’m up for all the ridiculousness. I can be in it, and enjoy it.

So, sometimes I’m the mom that lets my kids play with glitter and glue at the dining room table, never giving a thought to the mess they’re making. But that’s not every day. And that’s okay.

 

 

A Letter to My Daughter

In honor of International Women’s Day, a letter to my Lottie.

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Dear Lottie-Lou,

You are so awesome. There will be times in your life when you’ll forget that, so surround yourself with people that will remind you. You are so strong. Find people who support and respect that strength. Some folks will be threatened by your conviction, don’t let that deter you. Be who you know you are and do what you believe is right. You are so loving and compassionate. Love as fiercely as you do today, even if that means getting hurt. The world needs the type of love you have to give. You are hilarious. Don’t forget to find the humor in the everyday and share that humor with the world around you.

You have an insanely fantastic imagination and are an incredible artist. Keep creating the world you want to live in, and dreaming up new ideas. Imagination isn’t just for kids. You are brilliant and curious. Never stop learning.

You are uniquely you. You’ll try to fit into molds in your life, and live up to what you see as expectations. But, you’re the only you there will ever be. No one can tell you the right way to be you, that’s for you to decide.

I love you more than I could ever put into words, more than I can even fathom. There’s nothing that you could ever do to make me love you less. In fact, though it doesn’t seem possible, I love you more with each passing day. No matter what choices you make in life, I will be here for you to remind you what an incredible person you are.

You inspire me to be better a woman every day. Thank you! You’ll never know how much you’ve given me.

Love,
Mom

Just When I Think I’ve Nailed It

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Today Lottie and I donated a trunk-load of dishes, toys and clothes to our local resale shop. After I unloaded the goods Lottie asked, “Mom, why do we donate stuff?” I was so ready for this one…..a teachable moment that I actually had the information ready in my brain to teach. Much easier than the other day when during dinner she randomly said, “Mom, did it hurt when the doctor took me out of your belly? How did he even do that?” “Ummmmmm, can you pass the ranch, please?”

This was an easy one. “Well, we do it to help people. We don’t need these things in our house anymore so it helps us. People can then buy it from this store for a lower price than buying new, so it helps them. And, people who need jobs are able to work here and that helps them. So, we donate stuff because it helps a lot of people.” Cue applause in my head. Nailed it. She’s going to grow up to be such a great member of society. I totally got this. Brilliant. 

But, then, she interrupts my internal celebration and says, “Really? Well, what about French people? Does it help them?” “……wait, what, huh…..can you pass the ranch, please?”

Damn this kid really keeps me on my toes.

House Remodel Update

There is none. We’ve come to a stand still trying to make heads or tails of the process, not sure why this is so complicated. I drive through my neighborhood and see house after house with additions going up. How’d they all figure this out. But, here we are, waiting for the bank to figure things out and call us. 😕 And I’m finding in this process a couple days means a couple weeks. And, I fear we’re losing our momentum.

Birthdays Aren’t Just for Kids

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Where is it written that we need to stop enjoying and celebrating our birthday once we’re adults? I was on a path towards doing just that, when I met Peg. Many years ago Peg and I worked together at The Land of Nod. She’s one of the sweetest and most fun people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. And, she flippin’ loves her birthday. Which translates into everyone around her also looking forward to her birthday. We once threw her a surprise party, and I’ve literally never seen someone be more gracious and enjoy a party in their honor more.

With this inspiration, I made a conscious decision to ditch the idea that birthdays are just for kids. Yes, I’m getting older, but that doesn’t really bother me. It’s not really about age. It’s about stopping and celebrating my life with the people I love, and what could be bad about that? Also, I’m an over-accommodater….to the point of annoyance, I’m sure. And, on my birthday I ditch my need to say “I don’t care, what do you want to do” and instead just say what I want. Add to that the fact that Februarys in Chicago basically suck. So, it’s something to look forward to in the dregs of winter.

So, it’s my birthday. I’m excited about it. And I don’t feel bad saying so! And, neither should you on your birthday! You’ve lived your crazy life, you’ve earned a day of celebration. Now, I’m off to eat all the Italian food, drink all the wine and soak up all the love my friends and family are sending my way.

 

I’m Going to be a Terrible Mother-in-Law

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There’s so much about the world I didn’t fully understand before becoming a mom….like why the sales of storage items increase dramatically in January. All it took was walking into my living room on my first December 26th as a new mom to figure that one out. And, I definitely had no understanding of the relationship between a mother and her son.

I’m absolutely positive that my son, Nathan, is completely perfect, even in his imperfections. I flat out adore him. I’m not exaggerating here. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a total slob, has been known to roll his eyes at me (😤) and convincing him to take a shower is a constant challenge. But, he’s the sweetest boy. He’s so sensitive, a total worrier. He’s super intense, ultra competitive and really hard on himself. All traits that make me want to protect him even more. From the day he was born, I’ve lived in constant awe of him.

I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d be disappointed in him, which isn’t always the greatest thing, since it forces my husband into the role of bad cop more often than is fair. Not my intention, but I swear I can’t help myself. Some people might say he has me wrapped around his finger, but it’s nothing as conniving as that makes it out to be. I think it’s just a mutual admiration born out of him being my first child, me being an overprotective mom, and our personalities just fitting together in certain way that’s pretty much void of conflict.

All that said, I totally get where this evil mother-in-law persona comes from. It’s not evil at all, it’s just about a mom that can find no fault in her child, and therefore in any conflict the fault must lie with the child’s partner. And, who can live up to that? I’m certainly far from being a perfect daughter-in-law and wife, myself. And thankfully my mother-in-law’s absolutely wonderful.

I’m hoping since I’m aware I’m on the path towards monster-in-law status at a point when Nathan’s still only 8 years old, I can maybe change that path. Or at least train myself to be diplomatic enough to keep my mouth shut. I’ve got time. But, in the meantime, cut your mother-in-law a little slack, that’s her baby you’re married to.

Speaking Up for My Kids When I Struggle to Speak Up for Myself

First, there’s something you should know about me, I don’t like pineapple in my food. I’ll eat it on its own, but don’t like it mixed with anything, even a banana split. The idea makes me cringe. So, that in mind…I remember eating dinner at Chili’s once with my family, it was probably 18 years ago. I don’t recall exactly what I ordered, but it was probably their battered chicken fingers with a side of their yummy mashed potatoes and gravy. The whole meal was turning into a bit of a cluster, I can’t remember exactly why, but it was all a bit tense and the food was taking what seemed like forever. When the food finally arrived, the waiter set a plate in front of me that wasn’t at all the fried goodness I was expecting. Instead it was some sort of Hawaiian-inspired chicken dish with huge chunks of pineapple 😩in a sauce covering a piece of chicken. I think there may have also been ham involved (ham is the one other food I really can’t stomach). So, what did I do? I ate it. Or more accurately, I ate a few bites, pushed the food around on the plate a bit and went home hungry, while assuring my family that it was fine, I was fine, please don’t say anything.

What on earth is this compulsion to not draw attention to myself that’s so strong that I would eat something I clearly didn’t order and I definitely despise…and not only that, am paying for!? This is just one example of probably tens of thousands where I’ve chosen to not speak up on my own behalf. I’m not talking about big, huge, earth shattering things, but little moments in life where I choose to just grin and bear it because I’m not willing to say something. I’m not sure what I think would happen if I did. Probably there wouldn’t be some massive scene, but rather the other party would accommodate and we’d all move forward. Even though logically, I know it’s ridiculous, I still, can’t do it.

There have been experiences in my life that have taught me to make myself heard a bit more, but none more than parenthood. As a parent its my job to be the voice for my kids. When they were babies and couldn’t speak, I had to raise my hand in the doctor’s offices and ask the questions, or more accurately question the answers I was being given. When they attended daycare and there were issues with other kids or concerns with teachers, I had to step into the directors office and demand an explanation. When we found out Lottie had severe food allergies, I had to setup a meeting with the day care providers to train them all in the use of epi pens and the warning signs of a potentially life-threatening reaction, even though they looked at me sympathetically like I was clearly some sort of overreacting lunatic. These are big, huge, earth shattering things. And, if it’s hard for me to send back a meal that disgusts me that I didn’t even order, this is 100 times harder.

But, I have no instinct in life stronger than the one to protect my kids. My inability to protect them from everything in the world often keeps me up at night. But, this, this I can do. So I do it. I make the calls, I have the conversations. I draw attention to myself, risk being viewed as “the crazy mom who overreacts.” Because, at the end of the day, my number one responsibility to my kiddos is to keep them safe and be their voice. I’ve come to realize, in these moments I could care less what people think about me, if what I’m doing keeps my kids safe, that’s what matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have to go over what I’m going to say a thousand times in my head before I say it, and replay it a thousand times after. But that pit in my stomach is nothing compared to the weight off my shoulders when I know I’ve overcome my own craziness to be the mom they deserve. If I was served that pineapple and ham chicken today, I’d probably still eat it. But my kids, as long as I’m their voice, they won’t be grinning and bearing any injustice, pineapple or otherwise.

I Come By It Honestly

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I’m a compulsive maker and a hoarder of craft supplies and craft scraps. And, as it turns out, I have everyone to blame but myself. More specifically, I have my Grandma, my Aunt and my Mom to thank for my unending need to create and hoard all the things.

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Let me back up. My Grandma C grew up in a small rural town in Wisconsin, her family one of the first to live in said town. She’s a twin, and one of over a dozen kids in her family. They grew their own food and made their own clothes. They were makers long before being a maker was a thing. I’m not exaggerating when I say they made everything, I have a throw rug that my great grandma crocheted from plastic shopping bags. Nothing was wasted, nothing was purchased. Everything could be reused and reimagined into something else. It wasn’t a hobby, it was a way of life.

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When my grandparents married they lived in a small trailer on the property before moving to a little house across the road, where she and my Grandpa still live today. Between the two of them, they can make ANYTHING! My Grandpa is an incredible carpenter. I drove home from their house last weekend with a dozen wren and bluejay houses in my trunk. At the age of 83, he still feels the need to build and create items for those around him.

My Grandma worked in a garment factory for many years. She can sew anything. Her work is beyond meticulous, you wouldn’t believe the quilts she creates are handmade. Last weekend, she told me about the 10 pairs of pants she’d altered the day before for a neighbor. I don’t think a person in their town is without something at their house made by either my Grandma or Grandpa.

When we were kids, my Grandpa converted the small deck off their second floor into a sewing room for my Grandma. It’s a modest space, probably not more than 9 x 9′ in size. But, it’s her happy place for sure. She’s packed every inch of the space with supplies. The items that come out of that room are beyond incredible, crafted with so much love and care. In many of the drawers are small bits of scrap fabric. She might make a quilt today that has a bit of fabric from an outfit she made me when I was a little girl, or that even has scraps of fabric that belonged to my Great Grandma. She never throws anything away, and everything finds a new life in a new creation at some point.

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I don’t specifically remember learning how to sew or crochet. In some ways, it was like learning to talk. It was just happening around me and at some point I knew how to do it. My Grandma, my Aunts, my Mom were always making things. And we were right there, watching them, absorbing it all. They were never just sitting down, there was always a project in hand. The need to make and create is definitely in my bones.

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Until recently I never gave much thought to it. It didn’t occur to me that other people may not have been exposed to such creativity in their families. I didn’t even really think of it as creativity, it was just something that we did. Looking back, I realize that at the age of 10 my favorite place to hang out was Michael’s Craft store. I would make homemade gifts and sell things in local craft shows. I was always crafting something. I’m still, always crafting something.

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And, I’ve definitely followed in my Grandma’s footsteps when it comes to saving my scraps. I saved ever bit of yarn from my first year of weaving, and at the end of the year made a giant wall hanging from all the tiny bits. Kind of a timeline of my first year in weaving. I’ve made baby quilts from old swatches that were going to be thrown away at work. I have bins full of fabric scraps, sorted by color, that I tap into when the need arises.

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I’m so grateful to have spent my life surrounded by these incredible women, and hope to carry on the maker tradition they’ve passed onto me. Lottie’s already well on her way to full maker/hoarder status.

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