You Blink and Then…She’s Five!

We’ve been celebrating Ellie’s birthday for days now, starting with our family birthday bash (5 birthdays in 3 weeks) at Yiayia’s house on Saturday.

063 (683x1024)wearing her new favorite accessory, the tiara from Yiayia!

031 (1024x1024)opening her birthday dress sewn by yours truly

071 (1024x683)For the second year in a row, I made a dual-personality cake, chocolate for the chocolate lovers, spiced carrot cake for the more sophisticated tastes (ha!). Which side would you have chosen?

Then, last night, we had her birthday dinner, joined by Pappou.  She chose blueberry buttermilk pancakes with bacon, for the 2nd year running.

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By tonight, her actual birthday, she was so exhausted she could barely eat dinner and so, we managed to blow out the candles, open one last little present, and we’ll eat her cake tomorrow.

142 (1024x683)that’s the 2nd layer, unused from Saturday’s cake extravaganza

150 (1024x683) 168 (1024x683)putting her “little skinny markers” (a birthday present from Grandpa) into the pouch I made her at 4:00 this afternoon in the hopes that they might be safe there from her little brother.  I’m not feeling too optimistic about that one!

It’s hard to believe that it was five years ago today that Ellie joined our family.  She amazes us every day with her insatiable drive to create (the way she consumes art supplies…), her perceptive comments about friends and family, her incredibly fertile imagination, and her dawning desire to write.  She fills our house with light, love, and energy and we can’t imagine life without her.

We love you so much Ellie! May God bless you and keep you and bring you peace in this coming year!

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Here’s Ellie’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthday posts.

Posted in Ellie, holidays | 1 Comment

Believe Me, It’s Worth Picking Up All The Paper (another screen free mesmerizing activity)

Recently, Mark has become obsessed, and I mean OBSESSED, with peeling things, particularly crayons and whole garlic cloves.  He peels the garlic while he sits on the counter next to me when I’m making dinner.  This is really useful on two fronts – I have peeled garlic to use and he’s not pestering his sister during the arsenic hour.

007 (800x533) 008 (800x533)nothing a broom can’t take care of!

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Even more useful to me, however, is his obsession with peeling crayons.  This has been going on for a couple weeks and we’ve almost run out of crayons to peel.  At this point, he’s even peeled all of our little bits of broken crayons that I’ve been saving to send in to a crayon recycling place (like this).  Not exaggerating, he’ll peel crayons for an hour straight, totally content.  He gave up napping a couple months ago and he spends quiet time in the office/playroom with me so that Ellie can have her own quiet time that’s actually peaceful.

026 (800x533) 027 (800x533) 032 (800x533)He can even peel while lying on his back!

Peeling crayons has been keeping me sane the past couple weeks.  So anyone – do you have any old crayons to donate to us for peeling? We’ll take them!

And, add “peeling things” to my list of screen-free mesmerizing tips for kids! Don’t forget about painting the house, washing shells, pouring water, cutting paper, and playing with potato peels!

Posted in Mark | Tagged , | 2 Comments

I LOVE All The Toddler Inter-Species Nursing That’s Going On Around Here!

Last Tuesday, we took an early morning walk (mainly to avoid the extreme heat).

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Bear and Joey (as in, kangaroo baby joey) came along and they needed a lot of nursing that morning.*

IMG_1263 (534x800)Sometimes, Mark asks to put on a shirt so he can nurse his animals! (They hang out under his shirt a lot.)

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Once I started interviewing them about their babies, it became clear that their babies were actually toddlers, and that Ellie and Marko have very clear opinions on how long babies should nurse! Hooray for extending nursing!

Ghee-Ghee is Ellie’s imaginary friend who Mark accepts without question. We only talk to Ghee-Ghee on the old rotary phone that’s on the wall outside the laundry room downstairs.  Too bad Ghee-Ghee also seems to like hitting Joey.


*I initially said “no” to their request to bring their stuffed animals along on their walk and then I thought, “Why am I saying no?” As it turned out, upon reflection, I was saying no automatically and without a good reason. So I changed my mind, cautioned them that only kids carried stuffed animals, not mamas, and we had a lovely walk.  Hooray for saying yes!

Posted in Ellie, Mark, movie, nursing | Leave a comment

First Day of Preschool, Irrational Sadness, and a Lonely Lunch (plus September Sewing)

Yesterday, Ellie, Marko, and I started attending our new preschool co-op, “Homemade Preschool”.  There are nine mamas, 12 kids, and it’s shaping up to be great Thursday mornings for the whole year.  The co-op is meeting in the house of my very first co-workers, back when I first moved to Baltimore in 2002.  Matt and Kedri were married but with no kids at that time, I was single, and now there are six kids in the mix (plus a husband for me!).  So it’s been pretty cool to see our lives come back together like this.

033 (800x800)with raincoats and rain boots because of yesterday’s torrential rains!

Anyway, yesterday was not my day to teach but Ellie had initially told me that she didn’t want to stay (because all the other kids are 2-4 and she’s almost 5).  Plus I was scheduled to get together with a friend of mine.  I wasn’t thinking that I’d have a free morning to myself, in other words.  But then, Ellie said she wanted to stay, Marko was totally fine (“Aren’t you sad about me leaving you in this strange house, even a little bit?!?!”), my friend had to cancel, and I found myself driving home, alone, in the quiet.

Great, you say, right? A whole free morning, ALL BY YOURSELF! Well, I found myself feeling inexplicably, irrationally sad the whole morning.  I did work super hard and get a sewing project completed (start to finish! amazing what I can complete without little bodies around to distract me) so that should have made me happy. But instead, I think I was just mourning the loss of our friends who moved to Cambodia. Up until now, it’s been easy enough to think “Oh, they’re just off on summer vacation. They’ll be back soon.” But now that school has started, all of a sudden, it’s real.  They’re gone, we’re at a strange preschool co-op that’s a 15-20 minute drive away instead of 5, there aren’t any kids Ellie’s age because they’re all in Pre-K or K and life feels just a bit off.

And, this is weird I know, but I also felt anxious and sad because they were going to eat lunch without me.  Neither Ellie or Marko have ever eaten lunch without a family member with them.  They’ve had lunch at Yiayia’s house before without us but never without family. Who will make sure they eat? Will someone open their containers? Who will take care of them? Don’t they need me to be with them, all the time, every day?

For the record, they were totally fine, they ate lunch exactly as they always do (Mark = all the sandwich, not much else, Ellie = not much sandwich but everything else), the other mamas are lovely and took care of them (of course), they had a fabulous time, and Marko evidently talked the most during the circle time weather discussion! (That’s my extroverted, chatty 2.667-year-old for you!)

After we got home, I asked Ellie, “Did you feel different eating lunch without Mama?” and she laughed and said, “NO!” as in, “What a silly question, Mama!”

So, I’m sitting with sadness about changes that are good too, with missing my dear friend Emily, with not knowing how the coming year will go in finding homeschooling friends for Ellie, and also with gratefulness that we’re able to be part of Homemade Preschool for this year of transition for us.


And yes, I finally made Marko his own backpack, thanks to the Labor Day long weekend.

028 (800x533)upon receiving the backpack I finally made for him, just in time for preschool!

I decided not to fight the “things that go” obsession (even though I do try hard not to sew super gender-stereotypical things for my kids) and so we have an all truck/car/plane backpack. Just like Ellie’s backpack, he has his initial on the front pocket and a car on the back (because it’s for taking things in the car).

031 (800x800) 034 (800x800)hard to see but I love the polka dots of his “M” – that fabric is from his quilt!

And, thanks to my sister-in-law Nikki giving me this adorable crib sheet, I had the perfect fabric to line it with (plus make the straps)!

030 (800x533) (2)What’s the first thing Marko put in his backpack? A truck of course.

Want to make your own lined drawstring backpack? Use my tutorial, like I did! :)

Posted in Ellie, Mark, parenting, reflecting, sewing | 2 Comments

Pass It On!

My friends in the band, Sojourne, are holding a “Pass It On Day” to help us remind each other in Baltimore, “of the love and generosity already on its streets.”

Here’s my video contribution!

Thanks, Marie!

Posted in friends, reflecting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Fair Results (and I “damn with faint praise” because I can’t help myself)

Here I am, reporting back on how I did at the state fair!  I earned one second place ribbon, three 3rd place ribbons, and an honorable mention for a total of $23 in prize money.

Specifically, Mark’s doll got 3rd place…

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…and his color book got second place.

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Ellie’s Easter dress got 3rd place…

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…and her doll dress received an honorable mention.

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Finally, my tote bag took 3rd place.  This year, there were a lot of nicely constructed bags entered in this category and I was frankly grateful to have gotten any ribbon at all. Clearly, I’m going to have to make a much more difficult bag to win next year!  The bags that took first and second were technically strong (there’s the faint praise) but wow, they hurt my eyes. The fabric choices were just hard to look at.  I suppose my bugs (which I LOVE) might creep other people out though, so each to her own, right?

IMG_1223 - Copy (800x600)I have to confess to being justifiably but perhaps a bit too annoyed with the fact that they displayed my tote bag with the back side out!  That patchwork panel with the cool bugs and the pinks/greens got buried! :(  It just looked like a boring easy tote bag that definitely didn’t deserve a ribbon.

All in all, five ribbons out of eight entries is pretty good, right?  Ellie’s ornament got a “participation” ribbon, which is more than I thought she might get!  And although I didn’t manage to take a picture of myself with any of my own entries, I did get a picture of my friend Sharla with her second place ribbon for canned tomato puree.  I feel proud of this myself because it was me who taught her how to water bath can years and years ago! :)

IMG_1229 (600x800)so excited about her first ribbon from her first year of entering the fair! :)

Posted in friends, sewing | Tagged | 2 Comments

I’m an Official State Fair Exhibitor, Times Eight! And So Is Ellie!

Our State Fair opened today and this year I entered eight items!

Last year, I won one blue ribbon and two reds and earned enough money to pay for our dinner.*  So I’ve decided that this is going to be my goal for every year – pay for our state fair trip with my state fair award money.

Here’s what I entered.

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So, if you’re going to the Maryland State Fair, make sure to go to the most interesting part of the fair (Home Arts, of course) and look for the dresses (all 3) in the “Clothing” section, the quilt and tote in the “Quilting” section, and the doll, color book, and Christmas lights in the “Crafts and Decorative Arts” section.

We won’t get there until Sunday afternoon so I’ll have to wait that long to see if I won a blue ribbon for my tote bag. When I was dropping off all my things on Monday, I saw another tote bag that certainly could contend with mine on strength of quilting and construction (although, I thought the fabric choices were ugly. Ha!) So I’m not quite as cocky confident as I was before but I’m still hopeful I’ll get some kind of ribbon for it.

And, finally, we decided to enter Ellie’s Christmas ornament as well.  So look for hers in the “Crafts and Decorative Arts” section too!

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*If you’re looking for a meal at the fair, make sure to go to the Maryland pavilion and have the lamb sandwich.  It’s local lamb and it is SO GOOD.  We look forward to eating it every year. It’s infinitely better than standard fair food!

Posted in Ellie, sewing | Tagged , | 2 Comments