More Slow Progress on Christmas Gifts

OK, staying out of my office is really hard for me. I enjoy what I do. I like making awesome products for your families. I don’t like not making awesome products for your families. It’s frustrating to not be working.

Actually, what I need to do is take down my Planning Board, because it’s still got my plans through mid December on it, and it yells at me every time I see it, “You’re behind!! You were supposed to restock Cycle Pads last week!!” (And I’m currently plotting to see if I can’t get enough sneak to the office time to get them restocked anyway…  shhhhhh.)

It’s not like I’m on bedrest or anything; I’m not. I’m just not supposed to be doing as much work, and I’m supposed to be resting more, and there’s the ever-dangling-over-my-head threat of You Might Need To Have A Baby Right Now.

But I have been sneaking down to my office every now and again to continue plodding along on Christmas presents. As I posted on Facebook recently, knowing that family won’t appreciate their planned handmade gifts doesn’t give me the money to buy them Big Box Store-ish presents like they actually want. Plus, I really do think that one of these years, I just might wear them down and they will suddenly appreciate the thought, time, and effort that goes into their gifts.

(please note: if you believe you are one of these people who might be getting a gift from me this Christmas, I recommend stopping here.)

Over the last two weeks, I was able to quickly bust out quite a few simple gifts. Actually, these gifts started a few months ago, when I happened across a clearance sale at (No, I don’t normally shop there, I think I saw a post about it at Want Not.) Zip front hoodies were on clearance for far less than I’ve ever seen plain hoodies ever, even at Target on clearance, and these were the nice Hanes ones. Score! So I bought a hoodie for all the kids on my list, and one for me (I wear a boy’s large, lol), and then some adult size ones for a few adults on my list, too.

I was planning to do some screenprinting, but the process of screenprinting, while not difficult, is somewhat labor-intense for what was going to be REALLY small runs. I ended up switching to Wax Paper Stencils and Appliques instead of screenprinting. As a bonus, this allowed me to work in short bursts, whereas the nature of screenprinting pretty much requires the whole process to be done at one time.

Christmas Gifts Christmas Gifts Christmas Presents
This guitar sweatshirt is for my 16 year old nephew (who plays the guitar) and I also made one for Wally (who also plays the guitar). It’s a reverse applique, so the flames fleece was pinned underneath the sweatshirt before I stitched the outline of the guitar and then trimmed away the sweatshirt fabric from the inside of the shape. Super easy, but somehow seems “cooler” than an actual applique. The butterflies and the flowers are also reverse appliques, and are for a friend’s daughter, and my Miss G. (Genna’s flower sweatshirt also has a more traditional applique on the pocket.) I AM aware that these are really bad pictures.

Christmas Gifts Christmas Presents

These two sweatshirts are freezer paper stencil. The rocket for a friend’s 4 year old son, and the Jeep for her husband, who is the proud owner of a new-to-him Jeep Wrangler. (A Christmas present AND a gift to welcome him to the Wrangler club.) On the right is a set of four White Sox luggage tags. They, along with a White Sox travel shoe bag that’s not pictured, are for my Father in Law, who travels a lot and loves the Sox.

Genna Socks spider socks

And I finished these socks for Miss Genna and the Spider Socks for Mr Wally. (Genna’s socks took about a week. Wally’s? The entire month of October.)

Baby Socks Baby Socks Baby Socks Baby Socks

And these four little pairs of socks for the new baby, and for a friend’s baby for Christmas.

I’m NOT posting the details of what I made for a friend who I KNOW reads this blog, lol. So I’m all done with the sewn items. Now I need to learn how to make paracord survival bracelets! I’ve still got some knitting that I’m working on, as well –  a sweater for the baby, a pair of socks for my doula (just the toe of one sock remaining), and possibly one for whoever shows up to watch the older kids while I’m busy having a baby. Um, and because some idiot (*ahem* me) made needlepoint Christmas stockings for everyone else in the family, I have to track down a nonugly needlepoint Christmas stocking kit that does not feature Santa and get that done, too. Fortunately, the baby won’t know if he or she doesn’t have a stocking for Christmas this year, but I don’t see me having MORE time to do needlepoint once he or she is born, so I’d really rather do it now.

Remaining giftless are all of my brothers in law, who are all really hard to decide about. I have trouble with men’s gifts in general, I’ll be honest. DH is not helping at all with ideas, and since they’re boys and he’s a boy (and two out of the three are from his side of the family), I’ve generally put him in charge. This means that they usually get Best Buy gift cards, and thus the most expensive gifts out of any. We’ll also purchase some sort of small toy for my 5 year old niece, and I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t focused on this need when I hit the clearance aisle at our local Giant Store to find a few small goodies for my own kids (foam bath letters and a suction cup bath mirror for $5!).


Balancing Family and Home Business

Though I’ve written about this in the not too distant past, I had the opportunity to speak with a local MOPS group about working from home earlier this week, and wanted to take a minute to talk about how we make it work at our house.

Wallypop currently takes about 30 hours a week total. This includes order processing time, sewing, inventory management, paperwork, regulatory requirements, cursing the government re: regulatory requirements, accounting, email, etc. Generally, this does not include blogging or Facebook time – I tend to do that stuff during odd moments during the day.

That’s a lot of time, but it doesn’t really seem like it most weeks.

Mornings are breakfast then homeschooling. Genna plays or reads or draws or sits on my lap during this time, and I do things like wash the dishes (by hand, we do not have a dishwasher) and clean in that week’s designated “zone” (a la Flylady) during his work-alone times. We pick up as we go, so we don’t end up with a lot of just “stuff” scattered about.

Whenever we finish school, we make a snack for the afternoon and fix lunch and start dinner (if it’s Tuesday or Thursday, which are my days for dinner). And then we head downstairs, usually by 1. I work until 4 or 5. I take breaks as needed. I emphasize to the kids that they need to get along. They play, usually nicely. Sometimes not so nicely. Sometimes one or both stays upstairs. Wally takes pretty good care of his sister, most of the time. Sometimes, nobody gets along and both kids actually try to annoy each other on purpose and those days are super fun.

Evenings are for family time. Weekends are for family time. With my two exceptions: a half day each weekend is for working, and Thursday night is for working.

We also try to do some sort of activity each week (like the zoo or the science center or something fun at home) and we generally spend one afternoon and evening a week with friends.

As far as emotional balance… some weeks, it’s harder than others. Some weeks I feel like I’m failing at everything, and some weeks it seems like I’m super awesome at everything. Some times, I worry that all my kids are going to remember from their childhood is mommy sewing, or mommy on her computer. (But I know plenty of parents who do not work from home who could say the same thing!) Some weeks, I am more patient than others. Some weeks, I can

Also? Someone asked at the MOPS meeting if the kids help. I am afraid my answer sounded less than charitable, so now I feel the need to explain. No, my kids don’t help with Wallypop. Wally does do most of the chores for Boulevard Farm, and he asks on occasion to help with Wallypop stuff, but he’s just not quite old enough at this point. I honestly can’t come up with a way for him to help in any meaningful way that wouldn’t result in my needing to go back and double check.

He’s 7. I can send him to go brush his teeth and get dressed, and it’s a 50/50 shot whether he comes back dressed and with clean teeth. So, packing orders? Not so much. He’s not great at cutting. I have no confidence that he’d put the shipping labels on straight. He just needs another year or two. (And he is learning to sew, but obviously he won’t be helping in that sense for a LONG time.)

Genna wants to help mama at the sewing machine. And I try to discourage this. Not only because it’s uncomfortable for me (particularly with this big belly!), but because it becomes a safety issue. She wants to help hold the fabric as I sew, and she wants to push the buttons on the machine (I have a button for needle down, and I have a button for Cut Thread). MOST of the time, she’s really good about keeping her hands away from the needle. But her little hands are so fast and she doesn’t realize the danger involved. I just don’t want to see her get her little finger caught. (Also, there’s the fact that her help at this point just slows me down. I am happy to have the kids helping/slowing things down with just about anything else – cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, whatever – but I’d really rather get the working finished up so that we can move on to activities that they will actually enjoy more.)

So that’s how we do it. Working at home looks different for each family, and working at home has looked different for our family over the years. I’m sure this whole plan here will change once this new baby comes, but I”m confident we’ll figure it out and settle into yet another new normal.

Informed Consent

Yes, this might seem a bit out of place here. But it’s important. And it has nothing to do with the choices you make personally about how you birth and raise your children – this applies to everyone.

You do not have to obey authority. You don’t. Ever. I had this conversation with my 7 year old recently, actually. Kind of a dangerous conversation to have with him, but I trust him. I told him essentially what i’m telling you today.

It is always your choice. ALWAYS. It is always your responsibility to (quickly) review the consequences of obedience and disobedience and make your own decision. Often, particularly if you trust the person giving you a command and you know that they generally are looking out for your best interests (like your parents), the decision to obey is pretty easy or obvious.

But, as adults, the situations we face are not always so clear. Particularly in the realm of health care. I’ve been surprised at how controversial it can be when a patient asserts her right to make an informed choice, and to make a choice that might differ from what the doctor wants you to do. But, when it comes right down to it, the patient does not HAVE to do what the doctor says. The doctor has no control over the patient. The doctor is, in fact, a hired consultant who works for the patient and is paid by the patient for his/her expert opinion. Just like a plumber. Nobody thinks twice about making their own decisions about their plumbing. But for some reason in this country, we all freeze when it comes to making our own health care decisions.

Throughout this ongoing saga with our baby’s kidney thing (the actual word is like 300 letters long), I’ve struggled with making the right decisions about our care. And I’ll admit – it’s HARD. Because plumbers usually are willing to discuss with you your options; doctors often aren’t. A few months ago, when our MFM consultant wanted us to return in 4 weeks for yet another biophysical profile, she would not really clarify what information we hoped to learn or how that additional BPP would help us, she just kept saying that it was protocol and it was what we needed to do. Yeah, I get that it’s what SHE wanted us to do because it’s what SHE was comfortable with, but there was a reluctance to discuss other options. What if we skip it entirely? What if we delay it by 2 or 3 weeks? What are the risks, and are the risks worth it to give me back some sense of normalcy?

(Ultimately we decided to push it back 3 weeks and I was the happiest I’d been in months.)

I’m not advocating just doing whatever you want, regardless of what is recommended to you. What I’m saying is that often, doctors don’t stop to consider that their patients have brains, too. Our MFM wanted us back in 4 weeks because that was the standard she has in her office, not because coming back in 4 weeks was actually really necessary. Had it been really necessary, I’m confident that our doctor could have defined for me exactly what the need was; she has certainly been able to do so in the past.

When my mom was still alive and dealing with Type I diabetes that had led to retinopathy, kidney failure, and heart problems, she had a long-standing argument with her nephrologist about wanting to do a test that involved drinking the radioactive particles. He really thought the test would give them some good information that would help with better decision-making; she was afraid that the radioactive particles would be more than her fragile kidneys could handle and would push her to needing dialysis, which she had worked so hard to avoid. He was a really awesome doctor and respected her choice, even though he believed it was short-sighted. But they had different priorities, and ultimately he recognized that it was her health, and they were her kidneys. (And when she ended up needing dialysis anyway, one of the first things she did was tell him it was time for that test now.)

It’s too bad we can’t all have doctors willing to entertain these conversations with us, but the sad fact is that we just don’t.

The difficult part about taking control of your own decisions in health care is that the stakes can be pretty high. If I ignore my plumber’s advice, I could be looking at an expensive mess; if I ignore my doctor’s advice, I could be looking at a death. It can be difficult to WANT to take responsibility for those decisions. I’ve had more than one time in the last few months of wanting to call up my midwife and tell her to just tell me what to do so it doesn’t have to be my responsibility any more. They’re big decisions, and it’s so much easier to let the doctor make them for you. I get it.

But I also strongly feel that nobody is going to be looking out for the best interests of ourselves and our families like we are. I am the person with the most at stake here, and I am the person in the best place to be making decisions that affect me and my family. If I make a mistake, I get to live with the consequences, and maybe that’s more difficult than being able to blame someone else for the rest of my life, but it’s also more honest.

And I’m not always so contrary with doctors! I can be quite compliant. But I’m not going blindly do what someone tells me, no matter who they are and no matter what fancy pants initials they have after their name.

(PS, yes, I’m happy to get into a discussion about how I, as a Christian, can possibly say that obedience to authority is not important.)

Avoiding Holiday Stress

Alright, it’s hard for me to write about this subject this early, because it means I have to REMEMBER how I do the holidays, and memory is not my strong point right now. Also, please know that THIS year will not be like most others for our family. Though the addition of a new family member just makes destressing the holidays that much more important!

So, I always chuckle a bit to myself when I hear others talk about Holiday Stress, because I don’t personally think I have any. (well, much.) Here’s how I do it:

– I have a strict rule that all gift making/shopping be completed before Thanksgiving. The exception to this is things that require my husband’s help. For those, he has the option of helping me before Thanksgiving (as in, helping me come up with an idea), or doing it all by himself after Thanksgiving. I refuse to participate in anything involving gifts after Thanksgiving. (OK, the other exception is baked goods. I’ll be baking banana bread for a few folks this year, and that will be completed obviously AFTER Thanksgiving. We have no freezer space for banana bread.)

– This includes charitable crafting that I want to do for the holiday season. After Thanksgiving, crafting and sewing is usually for business only, so that I don’t have the stress of having to do both inventory sewing AND extra sewing.

– I do not go shopping during the “holiday” season, other than groceries. The exception to this is Black Friday, and I know that seems strange, but if there are good deals to be had on things that we need, I’m all about that. We make a list all year of things we want to look for on Black Friday. (this year, I am looking for a printer for the HS room, and of course I always hit JoAnn’s.)

– We do not attend holiday parties. We do not host holiday parties. Why? I do not enjoy social gatherings. If you do, then great! Go for it! If you enjoy it, it should not be stressful. If you don’t enjoy it, make an excuse.

– We eliminate things from our schedule as the holidays approach. Kung Fu usually takes a break for several weeks, we take a few weeks off from school, I usually close Wallypop. It opens up a lot of time for us to spend on things like baking cookies or doing crafts.

– We keep our decorating low-key. We make decorating fun. I don’t have high standards for how our house should look. (Yeah, the kids do most of our decorating.) We decorate on one day, while we eat junk food and watch Christmas movies.

– We don’t travel. We’re lucky to have some family close by, and we see other family when we can.

– We limit time with extended family. As I said, they’re close, so this is actually oddly easier than it would be if they/we had to travel. (We can always leave and go home.)

– We keep Christmas as a day just for our family. (At least, I try. For the last several years, my strong statements about this have gone unheeded and my IL’s usually stop by for a while.) This largely works out because my husband’s family tradition is to have their big gathering on Christmas Eve. My family has no tradition since my parents divorced shortly after I got married, then they both died. My sister and I are happy to celebrate whenever we have a chance, even if that’s in February.

– We wrap up Christmas day with a drive around town looking at lights. Not only does this help chill out the kids in preparation for bed, but it’s relaxing for us parents, too.

I will admit, there were a few years when my Christmas zen didn’t quite work out. The year my dad died on Dec 13 was, strangely, the year everything turned around for me. We didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t have anyone over. Christmas Day was just my husband and I. I was exhausted and just drained, and I didn’t have it in me to visit extended family or spend more time with the IL’s. We made it clear to everyone that we intended to spend the day alone, and though there were some criticisms, everyone had to respect it because I kind of played the Dead Dad card. Starting the next year and until my mom died, we had her over for dinner on Christmas evening – celebrating on the actual day was always important to her, and she made it passively-aggressively clear that she would not go visit her own parents/siblings at Christmas and if we didn’t have her over, she’d just sit alone in her house with her dog. (for real) But I still did not let her intrude on my own peace that day. We had dinner, we talked, we exchanged gifts, she went home. I don’t mean to sound callous, but I spent several days a week with her, so it’s not like she didn’t get to see me/my family. I wanted to respect that getting together was important to her, while having her respect that alone time with just our family was important to me (and relatively rare).

So that’s what we do. That doesn’t mean that’s what will work for you. It’s what works for us. The basic idea, though, remains the same. If something is causing you stress during the holidays, do whatever you can to cut it out. If something will contribute to your peace during the holidays, do whatever you can to fit that in. If something causes you stress and you can’t cut it out, figure out what will help you get your peace back afterwards. (Like treating yourself to a few hours alone at a coffee shop after a weekend with family.)

Don’t just sigh and resign yourself to having to live with holiday stress!!

Calculating the cost of Summer

Found this in Drafts, lol.

Our house doesn’t have air conditioning. We keep cool in the summer with a combination of open and closed windows, the large overhang, and shade trees. (Well, the city’s cut down some of those, the jerks.)

With screens on most of the windows, our house is decent at moderating temperature. During the summer, our large overhangs keep the direct sun off the house, and the plentiful and giant windows catch any passing breeze, which helps immensely in terms of keeping us cool. There are only a few days when we’re genuinely miserable. (This year, there was the memorable 2 weeks when the overnight temp was still in the 90s/100s – I don’t think we’ve ever been that miserable before.)

Our windows will not accommodate window (or portable) AC units (except one in the kitchen which is double-hung). They are sort of like casement windows, but very deep and very large. I won’t say it’s impossible to use window units, but it would require a lot of custom carpentry.

So…. We rely on fans to help augment the breeze, or to make one on those days when the air is still.


If you’re interested in learning more about keeping energy useage down in summer, but don’t care to read the details of KWH used in my house during the summer, this website has a nice amount of information along those lines.


In addition to being curious about whether it would be cheaper to use an AC or to use the fans/windows, I also got curious about something I’ve heard recently – that one window AC is actually cheaper than two fans plus one dehumidifier. So I started doing some math.

According to this website dedicated to energy savings, a large window AC uses 1071 kwh/month, assuming 24 hour a day useage for 31 days. A medium sized unit would use 670. A household fan uses 74, and a dehumidifier would use 116 (a figure which came from here). Two fans and a dehumidifier equal 222 kwh/month.

So, though you’re certainly more comfortable with an AC, it’s definitely not cheaper than 2 fans and a dehumidifier. It’s actually comforting to know this, because our own experience with energy bills has been that, on months when we turn on our tiny kitchen AC, our energy bill goes waaaay up, whereas it’s a barely noticeable rise when we switch from those few no heat/no fan weeks to using the fans 24/7.

Now, let’s look at my house. We don’t use a dehumidifier in the main floor. (I mean, that would be a lot like running the heater with the windows open. There’s no possible way a dehumidifier can keep up when the windows are all open.) We do use one in the basement because there’s not very good air circulation down there. We would use a basement dehumidifier whether or not we had window ACs on the main floor. So the dehumidifier is not a factor.

Our bedroom uses two fans plus the ceiling fan (which weighs in at another 55 kwh/month). So, while we’re running 203 kwh/month in the bedroom, it’s less than even a “tiny-ass” (quote from the energy website) window AC would (500). Since we all sleep in there, there would be no reason to consider a window unit in the kids’ bedroom, which is more of a play room that happens to also have  a bed in case anyone spontaneously decides to sleep in there.

Moving out to the main living area: dining, living, school room, and kitchen. We usually run the kitchen AC on really hot days. I think it qualifies as “tiny ass” since it’s a small window and the more powerful units wouldn’t fit, so 500 would be the 24/7 useage. (we don’t have it on nearly that much) Then fan in front of the AC (74), and a total of 4 other fans (74 each = 296) and one more small ceiling fan (55). Total energy useage, assuming the AC is on 24/7, which is is not: 851.

If we were to cool the same square footage with window ACs, we’d need at least two medium sized units in addition to the tiny kitchen unit. That weighs in at 670*2, or 1340.

And now for the grand total, on our main floor, what is our energy cost for cooling, per month during the summer? 1543 kwh/month. MidAmerican, our energy company, says it charges an average of $0.0835 per kwh. $128.84 per month.

For comparison, if we were running three mid sized window units (1 in bedroom, 2 in main living area) plus the kitchen unit, we’d be running 2510 kwh/month, or $209.59 per month.

Now the real question – would it be worth it?

(and I have to say no – particularly considering the amount of work it would be to even get portable or window ACs to fit in our windows.)