Prepping the night before your child’s birthday is the cramming for finals of adulthood.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I broke one of my cardinal rules of birthday parties: Never agree to a theme until you have checked the availability of party supplies.
Honestly, I NEVER give the thumbs up until I have done some research. But this year, it seemed like Ninjago was everywhere. I assumed that the same licensing that was putting it on my son’s radar to begin with was the same licensing cartel that runs the party supplies. I. Was. Wrong.
Now, there are a zillion cute DIY Lego/Ninjago ideas on Pinterest, but this year we were going to do whatever we could to keep it simple. It is darn cute to see colored plates glued onto tablecloths like big Lego bricks and who wouldn’t want to just glue some free printable eyes on a plate for an easy ninja? But I was determined to let this year be the year that the K.I.S.S.* method was our motto.
So I started looking into outsourcing options and interweb nooks and crannies for time and sanity saving solutions. I then thought, “Well, I’m spending so much time researching, I might as well just print some eyes and glue them on a plate.”
That’s how it all started. Then came the paper ninja stars I recruited my daughter to make. Before long, I thought, “These shapes are so simple, I should just make a cute crochet mask - it will be fun for the party!”
Seriously. I thought that would be no big deal. The first couple were fun, but then the enthusiasm petered off. After making a few I couldn’t stop because it wouldn’t be fair if some kids didn’t get them and I didn’t want to throw in the towel because I didn’t want to waste the ones I’d made.
So I just kept crocheting, just kept crocheting, just kept crocheting. And I got the masks done - but the other DIY stuff was still a #wip.
As I was hovering over my plates and tablecloths on the living room floor tonigh with the glue in hand I realized the familiarity of the adrenaline, expectation, nerves, anxiety and faltering hope I was feeling.
Prepping the night before your child’s birthday is the cramming for finals of adulthood. So much culminates with this moment. It doesn’t matter how much you have or have not done, it will all come down to a couple of crucial hours tomorrow. And the day itself will be such a rush of activity that you will just be in the moment. But the night before portends excitement and calamity. As if somehow, each additional detail on the cake, trinket in the goody bag or bit of streamer could be the deciding factor.
I know this is irrational and I know that no one is grading, but I’m not discouraged by how over-the-top I am with birthdays (probably to a fault). I remember hearing research about whether reading baby books makes you a better parent and the researchers thought it was more likely that parents who care enough to read baby books possess the same qualities that will make them good parents. So I will take my night-before tension as an indication that even if it is ridiculous (and far from perfect) the fact that I’m anxious shows that I care.
It’s the night before the party, the glue is still drying in the plate/eye combos, but I think we got it all. I’m feeling good and ready for all that tomorrow brings.
Even so - I’m pretty sure we’ll try to avoid a DIY party next year.
*Keep It Simple, Stupid - thanks Mr. Peterson for teaching me that one.
Forgetting is the easy thing to do. Forgetting is the entropy of our minds. To not forget takes a choice and discipline to push way those things that so easily distract us and to focus on a bigger remembrance. I’ve heard that the most sought after commodity of the moment is attention. When so many forces vie to win, woo or buy our attention, it must take a determination and grit to not give in.
Our days of remembrance are not only about those who fought and those who died, it is about how we and future generations choose to live in light if the sacrifice of thers. I cannot separate myself from the history that made my present story possible. I am grateful and humbled and a bit scared of what would happen if we do forget.
Visible or tangible reminders are meaningful and helpful. I wanted to make a poppy and I wanted to share the pattern so we can encourage each other and those around us to live lives of thanks and rememberance.
Poppy Mini Pattern
Foundation round: Ch 3, sl st in first ch to form a ring
Rnd 1: ch 2 (counts as first hdc), 11 more hdc in ring, sl st in top of first st to join (12 sts)
Rnd 2: ch 2 (counts as first sc), sc in same st, 2 sc in each st around, sl st in top of first st to join (24 sc)
Rnd 3: *ch 4, 2 trc in each of next 4 sts, ch 4, sl st in next st (petal formed), sl st in next st* rep from * to * 3 more times (4 petals)
Fasten off and weave in ends. Now you’re ready to wear or give your poppy with pride.
I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I hate downtime or any unstructured time. Trying to relax makes me bored and being bored stresses me out! Part of the reason I am so obsessed with crocheting is it gives me a project and working on a project is my happy place.
Only recently have I worked out that Zoe is wired this way too. She is much happier working through a To Do list of chores than just playing. Give her a task, a project or a mission and she gives it puts the biggest smile on her face (bonus points if she gets to be the boss!) Since I made that connection, I have been trying to think of projects we can tackle together as quality time.
Today, I agreed to something she has been begging me for since she was 4...we made a YouTube video. She wanted it to be a tutorial, so I pitched the idea of a kid-friendly crochet along (CAL) where I could take her step by step through it and viewers could follow along at their own pace. We agreed to do a simple circle. It’s a technique I haven’t taught her yet, but she did know the basics to be able to do it. We recorded an intro and propped up our phone and kicked off.
So, the circle took us about 15 minutes from start to finish. And our camera positioning was not ideal. The bottle we propped the phone on is in the shot and a lot of the time our hands aren’t even on camera! I was thinking, “Oh no! This isn’t good. It won’t help people and it certainly isn’t a good ‘brand identity.’” I was pondering what to do as Zoe and I chuckled at our foibles, but she has strong opinions in the matter. She said we have to keep it because it’s “keeping it real” - fair point, I thought. Then she sealed the deal saying how this video attempt was us “making memories.”
She’d be a good lawyer. I was persuaded. So we edited it as best we could and then we uploaded it. I realized that this is one of those things where it’s better to do something imperfectly than nothing. If I don’t want her to be a perfectionist, then I can model that by embracing this video for what it is - happy memories.
Voila! Our first YouTube video.
P.s. I’m sure we’ll have other chances to improve for future videos.
As my eldest approaches 8 years old, I have been having a bit of a "mid-mom-life crisis." Seriously. How is she halfway to 16? All of a sudden, many of the things I have thought, "One day I'll make that for my daughter..." have this expiry date. She's going to be grown up and out of here in no time! (Well, if we're still living in Sydney, she could still be crashing at our house well into adult years. But there is still the possibility that she could move out at 18 and never come back.
I've already missed the boat on many crochet projects I've been wanting to make (ice cream sundae beanie, baby cardigans, lacy bonnets) *sigh* - but now I've got a renewed focus on getting some things done before it is too late.
Enter, the Fancy Pants Bunting! I have been wanting to make a decorative bunting for her room for YEARS, but most of the patterns looked chunky or meh. So, in my year of exploratory crochet, I thought I'd give it a try. And I'm so happy with how it came out! I'm using shaping of both working in the round and working in rows to get the lace and geometrics just right. I particularly love the play of light, so the open space has just as big a role as the yarn itself. I improvised until I got it just how I wanted it. I even used the leftover yarn from the hat and scarf I made her for our Christmas visit to Minnesota, so 2 happy memories are converging with one batch of yarn.
It's about 12 feet long and now lives happily on the wall in her room. It probably makes me smile more than it makes her smile, but I'll take it. I'm going to try to seize the moments of crocheting influence I can have before she gets to the point where everything I make is dorky. When she's done with it living in her room, I'll probably still stash it and use it for birthday parties, but it will be that much more beautiful for having been part of her childhood.
Check out the pics and pattern on Ravelry and Etsy.
If you know someone dealing with chronic fatigue or illness, you’ve likely encountered the “spoon theory.” If you haven’t - check it out here and then come on back.
To be honest, I’m a bit meh about the spoon imagery. Maybe it’s the fact that spoons seem so arbitrary that it bugs me to think about. (Video game hearts/hp make much more sense to me.) Maybe I just spend too much time in denial to admit that if I choose to expend energy in one way, I’ll have to pay for it from somewhere else. Either way, it’s not a metaphor that instantly resonates... until it does.
Recently I’ve been feeling low because I haven’t seen friends for so long. I’ve had a cold/virus since February and I’m just run down and feeling like I’m in survival (aka “just keep swimming”) mode. I’m frustrated with feeling crappy, so I decided to make a point to do some social things with friends no matter what. So I did. I finally had a Saturday flower markets outing with someone I love and we’ve been trying to make it happen for over a year. It was so good. She met me with coffee for the car ride. We bought flowers until we couldn’t carry any more and it was one of those glorious Saturday mornings where everything seems to glow with warmth and light.
But then - whooom - I felt like I was run over by a truck. I was optimistically hoping that the awesomeness of the outing would overflow into the rest of the day. Instead, it seemed like a significant trade off. One awesome outing = 1 full day of feeling like poop.
So aggravating! But it isn’t even consistent. Sometimes I go out and feel so hopped up on endorphins I just float through the rest of the day. Other times, a good outing seems to be like the sea witch in The Little Mermaid. I get my legs, but the sea witch is lurking until the moment she’s going to claim my voice as recompense.
Sometimes I go so long without social outings that I think subconsciously I am avoiding the potential pain. Other times I convince myself I’m being too worried for nothing - only to pay dearly in the aftermath.
It’s the unpredictability that is hardest for me to accept. There are no rules, no terms of reference. It’s all a bit of a gamble. It forces me to again admit that I’m not in control.
My task is to assess the situation at hand and work out what to do next. It’s not a problem to solve, it’s a circumstance requiring a response. So much of my life is about unclenching my fists from a desired outcome that I’m clinging to and to relax them and teach them how to just accept something.
When my arthritis flared up for the first time, my hand swelled and I couldn’t grasp a pen or fork or hold a cup (ironically, I couldn’t clench my fists and hold on to something even if I wanted to.) I was utterly dependent on others and felt quite helpless. I’m glad my meds are working and things have not been that bad since they kicked in, but I often think of that time. Life is full of moments where we are so limited in what we can do that our only option is to avoid or accept.
By no means have I mastered the art of accepting and adapting, but I have gotten better at being grateful for the times things are going well. The simple act of holding a crochet hook is something I can no longer take for granted. I am thankful that I can use my hands to create something. I like looking back on these things as happy memories in the hard times. Each piece is connected to a person or a flight of fancy and it makes me smile.
Accepting the things I cannot change is one of my repeated life lessons. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at making lemonade. If I gradually cut the sugar, maybe one day I’ll be ok with the lemons as they are.
In the winter of 2008/2009, Nic and I were in Morocco and one of my best friends was getting married in Indiana. It was pretty miraculous that I was able to be there for the Valentine’s Day wedding - although I did spend more time in transit than at my destination. But I was leaving Nic behind for Valentine’s Day. I wanted to do something Valentines-y, but we didn’t have any spare money so special deliveries and even presents weren’t options.
The night before I was set to fly out, I remembered that I had some red felt and I quickly cut it into a bunch of hearts and hid them around the house. Under Nic’s pillow, in the silverware drawer. Next to our toothbrushes. You get the picture. While I was away, he kept finding little hearts all around the place; each one a little token of love.
Fast forward a number of years and I was making lunch for my daughter. She was struggling with pre-school drop offs and I kept thinking that I wish there was a way that she could know I loved her and give a sense of connection when I couldn’t be there in person. I remembered the felt hearts and quickly whipped out my crochet hook and some red yarn and made a petite heart to pop into her lunch box. She loved it and added it to her little stash of things she collects. When she went off to kindergarten, I made sure she had the heart in her pocket so she could reach in and touch it whenever she wished she could reach out and touch mommy.
I don’t decorate the house for Valentine’s Day, but I have thrown a couple of Galentine’s parties. (Nic even got me a waffle maker for my birthday last year because I love Leslie Knope so much.) Thinking about non-romantic love (or “rotic” - romantic without the “man” as we used to say in college) is something I can definitely get behind. I want more ladies celebrating ladies in my life and things like crocheted hearts are way more likely to be appreciated by the ladies in my life.
This beauty can be a spontaneous gift that doesn’t cost a dime. It is quick, but handmade and heartfelt. I know it’s just a little pattern, so I wanted to make it a free download. If you haven’t picked up your hook in a while, this is the perfect chance for a fun, quick project to share with one of your best gal-pals.
It’s not often in life that you are given carte blanche to go as wild as you like. Usually it’s more of an “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” kind of thing. This means you have to steel yourself to go out on a limb and usually, the risk is too high and the ROI is too small. It is easy to either aim for the status quo or the lowest common denominator.
This was my default approach when I got a request for a tea cozy. I haven’t made one before, so I was focused on size, shape and stretch, to make sure it would work well enough to earn the label of “tea cozy.” I was happy that the end result ticked those boxes, but it was a bit boring.
Then, Nic said that a crazy tea cozy would be even better. How often does someone actually ask for you to amp up the crazy? I was excited, but also stumped. Little did I know that wacky and wild tea cozies were a bit of a thing. I didn’t want to scrap what I’d already done, but it had a sense of completeness, so I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I mulled and mused and then my sub-conscious came to the rescue. I think the process must have been something like: tea -> British -> royalty -> 3D representation -> crown!
I started to play around with my remaining yarn to get a structure that could break free from the rounds and evoke a crown without feeling too formal, stuff or stuffy. After a fair bit of trial and error, I worked out a 3D arc that gave the strength and separation I wanted. I added a partial ball to the flower on the top and voila! A coronation ready tea cozy.