Times They Are A-Changing

We just got back from our first family trip that actually kind of felt like a vacation. For 6 years we have been firmly observing the sad truth of traveling with little ones:

“There are no vacations with children, just changes of scenery.” – City Mama’s Sister

It had been so long that I forgot what an adventure could be, even if it was a familiar one.

We visited DC for spring break with the rest of America (at least that’s what it felt like).

I credit the success of this vacation to natural growth for the kids and the adults.

The best family selfie we could get

On the kid front this was the first trip without a napper. We dropped Calvin’s nap about a month ago because it was disrupting bedtime. It was a hard adjustment (for me) at the time (especially since Ellis napped until he was 5), but if I would have know we would have an actual vacation as the payoff it would have made it a lot easier. It was great to make our plan without having to consider a nap. The kids still conked out when they needed (Ellis slept stretched out on a pew through a rousing service at All Souls Church), but we didn’t have to adjust to accommodate them. And they were troopers with the packed days. Which was glorious.

The growth on the adult front was that we threw in a bunch of last minute items while packing the car, which were absolutely essential. We packed a stroller “just in case” even though we haven’t used one locally in about a year. We used that thing every day on the trip. I have no idea how we even considered going without it. We used a single citymini as a double most of the time. It was completely weird to stroll through our old neighborhood with a stroller. I also tossed in winter coats and walking shoes at the last minute and I wore both everyday. It was really cold and we walked a lot. I was planning to just use my phone for pics, but I grabbed our DSLR at the last minute as we headed out the door and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t realize how beautiful the cherry blossoms would be and I ended up being so glad I had our real deal camera for that (more on that below). A little adult foresight finally paid off. It was fun playing city mom for a while with the right gear.


(strolling / this bird flew by our car carrying a huge fish and I took this pic with our new zoom lens/ an iridescent bird)

We experienced a combination of good luck (and by that I mean amazing parking that I may have taken pictures of, it was that good) and non-tourist moves leftover from our days as DC locals that let us have an amazing trip. We did one touristy thing and one social visit per day for six days. Here were the highlights:

National Museum of African-American of History and Culture: Although you typically need a hard-to-come-by ticket to get into this new museum we tried out the first day of walk-up Wednesdays (running throughout April) and it worked! We waited and hour and 20 minutes to get in and when we finally did Cal asked where the “dinosaur fossils were” ☹ but overall it was an amazing museum and I am still pinching myself that it worked out for us to see it (on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination no less). We all did the top floors together and then Ellis and I did the lower levels dedicated to the history of slavery and freedom, segregation and civil rights, all the way through Obama’s election and the Black Lives Matter movement. To enter the history portion you take a glass elevator “back in time” to 1400 and then walk up a series of ramps through history. It was very well done and moving.


The Obama Portraits at the Portrait Gallery: Barack’s was glowing and Michelle’s looked much more like her in person than the image I had seen online. Ellis has a deep love for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but we wanted to help extend that to our favorite president: Obama. I think it worked because when we were walking around the city he found a hedge and asked us to talk his “Obama picture.”

The Cherry Blossom Festival: This is shameful, but in a decade of living in DC I never went. I drove by (once I drove through a downpour of petals that was like being in a magical snow globe). A few years I went to nearby things and felt like I got the gist. But I didn’t. Because of this freakishly cold winter the peak bloom was later than usual this year and it coincided with our trip. We decided that was fortuitous and it was finally time to go and really see it in all of its glory. We got to spend three hours walking around the tidal basin. The trees were in full bloom. I especially loved an old hollowed out trunk with one flowering branch. It was literal resilience.

Tidal Basin Memorials: We walked through Jefferson (not my fav), FDR (my fav) and MLK (Adam’s new fav). We also admired the Washington Monument from many different angles. It was really incredible to experience the monuments with the cherry blossoms in bloom. There were all these amazing sight lines that felt like they had been orchestrated for just that moment.

Stamping our National Parks Passport book: Adam got the 25th anniversary passport book for Ellis when he was a baby and they dutifully collect their stamps from all the parks we visit and DC is full of national parks. Fun fact: all the memorials are national parks and you can get cancellations stamps for all of them at the only monument in DC: the Washington Monument (Adam and Cal did that while Ellis and I were in the history part of the African-American museum.)

Playing City for a few days: We walked everywhere. Got to eat at fancy restaurants and even popped in for a happy hour at a bar in Capitol Hill when we had an hour to fill. It was such a departure from our country life that it felt decadent. Of course country kids still do country things, even in the city. We turned around at one point to find Ellis just sitting by this tree on our walk. The sun came out for the moment and the kids insisted they lie down immediately to soak it up. Country. And somehow Cal ended up getting poison ivy for the first time in DC and not NC.

American Vistionay Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore: This is probably my favorite art museum. It is where we bought our first “real” art for our first apartment. We bought another painting to add to our AVAM collection this time too. There is a famous artist from Pittsboro in this museum so we visited his pieces and enjoyed the crossover moment of our worlds converging.

Smithsonian Museums: We did Air and Space and Natural History. Both had lines to get in and were packed inside. I almost didn’t count this as a highlight because one kid had a melt-down in the gift shop and this was the only place I saw MAGA hats, which made me ragey, but this stop was salvaged by a fun metro ride and an ice cream taste test where we compared astronaut ice cream to real ice cream (The verdict? Ellis likes space ice cream because it isn’t messy and Cal likes real ice cream because it is. So everyone was happy).

Georgia Thrift: Of course you make the highlight list. You are still there and I still love you. I picked up a stroller blanket since we didn’t bring one, but needed it because of the cold. The guys got a bunch of books. It wasn’t the best haul I have ever had from Georgia Thrift, but it did mark 15 years of being my #1 thrift store (I got my Halloween costume there for a party at Adam’s house in 2003 when we started dating.)

Seeing Friends: This was by far the best. We got to meet 5 new babies, visit with 4 friends from college, catch up with 5 friends from peace corps, stay with Adam’s nanny family and work family. We took the boys to our old apartment and our old church. Our hearts were overflowing with some of our favorite friends in one of our favorite places.

Fashion Fasting

Since the start of the year*, I have been participating in a Fashion Fast. I’ve posted a little bit about it on Facebook and Instagram and wow people have questions. It’s been neat because a handful of friends have joined me. But, I thought I’d start talking long form about why.

In short, there are 1,000 reasons and no reasons. But there are some core reasons why it started. Probably the snowball started shortly after Sean was born and stuff was pouring into our house faster than we could keep up with it. Baby gifts, holiday gifts, diapers, crap I ordered while I was breastfeeding and sleep deprived, artwork by the truckload coming home from daycare, more, more, more. And coupled with less time to manage anything in my life, I was drowning.

Then when I coupled everything above with my growing concern for the environment and an acknowledgement that my own actions haven’t been in alignment with my politics, I knew I had to do something. I’ve also felt, for some time, that living in a position of abundance — and not that we’re independently wealthy or anything but that as middle class Americans, we have much, much more than we need — means that we should be giving. These issues that are concerning me right now from improved gun control, protecting women’s choice, and supporting environmental activism, all need dollars behind them. They also need focus and action, I felt the need to stop getting distracted by frivolity. 

This hasn’t been an easy thing to come to grips with. In a way it has contributed to my anxiety as I’ve figured out how to get my arms around it. But, now that I’m on a path it does seem to be helping. In thinking about writing this post, I felt like I could group the issues into four main reasons.

Financial – This one is pretty easy. Even though most of my life I’ve been a notorious bargain hunter, my spend in the last few years has jumped up as our income has grown. We’re lucky that our finances support this but with a business to run, two kids to send to college and the hopes of retiring some day, I have to acknowledge that every little bit helps. I also know that to support people in my community, politicians that I believe in and organizations that are out to do good, having financial resources to do so is really important.

Environmental – Clothing has quickly become the second-largest polluter in the world. While the US has put strict regulations on manufacturers, most of our clothing comes from overseas where regulations aren’t as strict, and you add on the carbon footprint of shipping and the true cost of these cheap tee-shirts really begins to add up. I also learned recently that 80 percent of donated clothing ends up in the landfill. In the past much of it has been shipped back overseas and many of the countries that previously accepted our clothing waste will no longer accept.

Political – Aside from the reasons I listed above about having the resources to support the candidates I believe in. I also have a vested interest in seeing the economy struggle during this administration. Our 401ks are invested in the stock market and the fact that we’ve made money during this administration makes me nuts. Keeping my dollars out of retail matters a lot to me right now.

Simplicity – In describing my fashion fast to a friend, I said it’s a lot like getting married. You get to opt out of dating, and so now I’m opting out of shopping. There’s just a relief to knowing I’m not looking. I’ve unsubscribed to so many emails, I don’t browse online or in stores and I skip huge sections of the stores I visit. Not to mention that by streamlining and simplifying my mornings are easier. At the start of the week I pull out a few items I haven’t worn recently and build outfits from there.

Closing out my fourth month, I haven’t dropped as many clothes from my life as I’d like. Each month I’ve posted things online to sell, and I’ve pulled a few things for donation as well. A friend I met through knitting/blogging has simplified her wardrobe to 33 items plus handknits. While that’s an ambition beyond my capacity, I have been bringing out more handknits and that’s a win to be sure.

What’s going on in your wardrobe these days Country Mama?


*technically since Thanksgiving since that was the last thing I purchased

The Little Activist That Couldn’t

My flavor of activism has always been craftivism. It feels like the perfect intersection of my passions: crafting and justice-seeking. I live for a beautiful and punny protest sign. I knit 25 pussy hats for the Women’s March last year, and 6 brain hats for the March for Science. I love the idea that something I made represented from DC to Denver. Sending my crafts out into the world helped me feel connected and productive. I crafted up a very symbolic sash for myself for the Women’s March. I am reworking it for the next march. My slogan: “Feminist as Fuck” will become “Feminist : Enough”.

While I have a lot of clarity about my own activism, I am still struggling to find the right balance of activism for my kids.

I don’t just want my kids to be aware; I would love for them to be Activist with a capital A, probably the way many parents want their kids to play sports or have a hobby. This strange desire makes sense given it was how I was raised. My dad is/was an activist. I grew up going to protests and marching. They were mostly fine, although one of my earliest memories was getting run off the road after a protest by an angry trucker. He followed us from a protest at Rocky Flats and road-raged us off the road. His semi flipped over in the process and he was ejected from the cab. I remember watching my dad care for him until the first responders arrived. I was probably 4 or 5. Obviously that doesn’t happen at every protest, but it was still scary and I still remember it, but it didn’t scare me or my dad off protesting.

As I grew, my activism grew. I protested throughout high school and into college. As you know, American University was a very politically active campus. I felt really at home there, even when Bush got elected. I am still ashamed that at the last minute I was offered a ticket and decided to attend George Bush’s 2001 inauguration instead of protest it as I had planned.

Before 2016 it was easier for me to involve my kids. We took Ellis to the Obama White House. The kids always come to vote with us. I took both the kids to a Hillary rally during the primary, by myself. Since November 9, 2016 my political engagement has shifted to resistance.

I went to the Women’s March with my dad and step-mom, but I left my kids at home. That was a good decision. Our march in Raleigh drew over 8,000 people and it would have been nearly impossible for me to parent my young kids in that crowd. I needed to be in that crowd that day. I was grateful that I had the opportunity to be fully in it.

We are talking about taking our kids to the local March For Our Lives because it is time and gun violence is an issue that has deeply impacted our family recently. This issue feels very personal and close to home. But I have concerns.

I get more concerned about what age is too young to create an activist? Or at what age is activism authentic and self-directed? My early activism was not of my choosing. Not that I didn’t enjoy it and ultimately mature into my own activism. And I loved seeing little kids at the Women’s March. They had the best signs (nothing beats a sleeping baby with a “I take naps, but I stay woke” sign) and they gave me the most hope. But I cringe when I see young kids protesting abortion. The double standard isn’t lost on me. I want my kids involved in activism because I think it is important and I want them to share my values, but I don’t want them to be my prop and I don’t want to use them for causes they don’t understand.

I agonized last week over the school walk out. Ellis is six and in kindergarten at a k-4 school. There were no walk-out activities planned and I couldn’t figure out how to have my kid participate in a non-existent walk-out at 10 am when he can’t tell time and isn’t even allowed to walk in the halls unsupervised. And I knew deep down it was my issue, not his (his awareness of the need for a walk-out is limited to lock-down drills and those are thankfully disconnected from current events).

I have similar conflict over reciting the pledge of allegiance. I haven’t stood for the pledge since second grade (when my Dad told me I didn’t have to stand for a flag if my country was doing things I wasn’t proud of—thanks activist dad!). I feel super uncomfortable that my kid is being indoctrinated by the mandatory pledge at school, but ultimately Adam and I decided that 6 years old was too young to take a knee or start a daily protest ritual.

If my kid was passionate about these issues on his own I would follow his lead and do everything I could to support his protest, but I also want that to be his choice, not mine. Until then we talk about issues and he knows mommy (and Opa) are out there protesting and I hope he knows he is welcome to join us when/if he is ready.

I am also starting to understand that context is as important as content when it comes to protesting. Ellis’ public school is not progressive. If he wants to be politically active there he will be alone. That’s a tall order for a short kid. I feel like we can fight the school or we can try to balance the scales for Ellis outside of school. We are acknowledging that school isn’t a perfect value match for us and believe me there are tons of things I am biting my tongue about at the moment: constantly separating by gender, only teaching about President Washington and Lincoln during Black History Month, the weird Dads only breakfast they have once a month at school, just to name a few. Instead of swimming up hill and protesting each of these things, we see them as an opportunity to talk about the things we do value. It has also spurred us to find a community that is engaged in justice seeking in an age-appropriate way. To do this we are in the process of joining a very progressive Unitarian Universalist church. This is where lots of my activism was nurtured growing up. (I petitioned to become the youngest voting member of my congregation at 14). I trust that the kids will grow in the right direction and see their peers engaging in social justice at church. It feels like a really satisfying answer to a really tricky predicament.

As for the March For Our Lives it was something you wrote, City Mama, that helped us make our decision about marching as a family this weekend. Adam and I need to be there for our own personal activism and healing. But for the kids we want them to be what you called “informed and innocent.” So yes, I want them to care deeply about creating a better world, but I don’t want that to come at the expense of their innocence. I know as parents we have to march to protect them in the long run and I know as kids we can’t let them march to protect them right now. Revealing the horrifying truth that Ellis could be shot at school is too much for a 6-year old to have to bear. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that is not in any way his burden.

The Little Activist that Could

Country Mama, I don’t think we could have made it through 4 years at American without a penchant for politics. So, it’s only natural that when a question regarding how to engage your child in activism was posted to a private Facebook parent group we participate in we were both quick to respond.

Growing up, we watched the news as a family every morning and every night. This lead to early exposure to a lot of complex issues that I never would have encountered in my very rural hometown. I remember starting a petition in the 3rd grade to get recycling bins at our elementary school and encouraging my family to conserve water and energy around that same time.

We also spent a lot of time in DC, taking frequent day trips during the summers. I remember that we happened to be in town when the AIDS quilt was displayed on the National Mall.  I was maybe 7 at the time, so the full implications of what I was seeing were lost on me, but I remember the protestors taking sides and the undeniable passion, compassion, and beauty that was displayed within the quilt. When the Holocaust museum open and we saw the piles of shoes left by the victims, I knew it was a site I would never forget. 

There’s no question that living in DC during the 2001 terrorist attacks forced us into the center of the war on terror and war in Iraq at a time in our lives where your own personal politics and values are being shaped. It’s safe to say that my political roots run deep.

As a parent, I’ve wanted to keep Lucas simultaneously informed and innocent. Knowing that far too soon we’ll be facing realities more complex than I want him to encounter, we have intentionally tried pick and choose what we watch, listen to and talk about while he’s still at this young age. That said, I’m attune to wanting him to have a grounded sense of reality and not keeping him so sheltered that he doesn’t understand the world around him.

This fall, the wildfires here in California were so rampant that there was no avoiding the significance and devastation that was going on just miles from our home. We could see the smoke plums and smell the fires as well as seeing ash on our cars and our yard. We spent a lot of time talking about firefighters and helpers, how they are working to keep us safe. We worked with him to figure out what we could do to help them and help the people who were impacted. We talked a lot about how you are never too little to help and to make a difference and that there’s always something we can do when something bad is happening.

I’ve never been so prescriptive as to list out my top parenting values but if I did, I know that activism, service and political engagement would rank highly on the list. Eric, coming from a military family, is no different, having personally felt the impact of decisions made by a commander in chief. His natural inclination to serve and to step up for those around him is high up on the list of reasons I chose to spend my life with him.

Still, I think it’s a careful balance of how much, when and with what objective we push our kids into the political arena. I had deep frustration after last year’s election that with my newborn, I couldn’t participate in the marches in the way I really wanted to. We found our own way to participate, but I still wish I would have been shoulder-to-shoulder in DC or Downtown LA with like-minded citizens.

I remember Eric asking me, “Who are you doing this for?” It’s one of his go-to parenting gut checks that have saved the boys from being forced onto Santa’s lap or being pushed front and center in some school performance or another. My visceral reaction to the election made me feel like there was no question I needed to participate, to let the people in my life know that I was hurting as deeply as they were, that I wasn’t going to sit down and let the next 4 years go by without putting up a fight. I have a desire to show my boys strong feminism early on and ensure they see females as true equals, not merely treating the a certain way out of a need to be politically correct. Ultimately, with an infant who had been in the hospital just days before, taking the kids into a crowd like that just wasn’t feasible. But it hasn’t stopped me from showing Lucas, and ultimately Sean, that there are ways to participate in the years until their ready for larger civil discourse.

After some reflection, here are the steps I think we’ll take in our house to get these guys well on their way to being citizens I can be proud of:

          Read together and get informed on both sides of an issue. This will start with us watching the news as a family and having dinner table discussions. We are pretty restrictive on the amount of screen time the boys have gotten their first two years. Sean is still within this window so we’ll probably be taking this up in another year or so.

          Vote. Luke’s already been to the polls with us and understands the importance of our political process.

          Make a local impact where the return on your investment and time can go a bit further to change your day to day. We’ve done a few volunteer projects as a family but this is something I’m eager to do more of.

          Find a career path or get involved in organizations that are focused on the issues that matter to you

          Write, call and visit local elected officials

          Take to the street for marches and protests.

The truth is, particularly these days, that my natural inclination is to start in the street. I’m so passionate about these core issues that my default setting is yelling. Maybe it’s because I’ve been politically engaged for decades and I’m frustrated that things haven’t moved faster. I haven’t missed an election. I spent 6 years working to deploy the affordable care act here in California. I’ve participated in town halls, writing campaigns and backing candidates with platforms I admire. Picking up a picket sign seems a natural next step.

I guess my long winded answer here is that there are dozens of doors into activism. And that while I think rallies and marches are among the most effective, I think at least for now, my starting point with these guys will be getting them informed on the issues of the day. Finding the areas that matter to them and allowing them to take the lead in finding their own activism, helping them shape it and supporting it along the way in the forms in which it matters to them. When it’s clear to me that they’re informed enough on an issue to have their own informed conversation on a matter, that’s when I’ll okay them taking to the streets.

How about you Country Mama? What’s been your flavor of activism these days?

That’s Amore

This is not a post about love.

It’s actually about the first half of that lyric: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.” When the last Blue/Blood Supermoon rolled around we decided to observe it in style. We can’t see the moon rising from our house in the woods. By the time it reaches the open sky it isn’t impressively huge and our kids are usually asleep. So we like to go out to the road near a big open pasture if we want to moonwatch.

On this night we set up chairs on the side of the road and ate carry-out pizza and watched the Supermoon rise while we cuddled up under blankets. Although our moon picnic was brief (20 minutes in the cold was all the boys could handle) it was magical. It was the kind of memory I hope they keep.

(The pictures aren’t perfect, but the night was)

Ellis declared it was as cool as the total eclipse. It was about 100x less planning and driving than the eclipse. It was a good reminder for me that simple pleasures usually win out. We only needed 20 minutes, a good location and our version of a “treat dinner” to witness the perspective magic of the moon appearing super.

We had some additional perspective magic helping us out that night as well. We hadn’t had carryout pizza in almost a year. I usually make our pizzas, not to be fancy, just because it is cheaper. When Adam started job searching this time last year we stripped our budget back and eating out was the first thing to go. Once you get out of the habit of eating out you don’t miss it that much, so it is one of the things we have added back slowly and with less frequency now that Adam is employed again. Thanks to your advice City Mama, we have budgeted and tracked all of our spending for the past 4.5 years. I am positive that discipline was what allowed us to survive 7 months of unemployment without going into debt (and believe me I know what a privilege that is!).

I know for some a home cooked meal is the mark of luxury, but when you have been restricted to that for the better part of a year a carryout pizza can feel downright decadent. It’s all a trick of perspective. Being able to give ourselves and our children something extra-ordinary, however simple it may be, feels like the best gift of all. It was nice to conspire with the moon and a pizza pie to make that happen two weeks ago.

In the end maybe this post really is about love. Happy Valentine’s Day. Enjoy your gifts great and small.

Snow Day Books

This year I finally separated our snow day stuff from our Christmas stuff. It almost never snows by Christmas in North Carolina and we are all packed up by the time we get snow in January, February and sometimes even March.

I LOVE a snow day probably because I grew up in the snow. It feels like it is in my DNA. But because it snowed for 6 months a year in Colorado I only remember a handful of dedicated snow days. We rarely got snow days from school. Maybe once in all of high school (and I don’t even think that was official, I think I literally couldn’t drive through the snow that day so my parents let me stay home). Snow was a way of life. It wasn’t a big deal.

We only need a few flakes for a snow day in NC. We have had 6 already in January! So when we get a snow day we get a little festive. I hang up some snowflake lights (that’s for Adam. He wishes we had string lights out year round) and a couple of snow garlands. And out come the snow books.

Here’s a round up of our 6 favorites (one for each snow day we have had in 2018) with brief reviews.

1) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
This classic got made into a postage stamp this year. We used it for our holiday cards and Calvin recognized “that boy from his snow book.” So there is some reading comprehension happening, but they are not as clear on the object permanent of the melting snowball yet, which is the key plot point of the story. I’m sure someday they will get it.

2) The Mitten the Alvin Tresselt version is my favorite, but Ellis insists on the Jan Brett version. The mitten is a fun animal classic. A tale of forgetting your gear and animal ingenuity, saved in the end by grandma’s knitting. What could be better than that?

3) Katy and the Big Snow by Virgina Lee Burton
Katy is a snow plow. I appreciate that the protagonist is female in this book about vehicles. We went through a big vehicle phase at this house so this is a throwback to that sweet time (that I’m glad we are past.)

4) The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This book is magic. All illustrations with no words. We watch the animated movie of it each snowfall. I remember watching this movie as a child and it captures of the magic of snow.

5) Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost illustrated by Susan Jeffers
This is Ellis’ favorite. The illustrations are beautiful. It suggests that the narrator is Santa, but it isn’t overt enough to rule it out as a beautiful snow book. It is the book that Ellis always asks for first and as long as he requests a classic Frost poem I will oblige.

6) Snow by Uri Shulevitz
This is a Caldecott Honor Book, but I had never heard of it. This is my favorite snow book because it perfectly captures the hopefulness of snow for children. The boy and his dog believe it is going to snow, but everyone else in the book from the TV and radio to the man in the hat doubts. A child’s hope prevails. My kids love counting the snowflakes as they build up on the first few pages.

City Mama it looked like you got some snow on your visit home for the holidays. Do you have favorite snow books? I know you don’t get snow days in Cali, but do you have seasonal shifts that you mark with special books? Rain days perhaps?

Out With The Old And In With The New(ish)

This year I had that groundbreaking idea that I could take things away before bringing out Christmas. I realized most people probably do this every year and are thinking “duh,” but it was new to me. I cleared all the surfaces and only put out Christmas décor that I loved. It felt lighter and better and still just the right amount of sentimental.

Before you think I have crossed over to the minimal dark side…don’t worry. I still somehow increased our Christmas items by adding thrifty lit greenery (don’t search pintrest for “lit greenery” trust me) and another mid-century tinsel tree.

An aside on the tinsel tree(s). I spent years stalking the most perfect silver tinsel tree at the thrift store. It took two years but the price finally came down from $300 to less than $50 so I got up early the day after Christmas (when I knew it would be 75% off) and snagged it. That’s the tale of the first tree. Our New Year’s tree. The tale of the second tree is that is showed up at the thrift store this year for only $50 and after stalking the first tree for so long I couldn’t not buy the second, even though who needs two vintage silver tinsel trees? This gal apparently.

The good news is Ellis got really into setting up his “silver forest” this year. We set up both trees on New Years Eve (for our awesome 6 and under New Years party) and they are the same height! Ellis requested the trees stay up for his birthday, which was perfect because it snowed for his birthday and he was out of school for three days, so a slightly festive house was really nice during the unexpected holiday.

So back to the pre-Christmas purge. Instead of bringing things back after Christmas I decided I didn’t miss most of the things so it was time to sell. I sold all the odds and ends to a local vintage shop for a cool $100, but what I really banked was karma, because since getting rid and paring down I have had more room for life-long wish-list items.

As you know Lo, I tinker, but I am working towards forever homes and placements for all of my things. I love refining, but I don’t t like rearranging. In the living room I am totally satisfied with our sofa, rug, large original art and bookshelves. I have one unsettled corner that has flirted with a variety of chairs, and for 1 month a year it is our Christmas tree spot, but I have been on the lookout for the perfect leather reading chair for YEARS.

And today I found it.

Behold the perfect leather club chair and ottoman. Best part the chair was only $35 and the ottoman $25. It is made by Hancock and Moore. A super lux/expensive brand, but it has a tear in the arm. I was able to patch it easily with some super glue and spare swatch under the seat cushion and willing to risk it for $60 total for the set. It is everything I ever wanted in a cushy chair and the price was beyond right. It was on the floor at the habitat restore (same place I scored the rug for $200 and the double bookshelf for $25) for less than an hour. I got it home just in time for the biggest snowstorm we have ever had in NC. We got a foot of snow! And this chair was the hottest seat in the house. Perfect for reading when our internet went out.

That corner of our house used to be cluttered with a toy basket full of oversized junk that didn’t fit into the playroom (ie the room dedicated to toys). We took that basket out to make way for the Christmas tree and the boys haven’t mentioned it at all. We also removed Calvin’s wingback monthly chair only because the cats were destroying it and that is something I need to last for yearly pictures (this is the only thing they claw—it must have particularly satisfying stuffing, because there are at least 10 other upholstered pieces that they don’t mess with).

So the moral of this long story, aside from patience, is tithing. I finally made a contribution in the universe of things for the random crap I didn’t really need and I was rewarded with the thing I always wanted. Life is funny like that. And I am grateful.


This year we are lucky enough to get to spend the holidays with Adam’s whole family. His youngest brother and family will be visiting from the west coast for a few weeks. As I was bringing my sister-in-law up to speed about how we celebrate Christmas here I realized that this is not a tradition-loving group. We have done some fun things in the past like White Elephant thrift store gifts exchanged through a game of spin the bottle, a goofy costumed family photo, a silent charity auction on Christmas morning, but after we do it once it seems to loose its luster.

This has been a struggle for me as a tradition lover. Once I find my way I would be happy repeating the exact same rituals each year. It is part of why I love Halloween. Each year we celebrate with the same friends, we eat the same meal, we trick or treat on the same route and view the pumpkins on the same bridge at the end of the night. It is a tradition that has been perfected and I hope it lasts for many years. I longed for Christmas to have the same certainty, but the family gathering traditions have not solidified. Realizing that this group likes to keep things fresh is going to help me manage my expectations this year.

Adam and I went to Iceland last year (still need to post about that…someday). Iceland is basically my spirit animal. So much yarn, so much beauty and so much book-loving. Iceland has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. When it gets cold people pretty much hibernate with books and crafts. And this year we decided to incorporate a bit of Iceland into our own holiday.

We are going to try Jolabokaflod the “Yule Book Flood.” On Christmas Eve each person is going to bring a wrapped book and each person will get a new book to take home and read until Santa comes. I love the idea of spending Christmas Eve reading and I think common texts help knit a group together. I know this is my one shot at this tradition and I am excited to give it a try this year.

We are still going to do something old (stockings), something new (books!) something borrowed (Jolbokaflod) and hopefully that means our Christmas won’t be blue.

City Mama, where do you fall on the tradition vs. novelty spectrum at the holidays?


I can’t believe it’s December. This year has been a whirlwind like no other. Eric and I were crying with laughter after dropping the kids off at daycare this morning. Instead of Christmas music, we heard Thriller on the radio and it felt way more appropriate to us (also, we still have some Halloween décor sprinkled about our Christmas decorations because that is how I roll these days).

Multiple times each day multiple people are talking to me at once. My phone is usually buzzing for some reason or another. And, our cat has developed an uncanny sense of meowing for attention right as I’m hitting my tipping point. To be fair, her odds are pretty good.

I’ve struggled with post-partum anxiety all year. Though my OB knows me well enough that she asked if it is really post-election anxiety. And I think the two have converged in a want-to-fix-the-world-for-everyone-but-definitely-for-these-kids-of-mine panic that I am having to really work to manage.

I remember after our second miscarriage telling you that, since we suspected something was wrong from the beginning, that I didn’t have to do the work I did the first time. Well, that was both naive and a lie. I had to do a ton of re-work figuring out how to not blame myself, to trust my body and to not hate people who look at their spouse and end up with a perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby. But we got there and Sean is the most amazing result.

That’s what this year has been. It’s been work. It’s been extra work at a time that I don’t really have time for extra work. I keep thinking I’m rounding the corner and something stupid happens to pull me back under. I’ve been pulling out some tactics from our periods of grief. Limiting social media. Cutting back a ton of external expectations. Keeping work at work. Etc. Etc. But truthfully, the stressors are just too fast and too loud. They’re still getting the better of me and I definitely still have work to do.

Recently this has meant that I have started my own version of Oprah-therapy listening to the Super Soul Sunday podcast on my way home from work. I’ve been trying to control what I can and am making our home more environmentally friendly and minimalistic (less things to manage is hopefully going to mean less stress). I’m trying to stop, savor and soak in these boys because oh my lord they are growing so fast. And, I’m trying to be heartened by the many friends I have who are of like-mind and values. Everyone is doing more, speaking out and coming to the table.

Knitting, writing, a good cup of tea and some candles.

Deep breaths. This is a wild time of year these next couple weeks but we can do it. Hope that you and the boys are having a magical holiday season.


This year was rough, but knitting saved me. Knitting can be a kind of meditation when you are anxious, and I was. So as Adam went through his roller coaster job search I kept knitting (and as compulsive/addictive habits go, knitting is a pretty good one). It means that I got my ornaments done early this year.

Each year I knit a new Christmas ornament as a keepsake for my kids, teacher gifts, and a homemade present for friends and family. I make about 35. (See previous ornaments here and here).

This year I made the pattern too. I saw this inspiration picture of cute little foxes on pinterest but the rabbit hole lead me back to a pattern I couldn’t decipher. I knit up a draft from the picture, but it didn’t really read as a fox until I curled it up.

Here is the pattern:

Fox Ornament

On small (5 or 6) double pointed needles

Cast on 3 sts in White

Row 1: Knit 3

Row 2: Knit fb, increase to 6 sts

Row 3: Knit 6

Row 4: Start orange Knit 6

Row 5: Purl back

Row 6: Kfb, k1 to end of row (9sts)

Row 7: Purl back

Row 8: Kfb, k1 to end of row (13sts)

Row 9: Purl back

Row 10: K1, kfb, k9, kfb, k1 (15 sts)

Row 11: Purl back

Row 12: K2tog 7, k1

Row 13: Pfb (16 sts)

Row 14: K

Row 15: P

Row 16: K

Row 17: P

Row 18: K

Row 19: P

Row 20: K

Row 21: P

Row 22: K

Row 23: P

Row 24: K

Row 25: P

Row 26: K1, K2tog to last st, k1 (11sts)

Row 27: P back

Row 28: K3, k2tog, k1, ssk, k3

Row 29: P back

Row 30: K2, k2tog, k1, ssk, k2

Row 31: P back

Row 32: K1, k2tog, k1, ssk, k1

Row 33: P2tog, k1, ssk, (3 sts)

Row 34: bind off by k3tog


Ears (make 2)

Cast on 5

Row 1: K5

Row 2: P5

Row 3: slip k psso, k1, k2tog

Row 4: P3tog

Fold body in half length wise and sew shut. Add  a small amount of stuffing 2/3 of the way through sewing shut. Sew on ears. Stitch on eyes and curl tail under and sew into position. Add loop for hanging.

I “splurged” on a $2 pink thrift store tree for my office (tour coming) and it is just big enough for all my knit ornaments.

Citymama are you doing any holiday knitting, crocheting or making?