Easy DIY photo strip valentines

Valentines Cards 2019

Valentine’s Day has never made my list of favorite holidays, but since having kids it feels like an excellent excuse for thematic crafting. For the past couple of years I’ve picked up some pre-cut hearts and loads of stickers and sequins and markers and let the kids go to town and drop whatever chaos they ended up creating into their classmates’ paper-bag mailboxes. This year the holiday coincided with an irrepressible urge to take on a creative project, so I decided to co-opt their valentines entirely. Continue reading

Halloween 2019: Space Men & a Mermaid

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Halloween was yesterday and today I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on some of the quirky and challenging things that make me me. In particular the things that come out in high-stakes situations that I value deeply. It’s no secret that I love Halloween. It’s second only to Christmas (and when I was a child it might have actually been first). My mom poured love into every homemade costume, my dad took us trick-or-treating from block to block until late into the night (it always felt like 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. but maybe times have changed? Or maybe 8:00 feels a lot like 10:00 at the end of October when you’re a kid).  Continue reading

Hitting the creativity wall

For the last week or so I’ve felt like I was ahead of Halloween in a way that felt good. We baked cookies, I bought a few decorations (because for some reason we’ve never had any, and that suddenly felt like a problem I needed to address), I started playing the kids’ Halloween playlist on the way to school on Friday, and I was making what felt like great progress on Vivi’s costume and had a solid plan for the boys. Then tonight I realized that I needed to rip out a seam and move some things, and when I stitched the skirt together one side seemed totally off and I couldn’t figure out how to put in the elastic, so I decided to put it aside and start on Jonah’s costume, only to discover that I bought the wrong color duct tape. Suddenly I was overcome by a wave of panic and felt my confidence slipping away. Continue reading

Easter, and finding what we’re looking for in unlikely places

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It’s been a chilly spring. While it feels like an unusually endless slog, I suspect that this is the usual state of affairs in Michigan because all of the Easter morning egg hunts I can remember as a child were indoors. Maybe it’s just being at the tail end of six months of cold, grey, dreariness, but my spirit has been craving change in a big way. A couple of weeks ago I told Kristin that I’ve been feeling really lonely. Not doing enough to make and cultivate friendships here is finally weighing on me in a way that I can’t ignore. “What kind of friend do you wish you had?” Kristin asked. “Someone creative, to make things with or at least talk about that sort of thing,” I told her.

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It’s not that we haven’t met anyone. We’ve met a number of really lovely people, many of whom we’ve intended to get to know better. The problem is that we don’t follow through. I often think, “when the weather is finally nicer we’ll have them over for a BBQ…” but then the cold continues and my introversion gets in the way and sometimes the thought of having to start at the beginning with someone is just exhausting.

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I asked a faraway friend the other day if I’m a snob because I don’t connect in that meant-to-be way with very many people. “Your introversion isn’t unique,” she said, “I feel the same way. I know pretty quick if people are in or out.” It sounds judgy, but it actually has very little to do with sizing people up, and everything to do with chemistry in a way that I can’t entirely explain. I’ve met a number of smart, funny people I enjoy tremendously, but I miss the kind of close female friendships I had in New York.

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A day or two after I told Kristin that I was feeling lonely I went in search of a new bike trailer for the twins. Our neighborhood has a garage sale coming up so I posted in the Facebook group letting folks know that we’re in the market for a used one. A woman I’ve never met responded, not with a bike trailer, but saying that I should meet her sister who also has young twins and who is new to the neighborhood. It seemed unlikely that those two things would be enough, but I looked her up and reached out. We decided to grab a cocktail downtown on a Tuesday evening, and when she picked me up and came into the house I knew almost immediately. The kids were clamoring for her attention, this stranger in their living room. She and K found something to talk about within seconds while the kids danced around them shouting, “watch me!” and asking to climb her legs.

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More often than not I go into social interactions with anxiety, worrying that there might not be anything to talk about or that things won’t go well, but for whatever reason I had no such concerns. We talked non-stop through two rounds of cocktails and when I got home I told K, “I think this might be my person.”

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When you find something that you’ve been searching for there’s always a sense of relief, the falling away of fear that perhaps you’d never find it at all. But when it shows up in a time and place that you weren’t even looking it’s energizing in a different way, like the joy and surprise of finding a colorful egg in a place it doesn’t belong.

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I loved watching their faces on Easter morning as they hunted for dyed eggs throughout the house. Later in the day (after a mishap in which Vivi re-hid them indoors and we lost one for roughly three hours, certain we’d find it when it started to smell) we took all of the eggs outside and the kids asked us to hide them again and again, the thrill of finding them brand new each time.

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We spent Easter dinner at our new friend’s house, crappy-dinner-party style, and met her husband and kids who are equally lovely. Jonah finally got to watch the Captain Underpants movie, which made his night, and Vivi swooshed around the house with two more Elsas. The four adults sat on the dining room floor drinking wine and talking for probably an hour before moving towards the kitchen, and afterwards Kristin and I talked about how significant that felt to both of us; the intimacy and comfort of sprawling on the floor (right next to a table and chairs) as kids dashed in and out of the circle for snacks.

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Easter is a time of renewal, of beginning again, and I’m feeling hopeful that perhaps the kind of friendships we have scattered across the country will happen here too. Starting over requires patience and a lot of faith that it will all come together eventually, and a hefty dose of gratitude for the good things that come our way.

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Sugar cookies, snowmen, and Santa

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Over the last year I’ve created a bit of a sugar cookie tradition. We have cookie cutters for most of the major holidays, and it all started with last Christmas. The kids love helping to roll the dough and decorate the cookies. If I’m being completely honest, the photos make it all appear much more peaceful than it truly is: there’s generally a lot of me barking orders and asking them repeatedly not to touch that or squish that or eat the sprinkles and did you just have your fingers in your mouth? Go wash your hands again, with soap please! Continue reading

Kicking off a month of Christmas

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I recently read an article in which I was surprised to learn that traditionally Christians and Catholics did not decorate a tree or put up any Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. I don’t remember when we used to get our tree as a kid but I remember going to the Kmart parking lot to pick one out in the evening, and I remember loving Christmas decorations and Christmas music. I used to put those plug-in candles in the windows of my bedroom (and I feel like I hung on to them much longer than just the Christmas season) and I’d bring my family’s Christmas CDs upstairs to my room and listen to them when I went to sleep at night. I remember thinking that it was wonderful the year that my dad got fancy lights for the hedge out in front of our house that had multiple blinking and twinkling modes to choose from. Continue reading

Thanksgiving and turning five in Charleston

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Back in September, my parents offered to fly us down to Charleston for Thanksgiving as our Christmas gift. It was a lovely, generous offer but we waffled because travel with kids when there’s less than a week to work with always feels less than relaxing. Our kids are good travelers, mostly road-trippers, but in this case the thought of having to haul three car seats, luggage, and kids to a rental car lot after a long morning of air travel did not have any appeal. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between having two small children versus having three, it’s fitting in someone else’s car. We’ve made it work before with infant seats, but we just weren’t sure what was possible at this stage. Continue reading