Sunday, September 30, 2012

my good luck

a little while ago, i entered a giveaway on the super charming blog petite biet...and WON!  oh hell yes, my bonnet-loving day was MADE!  i've been obsessed with baby bonnets since before sho was born, but always had a really hard time finding one that was not 1) actually a hideous bucket hat or 2) covered in scratchy frills and ribbons.  the ones by urban baby bonnets are so lovely that i've seriously had a wistful eye on one ever since sho was a babe.  the giveaway instructions were to leave a comment with your favorite bonnet, so i did, even though the one i picked out was a limited-edition cold-weather bonnet and therefore more expensive than their regular bonnets.  when i won, ub2 explained that there had been a miscommunication and that actually, the winner would be sent a random bonnet, not the one they chose.  that's awright, i was still mad psyched about my unexpected bonnet bounty.  then...a few days later...a package in the mail arrived...(do you like this narrative suspense?) with the expensive bonnet that i'd picked out inside!  DUDE! (cool story, bro.)  i'm in love.  also cool, all bonnets are made in the usa by work-at-home mamas who are paid fairly for their work.  the prices aren't cheap, but when you think about what you're paying for -- really beautiful, one-of-a-kind items and workers paid fairly -- it feels like a good, ethical buy.  anyway, i just wanted to mention my luck and gratitude.  most amazing of all, sho loves it too!

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Friday, September 28, 2012

baby baby

ever since shosh was born, i've really tried to keep the amount of baby gear in our life down to a minimum.  this is partly out of financial necessity but mostly out of aesthetic necessity; i really didn't want our house to look like a plastic primary-colored explosion.  i've tried to keep the amount of stuff shoshanna has scaled down to some high-quality items and good art supplies, hoping that if she didn't have an entire floor of the house dedicated to plastic toys, she might be more likely to go outside and use her imagination to play.  (i was pretty heavily influenced by little house in the big woods during my pregnancy, specifically the ingalls girls' much-loved faceless doll made out of a cornhusk.  ah, those were the days.) anyway, i digress.
sho's been sleeping with a fan on in the background since last winter, in spite of my guilty feeling that probably having cold air blowing on you isn't the healthiest way to sleep.  it never occurred to me to buy a sleep sound machine until a week or so ago, when it started getting too cold to sleep with the fan on.  i used to nanny for a wealthy family who had a white noise machine in every room, and i think i just sort of subconsciously thought of them as a rich person's accessory or something?  who knows.  i peeped 'em out online, and ordered one with a projector on a whim.  whoa!  possibly the most fun twenty bucks i've ever spent?  sho calls it her "glowy machine" and has eagerly gone to bed and slept with it in her arms every single nap and bedtime since it arrived in the mail a couple days ago.  the projector is delightfully low-tech, with slowly circling images of jungle creatures or fish or sleepy planetary objects, and it also has the option of heartbeat (my favorite), ocean (sho's favorite), rain, white noise, and six lullabies.  this is starting to sound like a sponsored post, which it sure as heck isn't, so i'll shut up now.  but man, i do recommend this marvelous sleepytime accessory.  sleep machines: not just for rich folks, y'all!  you heard it here first.   

speaking of books that are fun to read when you have a baby on the way, i thought i'd share a few of my favorites.  reading has always been a huge part of my life, which is why it's strange i don't mention books here more often.  anyway, i have given or recommended all of these books to more friends than i can count, preggo or not.  and as a bonus, most can be found used on amazon for a few dollars!  (it's pretty much my favorite pasttime to send cheap used books to friends who might like them.)

waiting for birdy by catherine newman.  this was one of my favorites even before i had a kiddo on the way, a  funny, kind, slightly neurotic memoir of the pregnancy and new baby days of catherine newman, who blogs here.  i wish she had more books, because i would read them all.

operating instructions by anne lamott.  man, i love anne lamott, especially her fiction.  this is raw and honest and so funny, it's the kind of book that makes you feel less alone in your craziness.  she has a new book out, some assembly required, written with her son about the first year of his son's life.  i can't wait to check it out.

the blue jay's dance by louise erdrich.  my friend ash sent this to me along with some plantain salve and mother's milk tea when sho was born, and i read most of it aloud to my week-old girl as i nursed her endlessly in those dreamy and exhausting new-baby days.  it's beautifully written, a perfect antidote to the newborn days when you start to fear your brain might turn into a milky and exhausted puddle of mush.

our babies, ourselves by meredith small.  as someone who loves anthropology and sociology, this book was fascinating to me, and many of the things i learned from it have stuck with me and impacted how i've raised sho.  it's just a really interesting look at the way different cultures raise their babies, and how the traditional american way is just one tiny part of the many, many different ways to have a baby in this world.  man: i want to read this book again!

spiritual midwifery by ina mae gaskin.  probably the most famous book on natural childbirth, written in the 1970's and hippied out to the max.  a lot of the ideas in this book about childbirth -- to view pain as something to work with, not fight against, for example -- have helped me in many areas of my life beyond giving birth.

whew!  this was a long post.  if you're still here, thanks for stickin' around.  and if you have any books that were essential reading during your own baby days, please feel free to share in the comments!  i pretty much love reading about babies, any day o' the week.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

out on the town (sorta)

we did another art fair yesterday at the old dog tavern in kalamazoo.  i met some of my best friends there, in high school and back when it was the kraftbrau, at this impromptu comedy night i used to go to.  it's been years since i've been there and it was pretty great to see that the place is still going strong, ridiculously potholed parking lot and all.  there's something so kalamazoo about that spot, with its crooked different-sized doors, scarred wood floors and random nooks and crannies, and years and years worth of paint and photographs layering the walls.  the building is really narrow and right next to the train tracks, so when a train thunders past, the entire building rattles and you have to yell to be heard above the roaring whistle.  it's the kind of place that made me finally fall in love with the midwest, hard.  

the setup yesterday was outside, along this brick walkway with a big garden on one side and the curving railroad tracks on the other.  sho joined us for a few hours, then my mom came by to pick her up and put her to bed.  it was one of only a handful of times that i've been out after sho's bedtime since becoming a single mama, and it was really fun, especially once it got dark and only the yellow glow of lanterns lit the little avenue.  i was just talking with my counselor (oh yeah i got one!  i kinda think everyone should) about how isolating it is to have a young one and have to stay home with her every single night.  i've been a hardcore homebody for the past year, and i think it's time to start breaking out of that a little.  so, last night was a good start.  and a lot more profitable than our last festival, too!  i bought a few little gifts for people, including the amazing monster below for sho-girl.  (the etsy shop of the woman who made it is here, no monsters up but i know she has some really amazing ones of all sizes and fabriques available.)  its mouth is a deep pocket and the ears, tongue, and fingers are filled with these little pebbly things that are rather nice to fondle.  and it doubles as a pillow (with pocket) which is pretty much sho's jam.  we'll see if i can hold off until christmas to give it to her...        

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Monday, September 24, 2012

long-sleeved gratitude

 one of the many fun parts about having a little one is that they're always growing.  so with each change of season, you get to totally reinvent their wardrobe!  for some reason, fall snuck up on me a bit this year (probably because i started to believe that summer would nevvvvverr enddd) and so all of a sudden there i was, staring vacantly into sho's closet for long minutes at a time, wondering what to clothe this little dumpling of mine in, exactly.

that's where my mom came in.  over the past week we've hit nearly every thrift store and consignment shop in town (total exaggeration), and wham bam!  sho's closet is pretty much stocked and ready for winter, thank you ma'am.  in this and so many other ways, my mom is my partner when it comes to raising shoshi.  she is the one i talk to about the sleep book i just read, or glance over to smile with when sho is being funny or straight-up maddening.  she is the one who changes more of her dirty diapers than anyone else, who gets up with her in the morning and gives her a kiss before bed.  she is the one i can count on to help me fill sho's closet with warm clothes.  i am so grateful, for her and for all the other people who help raise this little girl of ours.  between my mom and dad, shoshi's other grandparents, all my friends (sho's many loving aunties) and extended family, and her papa, we are both just so lucky.

p.s. i just learned that the stats on top baby blogs have been reset, so your vote is real appreciated!  thanks so much for reading, it really does mean a lot.

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congratulations to the booty balm giveaway winners, mean green mom and jennifer!
your winnings will be on their way to you very soon...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

harvest fest

the best way to describe harvest fest for us this year is that it suffered from a bit of christmas syndrome. we looked forward to it so long, and worked so hard in preparation for it, that even a lovely fall day filled with oxen and old friends and $5 malaysian food for breakfast just somehow fell a little short. out of all the festivals we're doing this year, this one isn't very "shopping" oriented. we had a lot of people say they loved our stuff, but didn't bring any money along; we sold a lot of little $5 hair clips and $3 lip balms. most of the time, i think the phrase "in this economy," is the most boring and lame thing ever, but especially in michigan where the economy is particularly bad right now, you sometimes really do feel it.  it can get discouraging for sure.

still, it was a good day.  we're pretty much set for all our upcoming fairs and festivals, which feels awesome.  sho and i rode on a horse-drawn wagon, and her little buddy zaiyanna taught her some spanish names for various farm animals, which she is still saying days later.  caballo! vacas!  (after much searching, yesterday i called the closest thing i could find to a toddler spanish language class in our area and begged them to take shoshi, even though she's a year too young.  still waiting to hear the verdict...)  we also did some hula-hoopin' and sho acquired some pink whiskers, which i think would be her ideal everyday face if possible.  

it was a bit strange, because last year's harvest fest was one of the last things we did together as a family, and i remember everything about that day so clearly.  neesy and i were marveling at how shocked our year-ago selves would be, had they known what our lives would be like a year later.  it's been an incredibly hard year, but we've come out so happily on the other side, finally.  which reminds me, reader question time!  i've been reading a ton of bedtime stories to sho lately, and it makes me wince how many freakin' stories feature regular families with a mom and a dad.  do y'all know of any good picture books with single-mom type families?  i know it's not like sho's never going to notice that she doesn't have a regular family, but all this endless talk about papas just feels a bit painful (to me, anyway).  i'll write a post about my favorites after doing some research on this one, for all you single-mama bedtime story readers out there...
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(top photo by our neesy, second photo by her step-dad!)

p.s. we were so excited to be featured in the lovely UK blog tigerlily quinn the other day!  it was such a fun thrill to see our work roaming the streets of london.  fritha and her little family are the total sweetest; i always enjoy taking a peek into their lives across the sea.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

behind the scenes

one of my favorite parts of this little business of ours is all the design work, the packaging and presentation of all our odds and ends.  my dream job (besides working with books & people) would be doing this all day, running back and forth between the xerox machine and my bottle of rubber cement and the paper cutter.  punching paper circles, knotting thread onto safety pins, choosing the wording of signs and the size of their borders, coordinating colors and the spacing of the letters being stamped and printed...the list is pretty much as never-ending as you want it to be.  it's the pleasure of doing something that comes naturally to you, i think.  the pieces slide magically into place, your hands doing the work right alongside your brain figuring it out.

things got a little crazy toward the end, tying up all the dozens of loose ends before our sunday morning festival deadline, but i'm kind of a last-minute girl so it was pretty fun.  sara and vanessa and i spent one evening glued to our rubber cement bottles, affixing all the labels onto our body products as shoshi hollered out answers to one of those interactive kids' tv shows.  ("some dinosaurs were small, and some dinosaurs were...."  sho: "TINY!"  "that's right, big!  and some dinosaurs had long..."  sho: "EARS!"  "that's right, tails!")  the night before the big event, my mom helped tie and loop so many of those tags late into the night; she really is the best mama ever.

i'll share some photos of the festival itself tomorrow!

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Friday, September 14, 2012

sew vs. consume

for the most part, i am content with the things i have.  i've found that the best accessory for anyone with an income like mine is a sense of satisfaction with the non-material aspects of life; otherwise you will go crazy with wanting.

that said, the second most important accessory for the broke is a sewing machine.  because as thankful as i am that my teensy budget precludes me from getting too materialistic, i also love clothes, and styling things in interesting ways, and playing around with colors and textures, especially for kiddos.  i'm not gonna lie, sometimes i do dream about being able to buy more of the fabulous fashions i see and am inspired by.  it is a real struggle for me at times not to get caught up in the consumption and materialism of our culture.

i recently stumbled across these pants, and i was instantly smitten.  they'd be so cozy and awesome for shoshi all winter long!  this is embarrassing, but i actually spent a couple of days feeling all bummed out that i couldn't afford a seventy dollar pair of sweatpants for my kid.  (honestly, my budget would cringe a little at a pair of toddler sweatpants one-tenth of that price.)  then i got pissed.  how is it okay to charge that much for a pair of toddler pants?  more importantly, how is it okay for me to wish i could pay that much for a pair of toddler pants?

so i decided to make my own.  i got out some fabric last night that i'd thrifted and been saving since last winter, and busted out a pair in less than an hour.  (in the midst of this whirlwind of festival preparations, no less!  talk about crazypants.)  everything but the elastic was thrifted, total cost about $3.  and they turned out awesome: so warm and cozy, so rad.  i actually like them a lot better than the original apple-pants of my eye, and best of all, i didn't have to buy into the consumption machine that is churning ever-so-seductively all around us, all the time.  another win for sewing!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

festival season + giveaway!

oh man guys, i'm sorry it's been so long since i've posted!  although, i always laugh when other blogs write that.  do you really think i've been twiddling my thumbs, wondering where the hell you ARE?!  WHERE?! (naw.)  anyway.  it has been a madhouse in my brain and in my sewing lair, getting our table ready for the first festival of the year, this sunday!  slangin' things we've sewn, ohhh i really love it.  i love seeing people's reactions to the things we've made, and meeting the kids who'll be wearing our capes and cuddling our monsters, especially when they get to pick them out themselves.  sitting with neesy in the crisp fall air, trading off sho-wrangling duties, running up to the gorilla gourmet truck for tacos, showing shoshi the oxen and beehives (at this particular festival), listening to music, checking out the other stalls (this time around, i'm buying that leeetle woven basket for shoshi that i hestitated too long over last year!).  i love setting up our table, hanging our pennants, and especially all the behind-the-scenes stamping, xeroxing, cutting, gluing, hole-punching, threading and pinning that goes along with the "marketing" aspect of our little biz.  i might love that side of it even more than the sewing, to be honest.  over the next few days (if i can wedge the time into my self-imposed schedule-o-madness that exists only in my head), i'll be sharing some photos of all the work that goes into preparing a little table of goods at a local art festival.

in the meantime, i'd like to give away a couple tins of baby booty balm that we made last week!  this stuff is amazing, made from beeswax and olive oil infused with comfrey leaves, calendula, lavendar, and elder flowers.  that's it.  it's really not exclusively for baby bums at all, i infused healing herbs in the oil so it'd also be good for scrapes and burns or just plain ol' dry skin.  shoshi's sweet friend keira came over last weekend, with her mama krystin and new baby brother in tow, and the girls helped me mix together all the dried herbs.  it's a good toddler project if you're not averse to a mess, and a good way to teach little ones about one of the many uses for the plants they see outdoors.

side note, when i was pregnant with sho, we took a six-week long natural childbirth class with about ten other families.  crazily enough, all the families have stayed in touch, and shoshi and i get together with a kiddo or two from the bunch every month or so.  keira is one of those kids, whom i've known since before birth!  since i have very few other mama friends living nearby, i have been thankful to have these other new mothers to hang out with from time to time.  our personalities and ways of raising our children vary wildly -- really, the only thing unifying us are the babies we all had within a couple months of each other.  but somehow, the differences are really lovely more than anything, an interesting peek into just how many ways there are to raise a tiny human, even within one culture that is itself a mere fraction of all the other ways there are to have babies in this world of ours.  (if you're interested in that sort of thing, the documentary "babies" is really fascinating.)

krystin's parenting style is really similar to my own, so she's pretty much one of the few people i can talk to (without feeling like i'm boring their pants off, and besides my mom, whom i talk to about every last possible aspect of child rearing on the daily) about potty training, breastfeeding a toddler, and the hallowed secrets of getting a kid to sleep without also putting yourself to sleep.

anyway!  to enter this humble little giveaway, just leave a comment with your email address below.  i'll choose two winners via next thursday, september 20th.  and as always, thanks so much for reading (and voting)!

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

the first day of fall

ever since i was little, i have taken note of the first day of each season.  not according to the calendar (march 20th, for example, generally still feels like deep, howling winter in michigan), but according to how it feels in your bones.  this morning when sho and i took my mom's dog for a walk, the nip in the air made me feel like galloping down the street.  blasted eternal summer, you have met thine match!  fall is in the air, finally.

to add to the delicious crispness and feel of autumn in the air, my dad emptied out the pool today to get it ready for winter (when it will be covered with a hideous grey tarp for eight months).  this is a total fall event, which my little brother and i always celebrated by racing boats and twigs in the water that was pumped out of the pool and down the street.  sho experienced this tradition for the first time today, another strange sharing a childhood home with your child moment.

to cap it all off, shoshanna wore her first pair of cool-weather jammies to bed tonight, which i had to commemorate with a picture.  while i was taking said picture, someone set off a firecracker a block over, and i took about ten photos of her extremely dramatic and drawn-out reaction, full of arched eyebrows and gasping and shocked pointing.  my mom and i kept looking at them afterward, oh man so funny.  i don't know where that girl gets her dramatic streak (oh wait, i know exactly where), but man it's a treat to behold.  (except when it's not.)

welcome, fall!  you've always been my favorite.

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