Getting Back on Track

Well, I'm getting back on track this week. On top of all the bad news, I've gotten a ton of orders all at once! I'm really getting into the groove and pumping out some frames for some really cool customers. I have some great colors for these orders, so I'll take a photo before I mail all of them.

Okay, the good news regarding my last post... My mom learned that the lump is "stage 0" and confined to the milk duct. After some research, we learned that the odds for recovery are very good, 97% good, in fact. She has scheduled a lumpectomy for May 9th, 5 days of radiation will follow (twice a day, ugh!). I think I'm feeling pretty optimistic for now.

The boy picked an orange cast and it's very short, only about 2 inches above his wrist. It's a "four weeker" as one of my friends puts it, and it will be off before baseball season is over. The baseball thing was pretty tough since he got on the Pirate"s team (every Pittsburgh boy wants to get on the Pirate"s team) and got the baseball commissioner for his coach. The dream season, down the drain. :(

I'm off to paint and catch up on laundry, so I'll check in tomorrow!


Quick Update

Munchkin #2 broke his arm this weekend and my mom called to tell me she has scheduled surgery for a malignant lump in her breast. Not a great week. Will check in soon.


If I Had Three Wishes...

This is how the conversation started from the backseat as my Helper Munchkin and I drove to the grocery store this morning. What would you wish for? I wanted to know. And here it is from the mouth of a five year old:

"Well, first I would wish for a magic set that really works and then I would wish for Gramma and Grampa to live here right next to us so I could go see them whenever I want. Because I really like them and they are really nice to us and they play outside with us. Oh, and I wish I could eat candy every day."

So, there it is...little things mean so much to our kids (included, are magic and candy). I try to remember that each time I'm asked to play catch, go to check on the tadpoles, or throw a Frisbee. I still need lots of reminders, but I try to pull myself away more often.

To prepare for Gramma and Grampa's visit, it was decided that chocolate chip muffins were in order. I became Helper Mom while the Munchkin took the lead and made everything (except the baking part) all by himself for his beloved Gram and Gramp.


Bring Your Child to Work Day

My husband participated in "bring your child to work" day today and as I quiz my 9 year old, it sounds like it was one big party! I'm sure that wasn't the intent when the schools came up with this idea. All I can say, is that now my son thinks that work involves having coffee, visiting all the other people that work there, going to lunch, shopping for a tie, and decorating cupcakes! Sounds like glorified skip day to me.

He should have stayed here with me as I cleaned the house. Oh, come to think of it I did have a kid at work with me today. Actually, that happens everyday and I still managed to vaccuum, clean the bathroom, dust, pick up the bedrooms, make the beds, put away the laundry, do the dishes, and make 2 meals (so far). I think I'd rather go to work from the sounds of things! :)


It's That Time of the Year

Well, the June brides are out en masse and ordering many many frames! This is what I've finished in the last week and I think all of them are meant for wedding gifts! I remember my wedding and it really was the best day of my life. I listened to all the advice and really enjoyed my day. Really, that is the only advice I have for all the brides out there. Plan, plan, plan...but once the big day comes assign a trouble-shooter and let it all go. Even when things go wrong, it is a day to remember. Now, that we're all warm and fuzzy, let's take a walk down memory lane...Shall we?
Okay, it's the day of my wedding and I'm at the reception after a beautiful ceremony, at which I couldn't stop playing with my new pearl necklace and my nose wouldn't stop running. Fortunately, my videographer, our friend's dad, caught me on tape pulling a tissue out of my bra and wiping my nose then replacing it. Good times.
Anyway, after many drinks and dances and no food to speak of, I decide it's time for a potty break. If only it were that easy. I came back out and gathered a posse because I realized this was going to take some acrobatics. We all head back into the world's smallest bathroom stall and I cannot gain access to the vital area! It's buried under yards of silk and lace, a crinoline (for God's sake!), pantyhose (Gasp!), and fancy underpants... So, I just stood there digging under all of that to try to reach the bottom layer. I dug around (and found birdseed in weird places) and finally someone else pulled down my underwear since my hands were trapped with in the folds. My mom might have done that, who knows?
I had girls surrounding me each holding part of my dress and assorted other clothing, while I stood there helplessly trying to get my hands in there to reach the pantyhose and new underpants. I would have been embarrassed but we were all squeezed in there so tight with so much fabric filling the space that I just finally squatted with my arms over my head and got it over with. And thank God we were in the bathroom because laughing that hard really made me have to pee! So, all modesty aside I did my business in a small 3x3 foot space with 3 of my closest friends and vowed to drink nothing for the rest of the night!

If you have an upcoming wedding and are short on the gift end, check out my etsy shop at http://www.hopestudios.etsy.com/ . Oh, and Mother's Day is just around the corner and we mom love a handmade gift! (no one said it had to be made by YOU)


A Question for the Ages

I must bring attention to an urban phenomenon that has puzzled me since I was old enough to form thoughts. Why do people throw shoes over power lines???? I don't think I have ever passed this particular occurrence without asking that question to myself and after all these years, I'm no wiser on the subject!

This pair is over a line near my neighborhood and I have to pass it anytime I go anyplace. Like me, my kids always say "Mama, why are those shoes hanging there?" I just say to them, "Honey, I have no idea, but I'd like to know, too." It's one of those stupid things I obsess about and constantly look for (this isn't safe when your driving, trust me, I know). When things like this are a part of my consciousness I usually try to find some kind of creative route to bring about some resolution in my brain. This time is no different, so I've decided to create a photo collection of all the shoes over power lines I see. I will probably entitle it "WHY?????"

By the way, this particular pair hangs on the power lines outside a questionable Chinese Massage Parlor down the street that I've always wondered about. I wonder if there is a connection? Do you think this obsession is silly? Go google "shoes thrown over power lines" and you will be astounded. Look, it even has articles in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe_flinging I think as Americans we must get to the bottom of this before I go mad! I look forward to your shoe flinging explanations below (Sarah, I'm sure you have some insights for me!)


Remember Guns N Roses?

I guess it's true that good song writing stands the test of time. Remember the band Guns N Roses? (if not, you are waaaay too young to be reading this blog!) When I remember back to the days of high hair and black eyeliner (who, me?) I think of this band playing in the background as we "cruised" Main Street from the bowling alley to Mcdonald's on Saturday nights. (again, if you have to ask what "cruising" is, just go...)

Can you hear you and your friends singing along to Sweet Child of Mine out the window on a summer night? Well, just look at the lyrics in a new way. Read as prose, the lyrics are sensitive and beautiful - very unlike the band's image! Look at your own child and say the words quietly to yourself. Did you feel the lump in your throat for a minute? I think these lyrics (unexpectedly) fall into the category of good writing and I wanted to share.

ps (this frame is a wedding gift from a daughter to her father because this was always "their song". Thank you for making me feel very old)


These boots were made for walkin'...

Well, we knew this day would come someday, but it doesn't make it any easier. The time has come to retire "the boots"...sniff, sniff...

These cowboy boots came from a rodeo in San Antonio about 7 years ago for Munchkin #1 and were worn almost everyday until it was time to hand them down to Munchkin #2, and finally to Munchkin #3. Each one of my boys bore the nickname "The boy with the boots" at one time or another. I'm sorry to say, that I have no one else to pass them down to and they must retire.

These boots have seen so many things over the years. They have gone to preschool almost everyday with one or the other of my boys. They've played soccer, jumped in puddles, and been pushed high on the swings. They've been worn with sweatpants, jeans, camo. shorts, and, sometimes, no other clothing at all. They have had grubby boy feet in them, with and without socks. They've been full of sand, full of water (after being left in the rain) and full of goldfish crackers. We thought they were lost once, but they always found their way home again. These boots are a symbol of my children's young lives that is slowly slipping away.

They have been re-soled twice and re-heeled 3 times and they've stuck around through thick and thin (feet, that is). I hate to see them go because with them goes the chubby fingers, the infectious giggles, hugs around the neck, and sloppy kisses. I've already seen these things slip through my fingers like a stream of water. Those lovely days of toddler-hood and potty training, Cheerios and toy blocks. I miss those days already and they have barely passed.

I just can't part with the boots. They've been shined up and put in a place of honor on my fireplace, the focal point of our family room. I think it's a fitting reminder to cling to today because it will, too soon, be gone.


Does this say BOY or what???

Check out my newest frame for the son of a customer. The quote has "boy" written all over it, and I should know - living in this sea of testosterone I call home. I just love it. To see more of my work, click at the right so see my Etsy online shop. (or click here: www.hopestudios.etsy.com)


A Mother's List of Rights

Raise your right hand and repeat after me. I (state your name) have the right to:

  • Not mop the floor more than once a week
  • Call paper plate night when I can't face another dish in the sink
  • Not feel guilty for taking the time for general maintenance, eg: cutting my hair, showering, blow drying my hair, taking 10 minutes longer to shave my legs, eat, go to the bathroom with the door closed, and not entertaining a child or dog who both think I need help...
  • To eat a real meal mid-day, not scraps or cottage cheese spooned on top of a leftover fruit cup over the kitchen sink.
  • To eat cake as many times as I can in one week.
  • To not feel guilty about taking 2 hours a week to exercise and putting my kids in the YMCA childcare room to do so.
  • To be relieved of making at least 1 meal per week (eating out doesn't count, I want to see someone else make it AND clean up after it).
  • To acknowledge that my kids might not be the best soccer player, as long as I don't say it out loud.
  • To deny said kids snacks or drinks if they don't say "Please".
  • To read my favorite magazine subscription someplace other than the bathroom and not feel lazy.
  • To make grown up food once a week for dinner without having to prepare a side of chicken nuggets.
  • To look in my purse and actually find a piece of gum, a quarter, chapstick...that my kids haven't stolen when I wasn't looking.
  • To make a deal with my husband that if Brad Pitt ever propositioned me I get a free pass (concede that the same deal goes for him and Angelina).
  • To buy a pair of shoes in a real Mall (and not TJ Maxx) and feel no guilt!
  • To put on makeup without having to answer the question "Where are you going? Why are you putting on makeup?"
  • To take weekend shaving breaks like dear Hubby.
  • To make up shopping trips so I can put Munchkin #3 in the supermarket child care for 1/2 hour per week while I wander around talking or texting to my friends.
  • To text my friends dumb things I can't call for because I have 3 kids screaming in the back seat.
  • For my kids to know that I actually went to college and have a brain that goes beyond folding sheets and wiping butts.
  • Embrace the belly pooch because it came by way of birthing 3 kids (or 2 or 4 or 5...)
  • To not have to endure finding a new gray hair and a new zit on the same morning (seriously!)
  • To love McDonald's Apple Pie even though it's far down on the food chain.
  • To continue to love watching MTV as much as I did when I was 16 and it was brand new.
  • To never tell anyone I remember when MTV was brand new.
  • To tell my kids I'm 29 years old (again!).
  • Feel free to add your own thoughts below. Thank you!

My To-Do List

I've been working on my to do list for this week and thought I'd share:

Buy wood
Cut out some frames in advance
Ship 3 frames
decorate more boxes for my Wish Necklaces
Try my new recipe for Salt Scrub
Make homemade Seed Paper (that will really grow flowers!)
Check out the tadpole progress in the pond in the woods with Munchkin #3
Call my friends and try to set up lunch for Friday
Clean my house/do laundry
Make dino cookies for Munchkin #3's preschool snack day
Try to learn the hard ass kick boxing routine for this month so I don't look like fool
Shop for a formal dress for an event next month
Buy a non-fiction book for Munchkin #1 that is interesting and 40 pages long.
Make it to 3 sports practices for t-ball, baseball, and football
Pay attention to dear Hubby


Attention All Moms!

Featuring my most recent Etsy purchase, this "Motherhood" t-shirt is hand silk screened by Jen the artist who runs etsy shop Juror2 (http://www.juror2.etsy.com/) . Once I saw it, I had to have it. It started out as a mom with a baby and a cat, but I asked her to drop the baby, add another boy and a dog and it's perfect! Check her out and order a custom t-shirt of your munchkins, too. Oh, the best part...it's under $20!

My new spring treasury!

Yesterday, as it sleeted here in Western PA, I was able to snag an etsy treasury and tried to fill it with colorful, fun handmade items to brighten my day. Take a look at some examples of some of the many talented artists I share e-space with each day:


In other news, as I was mooching huge cardboard boxes from the construction guys next door to make a fort for 3 munchkins, one of the guys said "Hey, were you the girl I saw in the driveway using a circular saw last week?!" I guess that is how I'm known around the 'hood lately! I love it, especially when the girls next door come over to watch. I love to bust stereotypes and be feminine and tough all at once. I even wear my silver hoops while I'm cutting wood, so there!


Some Good Advice

I love this frame I just finished! One of my customers just ordered 4 different frames for everyone in her family, and I think this one strikes a chord. I chose a handwriting style of lettering to make it feel more personal. I wanted people to feel like they were reading a letter written for her children of all the life lessons a mom wants to pass on.

To order a frame from my studio, check me out in my shop at http://www.hopestudios.etsy.com/


Oh, bubble wrap! Why have you failed me?!

Okay, one of my frames arrived broken today! I can't believe my bubble wrap failed. I'm going to have to re-evaluate my packing methods. Maybe I'm using the wrong bubble wrap. Maybe larger bubbles are in order. Maybe more layers. Hmmmm....so many bubble wrap questions...


The Beauty From Behind

This is a collection of my favorite type of photo, taken from behind. I love to try to capture the perspective of the person I'm photographing (usually, the munchkins). I love the genuine body language, the things you can read into the relationship between two people when they aren't posing. I love to look into the photo at what they are looking at and try to sense what they were feeling or thinking. I think it's raw and real to photograph this way. It's one of my favorite things.


Another frame and some insights

I have to show off my latest order to get shipped off this weekend. It's my first large cream colored frame and the lettering is chocolate brown. I really love the simplicity of the look of the distressed antique white frame and the display photo is actually from a McDonald's ad in a magazine!

I love the photo of the back of the 'princess' running away from the camera in a tutu and tiara. I just love imagining who the frame is for and finding a photo that captures that feeling. In fact, I love photos of the back of people, in general. I find you really get a feel for the true relationship when they are unaware of being photographed. Here, take a look at my favorite Disney shot of my family. I think I need to post a collection of my fav photos from behind. Maybe tomorrow...

Whew! I'm slowly digging myself out!

I've had so much to do in the past week with kid stuff (sports, homework, life...) and shop stuff (frames, frames, frames!!!) that I've really neglected my blog. I love to write and it is what provides me some outlet and sanity day to day, so I need to get back on track.

I included a photo of the stack of work I've completed since last week as well as a photo of some fun time with the munchkins (see? balance! I'm doing it!). Mostly, to show myself that I've been productive! I think the best part is, I have this wonderful mass of work to show for all my time spent AND my house is clean at the same time!!!

So, as you can tell, I've been working on my time management. I'm keeping up with the house so far (it's only been 3 days), getting orders filled, and having "Randy Pausch time" with my kids. I think it's been a pretty good week.


Christmas in April

Well, the kids wanted to make Christmas cookies yesterday...so, we made some Christmas cookies! I tried to get out a flower cookie cutter and they were appalled! It was Christmas Trees or nothing! So, here they are and made from the best recipe ever. Here it is:
Christmas Cut-outs
1 cup butter (no subs)
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
You know the drill, cream the butter and sugar, add vanilla and egg. Then add dry ingredients and mix. Chill then cut out and bake at 350 for 8-10 mins. Decorate like Christmas trees and eat!
Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, yada, yada, yada...

Celebrate Mother's Day the Abe Lincoln Way!

That Abe Lincoln loved his moms and I couldn't have said it better myself.

"All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

This is one of 14 frames I'm working on this weekend, a custom order for a boutique. I'm feeling "in the weeds" (all you with a restaurant background will know what that means) with all the orders I have for this week, but I'm just taking a deep breath and getting to work. Have a great weekend!


What Would Randy Pausch Do?

Being from Pittsburgh, I forget that not everyone may be familiar with Randy Pausch. Randy is a Carnegie Mellon University Professor who is battling pancreatic cancer. He gave his "last lecture" in October and I read it the next day in our local newspaper. I will never forget sitting at the table that Sunday morning reading his words - the advice he wanted to pass on to his students and, more importantly, his three young children.

Tears streamed down my face as I read his lecture while the Sunday morning hustle and bustle went on around me. Having three children of my own made this really hit home. What would I want to leave with my children at the end of my days? Could I deliver that speech in front of a lecture hall full of students and community members? How could I stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to live what was left of my life to the fullest? In his words, how could I continue to "have fun"? For that matter...do I have enough "fun" with them now?

As I said, I read his lecture and it carried power, but I was recently forwarded an email with a video of his speech reprised for the Oprah show. It was the first time I could watch his face as he spoke the words and look at the photos he displayed to make each point. I could see how healthy he looked, knowing his prognosis. It is hard to watch, but inspiring and enlightening, too. I think it's a must see for anyone who has children or is some one's child. Let us live life like Randy Pausch would. To view the video click here: http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=ithct48cqw

To follow Randy's story through his own blog see here: http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/news/index.html

Recipe for Goop, Gloop, Snot...Whatever

How can these three ingredients buy you an hour of peace and quiet? Stir 'em up and just watch your kids dig in to the gooey mess with looks of pure bliss. Luckily, it doesn't stick to their skin so it's easy to clean up. Call it science and your back on track for Mom of the Year.

Goop, Gloop Recipe

1/4 cup cornstarch

4 oz. white glue

1/4 cup liquid starch

Add glue and cornstarch to a bowl and mix well, add liquid starch and stir for 2 minutes to form Goop. Add kids and play.
ps (sorry about the sideways pics, it's been a long day for me and my computer)


"Say What?" My New Treasury!

Click here to get a closer look at my Treasury picks from some very talented Etsy artists: http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list_west.php?room_id=5761

Think Green.

It's funny how things have changed over the years. I can remember when I got married, it was all about me. What hors d'oeuvres, which dress, what kind of car to drive us, where to go on our honeymoon... but I'm seeing a trend lately that has me thinking. I was commissioned to make a wedding sign for a "green wedding" last week. The bride explained that they hoped to use things that had been recycled or reclaimed in some way for their wedding.

The prospect was interesting and I set off into the woods behind my house to find the perfect piece of wood. It's still bare around here so as I looked I also noticed all the cans and newspapers that had blown in from the last wind storm. I thought about how much we use and throw away everyday and what kind of world my kids will grow up in...my grand kids?

In my business I try to recycle and reuse as much as possible. It saves me money in packaging, but it also uses something that will otherwise end up in a landfill. It's a treasure trove in Target on Friday mornings as they unpack the weekend stock. I can go and get my fill of boxes and bubble wrap (ooh, bubble wrap) every week. But am I doing enough?

I look at this bride and think about how environmentally conscious she is trying to be on one of my most selfish days. I think this is what we have created in the next generation due to our overuse of resources. We have forced them to always consider their impact. I hope it rubs off on the rest of us.

Your Skin Fix, December Edition