Acceptable Accessible

Let me start with a little disclaimer: this might be totally obvious, but it took me 4 years to figure out and when I finally did it was such an “ah-ha “that I just had to share.

I am taming the mess of our playroom with tape.

That’s it.

Ok. There is a little more to it than that.

I try really hard to create accessible play areas for the kids. I have learned that they play independently if they can just go over and pick up what ever they want to play with. Our storage is open and most toys are within reach for the boys. In fact, I blogged about the fact that having an easy-to-access dedicated art space changed the way the kids played.

Lately I have noticed that EVERYTHING is just getting dumped out on the floor. It seems to be Cal’s preferred method of play. That is fine when it is a toy he can actually play with (like ALL the dinosaurs). But when it is a game above his ability he just dumps all the pieces out and moves on to the next thing he can turn over. He is especially fond of dumping out all of the board games and puzzles.


I got tired of picking them up and sorting them daily, and then it occurred to me that I could just tape the boxes shut. The kids can still grab a game if that is what they want to play and all they have to do it ask for it to be opened. So it is still accessible without all of the collateral mess.

So far this new plan is working out great. I only wish I had thought of it sooner. So I realize this isn’t rocket science, but it is making my day-to-day life so much easier. I thought it worth sharing the simple tip in case someone else can be spared the “disaster dump” stage of play.

Fill My Cup

One of the most important things I learned in 2015 was how to be selfish. And that being selfish was the key to being a good mom.

Parenting is draining. I learned the hard way that you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Parenting really chewed me up and consumed me in my first year as a mom. By the time Ellis was 14 months old I was deeply unhappy and really questioning if I wanted to be exclusively defined by my role as a mother. I had become a mother, but I had totally lost myself.

By the end of the day all I wanted to do was zone out and have a few hours alone to do nothing. Unfortunately doing nothing (or binge watching TV and drinking wine) doesn’t really recharge me, so I still felt just as depleted and I had lost a few more hours to a mindless show (I’m looking at you Say Yes to The Dress). But I finally figured out that I can’t recharge by checking out. Lesson learned.

I started to reclaim bits of myself in the smallest way at first. My whole wardrobe had been overtaken to service children. From my stretchy nursing tops to the flats of my now practical shoes, I didn’t even look like myself. I was dressed for mom success, but wasn’t sure I was still under there. I decided early on to never wear toy/teething jewelry. I didn’t want my kids to think they could just chew on my necklace or pull on my bracelets. That little small choice represented a big shift in the way I thought about being a mom. It was ok to say “no you can’t play with that.” It was necessary to have a few things that were just mine.

Just wearing jewelry didn’t transform my life, but it was the start. The real push to change came with our second baby. You might think that more kids mean less time, but I found the opposite to be true. When it was only Ellis it was easy to focus solely on him. Adding Calvin demanded that we divide our focus and in that division I remembered to save a slice of time for me this time around too.

Sure most of our daily activity is for the kids. They have story times and playgroups and school. We watch their shows, eat their food, and speak their language. But for one hour twice a week I drop Ellis off at school, and Calvin off in the nursery and I go to the gym. Which is just time for me. I joked on the blog about joining a gym when Adam started his new job, but I actually did it and it has made all the difference.

I should be clear that I don’t love working out. I am much happier sitting on the couch knitting or reading (or let’s be real, watching reality tv; don’t worry RuPaul’s Drag Race, I will never forsake you. You are the best thing on TV). But I do love the gym because it forces me to get away from the kids, which I need. Until coffee shops open up complimentary playrooms I am stuck with the gym. It keeps me from wasting my alone time (which is my pitfall) and it isn’t a social suck (I don’t know anyone there so I don’t have to socialize at all which is important for maintaining “me time.”) So I am three months into my gym experiment and I am willing to call it a success.

Most people turn to gyms this time of year to improve their bodies. I go there for fix my soul, and for me it seems to be working. My waist might be shrinking, but my sense of self is finally growing back.

PS City Mama how are you filling your cup these days? I know you were listening to podcasts when you were commuting, but now that you don’t have a commute what do you do for you?

The other shoe

We are sneaking around the corner on two. And, I’ve been reflecting lately, on how much easier this year was than last year. But, I’m holding my breath and waiting to see those signs of terrible two appear.
IMG_4526Luke has been a delight lately. Sure, there’s whining. And sometimes he gets too excited and plays too rough. But he listens when we ask him to stop. He sulks when he gets a correction and (so far) talking to him has been about the extent of what he needs to stop something that isn’t appropriate.
He’s full of new words surprising us each day with some new insight. Whether it’s counting, the alphabet, a song or animal sounds, he’s picked up something each day that never ceases to make me laugh. He wants to be included in everything and desperately wants to help.
IMG_4578Just recently, he started saying “Love you too” which melts my heart every time I hear it even when it isn’t at me. But I’m wistful that he has moved on from his iconic reply of simply whispering “Too.” At night, he now knocks on the door to our apartment and waits for Eric to answer. I’m not sure where he ever saw us do that. He’s taken to hiding himself under piles of pillows and jumping out with glee
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, we went through a period of biting this fall. It seemed like on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, we were picking Luke up at day care with reports of him snacking on his classmates. After a brief meeting with the owner of the daycare, we agreed on a course of action that put an end to it pretty quickly.
I’m dancing the line of enjoying his growth so that we can continue doing new things together and taking him on new adventures but wanting him to stay small and able to fit in my arms. I love that he can climb up the slide at the playground without help and we know that he’s cautious enough to handle himself on the way down. But I miss him making little baby coos as much as I love hearing his big-boy laugh.
I am finding myself dreading two and the temper-tantrums I’m told will come with it. That my happy-go-lucky kid who is usually happier to watch the other kids at the park than jump into the fray himself will become a wailing stomping whining mess. I’m actually dreading potty training because I’m too impatient to spend that much time waiting for him in the bathroom and I’m traveling so much I’m wondering if he’ll revert.
IMG_4581Overall, I’m grateful that there are enough annoying things about each age that make me want to move on with it and enough milestones ahead to look forward too. Otherwise I’m sure to be that mom in the bleachers during graduation, blubber about where here baby went…oh who am I kidding. Start collecting the tissues now!
P.S. Because you asked about my yarn haul I had to share. It was certainly not the deal you nabbed but, it’s enough yarn that with some major life purchases on the horizon, I know I won’t be running short even without any acquisitions.
Mannings is a farm in the area that was teaching weaving, spinning and I think dyeing, long before knitting hit its latest pop-culture spur. I’ve been one or two other times in the last decade of stitching myself, grabbing some local yarns that are great staples. So, when I heard they were going out of business I was sad that an independent group wasn’t able to keep their doors open. Especially on the heels of learning that my two local yarn stores in LA shut their doors this year. As holiday luck and toddler nap schedules would have it, my mom and I were able to coordinate a quick trip over to Mannings before they boarded up for good. Luke took skeins of Debbie Bliss off the shelves. While I did damage to just about everything else.
Go figure, the first project I popped on the needles when I got home was with a yarn that my mom and I picked up during one of her visits to LA when I was pregnant with Luke. I guess like a fine wine, my yarn needs to age in the stash for a bit before I can decide what to do with it.

Yarn Score

So you know I am NOT a yarn snob. In fact, I usually can’t even figure out what to do with fancy yarn. I mostly just knit with Caron Simply Soft, because it is soft and it comes in a million colors and doesn’t have dye lots so I don’t have to deal with the anxiety of buying enough at once to complete a project.

But I couldn’t leave all of this fancy yarn at the thrift store.


Most skeins were $1! Even though they were originally marked from $18.50- $36 a piece. I walked away with 12 skeins for $17. Adding up the original tags it is $250 worth of yarn. There are merino wool, alpaca, and silk blends. All off it is sock weight, which I never knit with. So what should I knit? I could make socks I guess, but what else???

I showed my windfall to Adam and he called it the “linguine of yarn” which I guess is his weird way of acknowledging the fanciness. I also saw him sniffing the skein named “botanical.” He is clearly not the yarn expert in the family even next to a non-yarn snob like myself.

City Mama, what did you add to your stash when you were home? I saw you had to ship some yarn home.

Four Galore

Ellis turned four this week! I can’t believe he is four. Last year it felt like he went to sleep a two year old and woke up a threenager on his birthday. This year the shift to four has been equally dramatic, but in the best way possible. Four year olds are lovey and inquisitive and curious and can carry a conversation. I think four might be my favorite year yet. At the very least I am happy to be saying so long to three…


To celebrate the birthday boy we had a creature party. We have been repeating the same party for the past three years, where we just load up the yard with vehicles (mowers, golf carts, trucks, a bobcat and a tractor.) For years Ellis loved that so we just kept doing the same thing, but this year his interests shifted to animals, so we changed gears to a critter party.

In keeping with the idea that anticipation increases joy, we started preparing for the party together about a week before all his friends arrived for the big day. Throwing a birthday party is the stay-at-home mom equivalent of a board meeting, but involving Ellis in as much of the planning as possible really made it more fun for both of us this year. Here is a short list of the things we did together to extend the birthday fun:

  • A special trip to the balloon store to pick out birthday balloons


  • Made necklace party favor for all of his friends


  • A grocery store trip (without little brother) to pick out snacks for the party (carrot “tiger tails”, grape “cheetah spots” and bugle “claws” were the highlights for me)


  • Baked and decorated birthday cupcakes together











  •                                                                                                                                                                                                            Made tiny party hats for the animals



  • Hung up pictures of his year in review


  •   Completed the milestone activities we do yearly (traced his hand, and did his birthday interview, and took his picture in his green chair)


That prep made for a great party. We didn’t have any structured games. Kids played in the backyard on the swing set and the sandbox. And we still did a tractor hayride, because it is a tradition at this point. It was a great way to ring in four.



Crafty Cali Christmas

We had a crafty Christmas here in Cali too. Now that presents have been dispersed, I’m happy to share.

IMG_4327First, we had an extra special package of family Christmas crafts arrived on our door. Years ago, when my mom had the first little ones in her house, she created a felt animal barnyard ornament set. I remember it adorning our tree many years during my childhood when we’d decorate and redecorate as we saw fit. Now that her kids are grown, my mom has passed this along the line of grandchildren visiting each of our homes when the kids are big enough to get into trouble but not quite big enough to really understand why they can’t touch the tree. Luke and I had fun unwrapping each animal and practicing the sounds. Of course it would figure that he was a dream around the tree and barely bothered it. He put some legos inside on a few occasions but really just wanted to look at the lights.

IMG_4163Next up, is one of my favorite half hour projects ever. By now, everyone has seen the felt Christmas tree for toddlers on Pinterest but it seemed like a great thing to try. Less the $5 of felt from JoAnns and a small assist from Eric to draw the tree and we were in business. I used our Christmas cookie cutters to make the shapes I had several more drawn up but it seemed to be overkill with that many. Luke liked this craft but mostly just liked taking off all the ornaments and throwing them about the floor.

The final two were fiber projects that I’ve been busy working away on.

IMG_4285The first one you’re familiar with: A knit baby blanket that you saw when I was visiting in October. I know you’ve been sweating it this whole time too but I did have enough yarn for a stroller size blanket and a 2 inch edging. I even had yarn leftover. The knitting gods were on my side with that one.

The second one was actually a crochet project. I really believe there is great applications for both knitting and crochet even though I most often knit. This project was one that solidly belongs in the crochet camp. When I saw the mermaid blankets making the rounds on social media, I knew that our four-year-old niece needed to have one. The first week of November I ventured out to pick up the yarn. When I mentioned the project to Eric, he said “Do we have time?” and it made my smile because it’s really true with all the things we have going on how a project with a deadline can affect our whole household. But,  figured it was worth a shot. I stayed up late the night before we flew to PA doing the last rounds of the body. One of our first nights home, I seemed everything. And another night was for weaving in ends and attaching the fin.

All in all, I’d say the blanket was a hit. On Christmas day I got a text from my sister-in-law that said Jovie asked “Can I use my blanket, my feet are cold…now I’m a mermaid!!!!” definitely time well spent and worth the work that goes into making a crafty holiday. IMG_4400

I love crafting but it goes to a whole different level during the holidays. Especially now, I think anyone can get a gift card or a nice bottle of wine so doing something handmade with a personal twist means even more to me than ever. Here’s to many more city/country Christmases in the future!