Epiphany

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I realized something this week.  In the moment it felt monumental.  On this Friday morning, it still feels relevant enough to share.  As parents of young people I think it is safe to say, we try to retain a little bit of cool.  True, we are not frequenting bars as we might have at one time.  True, to stay up past eleven feels like a holiday (that we will eventually pay for).  And true, we prefer clothes that are washable.  But, we strive to have fun and don’t feel THAT different than we did BC (before children).  We know that someday this might not be true.  Someday we will probably feel old.  Let me be clear that I am speaking of a state of mind, not an actual number.  We won’t understand our kids’ choice in music and might use words like whippersnapper.  I just haven’t been clear, up until now, what will happen that will make this transition occur.

It is possible this awareness of “departing cool” is what inspired the purchase of five pairs (yes, five!) of awesome boots the very same day we decided we would purchase a minivan.  Like so many others before me, I vowed never to own a minivan.  And now here we are, defending the purchase to anyone who asks, totally happy with the purchase, and realizing that things do change.  (We will also get rid of the thing the minute its useful life in our family is over.)  But, still.

Okay, so back to my point.  With three children, sleep is a commodity that we want.  We want it desperately.  We want it for ourselves and we want it for our children.  Heck, we’re not selfish, we want it for you!  What we would do for it!!!  At our house the first step in achieving IT is getting our three children down for the night.  Goodnight rituals can feel like they go on forever.  There is a lovely feeling that goes along with being so needed, but at a certain point, you just want the little monsters to go to sleep!  Then add to that anything out of the ordinary… for us, right now, the youngest is teething and is quite distraught at bedtime.  So a few nights ago we reached Near Nirvana with three kids asleep.  Yay!  (High fives all around.)  Minutes later, we hear the loudest motorcycle ever go by our house.  Possibly “Hog” would be a more suitable name for this particular machine.  Little one wakes up… “Okay, okay, no problem.  She’ll go back to sleep,” I tell myself.  And she does.  Then the Hog goes by again… and again.  I find myself letting loose a stream of expletives that has my husband looking at me wide-eyed.  And there it was.  I am old.

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Custom Gifts

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One of the most fun things I get to do with this mini-business / hobby is hear when people have something exciting going on in their lives.  My girlfriend called the other day because a new baby had been born in her family!  She wanted to celebrate the birth by giving a gift to her nieces when she goes to visit next week.  She asked if I could help and we came up with a plan.  The new sisters share a letter, both of their first names start with “H”.  We decided to make them a coordinating t-shirt and onesie combination with a big “H” for big sister and little “h” for baby.

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I love how they turned out and I hope that the girls enjoy sporting their special letter around town.  Sisters get to share so much – how fun that they also share a letter!  This gift will look fantastic in pictures with the new baby.  I love that it celebrates both the family’s new addition and also big sister’s new role!

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Remember that Poole Party Designs is happy to work with you on special projects and gifts.  If we can help you come up with the perfect gift for a special someone in your life, that makes our day!  Hopefully it makes your life easier too…

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On another note, the blog has a new look!  Spring is around the corner and the blog needed some freshening up!  I am still working out some kinks, so please excuse me while we transition!  I love hearing your comments, so feel free to let me know your thoughts on the new format!

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.

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Note:  I started this blog on a whim, not really having any idea how to do it, where it would go, or what I would write about (or if anyone would read it).  I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite so much.  I thought of it as an exercise that might be good for me or allow a larger conversation to begin about what might be next on my life agenda after having these babes… As the year comes to a close, I am enjoying thinking about how this blog is evolving.  The blog has allowed me to ponder thoughts and memories out loud.  Hopefully these meanderings have an element of universality so that on occasion they hit a chord with you and allow you a moment of introspection as well.  Anyway, that is my hope…

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My grandmother made Christmas lovely.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, the women of my family have an attention to detail and a love of beautiful things.  Being of German descent, Christmas Eve was the big deal on her side of the family and my sister and I always looked forward to the Christmas Eve celebration at her home.  Her table was set just so, in the same familiar way each year, with china and silver and little wooden snowmen.  As is custom in the German tradition, presents are opened on Christmas Eve, so that, too, was exciting to us.  We could barely contain ourselves as we sat through a traditionally long dinner; instead salivating over the presents we knew were waiting for us.  Part of what my grandmother clearly understood was the ability to truly think of the individual when giving a gift.  We knew that we would love whatever she had picked out and felt her love, through her recognition of our individuality.  The gifts of the past are a happy blur, but the love I felt when looking at a package she had carefully wrapped stays with me.

One of the gifts I remember that she gave year after year was a gift to my father, a notoriously difficult one to purchase for.  Instead of trying to find one more “thing” he wanted or needed she made him fudge.  Each year he would open the tin and find individually wrapped pieces of her Christmas Fudge and immediately dive in.  I believe he loved it – both the gesture and the fudge recipe itself.  I few months back I referenced my grandmother’s book of recipes that have been in my possession since she passed.  Her Christmas Fudge is one of the recipes that was inside.  I tried it for the first time this year and my father will be receiving it for Christmas.  I hope I do the memory justice.

CHRISTMAS FUDGE

(taken from my grandmother’s handwritten recipe)

48-60 pieces

3 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cups Parkay margerine (I used butter)

2/3 cups (5 1/3 oz can) Carnation evaporated milk

1 – 12 oz package semi sweet chocolate bits

1 – 7 oz jar Kraft marshmallow creme

More than 1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (1/2 of a 6 oz jar)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

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Combine sugar, margerine & milk; bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.

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Keep lid on as much as possible to prevent graininess.  Boil 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly (mixture burns easily).

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Remove from heat; stir in chocolate bits until melted.  Add marshmallow creme, peanut butter, nuts, and vanilla; beat until well blended.  Pour into a greased 13″x9″ pan.  Cool.  Cut in squares.  To store, wrap pieces separately in Saran & put in a cookie tin.

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This was my first go around with any kind of fudge and found it to be quite easy!  I’m sure there are a million and one variations that one can do depending on your tastes.  This particular recipe has a nice chocolate flavor with a twist of peanut butter and a certain mellowness that I believe comes from the marshmallow creme.  I literally laughed out loud when I looked over this recipe, as the family tradition of quoting the necessity of marshmallow creme for random recipes (that definitely do not call for it) has been a long standing joke in the family.  This is the first recipe from the family that I have ever seen that actually does call for it!

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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.

Defining Motherhood

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.