I Am a Rule Follower

I am a Rule Follower. I think I always have been.

My senior year of high school, a bunch of friends were back from college on winter break and going to go into Boston to the Hard Rock Cafe. I knew my parents would never say yes, so I told them I was going to go down the street to a friend's house for dinner and movies. I went into Boston. I don't think I enjoyed a moment of that night. I spent the whole time worrying that I was going to get hit by a car and my parents' first reaction was going to be "What the hell was she doing in Boston?!!"

Have you heard of the CPSIA? Trying to understand all of the legalese and listening to the panic of the many blogging handcrafters of children's items with a grain of salt, I've boiled it down to this (at least in how it applies to me and eieio):
  • The legislation came out of all of the toy recalls over the last year.
  • The law mandates testing (for lead and phthalates) of all items marketed for children under the age of 12. This includes handmade toys, bibs, blankets, and clothing.
  • It is not enough to have certification that each of the components of an item (in my case the 100% cotton fabric and Made in the USA colored stainless steel snaps) are lead free.
  • For each batch of an item produced, one must be dismantled and all components must be tested by a certified lab. Each individual test costs at least $60. So for one of my dresses using two different patterns of fabric and 4-part colored snaps, it would require 6 tests for a total of at least $360. (My dresses sell for $30) The CPSC has said that XRF (a handheld test that can be done without destroying the product) testing for lead is permissable for now, but rental of such an instrument can be $800/month.
  • As of February 10th, items that have not been submitted for testing and have certification of passing CANNOT BE SOLD.
  • This affects both retailers and manufacturers.
  • This legislation also includes books - think of the effect on the children's sections of our public libraries.
  • The testing is so cost-prohibitive to independent artists and crafters that February 10th has been deemed National Bankruptcy Day.
  • The law that had the best intentions and truly is trying to keep our children safe is eliminating some of our safest alternatives.
Forbes did a good summary here.

The Handmade Toy Alliance started by Dan Marshall from Peapods (one of my all time favorite toy stores!) in St. Paul, MN has lots of great resources.

So what am I going to do?

I am going to follow the rules. This means that after February 9th, I will no longer be selling my handmade children's clothing. I will not close my Etsy shop, in hopes that the legislation is amended soon, and will be sampling some new items with more of a 'home decor for family spaces' focus. And I'll hope that people come to their senses soon...

What can you do? Etsy's CPSIA Action Kit has all the contact info for letting the right people know how you feel.

And please sign these petitions:

And hope that someone is really listening.

Friday night, 9:00pm. They were listening! The CPSC has issued a one year stay of testing and certification requirements for certain products. This stay still upholds important safety requirements while giving the CPSC, congress, and manufacturers some time to sort everything out.

10 Things I'm Loving Right Now

1. This book - I've been trying to get it from Amazon for months and finally found a used copy from the Strand. Such fabulously inspiring photos - I now have a three page list of things to do around the house.

2. That O spontaneously reaches out for a snuggle and says "I love you too."

3. Going through the boxes from my parents' storage locker (currently taking over our porch), taking a little trip down memory lane, and then either recycling the papers, passing things on to the kids, or boxing things back up for a garage sale.

4. Our new tradition of saying "Grace" at dinner and then going around and each giving one thing we are thankful for, though 9 times out of 10 O says "Pirates".

5. Reconnecting with folks from all different times of my life on Facebook. Here I thought it was just for teenagers and college students...

6. Watching my youngest come into his own in his first real "class".

7. Doing something every day to make the house look a little nicer.

8. Having one of the kids fall asleep in my arms while rocking before bed. I always hold them a little longer and snuggle a little closer when this happens.

9. This new-ish Michael Miller fabric line. Hmmm... Placemats and napkins?

10. Reading Ramona the Pest with E at bedtime and still remembering what comes next.

Snow Day

Today we had our first official snow day.

Unfortunately, it was more of a gray-snow-covered-by-freezing-rain-giving-way-to-slush-day. The kids didn't seem to mind and tromped through yard with abandon.

I love this little acorn hat (as we call it). O's Great Aunt knit it for him two winters ago and I am cramming his big ol' head into it for as long as possible.

We all warmed up afterwards with hot cocoa and popcorn. What is a snow day without hot cocoa and popcorn??

A few years ago, before we had a microwave, I searched and searched for an air popper and couldn't find one anywhere. I finally found this one at a garage sale for $5. The kids love to watch the corn pop and I love knowing exactly what the ingredients are!

Winter Weekend

While for a day or two it felt like Spring around here, winter is definitely back. We are fortunate enough to live about a mile from the largest urban park in the world and used Sunday afternoon to explore a little more around an area we hadn't been to.

The kids (and The Dad) were excited to find a frozen over pond, perfect for sliding around and crunching over. An amazing little lesson in nature, we discovered that the large goldfish population was still alive and well under the ice!

On another note, I thank I have finally made some decisions about how to deal with the new CPSIA legislation and am formulating my little statement about the future of eieio. Stay tuned.

The Kids Menu

The kids and I have gotten into a habit of going out for breakfast on the mornings that The Dad is traveling. We usually alternate between the local diner and our favorite coffee shop (with fabulous crepes). One of the best parts of the diner? The kids menu is inside a Viewmaster.

Inauguration Day

Today, at 12:00, E's pre-school pulled out a little 12" TV, plugged it in, and called the kids in from sledding. I stood there as the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds pulled up chairs and sat facing the television. The moms and dads stood around, some of us teary, as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

E turned around in her seat, mid-swearing in, and asked me "Did this really happen?" "It's happening right now." She turned back in awe, as I teared up again at not what was on TV but at the pre-schoolers before me witnessing what will hopefully be the beginning of a new direction and the future of the world that they will grow up in. "He looks so serious..."

On the way home, we talked about skin color, becoming president, and making good choices. "Did the last president not make good choices, Mama?"

Here's to hope, change, and the children of this new generation.

Unexpected Rituals

It always surprises me to turn around and look at something that I've seen 50 times before and realize that it is a little ritual that has come into our lives.

This morning, as Doug left the house for work, I watched the kids clamor to pull 2 chairs over to the kitchen window. They climbed up, watching, calling for him. They waited, knowing he first needed to put on his shoes. Knowing that when they heard the click of the outside door he would be on his way. He reached the window, faced them, and jumped up and down a couple times, waving.

I watched this little routine, trying to remember the day that the jump added itself into The Dad's exit. It only took once. And then it had to happen every time. Their special good-bye.

I wonder what other rituals are evolving before my eyes. Becoming part of our routine, our expectations.

I know that every time I buckle one of the kids into their car seats, after the click, before I close the door, I lean over, kiss them, and tell them that I love them. I don't think I did it when they were infants, but I can't remember really not doing it. And actually, if I don't do it, I feel like I have forgotten something as I climb into the driver's seat.

Be aware today. Pay a little more attention. Notice those little rituals that have nestled themselves into your days without you realizing.

Some Yummy Fabric Goodness in the Midst of a Stressful Day

So, today was one of those days. A day where I woke up in the morning gritting my teeth and trying not to yell before I was even out of bed. They don't happen very often around here, but today was a day full of incredibly overtired children, an even more exhausted mom, and way more squirming, yelling, fussing, kicking, and arguing than I can handle.

In the midst of it, somewhere before I walked the kids in the stroller for an hour and a half and drove them in the car for another 45 minutes (and still no nap!), I received my latest fabric shipment. A small box of a little yummy fabric goodness.

Thankfully, the kids were asleep by 7:30 tonight and I'm heading down to watch a movie. Maybe tonight will be the night that O goes back to sleeping through the night - all night - in his own bed. And tomorrow morning we will awake rested and refreshed and ready to face the day. And, like every day, I will try to be a better mom than I was the day before.

Back to Sewing

I finally got my sewing machine back last Wednesday after almost two weeks in the shop. I pretty much killed it getting ready for the craft shows and had never had it cleaned or serviced so it was due.

I am so happy to have it back - especially because E has recently outgrown most of her clothes! One of those growth spurts that sneaks up on you when you go into her closet and realize she only has about three pairs of pants left. This may work for some people, but for a girl who changes her clothes a couple times a day and a mom who does not stay on top of the laundry, we were in trouble. SO - I finally got to try out Portabello Pixie's new Ruffle Pants pattern.

E's first response was "Thanks mama! Clown pants!" They still need a little tweaking, but I'm happy with the first attempt. Now on to pair number two...

Fanny by Holly Hobbie

Browsing in a local toystore before Christmas, I picked up this book. I hadn't heard anything about it but am a big fan of Hollie Hobbie (Toot and Puddle) and was drawn to the little girl on the front.

I began to flip through it and then actually stood there and read every page, every word. It is a book that just resonates with me and emphasizes some of the lessons I try to teach the kids every day.

Fanny is a little girl who really wants the doll that her friends have - think Barbie meets Bratz. Her mom says no. Not because she has too many toys, not because it's too expensive - Just because she doesn't like them. "Because they're just too.... much."

So, Fanny takes to her room, pulls together some scraps and old clothes, and creates her own doll. Fanny is creative and resourceful and tender and worried about what her friends think. She learns that sometimes it's actually better to make something yourself than to buy the one that everyone else has. Can you see why I love this book?

A More Creative Coloring Book

Back in November, E's nursery school class took a fieldtrip to the Museum of Art. The museum has a fabulous education program that included having the children read a coloring book in their classroom beforehand. The book talked about the museum, what they would see, and how they would behave while they were there. They each received their own book to bring home, read together, and color. It was E's first real discovery of coloring books and she fell in love.

When the book was finished - with markers, which had been her coloring implement of choice - E wanted more. With no coloring books on hand, and my not being a big fan of the books readily available at local book and toy stores, she got creative (as she often does) and made her own coloring books.

I would love to say she took blank paper, we stapled them together, she drew her own pictures, and then colored them in, but that is not how it worked. Instead, she picked the Magic Cabin catalog out of the mail and used that as her next book - coloring over each picture, using only one or two colors through the whole book. Then she chose one of her completed chapter books and after much negotiating, began coloring in the black and white line drawings.

Then I found this:

Taro Gomi has a great line of more creative coloring books out. I chose Squiggles for starters and have been very impressed not only by the open-endedness of the coloring pages, but also by the quality of the paper. This book, a later one in his series, has paper thick enough to handle water color paints, E's new coloring implement of choice.

Ella is still a bit young for Gomi's suggestions of more detailed drawing, but has especially loved adding faces and clothing to some of the people templates. There is so much to explore (200 pages!) in this book (landscapes, dinner plates, hats, and more) that it will last her a very long time and grow with her developing drawing skills and interests.

The books are, of course, available at amazon but I found ours at our local toy store.

Monkey Bread

We had a big brunch get-together today to finally celebrate the New Year and the kids made Monkey Bread. Someone asked me where it got it's name and I have no idea, but watching the kids dive in and dip and smoosh away did resemble monkey behavior a bit - especially towards the end when E gave up the dipping of dough and started dipping her finger in the butter and sugar mix to lick clean and O just sat and picked the raisins out to eat.

This was the first time that the kids were somewhat self-sufficient in the creation. It's a very easy process if you've never made it before. All you need is bread dough (I made an oatmeal breakfast bread but even the refrigerated or frozen dough from the grocery store works well), butter (melted), sugar, and cinnamon. We also added raisins between layers of dough balls this time.

The kids break small chunks/balls off of the lump of dough, dip each piece in butter and then a sugar/cinnamon mix, and smoosh it all together in a pan. Bake at about 350 until it's done in the middle (I know there's a recipe out there that's a little more specific), let cool, turn out onto a platter, and pull apart to eat!

It's all about Recycling

Doug took the kids out into the yard today and repurposed the Christmas Tree branches into a new roof for our 'wigwam'.

New Year Resolutions

I have never really been one for New Year's Resolutions. Maybe because they never seem to last past the first couple weeks of January. This year, though, having recently done a little 'life review' and assessment of priorities, I have decided that a few simple resolutions are very important, so here they are:
  1. Yell Less.
  2. Clean More.
  3. Be healthy.

Here's to a calm, clean, organized, and fabulous 2009~