Category Archives: mothering & family

It's not hard to take action – please do

Have you heard about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (i.e. CPSIA)? It’s a piece of legislation initially prompted by all the problems with lead in toys over the past couple of years. The motives behind it are good, I think, but unfortunately the execution and wording of it is beyond ludicrous. Here is an excellent article in Forbes that summarizes the situation – go read it.

It would be awfully nice if people could think through potential consequences before passing a law. There’s definitely a reason that there’s a site called National Bankruptcy Day on this topic. It’s not just toys – it’s ANY product made for children under 12. Not to mention other unintended reprecussions: What about thrift and secondhand stores? As it stands they would be held liable for everything sell. Sure, maybe you don’t want to buy certain older toys secondhand anyway, but we’re also talking about all clothing, coats, shoes, etc. According to the law as it stands, it should all be thrown in the landfill, and we should all be forced to buy everything new. What about libraries? All those dangerous books for kids that haven’t been tested for lead!

I’m a mom. I was certainly disturbed, to say the least, by the lead in toys (mainly from China). One of my personal solutions to that was to buy mostly hand- or locally-made toys for my kids this Christmas, for example. To cut back on plastics and go for natural materials instead. However, my four year old son LOVES superheroes, which means I’m not entirely turning my back on toys made by big companies (which means made in China). So of course I want to be able to know that they’re safe.

BUT SURELY I CAN HAVE THAT ASSURANCE WITHOUT IT DRIVING SMALL TOY COMPANIES AND LOCAL CRAFTERS OUT OF BUSINESS. After all, I have friends (in real life, even, and more on the internet) who sell children’s products both online and off, who will be devestated by this law as it currently stands. I myself would like to eventually sell some toys on etsy and don’t want to have to commit a FELONY to do it. I believe the two things – keeping our kids safe and supporting small, often local, businesses – do NOT have to be mutually exclusive.

They can do better. And if they can’t, well, someone else should be doing it.

The CPSIA was supposed to go into effect on February 10th. I am happy to report that it has been postponed for another year, during which time we can hopefully FIX it (or else start all over, for crying out loud). But now that we have time to effect change, that is exactly when we need to push harder.

The Handmade Toy Alliance site has a page on how you can help with very convenient links for contacting your Congressperson and Senators. PLEASE go there, I promise it doesn’t take long, and tell them that they can do better on this.

Relevant links all in one spot (plus my sidebar button):


Review: Pregnancy Journal

Let me preface this by saying that NO, this is not an underhanded announcement thing. Not yet anyway.

The Pregnancy Journal: a Day-to-Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy. By A. Christine Harris. (A review for MotherTalk.)

The Pregnancy Journal – definitely more than just a blank bound book. (Not that I have a problem with those. Except possibly in the needing-a-12-step-program sense. I think I’m in number 38 now… I’ll check that and get back with you.) For some more general reviews I would send you to StorkNet which has nice excerpt-y-ness, or maybe the Amazon page (see the link in the title of the book above). Or my Mothertalk confederates. Here, I’ll just give you my brief personal reactions.

Love the fact that it has a spiral binding. That says to me that it’s really meant to be written in. The paper is rather slick, so you’d probably have to experiment with types of pens, to find one that would work best. But it’s also sturdy paper (and cover) and seems like it’ll last.

There’s not probably really enough writing space for me personally, as I do tend to blather on. But good for someone more inclined to just keep short notes, or for writing notes to expand on elsewhere – and anything that gets people journaling and writing about their lives for their kids is a great thing in my book.

Much of the book is tidbits of info – particularly descriptions of your baby at this stage, on this day, as well as tips, interesting historical and cultural facts about pregnancy and childbirth, and so on. Some of it strikes me as overly clinical – but no more so than the “What to Expect” type books. Educational; and I remember craving that sort of thing, especially during my first pregnancy. Though that said, I think this would be appropriate for not-first pregnancies as well, much more so than some stuff out there (have you looked at those magazines and all? definite target audience there and it sure wasn’t me in my second pregnancy…).

All in all – I’m not sure I would pick it out for myself (I’d be more likely to talk myself out of it in favor of a novel at the bookstore) but if I received it as a gift I’d probably be delighted. Some of the questions and prompts are particularly good.

Now I just have to decide whether to send this to my friend who is pregnant – or save it for myself….

that jolly Hans and his stories for children!

For you, and apropos of nothing but coolness, a brief post on the Little Mermaid.


a new thanks giving tradition

This is in response to Opinion Saturday over at Owlhaven. I’ll definitely have to write more about traditions later.

The short version: read this article by Orson Scott Card. The idea is to take some time on Thanksgiving to write a letter expressing gratitude, not just a general “thanks for everything!” but specific things, events, people, reasons. Ah, the magic of detail.

My grandparents came to visit us recently. In anticipation, I finished the last bits on their album that I’ve been working on for most of this year. (Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the rest of the pages, like a dork. Bah!) Part of the finishing was writing a letter for each of them to take out and read. I have in the past written a poem for them, particularly for my grandma, which meant a lot to her. (And, unexpectedly, I got some video of her reading it aloud. Wonderful.)

Even just the writing of it was so meaningful. It really made me stop and consider, and appreciate. My grandparents have been a steady presence, incredibly precious, in my life — I’ve always known that — but now I can say a little better why, and how.

This Thanksgiving I want our family to write a similar letter, together, giving thanks. For and to family, friends, and a loving Father in heaven.

scrapbooking for the obligated, part 1

I’m currently transferring video files over to our new external hard drive, and boy does it slow the computer down to try to move 50-some gigs at once. But that’s a cake walk compared to the ridiculousness that is trying to move files within the organizer of Photoshop Elements 3.0. Now I love the PSE Organizer, don’t get me wrong, I would be so. very. lost. without it. See here?

Photo Count, 11/2006Even taking into account that about 2000 of that is digital scrapbooking element files (digi paper, etc), and probably 200 of it is otherwise miscellaneous (some video files and such), even still that leaves roughly 10,000 photos. Eep. In September? When I got my beloved new camera? I took 2000 pictures. Mmhm. Yeah, I think I need to learn to cull more. (Why do we need an extra 300 gigs of hard drive, you ask? Well, actually it’s most because of digital home video, but yes, the photos play their part….)

Regardless I would certainly be up that proverbial creek without the PSE Organizer and it’s lovely, lovely tag and collection system. But I may have to upgrade soon from 3.0, if only because the stupid thing really has some issues with moving files — like not being able to move a folder full at a time, no, no, only individual ones. And otherwise giving me crap, like having no way to easily rename or change your folder system. Surely the newer versions must have fixed this problem? Eventually I will find out… but not until I can buy some more RAM too.

Ahem. Back to the intended topic. Scrapbooking, and this entry by Jessica over at Kerflop. So much of what I have to say has, no doubt, been said before… but since when have I let that stop me?

Let me preface the following by saying: my house (and life at times) is sometimes a total disaster, so I’m not trying to come off as some super-scrapper. (The very thought! It is to laugh.) But scrapbooking is something I care very much about, am very into. I get very protective even of the photos of total strangers, go figure.

ANYWAY, Jessica’s system she talks about is fabulous. I want to teach a class for my local church women’s organization entitled “Scrapbooking for the Obligated,” for those who want to do something with their photos, or feel they should, but have no clue what. It would involve edumacation about preservation (acid free, etc), and go from there.

I love scrapbooking, but I think, particularly for beginners, the current state of the SB industry is (to say the least) overwhelming. Some obviously fall in love with it all, but I think your average, busy, semi-perfectionist just comes away from looking at a magazine, peeking into a store, or even visiting the scrap section of a big craft store with some trouble breathing. And no idea where to begin. How to get “caught up,” whatever that means exactly.

Some, like Stacy Julian over at Simple Scrapbooks, consider the very notion of being “caught up” overrated, if not impossible. Which is probably true, at least if you think you have to “scrap” every single photo you have. Granted, it is important to consider WHY you want to scrapbook (or do whatever with your photos). For some, it is primarily a creative outlet, and that’s certainly fine. But here I’m addressing more the family history aspect.

I think it’s not a bad idea to at least consider the old notion of scrapbooking. Ever seen an old-style scrapbook? Plain black pages with photos and programs, tickets and calling cards, pasted to the pages or adhered with photo corners? Handwritten labels, if you’re lucky. (I’m not talking about the evil EVIL magnetic albums — they are bad bad bad… take your photos out of them now, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Even the new, so called “acid free” ones are bad. Do not use them, please. </rant>) But the point is – so simple, so straightforward, just paste it in. Yes, we know more about preservation now, acid free and so on, and it’s important, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here are my personal priorities when it comes to scrapbooking – yes, in order of importance:

  2. safe
  3. labelled
  4. journaled
  5. creative

Keeping it simple, safe, doable. The system Jessica has – and “system” here just means getting some nice, heavy, photo-safe pages with slots for the photos, inserting the photos, and putting them into a photo-safe and heavy duty binder – is a legitimate, even recommended beginning – and, if you want, ending. There is no reason you have to do much more than just this, especially if the “creative” aspect of scrapping doesn’t appeal to you.

The one thing I would urge, after getting your photos into a nice, safe, viewable format like the above: some labelling. Dates, names, places perhaps. Maybe write them carefully along the edges of the back of the photo with a special photo-safe pencil. Get some acid free white cardstock (most index cards are very acidic, and post-it note glue is as well – if you want to use it on the outside of the plastic protector that’s alright) and a good, longlasting pen, like an EK Success Millenium Zig Writer, very common; write some labels and slide them in behind your photos, if you like.

And then the next step: journaled. This is one of my favorite parts. It doesn’t have to be involved. You can use that white cardstock and pen, or do it on your computer and print it if that’s easier for you. Here’s the key: you sit down with your photo album and start looking through the pages. If you have a patient relative to sit with you, fantastic; or you can just pretend you have one sitting there, hanging on your every word. Now look through the photos, and whenever you have the urge to stop and explain what’s going on, or tell a funny story in connection with one, or talk about someone in the photo and what they mean to you — make a note of it. Do this a little at a time, and then write it out. Whatever you would say to that interested relative or friend, write that down, in your casual, conversational voice, just like you were saying it. The facts, the feelings, whatever is important or meaningful to you about it. (This gets easier with practice, too.)

If you really want, you can record yourself talking it out, but keep in mind that transcribing tapes is quite time consuming, believe me; it can work well when doing this with elderly (or not so elderly) relatives and their photos, though – very useful to just be able to listen and ask questions and not have to take lots of notes.

That’s all journaling is – the stories that go with the photos. That’s where a lot of the meaning is – so do it! Like I said, a little at a time, not a lot of pressure, but get it down. Maybe get some regular top loading pages to insert among the photo-sleeve ones and print out stories to slip in there. Or try putting them on small 4×6 cards of white cardstock and putting one into a slot by the photos it describes.

{And you can apply the above “system” (I hesitate to call it that, but) to family albums, and also to individual baby or children’s albums as well. Same principle, just choose which photos you want to include first.}

After all that — you will have a true treasure.

If you want to do more, great. One of my favorite “next step” type projects is a sort of reverse journalling process: recall stories – maybe childhood stories of your own, or funny stories of your kids, or ones from your parents, whatever – that are memorable or important to you, and DON’T have specific photos with them. Then write down the story, and maybe you’ll find a photo, or some memorabilia (i.e. tickets, kids’ artwork, programs, postcards, etc), that will serve to illustrate it somewhat (even if just showing the person involved at the approximate age the story took place) and put those together.

There are lots of fun ideas, like recording an “average” day or month in your family’s life, or holiday traditions, or a myriad of other “mini album” ideas. And if there are some special photos that you really want to fancy up with some of the fun product out there – great! Have at it. Or not. The point is, with the basics, you are done enough, and believe me it is enough.

Let me tell you a secret: as I said, I love scrapping, love playing with paper and glue and ribbon and color and whatnot. For me it’s just fun, a fabulous meld of pictures and words and play, and I try not to let my inner obnoxious perfectionist interfere with the joy. Sometimes I make a page that I’m really proud of, that just makes me happy to look at. But guess what? Really and honestly, the vast majority of my family pretty much couldn’t care less about the paper I used. They just look at the photos, and read the story, and enjoy it. And, when you use photo-safe materials, it’ll be around for lots of your family to enjoy. So — it IS a scrapbook, and IT IS ENOUGH.

This is the mantra quote I use in my signature on sb message boards:

Perfect is pretty, but finished is BEAUTIFUL.

my daughter the vampire slayer

Earlier this year a coworker of my husband’s was kind enough to lend us all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as the spin off Angel) on DVD.

I have friends who’ve been into Buffy and Angel for years; I remember thinking that the title sounded ridiculous. Though I do also remember seeing part of an episode once and being struck by some of the memorable dialogue.

Then came Firefly, the gateway drug to all things Whedon. I wrote about it elsewhere.

Anyway, so for a couple months earlier this year, March-Aprilish, we watched Buffy and Angel episodes almost every night. The kids watched some, but mostly did their own thing. As the series progressed, we often would wait until after they were in bed to watch.

So two days ago, my daughter Pandagirl comes in and wakes me up one morning with the question: “Mom? Remember that movie with the pretty girl fighting the monsters and the vampires? Do we have that movie?” We don’t own any of them ourselves, except for the musical episode, so we watched it together.

Ever since then she has been pretending to be Buffy (and has dubbed her little brother Spike).

Today she was drawing (it’s a good thing we have a metric buttload of printer paper) again, and I suggested she draw one of Buffy. Here is the result:


Note the stake in Buffy’s hand; A called it her pointy thing. She’s drawn several more versions; her daddy commented that all the vampires seem to be hot dogs with teeth. To which she replied: “But they’re vampire hot dogs!”

sudoku, domoku – RAAAR!!!

I’ve had a cold this week that has totally kicked my butt. Normally I get very, VERY irritable when I have a cold because I hate the snot factor (alright, I know, who doesn’t), but I just keep on trucking otherwise. This week though, it’s just knocked me flat. I’m so far behind in NaNoWriMo, boohoo; however I have still managed to post here every day. Maybe the BloPping seems easy because of the contrast with noveling. It’s fun though, complete with unreasonable sense of accomplishment.

So what have I been doing this week? Mostly Sudoku puzzles. Okay, so probably everyone else has already heard of this, I’m hardly cutting edge. But if you haven’t, you should definitely go here and play some. Grab yourself a little book of them at the dollar store, and have at it. No, it’s not actually a math thing (goodness knows I’ve never been big on math), it’s just a logic puzzle that happens to use numbers. Remember those logic puzzles in elementary school, all involved with a little story? I loved those. Anyway, these are similar. Go on, have fun.

And because the word is almost the same (they rhyme, right?), I will add this: a few months ago I found some awesome photos of this little dude, apparently popular in Japan, goes by the name of Domoku. My theory is that he’s so photogenic, and funny, because RAWRing open mouth — always funny. Because eating things is highly amusing. Particularly when you have large felt teeth.

Actually I first saw him here, way back when I was in college. Something about it really amused me. (The second one is best.)

A monster night out. And part two. Also, monster at work.

I’m not quite as obsessed now as I was a couple months ago, but I still want one. A little fuzzy one.

You can make an iPod case. Sadly, I have not yet found a crocheted or knitted pattern. Though maybe she’ll have one up soon.


P.S. Remember this post of mine about breastfeeding? Well, go read dear Alice on the same topic. (Irony alert!) I hope that woman sues Delta into sheer oblivion.