Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward to Good Health in the New Year

So, I did it - I finished all of the pillowcases for 30+ people (including one for myself - with a running shoe print, of course) for Christmas. They really did make for the perfect wrapping paper - they fit gifts of ALL sizes and shapes!

I wish I could report that Christmas came and went without a hitch and that I even ran on our trip to my mother-in-laws, but that's not quite how it all went. Running didn't happen for a variety of reasons - icy roads, lots of visiting with family, adjusting to the time difference (3 hours), etc. The biggest reason was the most important one, though. Our son was transported by ambulance on Christmas night from the ER to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he was admitted for three nights.

After working for 2 weeks to get the kids healthy for our trip (daughter had pneumonia, son had sinus infection), they were both finally off meds and ready to go when a cold erupted in both of them the day before the trip. After several days of coughing and general ickiness, we began to realize that this bugger was not going to pass quickly. At Christmas dinner with 22 family members, our son picked at his dinner (RARE, as this kid eats non-stop) and had a wicked coughing fit that told us it was time to get help. My husband took him to the ER to be checked and after 2 breathing treatments they transported my boys by red sleigh (translation: ambulance) to Children's in Pittsburgh. Diagnosis: pneumonia and aggravated asthma.

The next 3 days were filled with trips back and forth to the hospital for visits/tag-team overnight stuff while the docs, nurses and respiratory therapists worked to get his oxygen level steady. We are ever so grateful for my husband's family who drove us back and forth (I don't know the highways and city area well enough to make the drive in the dark) and took care of the little sister who was dealing with missing her brother and fighting her own cold/bout of pneumonia. The day before our return home to Washington our son was released from the hospital and our daughter took her trip to the ER for a chest x-ray that confirmed her illness. Armed with a bag loaded with antibiotics and inhalers, we were able to get on our regularly scheduled flights home on Tuesday morning (despite the fact that I lost my driver's license in PA . . . but that's a WHOLE other story). There is no place like home!

I had planned to share the series of haiku I wrote for our Christmas cards on Christmas Day with you all, but I think this last day of 2009 is an appropriate day to share the poems, too. As I look back on the year, I remember our fun-filled summer fondly, I appreciate the supportive network of family and friends and I am amazed at all my children grew through. I look forward to 2010 as a year of further personal growth - as a writer, a runner, a wife and a mother. And I pray that it is a HEALTHY one - not just for my family, but for yours, too!

And now . . . the haikus:

Daily Adventures
Two bicycles race
Beside the family garden
A rope swing beckons

Camano Island
Logs stretch out their arms
For kids to construct their caves
On the rocky shore

Little Sister
Red hair flows freely
As she dances side to side
Laughing and singing

Big Brother
"I have an idea!"
Inspiration is bellowed
Filled notebooks are proof

Behind the dense fog
Ducks quack and cows moo, "Hello!"
As she runs the trail

Stars twinkle above
As the crowd dances freely
Music-filled nights rock

Kids reach for the leash
Announcing a family walk
Swish, swish goes his tail

Our Wish for You
Christmas lights glimmer
As the New Year approaches
May love fill your days

Happy reading, running and good health to you in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Endulging in My Other Passion - Sewing!

With the temperatures holding steady in the 20's and low 30's, the treadmill has become my best buddy. While cranking out 3-4 miles while "standing still" isn't my favorite thing, it keeps me sane and does help me with developing a sense of pace. It also gives my mind the opportunity to wander toward more creative outlets . . . like sewing!

For the last month I've been cranking out pillowcases for our annual homemade wrapping paper project. I did this 2 years ago, last year I made reusable bags and this year I decided to return to making these bright and personality-matching cases. I even thought to take a picture this go around (you're all shocked, right?!). Here are 15 of the 25 that are finished. About 5 more should complete the batch - and I have 6 days in which to do it!

And since I like an overflowing plate (and I noticed I was still using my summer purse - *gasp!*) I decided it was time to make myself a winter purse . . . and while I was at it, I'd make a smaller version for my daughter. Nothin' like a little math to make an evening fun, right? Yes, I successfully divided and multiplied the dimensions to create a 3/4 version while coming to the realization that geometry and algebra really DO come in handy many times a day in my life.
These are the bags before I added the shoulder straps. I think I actually like the miniature version better (though it was a bit tricky to sew). Think my daughter would mind if I swapped her for the purple one? Maybe not, considering she woke up today and said, "It's a purple and pink kind of day!" I better just leave things as they are.

I used the messenger bag directions in The New Handmade by Cassie Barden. I also used this pattern for my well-worn summer purse and would recommend it to anyone looking for a sturdy and purse-like messenger bag. There are some other great purse/bag patterns in there, too.
As you can see, the end result is a hit!
And now my son wants me to make him a backpack, but I have to put these spur-of-the-moment side projects to rest for a bit. Next up after the remaining pillowcases are 2 quilts: one for my son (takes the edge off not getting a new bag, right?) and one for my sister-in-law's wedding. And some pillowcases for a school auction . . . and half-marathon training. :)
Happy passion-following, everyone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Books (and more!) for the Holidays

Though I passed on the Black Friday shopping (and even the Cyber Monday fun), I've really enjoyed the Christmas present planning/creating this year. Last year I made reusable bags for family members, this year I'm back to pillowcases (14 are done so far, so I'm about half-way done!). But when considering the non-homemade gifts to put on our shopping list we took some other things into consideration:

1. Is it a book? As an author, mother, former teacher and avid reader books are always at the top of my personal wish list and gift-giving lists. Always. This year each of my children's teachers will get a novel to enjoy over the break (wrapped with a festive pillow-case, of course!). Shhhh, don't tell them! And when we look for books, I'm not just shopping from the bestseller list (though there are great ones there, and I did get a few of those) - we're discovering some great ones that are produced by independent publishers, too (like PJ Hoover's middle grade fantasy books). Check out the Moonbeam Children's Book Award listings for some recent titles for kids.

2. Is it local? A favorite gift for our extended relatives (aunts & uncles that shouldn't be forgotten, but don't require a big chunk of the budget) is something grown in the Pacific NW. The fruit grown out here is AMAZING, so we alternate between Chukar Cherries and Canter-Berry blueberry syrup. Our little Valley is also well-known for visual arts, so prints & notecards by local artists are list favorites. It is great to support our local economy and the creative energy that spreads here!

3. Does it inspire? If it is something that can be used once, we're generally not interested - unless it is an experience (tickets to a museum or play, for instance). Clearly that means Kleenex is out. Some people on my list are budding runners, so Carol Goodrow's 2010 What a Day for Running! calendar or a pair of running socks are perfect choices for those folks. Notecards from Banana Blossom Press are another choice for my running friends. And a new pair of running shoes is on MY wish list - to keep me going! My son loves to build and draw, so we're looking for open-ended, creativity-feeding toys like Dado Squares for him.

4. Does my purchase help others? We have a gift store in our little town that sells nature-related books, Folkmanis puppets and games, all in support of protecting and restoring wild fish throughout the Northwest. The toy store in town is offering a special shopping day on Saturday in support of my daughter's cooperative preschool - 10% of the sales that day will be donated to the school. Proceeds from the sales of the fly fishing-themed children's books about Olive the Woollybugger by my friend Kirk Werner support the program Hooked on a Cure. Our company Balanced Steps, LLC donated a case of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to our local YMCA in support of their Invest in Youth campaign - folks who purchase one of those copies at the Y are not only inspiring their friend/family member with the message in the book, but 100% of the purchase price goes to the YMCA. Not too shabby.

5. Does it respect the environment? While this answer isn't "Yes!" in every case, we do try to take it into consideration, especially when it comes to packaging/wrapping. is making strides to cut down on packaging by offering "Frustration Free Packaging". We've combined things to ship once, re-use gift bags, use the kids' artwork as wrapping and wrap small gifts in the pillowcases I'm making. All of the gifts we have for our children will be wrapped in their fun pillowcases I've made over the years. The kids and I are also hitting our local used bookstore where they'll pick out some books to give their dad for Christmas. Who says a book has to be new to hold value?

6. Does it fit the budget? I'm a bargain shopper. I'm all about the free shipping offers (if it is for something I want - I don't shop BECAUSE of free shipping) and last year's selection of Christmas fabric (which enabled me to make pillow cases at half the price by buying off the clearance rack!). I'm also make good use of coupons. These savings enable us to splurge on a few full-priced items. Everybody wins!

Happy December and happy shopping, everyone!