Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: “What was I doing again?” edition

by Decemberbaby

It’s probably not news to any of you that as a mom of three kids under four, I only have about two brain cells to rub together at any given time. Hence I’m sure you’ll forgive me for having absolutely no clue what I wassupposed to be doing over the last two weeks. If you don’t mind, I’ll just go and check my last WIP Wednesday post for some clues. Hold on, I’ll be right back.

(Musically inclined readers can imagine a muzak version of the “little spanish flea” song here. Or click play below.)

Okay, I’m back. That was… interesting. ‘Cause I’ve had a few projects on my mind, but not exactly the ones I posted about last time. Nevertheless, here’s my update:

Still in Progress: Weight Watchin’

My total weight loss now stands at 13.6 pounds, or an average-sized three-month-old baby. For some reason I don’t feel it, and I don’t think I look it either, but better down than up. Right?

Stall in Progress: Photo books

No, that’s not a typo. My photo book project has stalled – I haven’t touched it in two weeks. I think I’m going to set aside half an hour every day, while I’m nursing R and can only use my mouse hand anyway, to work on the photo books rather than web surfing aimlessly. By next week I hope to have R’s section (a whole four pages, whee!) finished.

Still in Progress: Kids’ table

I took a break from the table for a while because my router broke, then the long clamps I needed were locked into the garage during the raccoon incident, then I was frustrated by my inability to completely flatten some wooden plugs (in the screw holes), and then I got sidetracked by a couple of brand-new projects. But we’re having some young guests for shabbat this week, so I have to get ‘er done. I plan to finish the construction and sanding by Friday, when we’ll use it in its unfinished state (with a tablecloth, of course). Finishing can come later.

Completed! Baby quilt (see last post for photos)

I did accomplish something, you know. The quilt was about 9 hours of work all together. Now, if I could just coordinate with the new parents to drop it off for them…

In progress: library doors

The kids’ books are currently housed in a cube-style shelving unit. Lately N has taken to pulling the books out one by one and dropping them on the floor until he finds the one he wants. In an attempt to stop this behaviour, I’m building doors for the cubes. Each door will have a book ledge on the front so that N can see a few books displayed there, and will close with a magnetic catch (the kind where you have to push the door in order to open it.)

Anyhow, the MDF (free! from my scrap stash) has been cut, I’ve started painting the door panels, and I’ve built three out of the four book ledges (would have built the fourth, but I was missing a piece.) I don’t anticipate making much progress this week on account of I’m having guests for Shabbat.

I think that’s enough for one week, don’t you? Now humour me and tell me what you’ve been up to… pretty please?

February 26, 2012

What I did on my blog-free staycation

by Decemberbaby

Okay, it wasn’t a staycation. More like a vacation from the blog. Anyhow, I did what any sane, exhausted, still-coughing mother-of-three would do: I made a quilt.

Wanna see it? Of course you do!

It’s a basketweave quilt with some extra sashing to make it a bit bigger. Have I mentioned that this is the first real quilt I’ve ever made? It took me about 9 hours including designing and making this:

Yep, it’s my very own label. For those who can’t read it, it says “sewn by Sara”. Now that I know how to make these, they’ll be added to everything I sew.  How cool is that?

So the front of the quilt is cotton. The back is a fabulously soft minkee-type fabric in a tye-dye pattern, in the same turquoise colour as the binding:

Here’s a close-up of the sashing fabric – it’s a Noah’s ark theme with animals peeking out of little portholes. You can also see the binding (striped stuff around the edge) that I made all by myself:

My mum always asks “where did you learn to do this?”

As usual, the answer is: “the internet.” Thanks to a couple of free tutorials online, I was able to whip this up correctly the first time. Here they are:

The inspiration and step-by-step instructions for the basketweave design came from’s site for beginning quilters.

Ashley over at Make it and Love it has a knack for making the most intimidating projects easy to understand and do. Here’s her guide to piecing and binding a quilt.

I made my own fabric labels by printing directly onto the fabric with my inkjet printer. Instructions for how to do it successfully can be found over at Matsutake. Sorry for the lack of link, but for some reason Blogger won’t display the page at all right now. I’m sure it’ll be back online soon.

So that’s it. My entire weekend summed up in a 28″x25″ baby quilt. Too bad it’s a gift: I’d like to take it to bed for a snuggle.

February 20, 2012

Horton runs for office.

by Decemberbaby

You guys know Horton, right? “A person’s a person, no matter how small”?

I think we all know where he ended up… in the Oklahoma state senate. Supporting the newly passed Oklahoma personhood bill.

The bill declares that unborn children (by this bill’s definition, any stage from newly fertilized ovum up to full-term fetus) are recognized as persons, with the same rights as any other person in Oklahoma. This, of course, opens up all kinds of potential abuses:

“But officer, Iam a high-occupancy vehicle! I’m a fertility doctor and I have three hundred test-tube embryos in this cooler!”

“I’d like to claim a dependent on my taxes… how old? um, six weeks gestational age.”

All joking aside, I’d like to explain to you why the abortion debate infuriates me:

It seems to me that there are a couple of straw men here, at least one for each side. The pro-life camp decries the use of abortions as a form of too-late birth control. They seem to feel that, left to our own devices, women would throw caution to the wind and have unprotected sex because “there’s always abortion!” Perhaps there are some women who operate that way, but I can’t imagine there are so many of them.

In the meantime, the pro-choice camp trots out the argument that no woman should be forced to carry to term a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest (although I don’t really understand the “or” there; if it’s consensual incest, she could have forseen the possibility of pregnancy and it’s not the same thing as rape. If it’s forced incest, how is that different from rape?). Again, I’m sure that there are some women who have been assaulted, became pregnant as a result, and chose to terminate. But to use that example over and over again as the reason for keeping abortion legal is missing the point of a movement called “pro-choice“.

Because when you really get down to it, the legality of abortion affects all kinds of reproductive choices – it’s not just about terminating a pregnancy. If a fertilized ovum is a person, if a three-day-old blastocyst is a person, then any infertility doctor who creates more embryos than she intends to transfer back into the womb would be a murderer. So would any infertility patient who, after having frozen a number of surplus embryos, ends up getting a divorce and choosing to destroy the embryos rather than use them. These issues alone would be enough to make many fertility treatments unfeasible, thus restricting women’s right to choose to get pregnant.

Women who get pregnant the “good old-fashioned way” aren’t exempt here, either. If a pregnancy is discovered to have implanted outside the uterus (some figures put this as happening in 2% of all pregnancies) it generally must be terminated. Yes, must. An ectopic pregnancy can cause the rupture of the fallopian tubes or other organs, leading to hemorrhage, leading to death. It’s not even a question of the mother’s life or the baby’s life in those cases – it’s either the mother’s life, or nobody’s. Under the personhood law, a woman who is treated medically for an ectopic pregnancy could be found guilty of murder, although one presumes that she could plead self-defense.

And let’s not even get me started on the alarming idea (already a reality, albeit a rare one) of court-ordered caesarian sections on the basis that the mother may be endangering the life of the fetus (for example, a mother who wants to have a vaginal breech birth.)

There are other cases I won’t go into here, but I think you get the picture. The abortion debate is about choice, and it’s not just about termination. I don’t usually hold with slippery slope arguments, but as soon as you erode one reproductive choice, you erode them all.

See these guys? The one on the right is N (we think.) The one on the left (aka "the one who didn't make it") could be Oklahoma's new poster child.


February 15, 2012

Work-in-Progress Wednesday: “Should I bother?” edition

by Decemberbaby

Apparently it’s been a few weeks since the last WIP Wednesday, possibly the same few weeks it’s been since I was last feeling relatively healthy. So I begin with an important question: should I even bother with WIP Wednesday anymore, or should I just post projects as I go along? I’m on the fence. What do you think?

Anyhow, here’s the update on some of my stuff:

Completed: K’s kippah

Yes, it’s completed, which means that K put it on her head, proudly paraded around in it, and then put it somewhere. I haven’t seen it since. We’ll need to find it soon, because she needs it for shul (that’s another post for another time.)

In Progress: Weight Watchin’

All in all I’m down 11.4 pounds since the beginning of 2012. For those of you who are hating me right now, let me remind you that losing weight while breastfeeding AND feverish AND strep throat-y is a lot like fishing at a trout farm. You have to actually make an effort to be unsuccessful. As I get healthier I’ll have to start tracking what I eat again, which isn’t really a bad thing. I enjoyed my four weeks of fruit-and-veggie dominant eating, and I’ve been having way too much garbage the last two weeks (when I’m eating anything at all, that is. When I’m really sick all I want is juice.)

Still in progress: Photo books

I still haven’t finished the sampler photo book for my grandmother even though her ninety-second birthday has come and gone. Here’s a page I’m proud of, though – the cover page for N’s section:

I got a bit discouraged when the software program ate part of a recent layout, but I plan to get back into it. I should have some time alone on Sunday, so maybe I can do it then.

In Progress: Kids’ dining table!

All of the kids’ tables we have are too small. That is, there isn’t room for more than one or two kids to work, eat, or do anything else you might want to do at a table. So… I’m building my own. It will be 33 inches square, and I plan to stain the top and paint the legs and apron. I’ve been having fun with pocket holes and router bits… stay tuned for pics! I hope to finish assembling it by Friday, since we have a number of guests with little kids coming that night, and then I’ll work on the finish next week.

Well, that’s it. Don’t forget to tell me if WIP Wednesday is something you’d actually miss if I stopped posting it.

February 14, 2012


by Decemberbaby

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this post in its entirety before I realized that today is Valentine’s Day. Mr. December and I don’t do V-day, and this post wasn’t intended in any way to be thematically appropriate.

So we’re sick again. Our new nanny was supposed to start yesterday, but it felt wrong to not disclose the fact that we’re the plague house right now, and she decided to wait until we’re well. Mr. December and I both feel awful, but we’re taking turns tending to the kids.

Right. So we’re sick, and it’s dinnertime. Mr. D comes staggering out of the bedroom and before I can ask, he picks up a very fussy R and changes her diaper. I call the kids for dinner and Mr. D dishes up the pasta and sauce so that I can clean up quickly before R needs to nurse again. From the kitchen I can hear him at the table, instructing K on the finer points of applying parmesan to her pasta without applying pasta to the parmesan. R cries and I go to her while Mr. December helps with hand-washing and tooth brushing. Earlier he scored brownie points by calling a nanny temp agency and requesting someone for tomorrow so that the house can get clean and the kids can be looked after and I can rest.

In the middle of it all, with two kids sitting in cardboard boxes and one whining for the breast, I look at Mr. December. His hair is tousled (and not in a sexy way – it’s just messy.) He’s got two days’ worth of stubble. He’s wearing his bathrobe. His eyes are rimmed with red and underscored by dark circles. He looks like death warmed over.

And it suddenly hits me – I love this man. I love him so, so much. It’s not the wild crush of our youth (although sometimes I still catch a whiff of that) and it’s not the romantic feeling of being so cherished or of a deep-down soul connection. It’s steadier than those. It’s the love of “we’re in this together.” This day, this moment, feels just dreadful. The house is a mess, the kids are a mess, we’re a mess, and we’re just muddling through – but there’s nobody in the world with whom I’d rather muddle through.

Sometimes I wonder about other people’s criteria in choosing a partner for life. I may well be wrong, but I feel like popular culture puts an emphasis on romantic love – being swept off your feet by someone – and sexual attraction. It would be a shame if people bought into that ideal, because it’s just not sustainable 24/7. No matter how attracted and wildly in love you are, one morning you’ll wake up to a partner with morning breath who forgot to put the garbage out, and you won’t be feeling the love in that moment.

So what is sustainable? Common goals. Friendship. The ability to work together and deal honestly with one another.

I’ll admit that I fell wildly, madly in love with Mr. December. But in the seven long years between that moment and our wedding, we had a lot of serious conversations about our goals: kids (how many? stay-at-home mom or daycare? how will we educate them?), religion (how kosher will our home be? how will be celebrate shabbat? what kind of synagogue are we looking for?), finances (joint accounts or separate? how will decisions be made on spending? investments?), and even the little things (how often would we each see our own friends? do Saturdays need to always be date nights?) We discussed our future life so thoroughly that the rabbi who married us really had nothing to say during our pre-wedding counseling sessions. And believe me, if we hadn’t been able to come to satisfactory answers for all of those issues, we wouldn’t have moved forward.

If it sounds unromantic, that’s probably because it is. It’s a bit like Tevye and Golda inFiddler on the Roof:

For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is?

Or, in more modern-day parlance:

Yup, there's nobody with whom I'd rather face a zombie apocalypse than Mr. December. That's love.

But in my opinion, nothing beats looking over at my husband – elbow deep in diapers and snotty kleenex – and feeling that surge of appreciation and togetherness and unity of purpose… in other words, love.

February 12, 2012

News from the petri dish

by Decemberbaby

Just when I thought we were done…  R spent last night up crying with a raging fever, Mr. December felt even worse today, and K and N woke up with runny noses. My throat is sore and my nose is stuffy. It’s been four weeks since I came down with strep and bronchitis, so I guess it’s time for a new illness… blech. Maybe next winter I’ll invest in a HazMat suit.

I’m doing some exciting carpentry which is keeping me busy, and the rest of the time I’m holding a crying baby, so I know you’ll excuse me for not posting more frequently. I’m sure I’ll be back in full force when everyone is done being sick and the kids are safely packed off to university.

In the meantime, entertain me. Leave me a comment with your best joke, please!

February 9, 2012

I upped my medication, so up yours.

by Decemberbaby

Those of you who have just started reading my blog might have missed or glossed over the fact that I struggle with clinical depression.

There’s something I have to get out of the way first, before I can get to the point:

Clinical depression is not the same thing as “feeling depressed” (aka “sad”). Although it can be triggered by a sad event, it can also be triggered by nothing at all. A comment such as, “What do you have to feel sad about? You have a charmed life!” completely misses the point. Depression isn’t about sadness, not really. It’s about:

  • A lack of motivation. The lack of motivation in depression isn’t laziness, and it’s very difficult to think your way out of. It’s sort of like losing your appetite: you still need to eat, but you have no inner urges making you do so, so you have to force yourself. When the motivational drive is malfunctioning, absolutely everything becomes an uphill battle: I’ve had to give myself a pep talk just to get up and empty the dishwasher. And lest you say, “hmm, still sounds like laziness,” I’ll tell you that during depressive episodes I’m also unable and unmotivated to get any of my creative projects done.
  • Faulty reasoning/attribution of causality. I’m having a hard time thinking of an example, actually, but I know depressive thinking when I find myself doing it. I’ll add a proper example when I have one. The attribution of causality thing has me blaming myself for being unmotivated (“lazy!”) and saying things like, “I’m a terrible mother. A good mother wouldn’t lie in bed staring at the wall while the baby cries his heart out. I don’t deserve my kids. Why am I such a bad mother? I thought I’d be good at parenting, but I hate it. My kids are a burden.”
  • Fatigue. Yes, you’re right, everything is blamed for fatigue these days. But now that I’m on the right dosage of the right medication, I see the difference between fatigue from depression and regular old tiredness. When I’m in a depressive episode, fatigue is an emotional and cognitive tiredness in addition to the normal physical need for rest. I need to sleep because I can’t cope. You know how you can be exhausted but happy, like at the end of a great party? Well, depression precludes that kind of tiredness.
  • Social avoidance. During a depressive episode, I don’t call my friends. I assume that they don’t want to be with me or help me because I’m such a leech and never help them (see faulty reasoning, above.) At the same time, I need my friends even more. With other people around, I find it easier to get the little things done (dishes, cooking dinner, etc.) Also, having people over forces me to take a shower and get dressed.

Skeptics will say that the above symptoms could just be personality flaws, and if depressed people would just “snap out of it” or “work harder” or “change their thinking” none of those things would be a problem any longer. To them, I say that there is a marked difference in how I feel on the proper medication, even in ways I didn’t anticipate (and therefore couldn’t just be a placebo effect):

  • Motivation. I’m able to get things done without having to work myself up for it. I feel like I want the kitchen to be clean, and I get up and clean it. I see a dust bunny on the floor and I get a broom and sweep. I don’t have to overthink these things in order to start doing them. Creative projects come to mind, and I’m able to plan and execute them. There is not enough time in the day for everything I want or need to do (when I’m depressed, the opposite is true – bedtime can’t come soon enough.) When I’m not depressed I have a reduced tolerance for things like aimless web surfing.
  • Reasoning, logic, and attribution. Even when I contemplate the possibility of bad things happening, I don’t have a sense of doom about them that would push me to fear the worst. I can correctly attribute negative outcomes, and I don’t resort to attacks on my own personality or value as a human being. For example, I might say, “This table I built is uneven and wobbly. I didn’t have the right tools and decided to go ahead anyway, and I valued quick work over quality work. Next time I’ll get the right tools and give myself enough time to do it well.” Normal thinking, right? Right. But it only happens for me when I’m medicated. No matter how hard I try, I can’t think that way when I’m depressed.
  • Higher energy and no fatigue. I wake up in the morning and I’m ready to get up and do things. I may be physically tired, but it’s not a struggle to move myself out of the bed. As the day wears on, I might choose to nap because I’m physically tired, but it’s often a tough choice because there are other things I need and want to do. At bedtime I’m physically exhausted, but I’m still thinking straight and able to cope. Most significantly, I’m able to be tired and happy at the same time. Until several months ago I didn’t realize that was possible.
  • Social participation. I get in touch with my friends and initiate plans to see them. I notice when people around me need help and I’m able to offer it. I find it easy to host people for shabbat dinner without getting overwhelmed.

Right. So that’s my take on clinical depression. Back to my intended post for today:

So about two months ago we (my shrink and I) upped my meds. Since then I’ve had all kinds of epiphanies: it’s normal to wake up in the morning and feel somewhat refreshed and ready to start the day! It’s normal to be able to do daily tasks without needing a motivational speech! It’s not normal to assume that everything is my fault and that I’m a bad person!

After five years of either deep or mild depression, these realizations have been so liberating. I finally, finally feel like I’m meeting my potential as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I finally am able to do all the things I envisioned myself doing –  preparing breakfast for my family, playing with my kids, creating things with my hands – and truly loving my life, rather than just going through the motions. It’s amazing and wonderful. As I told my shrink at our last appointment, they’re going to have to pry the meds out of my cold, dead hands. There’s no way I would consent to go back to the way things were.

There are naysayers. You might be one of them. There are people who like to tell me that with exercise/cognitive behavioural therapy/nutritional supplements/meditation/yoga I can eliminate my depression without drugs. To those people I say, “read the title of this post.” To the rest of you, a question:

Has this post changed how you think of depression? How? Why? I want to know. Leave comments here please, instead of on Facebook.

February 6, 2012

Getting soft.

by Decemberbaby

For those of you living under a rock, this has been an exceptionally mild winter – and that’s an understatement.

Today it was 7 degrees Celsius outside (that’s about 45 for you Fahrenheit people) and sunny. Clear, unadulterated sunshine. And let me tell you, 7 feels mighty warm to a Canadian in February.

I did what any sane, sunshine-loving parent would do: I bundled the kids up and took them to the park to run around. At least, I thought that’s what any sane parent would do, but apparently not. The park was practically deserted.

Where are all the children? Are we so married to the calendar that we just don’t think of outdoor play in February? The exact same weather in March or April would have kids outside on their bikes and dozens of toddlers vying for our park’s single baby swing. As a matter of fact, this kind of weather in March or April would have the adults out, too: walking, biking, gardening. Where the heck was everybody today?

I can’t help feeling like we’re all getting a bit too soft. Not to sound like an old lady here, but when we were kids we used to run outside and play in the snow for hours. I’m not exaggerating. These days everyone just whines about how cold it is. Even my daughter’s school, as free-range and commonsense as it is, keeps the kindergarten classes inside if it’s “too cold”, which in my opinion it simply hasn’t been at all this year.

I have to admit that I’m guilty too. Sometimes I don’t feel like getting the kids bundled up to go out. Sometimes it seems to get dark so early that I can’t get them all outside after picking K up from school. Most of the time it’s just laziness, or maybe I have a tendency to forget how much better life is outside. Maybe we all do.

But now that I’ve been reminded, I feel extra motivated to get the kids playing outside every single day. For at least an hour. The question is, will there be anyone else to play with?

"Hey... come out and play!"

February 4, 2012

3 out of 5 ain’t bad…

by Decemberbaby

That’s 3 out of 5 of us who aren’t sick. Well, I’m still a bit sick, but I’m highly functional, so I count as healthy. K is sick again, and Mr. December just succumbed to the virus yesterday. I will say, in his favour, that he never gets a “man cold”. He just lies silently in bed and groans when I poke him to make sure he’s alive.

We’re soldiering along in the wake of the part-time nanny’s sudden leaving. A friend’s sister was looking for some temporary work (thank God for these artsy musician types!) and she’s fabulous with the kids. We’re now searching for a permanent nanny. We probably could have found one in about five hours, except for the fact that Mr. December is holding out for an Israeli nanny who will force us all to practice our Hebrew all day long.

K has been ridiculously defiant lately. It doesn’t matter what I ask her to do, her default position is “no way.” Going to bed, using the toilet, eating… if I want her to do it, she won’t. There was an incident with the bath the other night during which she perched herself on the two built-in corner shelves above the tub and wouldn’t come down, but I’m committed to not posting embarrassing stories about my kids on the blog, just in case they want to run for office one day. For the curious among you, just imagine bathing a cat, except the cat is an exceptionally strong, agile four-year-old girl. I still have bruises.

It’s just in the past few days that I’ve returned to some of my creative stuff. I sewed a new table runner yesterday because I was tired of our Shabbat table being plain boring white every week. I’m making placemats because I think I need them, and because they’ll teach my kids to set the table properly. And I have some hand-me-down fabric that I might just use to try some machine smocking, since it’s not a colour I’d use for anyone except a baby.

Oh, and a raccoon has chewed through the wooden frame of our garage door AND excavated some of the asphalt next to it, just so it can live in our bakfiets. I’m thinking I’d like to buy a shotgun. Look for my upcoming tutorial on sewing your own ‘coonskin cap.

Kidding. I’m kidding. I look terrible in fur. I’ll just make a nice little rug for the bakfiets. Poetic justice, right?