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November 2010

slowing down

in the woods with belly button

Still visiting Mima and Papa, however this picture is from last month in Asheville, NC. Here in California the snow is covering the ground like hard frosting on a Christmas cookie - it's been so cold!

My mental to-do list must be at least twelve feet long. I'm starting to feel a lot of self-inflicted pressure to get "everything" done before we have to relocate to Philadelphia temporarily a few weeks before Lachlan is due to arrive. It looks like we will be saying goodbye to this normal life - our house, our kitchen, our town, our comfort and familiarity - around the first week of February. I will say that we're very happy with our decision to treat Lachlan at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - they really seem to take families under their wings and help them through not just the surgeries, but with all of the other upheavals as well, from making sure that our health insurance covers the various treatments to helping us find a place to stay when we're there.

But yet ... I have this heavy feeling on my shoulders that if I don't work myself like mad before this big change that the business won't be able to run itself in our absence, or that it won't bring in enough to support us during this down time that we will need while caring for Lachlan. I'm really quite torn. I hate being on the computer while Finn is around, but there's always some email communication to tend to, always something to follow up on, always ... something. I'm trying to maintain my ability to be present to him and enjoy family life - to fill him up with love and comfort and attention that will hopefully carry him through those weeks when I have to spend a good deal of the day away from him at Lachlan's bedside. And then my mind starts going like crazy. I need to do this, this, this, and this. You might think that I must be a very type-A personality from reading this, but really I'm not - I'm usually fairly laid back about all of this stuff - business, other deadlines, etc. This urgency is a new feeling for me, and not one that I like.

Predictably, as the stress mounted, Finn and I got sick. There's nothing like a snowstorm, lack of internet access, and a whopper of a head cold to help slow me down. I need to remind myself that I can only do so much, and the most important thing right now is to enjoy this moment, which will never come again.

Right now, I'm really enjoying re-reading Grace's advent ideas. (And, I'm also totally okay with not doing anything elaborate this holiday season! But perhaps next year, right?)

a different kind of black friday - low cost "big" gifts for children

Hooray! We're back online and, most importantly, showering with hot water! The dinner yesterday was spectacular. My mom has a knack for making an incredible food spread look effortless. If I had been in charge, I would have looked haggard, food stuck to my hair and clothing, unable to hold a conversation with anyone until everything was on the table. She rocks the kitchen, that mom of mine.

one mess of a puppet head

I thought you would get a kick out of my Black Friday "shopping" excursion this morning. It started at the end of my parents' driveway where I grabbed a handful of newspapers that had been put at the curb to be recycled. I threw those in the back of the car and headed to the craft store, where I bought four styrofoam balls and some masking tape.

Styrofoam balls, masking tape, newspaper, flour and water ... all I need to begin my most ambitious holiday handmade gift of the season. Puppets. Four of them, with a door frame puppet theater from fabric in my stash. I'm planning on using the tutorial for the theater below, which can be found at Petite Purls


Photo, design and tutorial by Nancy Anderson

This gift isn't for Finn, as he's too little yet to really use such a toy, but my nieces (who are four and six) will most certainly put it to use.

I've been thinking a lot this holiday season about being thrifty, perhaps more than usual, given the health care costs we will be incurring due to Lachlan's condition. The main thing I'm doing for Finn this year is putting together the art/playroom, and trying to spend virtually no money on the endeavor. (More on that when I return home from our time in California.) He will get a few quality, wooden toys, but other than that, it's a simple stocking and a new playspace.

Since so many of us are needing to tighten the belts of our gifting budgets, I thought I'd point to some great, low-cost ideas for children's gifts.

  • Put together a new playspace for your child, using thrifted furniture cut down to size (i.e. saw off the legs of an old desk to make a child-sized table. Again, more on this later!) Here's an article with some helpful ideas.
  • Organize a spectacular dress-up area. Keep your eyes peeled for fun hats, shoes and outfits during thrifting excursions, or make your own. Dedicate a space for dress up in your home - set up one of those cheap wall mirrors next to a peg shelf. Add ribbon loops to all shirts and pants so they can be hung from the peg shelf, assuring that they are easily accessible to children and don't get lost in a bottomless toy chest. Place shoes and accessories in bins below the peg shelf. Remember to rotate the items on occasion to maintain the child's interest.
  • Put together a "kit-in-a-box" gift that caters to your child's particular interests. I thought the veterinarian's case Amanda put together for her daughter was amazing. You could take this idea and apply it to any interest - an field explorer's kit, a baking kit, a sewing kit, a florist's kit ... really any interest you see emerging in your child could be nourished through such a gift.
  • Stock your child's play kitchen with handmade felt food.
  • Set up a birding area near a large window in your home.
  • Re-organize and re-stock your child's art space or reading nook.

Leave a comment to share your own ideas!


Cozy. It's a word I've had in my head for the last few days. It certainly aptly described the twelve hours Finn and I spent on the same plane before finally arriving in California. It went as well as could be expected. Thank you, mini slinky. Thank you, lollipops. We arrived in one piece (looking like we'd just been run over by a truck, I'm sure, but we're here!)

snow play

We arrived at my parents' house after a major snow storm that knocked branches onto the utility lines and has left us without power, internet connection, land line or cell phone reception for the last several days. We're still waiting for the power to be restored, but until then, we're cozy-ing up. Lots of knitting, a simple Thanksgiving meal, and snow play. A truly old-fashioned kind of cozy. I found a bit of time to stop by a cafe in town to blog today (on my way to the local fabric store!) I'm not sure when I'll be back online, but I wanted to wish you all a very cozy holiday with family and friends.

Finn's first snowman

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours!


a toddler backpack - bag of tricks for airplane travel

eh-pane fuhfuh

I can think of several alternate titles for this post:

"Pregnant mother travelling alone with toddler "lap child" with little room on her lap makes a bag of tricks to assure that she and said toddler arrive at destination without disolving into a puddle of frustrated tears"

... oh shucks, that one's too long, just like our cross-country flight on Monday.

"eh-pane Fuhfuh"

... oh shucks, you wouldn't understand that one without a translation. That's what Finn calls his backpack. Translation: Airplane Finny.

Finn is really looking forward to our trip out to California on Monday. He will repeatedly tell you several things about it. First, we'll be riding on an airplane. "Fly!" he says. Then, he'll say something about Mima and Papa's red car. Good. We'll keep it at that, then. If you were to ask me about our upcoming trip, I would also use simple words like "sit," "uncomfortable," "no space," "no Patrick," "wiggly boy," and "same airplane, eight hours, no escape."

Not one to complain, though, (hah!) I thought that I should just make the most of it. For me, that meant sewing something cute and filling it with never-before-seen items of interest to keep both of our attitudes positive during the long journey.

toddler backpack

toddler backpack - back

Pattern: Made by Rae's Toddler Backpack

Fabric: scrap of cushiony faux leather perfect for the aviator look, plaid wool, and knit interlock for airplane applique, all from stash.

Modifications: Added the airplane applique that I drew myself (I think it looks like the belly of a sea lion, buy hey, I did it with an 18 month-old on my lap, who wanted to help me draw, too.) Hand-drew his name applique as well.

Impressions: Oh, I liked this pattern a lot. It came together in an afternoon with Finn at my feet (or on my lap) during the entire process. The results are super cute, too. I would have made the straps a tad shorter to accommodate his little bod a bit better, but it will do. He'll grow into it very soon.

And here's what's inside - a collection of thingamajigs only to be seen on airplane rides.

animals for the airplane ride

Tiny cheepo plastic animals.

repositionable stickers for airplane ride

Re-positionable stickers and card stock.

mini slinky and music box for airplane ride

A mini-slinky and a mini wind-it-yourself music box.

new books for airplane ride

A handful of new books: Harry the Dirty Dog, Freight Train , Winter Wonderland, and A Tree For All Seasons. Not pictured is Usborne's 1001 Things to Spot in the Town.

I'm also throwing in our beeswax crayons and a bit of play dough.

I'll supplement all of this non-edible fun with lots of fun edibles. I'm hoping to score an organic lollipop or two, along with some yummy muffins, and crackers. Maybe he'd like some string cheese! He's never had that before. Of course, there are the old favorites that take a while to eat, too: steamed carrots and apple slices, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs.

Bag of tricks, please don't fail me. Off we go!


sponsor giveaway :: creative kismet

I'm really excited to feature one of my sponsors, Creative Kismet! Regina's art is so vibrant and full of life. Check out her inspiring blog here. She sent me one of her prints - "I Will Help You Grow" (perfect, right?) and it will have a prominent spot on the wall of the new playroom.

Please read on to learn more about Creative Kismet, and leave a comment to enter to win a free print of your choice. Comments close Sunday evening, November 20th. Creative Kismet is also offering free shipping on domestic US orders from now until November 24th. Just mention "Sew Liberated" in the notes to the seller with your order.

Art sample  

Tell us about yourself and and your art.
I am a mother of two happy, energetic and creative boys and wife of an amazing and very supportive husband. They are my light, my inspiration and my greatest joy. I am also working as a part time registered nurse and certified lactation consultant on a very busy mother/baby unit at a local hospital.  I love working with new mommies and their sweet babies, helping to make those first days of motherhood transition a bit smoother.

I am currently living in warm and sunny Southern Arizona very much inspired by the warm weather, bright colors and Mexican influences of my area. I also have this overflowing passion for creating handmade goodies, whether it be painting art, making craft or sewing. I love it all. I like to keep things upbeat, happy, cheerful and bright.

Glorious morning tea -wm

How does motherhood and your work as a nurse influence your art?

Because motherhood is such a tender and sometimes difficult period, I know that any support you get can mean the world. Whether it is helping a new baby nurse, getting a free home cooked meal, or gentle and kind words of encouragement, mothers need all the support we can get--and we should graciously accept it. I always think of these things when I make my art.  A painting that is bright, cheerful and gives a positive feeling and message is something that I want to share.


How do you set aside time to create in the midst of motherhood and work? Any suggestions for the rest of us?
Well, I'm not the best house keeper in the world. If there is a pile of clothes or dishes, I'd rather cover them up with a pretty dish towel so that I can have a bit more time with my art.  Actually, my husband is pretty amazing and helpful around the house and with the kids. We try hard to make sure there is time for both of us to do what we like. It's a priority to set that time aside.   My kids, ages 9 and 5, are in Montessori school now. They are at a great age where they are becoming more and more independent. They are also the best of buds and play very well together, keeping each other busy and active. This has definitely helped with freeing up little bits of time here and there. We have come to realize that when we all have time to do what we enjoy, we are all much happier and the rhythm of our home flows a bit easier. It isn't always humming, there are definite hiccups, but we try to take it in stride the best we can.

Thank you so much, Regina!


*****************************UPDATE, COMMENTS CLOSED************************

Thanks to all who entered, and congratulations to Kristin, whose comment was selected at random.

and he looks like his big brother ...

little lachlan, 25 weeks

We spent most of yesterday afternoon at the hospital between the fetal cardiologist and the ultrasound folks. What we got was good news - Lachlan still has HLHS (drat) but he is growing so well, and does not appear to have any other issues other than that faulty left ventricle of his. For the second time, the sonographer mentioned how beautiful his brain looked. We also learned that his particular heart physiology makes him a good candidate for the surgeries.

And ... we got a good look at his little face, which looks so much like Finn's. Last time, he had his arms and umbilical cord covering his face as he slept, but this time, we got to see him exploring his cord with his hands and practicing nursing movements with his mouth!

little lachlan, 25 weeks

Check out that tongue!

little lachlan, 25 weeks

It's good to put a face to all of those kicks.

A few unrelated, but important, mentions:

  • Anie, of Sweetbug Farm, has generously offered to host this year's Holiday Traditions Exchange. Pop on over to her blog to sign up, and read about her own experience with last year's exchange here. Thank you so much, Anie!
  • I've updated the rug sneak peek post with some more info on how I'm going about the process. Sorry for being so brief and mysterious yesterday!


on the floor

on my floor

Once again, I find myself working on a project that requires me to be on the floor for hours on end. Pregnant belly and all. Why does it only occur to me to do these sorts of things while pregnant?

on my floor 2

It's going to be awesome, though. It's so soft, so cushiony, and will be the perfect addition to the new playroom. When I'm done, though, my back will thank me.


I'm no expert on this rug making business, but I'm following Amanda's instructions in Handmade Home . I chose to use recycled t-shirts cut into 1.5" strips for the "fabric." My secret? I bought my thrifted shirts already cut and from the super-nice and helpful Laurine at Green At Heart. Laurine put together a special listing for me, and the price was very reasonable. If you happen to have the t-shirts already on hand, you'll need about 45 of them to make a 60" diameter rug. I'll share more details once I have a finished product!

moon booties

stay-on baby booties

The Stay-On Booties from Knitting for Baby have been on my to-make list for a while now. After hearing such great things about them from Amanda and Grace, as well as other Ravelry members (who claim that the booties actually do stay on those slippery baby feet) I cast on, thinking about Lachlan's little toes with every clickety-clack of the needles.

Knitting is something tangible I can do for little Lachlan, whose circulation will be compromised. No better way to keep those hands and feet warm than with handknits! What better excuse to spend more time knitting? And you know what? I'm not the only one who is knitting around here. Patrick picked up some yarn and needles a few days back, and has since cast on five stitches and knit about four. The going is slow, but maybe, just maybe, we will have two knitters in the family.

baby moon booties

I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock mediumweight in Jonagold (the colorway is no longer available). Yes, people will probably mistake him for a girl because (gasp) there's a bit of coral color in there, but I'm used to that. Put a boy in anything other than sports paraphernalia nowadays and folks think he's a girl. But since I'm not into that, I'm going all out with the androgynous goodness - I have plenty of yarn left over, and Lachlan will soon have his very own Stella Pixie in the same colorway as his booties!

Thank you again for your sweet emails, thoughts and prayers. They really give me the boost I need in more difficult moments.

May your weekend be a good one,



thank you and muffins

bran muffins 2

I can't begin to put into words what your comments and emails mean to me, to us. I've been teary and sniffly with gratitude since I put up that post.

Since I can't give each of you a hug of thanks for all of your words of support and love, I thought I'd bring you over some muffins.

Well, sort of. You do have to make them yourselves, but I'm afraid that baking a batch of muffins to be delivered directly to the doors of over three hundred generous friends is just a bit out of my reach right now.

bran muffins

But they are yummy, healthy, and make the perfect snack for toddlers. I'd been searching for a recipe like this for a while - something without sugar and full of whole grains, and something that was easy to make with the "help" of a toddler. I ended up modifying a recipe I found in a back issue of Mary Jane's Farm.

Bran Muffins

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Makes: 12 Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup oat bran

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup apple butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped-up dried figs

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat muffin pan with oil. (I used paper liners the first time, and I don't recommend it - they stick to the muffins!)

2. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon - don't overmix. Fold in the dried fruit.

4. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes.

bran muffins 3


A few more things have been on my mind in the last few weeks as we re-envision what life will entail in the months following Lachlan's birth. One of the things that stands out to me is the fact that he will be medically fragile for a while. It isn't recommended that we take him out and about in public places where he could catch a cold - a cold which, for the average person, would just be a nuisance, but for Lachlan might mean hospitalization.

A natural homebody, this doesn't freak me out, but I've been thinking about ways we could arrange our living space to be most inviting to be in and most accommodating of our near-constant presence. This means that I'm saying good-bye to my sewing studio, the sunniest room in the house, and transforming it into an art/playroom. My studio will share space with our guest quarters in the partially finished basement. Less sunny, but heck, I do most of my actual sewing at night, anyway.

So yes, an art/playroom. I'm ridiculously excited about this, and the wheels are turning big-time in my head. I look forward to sharing the process with you in the coming weeks. In my own research into such spaces, I spent lots of time hanging out at Playful Learning. Wow. What an incredible resource Mariah has put together. I especially love the section on "Learning Experiences." So many great ideas.

Onward, then. In the words of the Beatles, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends." Thank you.


getting to the heart of it all


Over a month ago now (the longest month of my life), we were sitting in a windowless ultrasound room, listening to a doctor purse her lips and say "I'm concerned about your baby's heart."

And there it was. The phrase that would change our lives forever. We held hands. Somehow we were led through the labyrinth of the women's hospital to the children's wing, and into a pediatric cardiologist's office. The echocardiogram confirmed what the doctor had suspected; Lachlan has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS.

We had just met this beautiful baby boy on screen, seen his long fingers and watched as he went from bouncing around to curling his arms up over his face for a little snooze.

Another boy. Everyone always says that each child is unique, that siblings can be as different as night and day. Finn began his life gently; I sang to him as I held him in my arms and nursed him right away. Patrick held his tiny body to his chest where he took his first nap, listening to the beating of his daddy's heart, rocking away with the rise and fall of his chest.  

Lachlan will likely be whisked away right after birth, poked and prodded, given strong medication to keep his heart delivering blood to his body, and put on a respirator. Within a few days, he will have his first open heart surgery. I don't know when I'll be able to hold my baby in my arms. It could be weeks. All of this so he can have a chance of surviving in this world. If he makes it through the first few months, he will have another open heart surgery, followed by a third when he is a toddler. My heart really breaks when I write this, but it is nothing compared to the pain and suffering he will have to endure because, well, his heart is literally broken. I'll just swallow my figurative stuff for now.

So that's what's been going on behind the scenes in our family. I'm finally able to write about it. At first we were just so shell shocked that I didn't know what to think - and words don't come easily when nothing makes sense in your head. Here we are now, our reality adjusted, mentally preparing for a very different kind of welcome for our second child. We hold to a cautious optimism that Lachlan will come out winning in this coin toss, able to live a joyful childhood and adulthood despite having half of a heart. We will probably go elsewhere to have the surgeries performed, most likely Philadelphia or Boston - the hospitals with the best success rates for treating HLHS in the country. Here is a link to a series of six videos put out by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia about the disease and its course of treatment.

Most days now we're doing pretty well, allowing ourselves to get comfortable with uncertainty, to find peace in the midst of circumstances that have spun us like tops into a different life trajectory. Lachlan bounces around, full of life, in my womb. Finn lifts my shirt and says "Hi Lala," waving to his little brother. We make oat bran muffins and hang out at the park. I clean the house in an odd case of nesting - we're not likely to be able to return home until (at best) three weeks to a month after he is born. Life goes on. A different sort of life. A tender life, a more fragile life, but a life where joy and love is still possible in each and every present moment.

I refuse to let the lack of a functioning left ventricle define who Lachlan is, and who he might become. He is a person, not a "hypoplast," a term medical professionals use to refer to children with this condition. He is my son, my sweetheart, a little baby, a being full of potential, a unique individual. I refuse to let worry move in and push out the ability to enjoy his presence in this world. He may be with us for a short while, he may live to have his own family; what matters is the preciousness of every moment, the connections made in moment after moment.

So I'm not sure how much I want to talk about, or dwell on, Lachlan's medical issues in this space - despite the warm support we have consistently received from you, friends as well as readers and commenters. We will be living through many tough times in the coming year especially, and I cannot keep that fact from seeping into my writing here. But I need a place where I can focus on positive, beautiful moments in our lives, where I can continue to share what I make with my hands. This blog helps me connect to a creative, caring community, which serves as an anchor as turbulent waters toss me about.

So yeah. I won't rename the blog "Lachlan's Heart," just as I wouldn't rename it "Finn's Really Bizarre-Looking Toes." They are my boys, little beings defined by so much more than their physiology. And you know what? Sew Liberated is taking on another meaning. In creating, I find peace, a state of liberation from worry, from the false assumption that we really have any control over this experience we call Life. It's a meditative process, working with your hands.

Sending love to you all,