Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rabble-Rousing Mama

"I'm in the midst of a slight tussle with my kids' school over the practice of the photography company that takes the children's school photos to send home packets of plastic bookmarks, keychains and magnets to every child in the school (whether you ordered photos or not) and then expecting you to either pay for or return them.  This kind of thing makes my hackles rise for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is the crazy wastefulness of it all.  I have already gotten the big hairy eyeball from the principal and all five other PTA members for suggesting that maybe it is not so cool for the church next door to use the school as an advertising vehicle, but apparently I don't know when to sit down and shut up.

I wrote this letter to the school shortly before vacation, in about five minutes at 7 a.m. after M had nagged me for two weeks straight over whether I was going to pay for or return the photos:

Dear [giant school photo corporation] and ______ School:


Please do not send home unsolicited plastic photos of my children in the future.  we try to avoid needlessly waisting plastic in our lives because it is unhealthy for our children and the planet.  Polyvinyl chloride, the type of plastic you use to manufacture the magnets, is especially toxic to those who manufacture it and the people who live near those manufacturing facilities.  When it is burned at the end of its life (as much of our garbage in Maine is, and at as these that I'm returning to you probably will be), it again emits dioxin, which is one of the most toxic compounds known to man.


If I want pictures of my children I will order them.  I purchased pictures in the spring; these are perfectly fine and my kids have not changed all that much in the last six months.  I will not ever order unnecessary and wasteful plastic junk--truly, how many magnets and key chains does a single person need?  I already have more than I want.


I would appreciate it if _______ School and RSU ______ reconsidered its policy of inviting a corporation into the school twice a year to pressure parents into purchasing silly plastic junk they don't need  I know many families in our town cannot afford such an expense.  Perhaps there is a local photography company that could come in once a year and take pictures of those children whose parents request them, and then provide only photographs, not key chains and magnets?


It's frustrating for those of us who dodo not want or need this type of product, yet sending back the magnets and key chains gives our children the message we don't want picture of them.


Thank you for your attention to this matter.


That part about my kids not changing much in the last six months sounds kind of heartless, doesn't it?  But M said he'd be "proud to" take the letter in, which about made me cry.

This is the letter I got back from the principal:

Thank you for your letter expressing your concerns regarding school photos and our contract with [giant photo conglomerate].  Unfortunately, your letter expresses you r personal opinion and is somewhat political in nature , rendering it inappropriate for ______ School's involvement.  We will keep a copy on file, however, with all due respect, we are returning the other copy to you for you to deal with as you see fit.


Because we need to have each student's photo for the cumulative files, all students have a photo taken regardless of whether or not parents decide to make a purchase.  if you wish not to have your children's photos sent home, please send a note to the school office and we will refrain from sending them.


Once again, thank you for your concerns.




At first I thought this was your standard brush-off letter (remember, I work for the government; in my old job I practically wrote one of these every week:  "Dear Mrs. Crazyinthehead.  Thank you for your concern regarding the smog along I-295/the freakishly large dandelions in your kid's school playground/your thoughts regarding the global warming effects of airplane contrails.  Blah-blah-blah-lots of concerned sounding meaningless gobbledygook with big words thrown in.  Please feel free to contact me again with any further concerns on this matter.  Sincerely, The Governor").  But now that I reread it, it kind of pisses me off.  No place for personal opinions in school matters?  Seriously?  Has the man never been to a budget meeting?  Anyway, this is the letter I had to write (before I reread the letter and got mad all over again) so that my brain would shut the heck up already and let me go to sleep last night. I may send it or I may just duck down and make up little 33 MRSA Section 1101 reminder cards to send in next time I get some of their crap:





Thank you for your response to my letter regarding the unsolicited distribution of [giant photo conglomerate whose name, now that I think of it, sounds kind of perverted] photo magnets and keychains through the school.   I apologize if my tone seemed strident.  You are correct that our family’s personal quest for simplicity and minimization of unnecessary junk was not pertinent to the discussion.  However, I am saddened that any consideration of the wanton waste of the planet’s finite resources and the pollution of the air and water from that waste renders any argument “political.”  What hope is there for our children’s future if that very future is not open to discussion?
Irrespective of the waste caused by the production and subsequent return of hundreds of photo magnets and bookmarks, the point remains that it is not appropriate to use a captive audience like children in a public school as a marketing target.  I realize you and I disagree on this subject, based on previous discussions regarding the church next door distributing promotional materials through the school. However, I feel compelled to reiterate the point.
My son’s teacher reminded his class on a daily basis for several weeks that the photos were not “free.”  This is incorrect from a legal standpoint.  Maine law, at 33 MRSA §1101, states, “Where unsolicited merchandise is delivered to a person for whom it is intended, such person has a right to refuse to accept delivery of this merchandise or he may deem it to be a gift and use it or dispose of it in any manner without any obligation to the sender.”  Of course I would not want to give my children the impression that it is ethical to take something for which you did not pay, regardless of what the law says, nor do I think it is fair to burden certain rule-following children with the anxiety caused by knowing those pictures linger at home in the to-do pile.
I have no problem with the school photographing my children for their record-keeping purposes, nor with being offered the opportunity to purchase photos if I so choose.  However I think that sending out the magnet/keychain packets crosses the line of commercializing the institution of learning and I do not see why changing the school’s (or RSU’s) contract with Lifetouch so that the company merely took children’s photos and sold photo packets to those who request them, without sending home unwanted merchandise, would be in any way political or controversial.  I have little doubt most parents would agree, and most teachers would be happy to remove from their long list of duties hounding their students to return their photo packages.
I realize you are extremely busy and I do not expect a response to this letter; I merely ask that you take seriously my request to make a simple change to the benefit of parents, students and teachers.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this letter and consider the issue.

Yes I do realize that in the realm of "pick your battles" I have probably chosen the least significant and most unlikely to succeed, but grrrr I get grumpy about the sheer volume of junk that school adds to life (don't get me started on the school store or holiday gift exchanges or prizes for good grades on tests--I thought the grade was the prize?!?!? and the recycling bin we fill twice weekly with worksheets and notices).  And I do hope this doesn't hurt my "public school for the people" cred.  Yes I still do believe in public education...it's those devilish details though that are sometimes troublesome.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Handmade Holiday Part III: What We Received

We're still enjoying our lazy vacation week...playing in the deep deep snow that swirled all day Monday, reading, watching Christmas DVDs.  Occasionally I remember to feed my charges (something other than leftover Christmas cookies and peppermint bark).

Here's a little peek at some of the wonderful handmade gifts we were lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this Christmas.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, the boys got together with one of their grandmothers and made some kid-art place-mats as gifts for C and me:

 Each year one of my sisters, my mom, some of my aunts and I do an ornament exchange.  In the past I have made the ornaments I sent out (last year's felted birds, fabric birds the year before and stacked trees the year before that), but this year I just could not muster enthusiasm or energy and finally ordered some cute birdhouse ornaments off Etsy.

My sister, though, decoupaged this ornament ball with fabric (the clay "peace" snowflake my mom bought from a local artisan):

And my aunt made this sweet felt aspen leaf on a golden branch.  It made me all weepy and homesick for Colorado.


My dad made me this gorgeous cherry wood recipe box:


Now I'm going to need to get more upscale recipe cards and dividers (rather than my cheap Staples index cards and cereal box dividers).


For each of the boys he made treasure box for storing money and other treasures (where brothers cannot steal, "find" or otherwise abscond with the contents).


 Each one fashioned a lock for his box (a splinter of wood, a twist of wire and a padlock borrowed off a diary).  We finally made it to the hardware store today for real locks.  You'd think it was Christmas all over again.

My mom made C a pair of snowflake mittens to go with the hat she made last Christmas:



And finally, she also made jammies all around.  The boys can count on grammy-jammies every Christmas, but this year C and I lucked out too, which is a good thing, since I ran out of steam before I made the pajama pants I was planning for C:

So although I blame my Christmas makings and doings on other bloggers, it appears that perhaps it is a genetic trait after all.

Hope you too received many wonderous gifts this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Handmade Holiday Part II: What the Elves Made

On my side of the family, we draw names for Christmas gifts among the siblings, nieces and nephews. This is the second year that the boys have been involved in the making of presents for their selected person (last year's kid-mades here) and they got even more involved in the actual making. This post breaks my long-standing rule of not showing my kids' faces on the blog, but I'm so darn proud of these three, I can't help it.

First, M made for his aunt E this headband:



He conceived of and designed it all himself, and did all of the embroidery and sewing--Mama just helped with cutting the fabric in the right shape and threading needles.




I think it's pretty awesome.


For his uncle E, Z helped to felt a set of juggling balls.


We started out felting by hand in a bowl of hot water, but Z's attention waned and then mine did too, so I tied them in socks and finished them off in the washing machine.


He wanted to make a set for Papa, too. He served as art director while I needled in the details to make his vision of a Santa, elf and bumblebee come to life.




And all that knitting E has been doing since May yielded this gorgeous scarf for his aunt V.

He started out watching his grandmother, and then me knit and slowly picked up holding the needles and working the yarn. He even did a few rows completely on his own (and a knitting fairy snuck in and worked on it as we got closer to time to mail it). Didn't it turn out beautiful?


For the many grandmothers, we made balsam pillows, with kid art drawn right onto fabric with fabric markers (Z always likes to make portraits of people's cats) and stuffed with balsam needles collected in our woods.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Handmade Holiday Part I: What I Made

I hope you're having a happy Third Day of Christmas.  We're celebrating the Twelve Days again this year in the same manner as last.  I took this whole week off to be with the kids.  We had a busy three days of full-on Christmas festivities, so today I just did what I felt like doing--a little yoga, a leisurely breakfast, a hot bath, read the winter issue of Brain, Child, laid around quite a bit, walked to the mailbox in the blizzard.  One advantage of honoring Twelfthtide is that you can futz around doing Christmassy projects with absolutely no pressure.  Like this wreath that I made today, by gluing scraps of holiday fabric to a cardboard ring I had saved from the recycling bin some time ago.  There was no sign of Christmas in my bedroom/sewing room/office before I hung this up between the windows.

Now, onto the actual holiday crafting.  I did not make nearly as many gifts as I did last year or the year before or even the year before that (when I was too shy to post my creations here).  But I did make a few things.

For C, I made these felted mittens:

I made myself these same mittens as one of my first projects back a long time ago when I was a new knitter, taking an Instant Gratification class at the local yarn shop.  I still had the same pattern, and it was like a time capsule--tucked inside the plastic sleeve that protects the pattern was a sale flier from that same (and now--sniff, sniff--defunct yarn shop) and another scrap of paper that held the early concept sketches that C made for my engagement ring.  There was even a crumb of oatmeal from a hazelnut dream bar purchased at the bakery across the street from Water Street Yarns.  The yarn came from my stash--one hank of gorgeous teal wool I had bought at a local farm some time ago and two skeins of rainbowy mohair that I inherited from a friend who gave up knitting.  You can't tell here, but the result is a lovely iridescent (and hopefully you can't tell either that one mitten turned out noticeably larger than the other!).

E asked several weeks ago if I would get him a sleeping bag with cowboys on the outside and orange on the inside.  Then he asked every day if I had bought him one yet.  Of course I would never find anything so specific in the world, so I had to make him one myself:

I completely winged it (wung it?), running quickly into two different fabric stores in between watching a performance of The Nutcracker and going out to dinner (with the family waiting in the car in the freezing rain) and grabbing off-the-cuff lengths of fabric and the longest zipper in the store.  I had a leftover piece of polyester batting that was almost the right size and grabbed a second piece from a remnant pile at still a third fabric store to make it puffier.  I continued in wing-it mode all morning Thursday as the sewing machine flew at high speed while the kids played outside in the new snow.  It was thrilling, actually.  I like sewing this way--figuring things out and making them up as you go along--so much better than following a pattern.  It magically turned out to be just the right size for E, and the zipper was exactly the same length as the side of the bag.  Don't look too closely, though, or you'll see my seams are wildly crooked and the zipper looks horrendous on the inside.

After I finished the bag, I was finished.  I had a few other projects I wanted to get done that day--pajama pants for C, camera cases for each C and M, and something for Z to counterbalance E's sleeping bag, but I just couldn't sew another stitch.

I did, however, find it in me to fashion a Tomten for Z and a fox for M while watching It's A Wonderful Life Thursday night, as is C and my tradition on the evening before Christmas Eve.

I had to make something for them because I had already made an Emmet Otter for E:

I couldn't not do that after my friend beez (who is a consummate felter herself) wrote in the comments to my Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas post, "I think if I saw a felted Emmet Otter I would just melt and cry right there. Just thinking about it...yipes. You have to do it."  So I did.  I think he turned out pretty cute, too.  E likes to carry him around and play with him, and hold him when we read the book.  He wants me to make Ma and all the other members of the Frogtown Hollow Jug-Band and a house and a Christmas tree (perhaps Mrs. Claus will have to do those, too).  I figured some other iconic holiday book characters would be appropriate for M and Z.  I'm pleased with how the Tomten turned out, but the fox not so much.  He was very pig-like during much of his gestation and in the end turned out rather cartoonish.  I think I'll try another fox again some other time.  They were going to be ornaments, but our tree is already so heavily laden I left the hangers off and now they all hang out with the gnomes and trees on the window sill.

I had forgotten how enjoyable and satisfying needle-felting is.  I think I had burned myself out with all those birds and critters last Christmas so I needed a good long break from the needle.  Now I'm excited to make some more things (already have ideas for next Christmas!).  I hope you're enjoying your week after Christmas, whether you try to keep the magic going for 12 days, or already chucked the tree out to the curb.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Cookie Countdown, Week 3: Sugar Cookies and Sprinterle

Because the first two batches of cookies I had already made this month have been so, ahem, well-received, I needed to bake two batches this weekend in order to have any cookies for actual Christmas. First, I made my usual sugar cookies (recipe here--they really are the very best sugar cookies, fine-grained and almondy and so yummy),



and then, because I had the mold, I made a batch of Springerle. Traditionally, these are made with anise, but somehow the bottle of anise flavoring I thought I bought disappeared, so I made them orange flavored instead (again, I used a recipe from Joy of Cooking, because it took fewer eggs and no obscure ingredients--hartshorn anyone?--than the recipes included with the cookie molds). I think they'll be good (I only tasted one tiny crumb--saving the rest for cookie plates!) Springerle are much, much, much less labor-intensive than Spekulatius, though I did have to really muscle down on the mold to get the St. Nicholas to show up. Still, I think his face could be more defined. The whole process made me lust over one of those rolling pins.

The nice thing about cookies is you can mix the dough one time (like 9 p.m. on Saturday) and make the cookies another. I rolled and cut the sugar cookies (with Z's help) Sunday morning and made the Springerle Sunday night. They're supposed to sit out eight hours to dry out so the impressions stand out after baking. Mine stayed out an extra eight hours and I baked them while making soup and preheating the oven for bread Monday night. I like projects that work around my schedule and lend themselves to multitasking.


And, finally, I made a batch of that peppermint bark everyone is so wild about. We made some last year to use up some peppermint candies we got for Christmas. It turned out to be the world's most expensive way to use up candy canes, but M swears it's the best candy he's ever had, and his adoration wore me down. At first I was going to cheap out and make it two-layer bark, but then felt guilty and went back for more white chocolate. We filled two jars for teacher gifts and some little bags for various other giftees, leaving one jar for us. It is pretty tasty, even if I am cranky about the cost and time it takes (go see Rachel's post; she's much more positive about it than me, though she'll leave your head spinning with white chocolate technicalities).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Solstice


The Winter Solstice falls on a Tuesday this year, a weekday, a workday, a school day. I consider moving our celebration to the weekend, like other holidays on the modern calendar, “Solstice, Observed,” but decide in the end to keep with the rhythm of the earth. I plan a simplified picnic--pigs-in-the-blanket made with a package of Tofurkey Franks I find in the freezer and no-knead dough I mixed on Sunday, rather than the time-consuming and not-well-received cheese pasties I made last year.



Solstice morning starts out downright balmy, with a spring-like softness in the just-above-freezing air and big downy flakes of snow swirling on the breeze. As the day wears on, though, the wind takes on a bitter edge, the sky turns dismal gray and the snow turns to cold rain. I leave work early, but my errands take longer than planned. We arrive home in darkness, and C has already started a dinner of leftover soup and cornbread, negating the picnic.


The kids are tired and cranky and don’t want to go for a hike in the dark. I consider postponing until Thursday, when I have the day off, but today is the Solstice and it has finally stopped raining, so after eating bowls of hot soup we find dry snow pants and boots and gloves, we venture out into the darkness. By lantern light, we hang birdseed ornaments and an old red garland on the spruce tree out front and fill the bird feeders--our tribute to the wild creatures who share this piece of Earth we call home--and follow the trail through the woods to the river.



Without the benefit of snow to lend brightness and contrast to our path, we move by feel following the golden orb of lantern flame. The children move forward boldly, unafraid of darkness or stumbling. This trail we know like we know the path from our beds to the bathroom in the night. They start out bickering and fighting--who will be in front, who gets hit with his brother’s walking stick. “Shh,” I say. “I think I heard our owl.” I say, referring to the barred owl who made it’s home in the trees over our driveway for a day not long ago. But the air holds only the swirling of wind in the hemlocks, the thump of boots over fallen branches and tree roots and the gurgling of the black river flowing between ghostly bands of white ice along the bank.


We build a fire in our usual spot, using dry wood carried from the house and settle around to watch the flames. The boys poke at it with their walking sticks until we threaten to throw them (the sticks, not the boys) into the river. I wonder if we should throw wishes into the flame, but decide to keep Solstice a holiday that’s not about things or wants or wishes. Just us together in nature.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Book Countdown, Week Three: A Jolly Christmas at the Patterprints

Would you think I was crazy if I told you I wait all year to read this book. Yes? OK, then, let's just say that once we wrap up all the books for our Christmas Book Countdown, I get very excited to read this one again (in fact, when I realized it was teed up for an evening I wouldn't be home, I unwrapped it and switched it with another book!)



A Jolly Christmas at the Patterprints tells the story of ol' Lije Herringbone, the Tramp Rat's first Christmas.





Lije runs to the Patterprints' house when he becomes frightened by Santa in the woods.

When Santa comes down the chimney, he has an unfortunate encounter with a pot of soup simmering over the fire and mayhem ensues, but all ends happily.

Both the language and the illustrations are completely delightful. The characters lend themselves well to different accents, if you enjoy reading to your children with a lot of dramatic emphasis.

Written and illustrated by the mother-daughter duo Vera and Helene Nyce early last century, the book was not published until it was rediscovered by Parents' Magazine in 1971.

We found our copy when cleaning out C's grandparents' house after they moved to Florida several years ago, but there are at least two copies available on Better World Books for about $4 each. I definitely recommend you snap one up so you can anticipate reading this wonderful story all year, er, December, too!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Handmade Holiday Sneak Peek

Our gift-making around here seems to have taken place in a very last-minute sort of fashion, despite all intentions to the contrary. Down to the wire this weekend, I set up Mission Control in my bedroom--the sewing corner, the cutting corner, the ironing corner, the trimmings and trappings corner--and put three little elves to work.













One handmade holiday item I haven't had a chance to share with you is this lovely rainbow garland, inspired by Waldorf Mama. Remember all that finger-knitting we got started on last March? This is the result (except for Z's section, which wasn't quite done and somehow got lost in the shuffle of holiday decorating...it will turn up soon I'm sure). BTW the yarn for the garland is from Syrendell.



We had an extensive discussion around here last year regarding less wasteful methods of wrapping gifts, and while I enjoyed all of the suggestions (especially bath towels), I decided to go with fabric bags. I assembled some holiday fabrics that I had leftover from years past, bought some at Goodwill and a couple of yards of new fabric and sewed up a hefty little stack of bags this weekend. I originally planned to do a few at a time throughout the year, but who wants to sew Christmas bags in any month but December (I imagine there are quite a few people who don't even want to sew Christmas bags then!). They did give me a lot of opportunity to fiddle with my machine's tension and practice with my hemmer foot and try out new and creative swear words. But they are done and so pretty.


And many of them got put to good use right away. We loaded up two boxes with handmade gifts, farmer's market goodness, wild blackberry jam and some sweet treats and sent it on a trip across country this morning.





Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Cookie Countdown, Week 2: Chocolate Gingerbread

I had considered starting this post out by apologizing for yesterday's rather whiny and self-indulgent post, then I thought better of it. Everyone has crappy days or weeks or months. When you're walking around with your right arm clamped to your side like Herr Flick of the Gestapo, and feeling downright sorry for yourself for that and other reasons, it's hard to put on a happy face and pretend all is lovely and magical. Plus it's not all that honest.

Rachel made this suggestion in the comments: "...think about maybe not reading those blogs that get you to feeling like who you are and what you do is not enough. There was a blog I used to read for my daily flogging of self-doubt. And then I had to make myself stop reading it. Maybe this blog gives others inspiration and warm fuzzies, but for some reason it made me feel crappy." I know exactly what she means. Only I might need a 12-step program to give up those blogs.

I do a fair amount of showing-off here on this blog (because goodness knows no one around here is all that interested, and besides I do enjoy seeing what crafts and foods and projects and writings other bloggers produce), but I would hate to give the impression that it's all a home-baked, hand-knit wonderland here. That is part of our reality, but only a tiny part, jostling for space against the fighting boys and the cranky mama and the messy house and the white-trashy yard and the nights I'm just too tired to cook and instead bring home ham Italians from the local sandwich shop (and get treated like a queen for the day by those boys, or at least as long as the Italians last).

I would certainly never want this blog to be the place that anyone goes for flogging and self-doubt. So, along with the showing off, I'll continue to share the bad days too.


But for now, more showing off. For my second batch of Christmas cookies, I took a much less complicated path than last week, and made chocolate gingerbread boys and girls and babies and trees and stars (recipe courtesy Martha Stewart). E and I mixed the dough Saturday afternoon and rolled and we all cut the cookies while breakfast cooked Sunday morning. I got smart and cut out the first round of cookies myself, to maximize the use of the first roll-out of dough, then I let the kiddos have at it with the cookie cutters every-which-way on subsequent rollings. This worked well and the whole thing went very quickly (of course anything will feel quick compared to Spekulatius!)


These ginger cookies have been a tradition in our house ever since the recipe first came out in a Martha Stewart magazine several years ago--they are that good that you want to make them again and again!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Letting Go

Thank you for your book suggestions, and keep them coming. (We have the Maurice Sendak nutshell library, three books each from my childhood set and one I bought for M--all of which I adore, especially One Was Johnny!)

I was going to give you my second installment of the Christmas Cookie Countdown today, but something has come up and I need to talk about it. The Universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe several things. I think it's trying to remind me to "underdo" and let go.

I hurt myself yesterday in yoga class. Because I decided that along with everything else going on this month, both at work and home, now would be a good time to pick up where I left off a year and a half ago with yoga. And in a pose, my wrist collapsed, which levered my arm in such a way that, as the rest of me collapsed, I could feel my upper arm literally pull out of my shoulder joint with a frighteningly rubber-bandy kind of sensation. It went back in by itself, but it left me shaken and very sore in my right arm, shoulder and neck.

Perhaps part of the problem (other than being out of shape, and trying to support my arm with my fist, rather than a cupped hand, on the suggestion of the instructor), was that I had woken up around 1:00 that morning and, when I hadn't fallen asleep by 2:30, got up to make Lucia buns for breakfast, since it was December 13:


(note the dreidel in the background)

I think maybe this was a bit louder of a yell because last week I didn't listen when I woke up one day and my thumb suddenly didn't work.
Pain shot through my wrist when I moved it in a certain way. I moved my mouse to the left, bought a wrist compression glove and carried on, knitting like a madwoman.

There have more subtle messages too. Last week, on our snow day, E and Z decided to set up winter villages in their room. Z got right to work and made this creation:



I lent E a hand and put together this:


An hour or so later, I noticed the village had been ransacked. When I asked what happened, he said that was not how he wanted it. He remade his village like this:



Of course, what I had in mind was this. Hmm, perhaps it's best not to overlay images of bloggy-land utopia (blogtopia?) over one's children's creative urges.

And then there's the fact that I just really haven't felt like doing all the things I had planned--there are a few projects I've been excited about, but otherwise, I haven't been able to stir up much motivation.

This time of year sends me into overdrive in the unrealistic expectations of how things should be and look and how much I should do department. Thus the six-hour cookie-baking sessions. The all-night gift-making marathons. The need to celebrate EVERY holiday that takes place in December. Slave-driving my children to make gifts and produce adorable holiday art.

I realized yesterday that I would have to let go of some of those plans and expectations. Let someone else do some of the work (Hello, Etsy!). I also realized that I have to stop trying to keep up with the stay-at-home, homeschooling, craft-blogging moms. Which is in no way meant to minimize the hard work of staying at home with kids; it's just there aren't enough hours in the day to do all that and go to work. But still, I don't want to be the get home from work and throw Lean Cuisine in the microwave and congregate around the TV and surround ourselves with mass-produced crap mom, either. There is so much that appeals to me about the handmade/homemade life, and the thought of letting go some portion of that breaks my heart a little bit. I'm not even sure where to begin.
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