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Thursday
Jan152015

The Sound of Silence | Still No Justice ~ 2015

How do you write a blog post following the update about the blog post you wrote last year? The post exposing what your father did to you and your sister? The post that explains that your father is an unregistered, unprosecuted sex offender?

It's hard to follow an update post like that with a cheery blog post about crafting, sewing, saving for a new boat, or working out. It all seems empty when compared with how my sister and I feel right now. 

For those who have tried to help us, by sending words of encouragement, or more importantly, by sending emails and phone calls to the Governor of Alaska and the Fairbanks DA, thank you.

I tend to listen to songs over and over. This is on repeat right now.

"But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence"

Wednesday
Dec312014

Old Year | New Entries ~ Screw You, 2014

Picture by Cora

I won't miss this year. 

The year that truly aged me.

The year of hard lessons and real truths.

When friendships and family peeled away like drivers doing a u-turn before the last exit at the San Diego/Tijuana border. The kind of friends and family you should have realized before would ditch you at the border without even a cell phone, or a trolley ticket to get back.

The epithets of "you seem to be doing so well," and "it must have been meant to be."

I have been stretched inside and out, my heart broken and re-broken, and I'm all done with you, 2014.

Picture by Lyra.

While I can wallow with the best of them, this was also the year of gut-wrenching kindness. The sort of kindness that leaves your mouth agape, that shows you that most people's hearts are full and open, and bursting to help, support, and inspire.

2014 didn't pussyfoot around showing me who was important in my life. What a strange way to know so clearly now, who cares about you, and who does not. And for the friends and family in my life who do love me, thank you.

Thank you for everything this year. This fucking year.

We had friends over last night and before they came, I knew it was time to get our entryway sorted. The cusp of the new year approaching moved me to bustle around, sweeping, drilling, and hanging things at the entry and exit of our door. I kept thinking as I worked, "out with the old [year], in with the new [year.]" 

It re-played in my mind, "out with the old [year], in with the new [year.]"

I meditated on the phrase while I worked, each hole I drilled bringing me a minute closer to the year's end.

I had pinned so many good ideas to my 'Home' board on Pinterest. I envisioned an entryway/mudroom with crown-moulding, and built in benches.

But let's be honest: it's a rental. And our current budget is zero for any type of re-decorating.

So, I kept this in mind:

I got to work with things we already had on hand.

Much better, no?

The shoe rack and numbers hooks were given to us by friends. We got the white shelf and white/silver hooks at Ikea for our former studio.

The girls can put away their own shoes (and do). They can hang up and get their own jackets and hats.

The wall to the left of the door has further hooks for hanging their bike helmets and play hats. (That chalkboard is going elsewhere.)

I thought about taking that sun block down for the photo, but I'm all about keeping it real, and I keep the sunblock by the door so I don't forget to apply it. If it makes the shelf look less Pinterest-y, so be it.

Paige gave me this frame. It was a photo/frame set we made for a Red Charlotte booth. She said it was meant to live at our house now. 

She also gave me the picture up top, of Eric and me at our wedding on Catalina, looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.

Thank you, friend! Now to get some pictures of Lyra up there too.

Sweet girl.

I feel like we have more purpose when we come in and out now. This goes here, and that goes there. Like on the boat. An organized way to ingress and egress.

Of course, I still have this entryway to deal with, but a woman's work is never done, and I have the new year for that.

I've had this song in my head for the last few weeks now, as I awaited Dec 31st. The video, and even the context of the song, aren't what get me, but his voice, and his knack for mixing melancholy with hope, THAT is what has made me play it on repeat.

Good-bye, 2014.

I won't miss you.

Friday
Dec262014

A Very Kaufman Christmas ~ 2014

Christmas Eve day was a day to play make-believe. The girls had a "party" and the centerpiece was this incredible, hand-made quilt from Michelle at Sea Baby Quilts.

Quilted by hand. So lovely.

Cora spent a lot of time carefully folding it and caring it around in a hug. I think she liked (and likes) to immerse herself in the colors and in Elsa and Anna on the back.

Our day was relaxing, and our Christmas Eve was quiet. Nothing exciting, but we were happy and cozy, and I don't write this blog to entertain, but to chronicle our life for our girls when they are older.

This was the first Christmas that we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, well, half anyway before the kids got too sleepy.

Cora dictated a letter to Santa and we left him and the reindeer this:

That's right. A glass of milk, some wine, beer, and carrots. Because apparently Santa is a drunken vegetarian. And yes, those carrots were for the reindeer AND Santa.

Every year Eric reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, and this was the first year that Cora was truly fascinated by it.

"He could hear the reindeer on the roof? He peeked on Santa bringing the toys?!"

After we tucked them in for the night we could hear Cora admonishing Lyra, "Go to sleep, Lyra Estrella. We have to go to sleep or SANTA CLAUS WON'T COME!!!" (Over the last few weeks, Cora has taken to consistently calling Lyra by her full name.)

She was indeed concerned that Santa would pass our house by if they didn't get to sleep pronto.

She needn't have worried. They fell asleep and Santa did come.

We kept to our rule of one gift each for the girls. There were other gifts under the tree sent from family and friends, but the girls will grow up getting one gift for Christmas; first it will be from Santa, and when they no longer believe, it will be from us. Their gifts were second-hand because they don't need new things. Thankfully, they don't need much at all.

At Christmastime we focus on making gifts for others and finding joy in the winter season.

Lyra got a balance bike sent to us from a friend in San Francisco. Her present was significantly bigger than Cora's (a binder full of Frozen-themed coloring page print-outs.) I was worried that Cora would feel this disparity in gift-size would seem inequitable but Cora was the first to shout out, "Lyra got a bike from Santa!"

And she reveled in her binder of coloring sheets, never murmuring about the difference in gifts. High-five, Cora. Way to be awesome, kid.

Here is Eric helping Lyra with a doll sent from her Bella. The look on Eric's face pretty much sums up how he feels about toys in general. Bwhwahhaahahaa. The girls were thrilled with their little dolls.

The book on the left was sent from our friends on s/v Lilo. If you have little kids, and don't own this book yet, get it. It will make them howl with laughter. Thank you, Bethany!

The girls spent the whole morning outside, Cora patiently explaining to Lyra how to walk on her balance bike. She showed her how to lay it down as well and they both took turns ringing the little bike bell.

Cora modeling her hand-knitted hat from our friend, Katherine.

It was a wonderfully small day. Small in the sense of being close-knit, low-stress, and family-focused. I put Christmas dinner in the crockpot and in the afternoon my brother, Rich and his roommate, Jesse came over. Along with our friend Joseph, we all sat around eating Mexican food and talking about politics, because who doesn't talk about politics at Christmas time?

After the year we've had, a tiny, calm Christmas was a good way to round out the season. I hope your holiday was wonderful too.

Friday
Dec192014

Apparently, this matters. Also, Christmas decor, 2014.

Remember when I made those awesome custom mattresses, mattress covers, waterproof sheets, and custom bed sheets for the girls' bed in our studio apartment? 

The girls loved that bed, and so did we. It was the perfect way to give them their own space in a tiny-living footprint. But, apparently people were genuinely concerned when they heard we had moved to a new house. I got six private messages, two emails, and half a dozen people who asked me in person about why we moved.

The gist of their concern, "but you spent so much time making their beds!"

I'm a bit flummoxed, I have to admit. I love sewing for our girls, and at the time I worked on their bed, we weren't sure we'd be moving into a new space. Doesn't everyone want to make the place they are living in feel comfortable for their family? Even if you plan on moving later? We had had enough uncertainty for the year. The last thing I wanted to do was throw some blankets down and tell the girls, 'hey, stick with that for awhile. We might move again..." 

Plus, I love sewing and creating things. Especially unique, custom jobs like their little bedroom.

Our new place has more room for me to spread out and work for Sew Sew Sew Your Boat.

It also has a safe, enclosed yard for the girls to play outside in, and it is small enough so we can keep our minimalist life style alive and kicking.

While the bed project at the old studio was time-consuming, I can't imagine using the work I put into the bed as a reason to not move to a place with a safe yard and a floor plan that lets me do canvas work.

Lo, if you were one of many of the concerned, be ye not worried any longer. Yay, for I have gone forth and conquered our new space and I shall present you with a multitude of images that showeth this abundance.

Damn, I'm good with scripture talk. (Ye can take the girl out of the Mormon, but you can't take the Mormon out of... the girl?)

Also, the mattresses I made for their bed are now temporary "couches" for us until we get around to making a custom couch.

Someday.

Eventually.

I think.

We are keeping things simple, as always, chez Kaufman. 

When we first moved in, a friend gave us an old, dirty ladder. 

Perfecto.

The girls and I cleaned it up and used it to make this:

Bonus? When Christmas is over we have a nice, clean ladder for use around the house.

I'm so enamored with the ladder tree that I think I may never go back to a regular tree again. It's the magic and warmth of the lights that really makes it work. Plus, no pine needles, no dead tree to dispose of afterwards, and I can move the ladder around if I need access to that space.

When we moved on board, years ago, I gave my older brother my large-bulb, vintage-style Christmas lights. He kept them. And this season, he gave them back to me. He also kept my box of Christopher Radko ornaments too.

My brother, Rich, is awesome.

 

My attempts at taking Christmas photos of the girls reinforced how much I love professional photographers, and how useless I am at doing anything even remotely professional-looking when it comes to kids and photos.

I turned my back for a second and she had found Scotch tape and was using it to wrap up everything.

TAPE ALL THE THINGS. I tell you.

See those stockings? They are custom-made for us by Good Wishes Quilts

We can officially not have any more kids, because, custom stockings, folks: the next kid would be totally left out of the fun!

See that painting? Anyone recognize the image? (Hint: Cora, circa Christmas 2012).

That is an original oil painting in board by Kelly Paige Standard. One of my next blog posts will be about that painting, and the other work I have commissioned from her. Needless to say, to have that painting as an addition to our home this Christmas season is a true gift.

We are happily surrounding ourselves with handmade gifts from friends like that Rudolf, from our friends Renee and Dan.

And we're using the Christmas cards sent from friends to make the whole house merry. Thank you, friends.

For whatever holiday you celebrate (or don't) this season, I wish you a happy December full or love and hygge.  

Tuesday
Dec022014

Sparkle Stories | A Sailor Mom's Review 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we were a family that was sailing across the Pacific Ocean. We had planned for the trip for years. And as we were doing our final departure prep in January and February of this year, I started collecting things for my little kids to do on what would be a long, and tedious passage, especially for small children.

I talked to other sailing moms and asked in Women Who Sail for recommendations and several moms suggested I pick up audio stories for Cora to listen to. The most frequently recommended stories were 'Sparkle Stories,' so I checked them out, and their site piqued my interest.

I contacted them to see if they'd be willing to send me a series of their stories for Cora in exchange for my review of them, and they agreed. I was amazed at how easy it was to download the stories and start listening. I had purchased two SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 players for the trip, and I was able to swiftly put the Sparkle Stories MP3s directly on it. I didn't tell Cora about the stories until we were out to sea. I waited until she was getting bored, and had gone through a rotation of the toys we had brought on passage until I pulled out a set of headphones and asked if she wanted to listen.

"What's a Sparkle Story, mommy? Are they all sparkly?!!"

She was hooked. Cora listened and listened throughout the voyage and I'm so grateful we found these audio stories to bring along with us. But this review isn't about how handy these are on a long ocean passage. Because as most of our readers know, our voyage was cut short, and we found ourselves back on land with our lives turned upside down.

Like a true class act, no one at Sparkle Stories contacted me to ask, "hey, so...about that review you promised..." and I'm grateful they didn't, because I can now sit down, after almost nine months of experience playing Sparkle Stories for my daughter and give a very complete description of my feelings (and hers) about their product.

They have an entire series called 'Stories for Helping and Healing,' with themes like dealing with childhood fears, grief and loss, resilience, gratitude and moving (to name a few).  These topics resonated with Cora during the months after our world turned upside down in April.

When we drove back to San Diego, in a new-to-us car, and all the possessions we owned crammed in the back, Sparkle Stories came with us. Cora listened in her car seat as Eric drove and I looked forward toward an unknown plan for our family. After each story Cora would loudly start talking about what she heard. (Loudly because she had those big ear phones on).

On that drive we all got to know Sparkle Stories more and it gave us an excellent platform for discussing the changes going on in our life.

Now that Cora doesn't nap, I have found Sparkle Stories to be a handy parenting tool for when I'd like her to have some quiet time while her sister sleeps.

I tell her it is story time and she jumps up and down and runs to assemble a "comfy, cozy" place to listen:

Sometimes she listens with head phones on. She endearingly calls them 'phone ears.'

But after buying this nifty speaker that plugs directly into an MP3 player, she mostly asks for me to put the stories on while she plays and putters.

Cora is like her father when it comes to getting things done; she can actually listen to music and audio while she works. I cannot. So if the choice is for her to play with or without music or stories, she will always pick listening to Martin & Silvia.

Organizing my fabric scraps while listening to Sparkle Stories.

Building while she listens, dress up while she listens, lunch while listens (see the ever present speaker and Sansa Clip in the last photo?)

Sometimes she clips the Sansa player to her and walks around with her head phones on listening.

When she is sick, she wants to listen to Martin and Silvia:

And when the girls go outside to play, she asks me to hang the speaker up so they can listen while they play.

If Lyra isn't napping, she is listening too:

Coloring while listening.  (Lyra's adorable dress is from Alexa Idolina on Etsy).

Rough-and-tumble while Martin & Silvia are on.

Tinkering while listening. (Those are GoldidBlox she is working with.)

While I can't ask Lyra what she thinks of Sparkle Stories, I can tell you that she starts to dance at the start of every new story when their signature jingle begins.

Cora, can tell you how she feels. After I took this video she told me that she wanted to get some books on magic from the library the next time we went. Sure thing, kid!

Another bonus of Sparkle Stories? If you are feeling guilty for your kids having too much screen time, this is yet another parenting tool that can ease that guilt. When I tell Cora that her time on the iPad is done, she immediately asks to listen to Sparkle Stories instead. This is a switch I am perfectly happy making.

Adult to adult I will tell you that I don't personally find Sparkle Stories very interesting. They move slowly, the narrator explains everything in painful detail, and I drift quickly from active listening to tuning the stories out.

This is both handy and makes sense. It is handy because I work from home, so what my kids are listening to, I am listening to, and it makes sense because the stories are perfectly targeted to their audience. They also have different story sets for different age ranges.

Right now, Cora listens to At Home with Martin and Silvia on repeat. She adores them, and that is all that matters. If I want to have my mind stimulated, I'll turn on NPR. 

Thanks to Sparkle Stories for introducing us to the world of audio stories and Martin & Silvia. Our kids will be growing up with their stories for a long time.

You can check out their website here: SparkleStories.com

They currently have an advent story series that we are enjoying as well. Info here (scroll down to find it). 

If you are looking to buy children in your life a gift that is not a toy, Sparkle Stories are a wonderful idea.

Enjoy!

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We received about 15 audio stories from Sparkle Stories in exchange for this review, but all of the opinions in this post are my own!