In Between

There is a phase in friendship where all feels natural and wonderfully close, but there is a phase right before all that loveliness that feels like a lot of work.  As thirty-somethings with three kids, there is not the abundance of time that we once had during college days to forge friendships – through all night gab sessions over beer and mediocre pizza.  Most recently we were making baby friends.  This is a special phase where new parents support one another with bleary-eyed conversation fueled by coffee and wine, all while googling over our new little lovelies.  But time goes on, and relationships shift.  Families begin to reallocate time and energy resources to the school community.  It makes sense, I get it.  We’ll be there soon.  With Sam starting kindergarten this fall, I am really looking forward to settling into that new community and being a part of things too.

But right now, this minute, we are in a funny place.  We have friends, lots of great friends – some near and some far.  Yet, I see that we (and they) are all in transition.  Everyone is so damn busy!  It is tough to actually carve out time to see one another.  People talk about the times in one’s life when close friends are made: early childhood, high school, college, post-college work, when babies are born, and when those babies start elementary school and you meet those kids’ parents… The cycle goes on and on.  Plus, add to that the many geographical moves that take us away from loved ones, and there you have it.  We’re currently in between.  It feels like we are starting over (again).

I yearn to jump forward to a place with a cozy group of friends that feels comfortable, like your favorite hoodie.  The one you reach for when you just want to be yourself, to be known.  Lately, as we meet new folks and try to find our way, it feels like wearing beautiful heels all the time.  The ones that you take off the minute you walk through your front door… And maybe that’s the problem.  Eureka!  Maybe I have solved it after all!  We need to go out into the world with a big smile and favorite-sweatshirt-attitude versus a high-heels-attitude.  We’re nice people.  Yes, a bit sleep deprived, but we try not to let this fact get us down.  Our favorite shows are: Parenthood (well, obviously) and Mentalist (Simon Baker, enough said).  We’re semi-sporty.  We enjoy long walks and great conversation.  We’re perfecting our creme brulee recipe in hopes of wooing you and yours.  Just FYI… we’re looking for some new friends and you might be next on our list.  Watch out.

I know that this bit of discomfort will pass.  Like everything else, it will shift and change.  In a few weeks, or months, or years (please god, no), we will nudge each other and say… “Wow!  Look at this group of friends we are a part of!  I don’t even remember a time when George, and Sally, and Sue weren’t around!”  Its probably just around the corner…

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Milestones

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My favorite projects start out with a custom request!

My wonderful friend Andie said, “Hey Lesley, I have a god son who has begun losing his teeth.  I would love to be the one to give him a tooth fairy pillow.  Any chance you could make one?”  What a fabulous idea!!  I played around with a design until I was satisfied and now Andie’s god son has a sweet little home to keep those baby teeth safe until pick-up from The Tooth Fairy.

And now, the pillows are available for your little ones as well on Poole Party Designs!

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As I look at what I am creating these days, it has a lot to do with milestones.  Shirts that recognize how many years a child has under his or her belt or a onesie that announces the letter or name that is bestowed at birth.  We celebrate birthdays at our house with quite a lot of hoopla and other milestones seem to be the same.  As time passes in both a whirlwind and quite imperceptibly, it feels like the only thing I can do is notice, document, and celebrate!

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One milestone that we are inching ever closer to, but have yet to hit is the losing of baby teeth.  This rite of passage officially moves a child from baby years into kid years and is one more thing to relish and celebrate.  The Tooth Fairy.  Yikes.  As a parent I look at it this event with a bit of trepidation as well.  Here is yet another imaginary individual who we, as parents, will answer questions about with false confidence in an effort to make this legend appear magical versus creepy.  The fact that we allow a fairy to enter our home undetected time after time is already enough to make me lose a bit of confidence in the telling.  One more legend (like the darn Elf on the Shelf) that I will try desperately to remember and try not to totally screw up.  Then there is the actual execution.  My children are light sleepers.  I do not look forward to entering their room once they are (finally) asleep only to possibly wake them up while rummaging around under their pillow!  And to remember to do this over sixty times?!?!  Wish us luck!!  Maybe a personalized pillow will help?!?!  Here’s hoping.

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Note:  My husband would like all readers to know that our family does not necessarily endorse the giving of paper money if and when The Tooth Fairy visits.  As I said, we have yet to cross this bridge and don’t have a clue what we are doing!  Paper money has been used above for artistic purposes only!

Patience, Not Perfection

In our house, the Valentine Season is more about the valentines kids bring to their friends at school than a declaration of romantic love.  Meaning, a few weeks ago we set out to make our school valentines and have yet to finish…

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The part of me that loves coming up with projects to do with my kids finds this situation completely satisfactory.  We get to work on a project together and have hours of entertainment!  The kids will have an end product that they get to share with their peers!  Fun!  The other part of me that is a bit of a perfectionist with said projects is having a harder time with the process.  In my mind’s eye, the valentines we made together were finished weeks ago and were exceptionally cute (read: professional).

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Then came the realization that I had a choice to make.  Would these by my valentines?  Or, (correct answer) would these be my kids’ valentines?  We all love to show the world what we can do (me included, obviously)…  And yes, I do love me a good craft project.  So, we compromised.  The project did involve Shrinky Dink hearts and it did involve some group stamping, but more importantly, it involved letting my kiddo practice writing names over and over again.  I must admit to feeling a teensy bit proud of myself that I did not take the pen away to write all the valentines myself (in my efficient, adult penmanship), but rather I am allowing my five-year-old the time and space to practice his budding handwriting skills night, after night, after night… This may not seem like a big deal.  In fact, it may sound quite insane.  But each of us has things we do well and areas where we are challenged.  Right?  (Insert head nod here.)  Small victories.

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In the end, these valentines will end up in the recycling bin after a day or two, but my son will feel more confident writing his and his brother’s names going forward.  As we encourage our little people to spread their wings and master new skills, it is a good reminder, that although a project may take longer (most likely), will be messier (guaranteed),  and may turn out differently than imagined (quite probably), there is more to be gained from the process than from doing it all ourselves.  I am hopeful that we will be done by Thursday morning… Fingers crossed.  Clearly, handwriting is not the only lesson being learned from this project!

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Love Note to Our Nanny

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About a year ago, life changed in a big way for our family.  No, I am not talking about the birth of our daughter… well, one thing led to another, I suppose.  No, I am talking about the addition of a nanny to our family unit.

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While pregnant with Tatum, it was clear to me that if another chickadee was going to join the nest, this mama needed some help!  Still, I was reluctant to ask for assistance, and even more reluctant to really want another person floating around in our midst.  Although this person was only going to work part-time for us, being a stay-at-home mom, I realized I would need to like this individual, as well as respect him or her.

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As a first step, we enlisted the help of a tried and true nanny placement service to help us find our very own Mary Poppins.  We went about our search, meeting various people who looked great on paper, realizing that no matter how great someone’s resume was, we were looking for someone who would just “click” with our family.  I had been advised by a veteran-nanny-searching-parent that “with the right person, it won’t feel strange to have someone in your home”.  So, like finding a mate, chemistry obviously plays a big part in finding a nanny.  After a few missed connections with nannies from the service, I began to wonder if we would, in fact, find someone.  Already the baby was born and we were still searching with no great leads on the horizon… Then, as luck or fate would have it, the perfect person fell into our life at the perfect time.  We spent a few weeks gingerly feeling around the edges of this new relationship, wondering if this person might like us as much as we liked her.  Thankfully, the rest is history.

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Dear Andrea,

We think you are wonderful and feel so lucky to know you.  Thank you for all that you do to keep our family moving forward.  You are flexible and kind and have mixed right into our chaos.  You add order to our mess and fun to our routine.  Because of you, I know my way around our ironing board (whereas before I didn’t even know where it was).  Our laundry is washed, folded, and put away (often on the same day)!  You are the extra set of hands that allow me to hold my baby and not feel guilty that the dishes haven’t been done.  You are the board that I bounce ideas off of and you keep me accountable with all the projects I take on.  Your refreshingly frank nature means that you usually mention if you think my methods could use a little tweaking.  You are teaching me that it is okay to ask for help.  I trust, respect, and like you… The kids love you.  We love you.  Thank you.  You don’t know how much this means to our family.

Love, The Poole Family

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This has been a pivotal year for all of us.  It speaks to growth, change, and adaptability.  Our family is larger now, not by one, but by two.  This is not a forever situation.  There will come a day (sooner than I would like), when our nanny will move on with her own life.  The relationship will change, but my hope is that she will stay a part of our family.  By total chance, we found someone who has grown to love us as much as we love her.  We feel so lucky.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

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This week my baby turned one.  Her birthday coincides with the the New Year holiday; a time for fresh starts, moving forward, and reflection.

I find that I am always sentimental during the first anniversary of the days, hours, and minutes before any of my baby’s births.  I think about what we were doing “at this time last year.”  I try to imagine the impossibility of what it felt like not to have met the little person we have spent the last year loving.  I think of my labor and when the contractions started.  Were we at the hospital?  Were we at home still?  Was Nana here yet to take care of the boys?  I have been blessed with straightforward, lovely births, so this reminiscing evokes a feeling of love and empowerment (I know that I am lucky on this front).  These memories are something I treasure as a gift my children have given me.  I never knew I could be so strong as during the births of my children.  My last baby has just turned one and is moving out of babyhood.  She walks and climbs and is beginning to talk.  As I say goodbye to the birth chapter of life, it is with bittersweet feelings.  I hope to carry with me the strength I experienced in birth into my future adventures.

2012 draws to a close and I am struck by how different life feels this year versus last.  Last year we were in love with our newborn, wondering how we would get through the first days, let alone the year, as a family of five.  I think about how we were closer with some friends and alternatively more distanced from some family.  Poole Party of 5 did not exist.  We didn’t know who our next president would be.  What a difference a year makes…  I grew up with a phrase that my mom would tell me in times of discord.  She would say, “Make friends with change.”  Of course there is not a much truer sentiment, yet it drove me crazy.  Nothing stays the same.  We know this in our heads, but I believe it is harder for our hearts to accept.  I friend recently said, “Think back five years to what your life was…”  Well, we had a 6-month old little boy that we loved deeply, but were still getting to know.  We lived in a different house, in a different city.  We didn’t know what our family would become, or who our little guy would be.  One year is a blink.  Five years is a deep breath in and out…

While I was in labor with Tatum last year, the song playing on the iPod when she was born was “One Day” by Matisyahu.  It is such a powerful message for peace.  I love the imagery of my baby entering the world with such a hopeful message.  (I have linked to the video and copied the first verse lyrics below.)

Video Link (click here)

sometimes I lay
under the moon
and thank God I’m breathing
then I pray
don’t take me soon
cause I am here for a reason
sometimes in my tears I drown
but I never let it get me down
so when negativity surrounds
I know some day it’ll all turn around
because
all my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
for the people to say
that we don’t wanna fight no more
there’ll be no more wars
and our children will play
one day (x6)

As much as things change, we do have elements that continue, unmarred by the date on the calendar.  My wish for the future is peace and a time when “there’ll be no more wars / and our children will play”.  I don’t know if this will happen in my lifetime, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes.  I still wonder why I am here, but I know that one of my purposes was to be a mom.  To love my children and my husband with all that I have.  To give forgiveness when someone hurts me and to try not to do harm to others.  I’m not big on New Year resolutions; every year they are the same – dental floss more and exercise more.  But maybe a hope for peace is good too.

Dear Teacher

My friend over at Defining Motherhood took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you, teachers, for every day that you give your best to our kids.

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RESPONSIBILITY: burden

Dear Teacher,

Husband is dropping Son off at school today and I confess I’m relieved.  I’m not sure I could have dropped him off like it was just another day.   I know the odds are wildly in his favor that today he will be safe like all the other days before.  But still, I am anxious and tearful today.

Life hasn’t changed – I have simply been reminded that I control so little. 

My office and the school are the same distance apart, but I feel farther away.    

Your job hasn’t changed but today I am keenly aware of the burden you carry.  Twenty six children are placed into your capable hands each weekday.  You guide and protect what is most dear to me.  And you do the same for twenty six other families. 

I don’t know how I missed it before now.  I knew I was trusting you…

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Traditions Lost and Found

Things have been quiet on the blog lately, but not quiet elsewhere.  I have been enjoying my family, my life, and the holidays and I am sure you will agree that there is tremendous value in that.  But, I have missed you as well.

I am struck by this very specific time of year and how much there is – of everything.  The number of catalogs arriving in my mailbox each day is staggering.  Emails with special promotions and stocking stuffer ideas keep coming.  Meanwhile, my breath is taken away by the small bits of beauty all around us from the twinkling lights to the look of awe in my children’s eyes as they experience something new.

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As holiday preparations begin, we all are thinking about how to make this time special both for ourselves and for those around us.  In our house we are striving for a “less is more” attitude, realizing that little people and big people can get overwhelmed easily and then some of the fun is lost.  By staying loose and in the moment, we are working towards keeping the sanity.  It is December 2nd and so far we are doing well, except for one thing…

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I grew up going to the Frederick and Nelson department store each year and taking Santa photos with my sister.  I’m sure at the time we hated it (sort of), but my mom was diligent about this task and dressed us beautifully each year.  The attendants gave out candy canes to help kids wait patiently for their turn with Santa, and inevitably one of us would adhere said candy cane to our velvet dress.  I remember that this tradition was important, but that my mom kept her head and sanity.  The best part of all is that my mother kept these photographs safe and framed them for us chronologically.  Now both my sister and I have sixteen years of our life together documented in a very tangible way.  We put these frames up every year during the holidays and enjoy looking back at these years from our youth.

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I have adopted this tradition with my own family.  It is something that I enjoy doing with my mom and truly appreciate the extra hands-on help that she gives.  We have gone to the downtown Seattle Nordstrom Santa for the past 5 years and have figured out a proven strategy for success.  We go in the morning, mid-week, and my mom patiently waits in line, making friends with the helpful elves, until our entourage arrives polished and pressed.  Then we wait in line, with coloring to do and cookies to eat until we reach Santa… This process has worked to varying degrees that usually start out with bravado and long lists for Santa and end in timid visits, with possibly a tantrum thrown in for good measure.  All great.  In fact, the crying photos are some of my favorites… after the fact.

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In the past few days I have been tearing my hair out because I cannot lay my hands on these precious photographs.  We moved homes a couple of years ago and then promptly started a remodel on the room that I can picture the photographs in.  I know where they were in our old house and I can almost picture the box I stashed them in quickly as the last boxes were being taped up – but I have looked and looked and they elude me still.  I know they are only photographs.  My head knows this.  I also know that I have my own snapshots of most of those years as well, as documentation that the event occurred.  But, to my heart this does not feel the same.  Believe me, I do understand that this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of life.  But, I know how much I love looking at the photos of my youth each year and my children are getting to be of an age where I believe they would love this tradition as well.  To see them overcome their fears of Santa year by year, to see their baby faces turn into the faces that will carry them through life.  I will hold out hope.  There is a possibility that these photos are in a very special place that I will come across some warm July day, while searching for sunglasses and feel that I have been given a gift.  A similar thing happened with my wedding band a few years ago.  I discovered that it was lost and figured it was gone forever.  We even had my two-year old’s stomach x-rayed, wondering if he had swallowed it (nope).  I almost gave up hope of finding this small ring of metal that could literally be anywhere in our house or beyond.  It technically could be replaced, but not truly.  Then, one random day, my older son found the ring in his underwear drawer.  Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.

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So, here’s to traditions – both lost and found.  Wish me luck.

A Holiday Pledge

I vow to slow down and stay in the moment.

I will do my best not to obsess over silly things.

I pledge to remember what is important (family, friends, health, joy)

I will continue to do things that help me to feel healthy and good (run, yoga, walks, ____).

I will set reasonable expectations for myself (and others).

I will not freak out if I forget to move the Elf on the Shelf.

If I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath.

I can feel my heart rate rising…  There is too much to do!  I am simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by the approaching holiday season.  I love Christmas.  I love wrapping packages.  I love all the little signs of the season; eggnog lattes, gingerbread houses, cutting out snowflakes (or happy little trees) for our windows… “Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.”

I also will admit that I feel challenged by it.  Overspending and differing priorities and historical baggage, Oh My!  I become a bit of a perfectionist at this time of year and put pressure on myself to make things just so.  Growing up, I imagined a time when I would get to decide what Christmas would look like for my own family.  I dreamed of incorporating my historical traditions with what my husband-to-be knew and we would define our own values and traditions, specific to our family.  This was not as simple just deciding what the holidays would look like in the mind’s eye.  We’ve spent the last ten years figuring out this dance with varying levels of success; working to get the steps just right, incorporating family traditions that feel good to all of us, some from our past and some completely new.  And I think we’re getting there!

Ironically, the event that has both put Christmas into perspective and simultaneously turned it on its ear was our daughter’s birth last year, two days after Christmas.  Our baby was due December 30th and I was convinced that she would come early.  Absolutely convinced.  The beginning of December was busy with the knowledge that she would arrive eventually and when it happened our plans would go out the window (or at least switch to Plan B, C, or D).  The nutcracker ballet, santa pictures, preschool holiday performance, and holiday parties all happened amidst many a contraction, but without a hitch.  Gifts were purchased and wrapped weeks before Christmas.  Jam was made in the summer to be gifted to family and friends… and at some point after all that, I realized it just didn’t matter.  Each day would begin and I would think, “Will she arrive today?  How will I feel if I don’t get ___ done?”  It turned out that all that mattered was that our family was together and we were expecting a new member to arrive at any moment.  We were freed from the feeling that events were mandatory, which in turn made them more fun!  We realized that life would go on.  Christmas would happen whether we were “ready” or not.  All that truly existed was enjoying each other’s company and letting other people know that we care about them too.  I guess that could be said for the rest of the year too, but there is something heightened during this time.  Do you feel it?  Do you obsess over how many cookies you must bake or what to buy for Aunt Tilly?  I know that there is something universally wonderful about this season and also for many, something tough.  Perhaps because, like vacations that are photographed and photographed, the holidays are memorable.  They are differentiated from the rest of the year by rituals that are done over and over again in a special way.  As it turned out, we were able to do all the holiday things we wanted to, enjoy Christmas with our boys, and then welcome our daughter into the world.

For us, the holidays now mean something new.  They mean the beginning of life for our littlest.  What I learned last year and hope to carry with me in the years to come is the following.  Sure, it is fun to give and receive gifts.  Of course, it is great to celebrate the season with special events and dress up clothes.  But, the true holiday spirit comes from looking around and appreciating the life we have, the people we love, and that we are all here together.  And that feeling doesn’t evaporate when you look at your credit card bill in January.

Note:  I have waited a few days to publish this because I have been feeling too distracted by my “To Do” lists, and this felt ironic.  Too ironic.  I have been feeling overwhelmed.  This is not entirely due to the holidays, but also for the planning of my baby’s first birthday!  Deep breath, Poole.  Relax.  Obviously we all go through moments of craziness.  I know that I am not alone in this… but in our best selves and in our best moments, maybe it is possible to keep a little perspective and laugh when things are ironic!

A Meditation on Friendship

Watching my five- and three-year-old sons navigate a new preschool has made me look at the idea of friendship in a new light.  I see courage in my little ones, as they approach someone new, asking them to play – asking for friendship.  Already in their young lives, they know that the answer might be yes and it might be no.  I want to make this journey easier for my children, but know that I cannot.  Lately, my older son has been talking of “marriage” with a few of his new friends.  I try to encourage him to wait to make any proposals.  Telling him that he really does not need to make a decision of such importance for some time.  Yet, I see that what he yearns for is connection and a promise.  A promise that this trusted friend will be there tomorrow, just as excited to play with him as he / she is today.  I wish it were that simple.  Maybe in the best circumstances it is.

Wikipedia defines friendship as, “…a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other.”  

“The value of friendship is often the result of friends consistently demonstrating the following:

  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, even in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth
  • Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
  • Enjoyment of each other’s company
  • Trust in one another
  • Positively strong, deep, close reciprocitymutuality—equal give-and-take between the two parties
  • The ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgement.”

Wikipedia goes on to say that the American Sociological Review found that the quality and quantity of close friendships in America has been on the decline over the past thirty years.  “The study states that 25% of Americans have no close confidants and that the average total number of confidants per person has dropped from four to two.”  How sad is this?

Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, is a modern piece of literature that focuses on the theme of friendship.  There is something timeless about this novel that makes me want to revisit its message again and again as I move through my life.  It is a thoughtful, quiet work that meditates on the half-century long relationship between two couples.  Stegner looks at what it is like to truly feel known by other people.  Throughout this book, it is clear how much these relationships have shaped each character’s life and been a touchstone for important moments of growth and change.  I see this to be true in my own life.

Friendship is unlike marriage, where although it is not always lasting, there is a contract and a stated commitment.  There are rarely formal contracts in friendship.  Parties take part for as long as it satisfies a need.  Individuals are free to come and go.  But don’t we have a commitment to one another?

Where I land on this topic is I expect my friends to stick around.  As in the Wikipedia definition, I expect there to be a level of trust and mutual respect.  In the best scenarios, friends can become the family we choose.  These important relationships can be a thing that helps to define our lives.  Connection is important.  I believe that people with connection live longer, more fulfilled lives.  This is what I wish for myself and my family, a life filled with connection and community.  As we move towards this season of giving thanks, I find I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for how many of you have defined portions of my life and helped to shape the person I am.  You have allowed my family to become a part of yours.

“There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters.”

― Wallace StegnerCrossing to Safety

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Book Bag Fever

Apples on the trees, school in session – seems like the perfect time to start making some book bags!

I will admit that this project began out of necessity.  The boys’ new preschool does not like the kids to bring backpacks.  Curious.  Apparently, the cubbies are just too small.  They were being overwhelmed by backpacks.  I love the image of backpacks pouring in from all corners, filling the room!  Be that as it may, the kids are bringing stuff home every night – artwork and papers everywhere!  Hence, the need for a slimmer, more streamlined bag to keep the mama from losing her head.  Ideally, it would be appropriately sized for a preschooler to carry.  Where does one find such a thing?  “Hmmm…” I say, (with a closet full of awesome fabric…) “I’ve seen a book bag before, I bet I can figure this out.”  And so the bag-making frenzy begins at the Poole house…

Why do school supplies evoke such lovely memories?  Even though I don’t need to buy myself #2 pencils or lined paper anymore, these book bags make me feel like a kid all over again!  This little project was not based on a pattern, so if and when I refine my process, I will post a tutorial.  Also, I am feeling a bit obsessed with monograms, if you haven’t noticed.  You will be seeing more of them in items soon to be listed to the shop.  In the case of the book bag, there was a dual purpose for the monogram; easy preschool identification and style.  Here is Duncan modeling his new tote (I find his cross-body-carry especially hip).  My personal favorite, to date, is the elephants!