Tutorial: Needle Felted Wool Sachet or Ornament

Crunchy Parent Tutorial Needle Felted Sachets and Ornaments

I told you all that I was felt like I had come up a bit short in the crunchy department when it came to the kids school valentines this year. I thought that it might be nice to do a more natural Valentine’s Day-related craft with the kids on the actual holiday since we had the luxury of having Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend. Alina is especially drawn to doing handcrafts and Asher has become more excited by them over the past year. Eva was spending Valentine’s Day at a friend’s house so I pulled together a basket of wool batting and the younger kids and I needle felted some fragrant sachets together.

Alina, age 9, has been needle felting for a number of years, but this was Asher’s first time wielding a felting needle at not quite six years old. Felting needles are sharp and hurt if you end up getting poked. I supervised him closely on this project, and tried to teach him some of the basic needle felting safety rules. It is clear to see in the video that Asher was very proud of his developing skill and is excited about future felting projects. He did need help to complete this task, but he was able to participate in a lot of the work.

Alina was more independent in her craft, but she asked me to do most of the embellishing for her. As bad luck would have it, our whole family came down with the norovirus within hours of shooting this video, with Alina leading the pack. I think that she was starting to get worn out, which is why she handed the embellishment job over to me. Under different circumstances, I might have set the sachet aside for her to finish on another day, but she really wanted it to be part of the finished pictures for the tutorial.

It is often suggested in Waldorf circles that it is best for young children (especially prior to age seven) to avoid work on needle felting human or animal figures. There can be something disturbing about repeatedly jabbing a needle into something that looks like a person or animal. This project is a great one for new felters, young and old, because it works mostly in two dimensions and in a confined area. The cookie cutter creates structure for the project, and the whole thing comes together quickly.

For the project you will need:
wool roving or batting (colored or natural)
felting needle
felting pad
cookie cutter(s) in desired shape(s)
optional embellishments such as wool yarn, prefelt scraps, curly wool locks, etc.

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as etsy.com or ebay.com. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well.

I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you are a fan of one-stop, click and receive shopping, Amazon has a large selection of wool fiber for felting in endless colors as well as felting needles and multi-needle felting tools and accessories.

As I also mention in the video, I have purchased upholstery foam from Joann Fabrics to use as a felting pad. It is cut and sold by desired length and if you plan ahead, you can bring one of the ubiquitous 40% off Joanne coupons with you to increase your savings.

The video will give you a good overview of how the project comes together, but I wanted to give a closer look at some of the steps.

I showed several types of cookie cutters in the video. Admittedly, a cutter that is open at the top without any bar or handle is easiest to use for this project, but I showed my process using a less open cutter here. In all cases, you want to begin by stacking several thin layers of wool in the cutter, alternating the direction in which you place the wool (horizontally and vertically). Try your best to keep the wool inside the cookie cutter. It’s okay if some of the wool climbs up the edges a bit; it will get felted down in the process. Because I was working with a more involved design shape here, and with a low-profile cutter with a bar, my wool extended outside the cookie cutter (oops). Not a big deal, it will get fixed later; felting is a very forgiving process.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

1. Poke around the inside of the cookie cutter, forming the shape of the cutter. I rotated the flower cutter here to get better access to my work area. Once again, don’t worry too much about the wool that may have extend outside of the cutter. We’ll fix it in a moment.

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2. Lifting up the cookie cutter, you can see the flower shape roughed out on the foam mat. The loose wool that is extending beyond the felted petals can now be folded in and felted to the flower without the cookie cutter getting in the way. For open cutters like Asher and Alina used in the video, there won’t be much overhang, so they pretty much skipped this step. Once I moved the cookie cutter out of the way, I could also felt down that pouffy center section.

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3. The flower shape is clear now, but some of the curves lack definition.

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4. Carefully using the needle parallel to the foam mat, you can work to define the shape.

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5. Add your fragrant filler (dried flower petals, aromatic herbs, etc.). Repeat steps 1-4 to create a second shape using the same color wool or a contrasting color if you prefer.

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6. Make a sandwich using your two wool layers and your aromatics. Note that you can see some thinner spots on my top flower here. That’s not a problem, more wool can be added as needed throughout the process. Felt around the edges of the “sandwich” to join the front and back securely. Take care felting around the center of the piece to avoid hitting the aromatics in the center. Hard ones like the star anise that I used could cause your needle to break if jabbed too forcefully.

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Once your front and back pieces have been fairly well joined together, you may find it easier to stand your sachet on its side to firmly felt all around the perimeter. I demonstrate that here with Alina’s pink sachet. Of course, you would want to use two hands when doing this, but taking photos calls for some one-handed maneuvers.

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7. Add your embellishments. I used different-colored wool here to create the flower design. On Asher’s and Alina’s sachets, they both chose to make a second smaller object using a mini cookie cutter, and we also used wool and wool yarn to create designs. Wool yarn can be felted to the sachet with the needle just as you would do with the wool fiber.

Finished sachets

Finished sachets

The project can be easily modified to make holiday ornaments, seasonal window hangings, felted play food, pins, hair clips, and more. If the sachet loses its scent over time or just needs a punch of fragrance, you can add a couple of drops of essential oil to the back of the sachet. If you do this, you may wish to take care about where you place the sachet to avoid transfer of the essential oil to clothing or surfaces.

I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool and natural crafting with you. What are some of your felting crafts to do with children? What natural crafting tutorials would you like to see?

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Barganic Alert! Wildcraft Cooperative Board Game for Kids on Sale through Saturday

Once each spring, LearningHerbs, the online herbal learning resource, opens up its Herb Fairies book series and learning program. The children and I signed up this past April and have been thoroughly enjoying reading the story of each month’s herb fairy. Asher in particular loves the books and I marvel at how well he remembers the names, stories, and herbal benefits associated with each herb fairy.

Asher's coloring sheet of Arc, the Burdock Fairy. We completed reading the story yesterday.

Asher’s coloring sheet of Arc, the Burdock Fairy. We completed reading the story yesterday.

The kids delight in being able to identify herbs growing wild all around us as we walk through our neighborhood, play in the back yard, or look around at their school. It has been such a nice way to instill an awareness, appreciation, and reverence for plant medicine that is abundant in our environment.

Wildcraft cooperative board game from LearningHerbs

Although the Herb Fairies program will not be available again until next spring, LearningHerbs is currently offering a limited time sale on Wildcraft, their Herbal Adventure cooperative board game for kids. Like the Herb Fairies books, the board game focuses on herbs and combines fun, cooperation, and education to teach children about herbs and their medicinal uses as well as ethical wildcrating, all while working together to achieve a goal (in this case, gathering huckleberries and returning to grandmother’s house before nightfall so that she can bake a pie).

Our family has always preferred cooperative games to competitive “winner” and “loser” games, especially for young children so this is a great fit for us. The artwork on the game looks beautiful and the game had great reviews on Amazon as well. I know that the kids will love playing it. I actually purchased it back in July when LearningHerbs was promoting a similar sale on the game. I have been keeping it tucked away for the fast-approaching holidays. I imagine that the kids will be excited to receive a game that will continue to expand their understanding and appreciation of herbs, and it will be nice for them to have a cooperative game to play during the break when we all have more time at home together.

The current promotion runs through Friday November 20th. The game price is reduced to $19.99 plus shipping and adds a bunch of fantastic bonuses to sweeten the deal, including a webinar with Aviva Romm, How to Make Rootbeer video (which Alina is super excited about), Herbal Roots Zine Kids Activity Magazine, Mentoring Kids & Nature Connection with Jon Young (mp3), and the Herb Fairies Activity Pack, and an e-book from herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt to support children’s health during cold & flu season

So, are you going to grab one? I can’t wait for ours to open ours and start playing.

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services (and here’s why). They are not endorsements, nor am I compensated in any way. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure that you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted**

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 6 (The One Where Radiation Tries to Ruin the Valentine’s Day party)

Crunchy Parent- Alina's preschool valentine's party & my last week of radiation

If you want to read earlier posts from the Cancer Series or learn more about why I am posting these personal blog posts years later, you can do that here. This particular excerpt comes from the private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org at the time surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It highlights the emotional and logistical struggles that I was moving through at the time as I tried to be present as a mom to my three young children while fighting cancer in my spare time.

This entry was originally published on February 16, 2011 following my 24th round of radiation.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will be my final day of radiation. It was supposed to be today but that whole blizzard snow thing a couple weeks ago pushed it back a day. I can’t say that it’s coming too soon. I’ve been exhausted once again this week. From what I understand the radiation, or at least the way they’re doing the radiation for me, builds up over time so that the largest doses of radiation are reserved for the end. I’d have to say that it feels that way. On Valentine’s Day, my beloved valentine put the kids to bed and took care of all of the other nighttime tasks while I crawled into bed at 7:00 pm and slept clear through to 6:00 the next morning. I still woke up feeling like someone had filled my body with sand.

Actually, Valentine’s Day was it’s own little comedy of errors, although in the end it was delightful. Alina had a party in her classroom at 10:30, which is of course not too compatible with my 10:15 radiation time. Knowing this, several weeks back I changed this one and only treatment to 9:30 so that I could make the party. I even anticipated the whole “Monday meet with doctor day thing” and asked about pushing my sit down with Dr. Radiation to Tuesday this week. Sadly no change could be made because she was not going to be in this Tuesday. She promised instead that we would make it a quick meeting. In truth, our check-ins usually are pretty quick, but last week she was running crazy late and I sat around waiting for almost an hour before they told me to just go home and try back the next day. I was a bit anxious tacking the appointment on to what was already going to be a day when I was tight on time.

Anyway, I got to the Cancer Center at 9:30 on Monday, only to be told that my radiation machine was down and was being repaired. Now, it’s not exactly my machine or I assure you that I would have already received the bill for seven million dollars, but radiation is a pretty exacting process. I do need to have my treatment done using the same machine every day. I also have five little permanent black tattoos scattered across my legs and a custom mold to navigate my lower half into on the radiation machine so that they can position my body in the absolute same way every time. There is no “close enough” when it comes to this whole radiation game, so when I heard that the machine was down, my heart sunk. It was not helped much when the tech said, “We thought for sure that they’d be ready by the time that you arrived, but we were wrong.” (evidently).

I hung out in my hospital gown for a bit and then the tech ran in and said that they were going to use a different machine. She said that it used different films but that the doctor had approved it, so I was good to go. I did not really feel good to go on the different machine with the different films (I want to do cancer just right, thank you very much). The Universe must have sensed my hesitation because as the tech was walking me to the different machine all the other techs started shouting, “No No No! He’s done. She can get on the other machine!” So the tech leads me back to my machine and I jump on. She starts to get me all positioned and another tech comes over the intercom and says that they haven’t calibrated the machine for the day yet so I need to jump off, and it will be about ten more minutes. I am crying inside. On any other day I could roll with this, but all I can think of right now is sweet, little Alina excited for her mama to come to her party, and I can’t get there because, cancer.

At this point the tech takes me to see Dr. Radiation so that I can at least get the appointment part out of the way while they ready the machine. As I’m waiting to be seen by her I borrow the phone (because I’m in a hospital gown this whole time with my phone locked up in the Women’s Changing Room). I make a quick call to school to relay the message to Alina’s teacher that I will be late, I just don’t know how late. I’m having visions of a very disappointed Alina when all of the parents file into the classroom and her mommy just isn’t there.

I meet with Dr. Radiation who is aware of my tight party schedule. I’m trying to figure out some way that I might be able to run over to the 10:30-12:30 party, drop Alina off at home with Rich and Asher after school, scoot back to radiation, and then back home to get the kids to hightail it back to school by Eva’s class party at 2pm. I really don’t think that there’s any way for me to make the pieces fit. Dr. Radiation suggests that if I can’t make it work they can just skip my treatment today and add another day on at the end of my run. I don’t even want to wrap my brain around moving this much-anticipated radiation finish line back another day, but it’s really a non-issue. I am scheduled to be done with my radiation treatments on Thursday and I already have my follow-up MRI and CT scan scheduled for Friday morning so that I can have the results in time to meet with my surgical oncologist next week (sigh).

Dr. Radiation gives me the once over. This is our last official weekly appointment. From here, we just cross our fingers and hope that it did what it was supposed to do. Dr. Radiation says that she wants to see me again 4-6 weeks post-op, and gives me a farewell hug. The tech scoops me up and runs me back to the machine while telling me that they have only done my “energies” on the machine but that at least it’s ready for me. I have no idea what the first part means, but I understand the “ready” part and so I hop on. They do what they do and I’m changed and running out to my car in a flash, which is no easy task because my leg really hurts these days. In all, I left the Cancer Center approximately five minutes earlier than I would have on any other day when I hadn’t moved my appointment up 45 minutes (best laid plans…).

The running was worth it. Despite my racing heart and knotted stomach, my sweet girl was sitting in a circle with her friends as the teacher ushered them through a singing game. I made it to school in time to see Alina skip around the circle of her peers as a little pink blur with her braided pigtails bouncing and her smile beaming as everyone sang “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

A Tisket, A Tasket.....Alina skips around the circle to put a valentine in a friend's basket

A Tisket, A Tasket…..Alina skips around the circle to deliver a valentine to a friend’s basket

After the song we ate fruit salad from the shared party goodies and some gluten free banana bread that I had baked and brought to the party to share. I got to spend time with her while she played outside, watching her run and seeing her smile framed by rosy, wind-kissed cheeks. We came home for a quick lunch, and then were back at school again to enjoy more fun and games at Eva’s party before returning home for the remainder of the day, which I can now scarcely remember due to the exhausted stupor.

Party #2 with Eva's class

Party #2 with Eva’s class

All things being equal, it was a pretty successful Valentine’s Day. Last year the girls and I spent the entirety of Valentine’s Day in bed. They were both home from school with whooping cough, and I was on week 19 of my bed rest stint with Asher’s pregnancy. They missed their class parties and valentines from friends, and I couldn’t have come to school for their parties even if they had been there. By comparison, this year was a step up, I guess. Next year I’m aiming for total health and well-being for us all, and maybe five conscious minutes with my husband to wish him a happy day too.

My sweet boy's first Valentine's Day outside the womb.

My sweet boy’s first Valentine’s Day outside the womb.

So in summary: Radiation=tired. Almost done. MRI and CT on Friday to see how things look following the radiation. Meet with my surgeon next Wed (the 23rd).

Anticipated needs for assistance in the near future: 1. if anyone is coming up this way from the St. Louis area and can bring a cooler of milk from our donor, that would save us a really long drive; 2. our school carpool partners are going to be out of the country for the first half of March, which will also encompass my surgery date. If any of our school friends wouldn’t mind dropping Eva off at our house at the end of the school day at any point from 3/1-3/15, that would be a big help to cut down on multiple trips to/from school. All the driving and coming and going with Asher and Alina in tow really saps my energy (see above) and also requires me to wake Asher up from his naps every day.

Thanks all!

So today’s video is a flash mob, because I have a bizarre fascination with them. I know that it’s a bit late on the notice, but if someone wants to organize the doctors, techs, and other patients at the Cancer Center to bust out into a flash mob tomorrow when I finish treatment, it might just make the whole five weeks worth it….After surgery, I’ll be tumor free. No cancer for me…….

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 5 (The one where I wean my baby)

If you want to read earlier posts from the Cancer Series or learn more about why I am posting these personal blog posts years later, you can do that here. This particular excerpt comes from the private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org at the time surrounding my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It highlights the emotional and logistical struggles that I was moving through. I was trying to reconcile the attachment parenting choices that I wanted to make (i.e., exclusive breastfeeding and child-led weaning) with the gravity of the illness that I was facing, coupled with my intense desire to do everything in my power to increase the likelihood of the success of my cancer fight. It recounts my attempts to meet my infant son’s nutritional needs in a way that was healthy for both him and for me.

Although I did not know it at the time, in addition to Asher dealing with a mommy who had cancer, I was dealing with a child who had multiple food allergies and feeding delays (we still attend feeding therapy regularly four+ years later). This is our journey through weaning. I am posting it here to relay my experience and my story. It is not to be construed as medical advice, or any kind of advice for that matter.

This entry was originally published on February 9, 2011, approximately three weeks after I began my radiation treatments.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m tired. Actually today is better than the past two days have been, which is why I have the energy to at least get to item #26 on my “to do” list for the day and post a little update. Undoubtedly, the fact that three weeks ago Eva was home sick the whole week, and two weeks ago Alina was home sick the whole week, and last week the Blizzard of the Century kept everyone home most of the week all contributed to my general exhaustion. I think there’s more to it than that. I’m not sure if the current fatigue is due to the radiation itself or to the need to get to radiation every day or both. I’m hoping that at least a big part of it is due to the need to get to radiation every day, and will thus be temporary.

I go to radiation every morning right after I put Asher down for his nap. This means that the time that used to be my least parentally-demanding portion of the day is now unavailable to get laundry, dishes, cleaning, cooking etc. done. Nevertheless, all of those things are just sitting around still waiting for my attention later in the day without regard to how tired I am feeling. This brings me back to the radiation itself. I do think that the actual radiation is making me tired too. The last two days I woke up wondering how soon it would be before I could get back into bed, and my limbs felt a bit too cumbersome to both lift and move. Bleh. But enough about the tired, let’s move on to the next thing.

Weaning. It’s been almost 48 hours since Asher last nursed. It makes me sad. He’s doing pretty well with it overall, but it makes me sad. And did I mention the sad? In a quiet moment, I took this video of me and Asher on my third day of radiation, when I knew that our days of nursing were numbered. Rich offered to take it for me, but I really wanted to just remember what it looked like to gaze down at Asher while he nursed to sleep. He always rubbed his hand back and forth across my stomach while nursing. I think that it was his comfort object. I guess that’s the best reason to have a soft mommy belly.

To clarify, according to several of the most respected breastfeeding authorities, it is believed to be safe to continue nursing through radiation. In fact, the only instance in which nursing is thought to be contraindicated with radiation is in the case of breast cancer. Even then it is believed to be okay to nurse on the side that is not receiving the radiation. Tuck that away as an interesting fact, because both the nurse at the radiation oncologist’s office and the La Leche League leader with whom I spoke told me otherwise. If I hadn’t challenged them based upon other research that I had done, both they and I would have continued to believe this incorrect information.

So, you ask, if it’s safe to breastfeed then why am I weaning? (Side note: Did you all know that Rich, Alina, and I were the “faces” of La Leche League’s national capital campaign in 2007? We were. Did you know that I have spent every day of the past 8+ years either pregnant or nursing or both? I have. Do you still wonder why I’m tired? I don’t.).

Jokes aside, breastfeeding is very important to me for many many reasons and has been a big part of my mothering relationship with each of my babies. I was not eager to wean Asher so soon. In fact, I have never weaned my children. I followed the girls’ lead on that, but by the same token it is very important to me that I do everything that I reasonably can to restore and maintain my good health so that I can mother my children until they are parents themselves.

I had the very strong feeling that I needed to stop nursing to allow my hormones to regulate. My body does not seem to respond well to the hormone fluctuations associated with pregnancy/nursing (menopause is going to be FUN!) I didn’t want to make this fight any harder on my body than necessary. I also wanted to conserve my body’s energy for healing rather than producing food. In addition, I was hoping that not nursing at night would allow for better sleep, because radiation is exhausting and my body needs the sleep time to repair from the damage done by the treatment. Most importantly though, was my desire to be able to really pursue cleansing and detoxifying my body following radiation, cancer killing, surgery, etc. I can’t detox while still nursing, or my body will dump the toxins into my milk, and then into my sweet boy, and that’s not a good option. So, here we are at weaning.

Now, this is an appropriate time to remind all that both of the girls are on gluten and dairy free diets as they seem sensitive to gluten and dairy. Asher too showed sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, and nuts through my milk, so I rarely ate any of those. This presented me with the challenge of what to feed him if my milk, and soy or dairy-based milk substitutes weren’t going to be an option, and he was heretofore exclusively breast fed. I tried him on some food (mushed avocado and applesauce). That was a disaster. He hated both, and clearly kept trying to figure out how to get the liquidy evil off of his tongue (he tried gagging, drooling, crying, etc.) He also got all rashy, and the whole thing was generally bad news.

My next step was to look into breast milk banks to see about acquiring alternative human milk for him (before you judge: just how well do you know the cows making milk for the local grocery store? I figure that at least we’re talking the same species here). Well, guess how much milk from a milk bank costs. Just guess…..Okay, so milk from a milk bank costs four dollars AN OUNCE. So after writing Alina a bill for three trillion dollars and talking with my insurance company who said that they would not cover the expense because Asher did not have a medical need (no, just the lady who MAKES the stuff), I looked into other resources. I found two, well, actually three.

1: Friends who know people who lactate 2: milkshare.com 3: Eats on Feets. The latter two are organizations designed to connect moms in need of donor milk with women willing to donate milk. Through these three channels I have been able to find four generous and kind women who have agreed to provide milk for Asher. They have also provided me with copies of their pertinent medical tests and patiently answered all of my many questions (there are questionnaires to guide moms through what to ask potential donors).

Now my freezers are stuffed with milk for Buddy, and we’ve been able to take on the weaning process. *FYI for those still concerned, we follow the recommended procedures for flash pasteurizing Asher’s donor milk to kill potentially harmful viruses or bacteria. This surely degrades some of the amazing health benefits of breast milk, but it seemed to be a reasonable and responsible compromise versus formula feeding. Check out this video if you too want to learn how to flash pasteurize for some such reason.

**Second FYI, no I can’t find donors who are gluten, dairy, and nut free AND other mothers do things like take medication or drink caffeine GAK! The loss of control has me reeling, but I’m trying to be very zen about it all. That said, Asher has developed a white coating with a big white spot on his perfect formerly-pink tongue since starting donor milk, any suggestions? (I don’t think it’s thrush by the way, but what do I know?).

Weaning has been a series of fits and starts (Ha! I so did not mean for that to be a pun, but I guess it is. Yuck. I don’t even like puns. Anyway, moving on). At first we started with night weaning and after a bunch of sad and screamy nights it seemed to be going pretty well. Then Asher got the cold that Eva and Alina had. That put the kibosh on the weaning and he was back to nursing at night.

He never really took a bottle, but we were able to get him to consider using a sippy cup. He was taking in about 6 oz. of donor milk each day, and nursing the rest of the time. Over the past few weeks we have worked his donor milk intake up to 25-30 oz. per day, although he was still nursing once or twice a night.

Last night, Rich and I finally got our acts together enough to flash pasteurize milk and set it on ice in our room in anticipation of Asher waking up. I warmed the milk in our sink and fed Asher that when he woke up at 2:30am rather than nursing him, and voila! Just like that it’s been almost two whole days since I’ve nursed.

I’m not ready for it. I knew that in a way I would probably never be totally ready to wean my last baby because it means closing a chapter on a very special and unique aspect of mothering. I really was not prepared for it to happen so soon or for this reason. That said, I feel confident in my decision. I know in my heart that if the adult Asher was talking to me right now he’d say, “Mom, I’ll be okay. Take care of yourself.” That doesn’t mean that I don’t still have tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this.

I will note though that it hasn’t been all bad. For 10.5 months Asher has almost always fallen asleep nursing. Whenever he is tired or hungry he makes a rather violent horizontal dive bomb for my chest to make his desires known. Since the weaning process has progressed, Asher has stopped diving to nurse when tired. He now cuddles his head against my shoulder, a move that he had previously reserved for Rich. Now, after I give him his sippy of milk before bed or naps, I stand up and hold him. He snuggles into me and I get to kiss his head and tell him how much I love him, before putting him down to sleep. It’s not the same as nursing him to sleep, but it is still loving and special, and I know that he feels cared for by his mom. I’ll take that.

That all got way longer than I’d planned. Sorry. According the MyLifeline.org, I’m supposed to try to end on an entertaining and uplifting note. Here, I like this. Enjoy.

-C

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As a final note, I cannot possibly post this without extending a very heartfelt thank you to the many mothers who fed my son when I could not. It was the greatest possible gift that we could have received at that time; making it easier to do something very difficult. I will never forget it.

I wanted to share this story that I came across today. It is from a mother who donated milk as a way to connect with, and honor the baby whom she lost (I do not know this woman, only her story). Donation is a beautiful and special gift from child-to-child and from mother-to-mother.

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Poppin’ Tags: A Guide to Shopping and Selling at Kids Resales

Crunchy Parent Tips for Buying or Selling at Kids Resales or Consignment Sales

I am a long-time tag popper. I started shopping at thrift stores, children’s resale stores, and “pop-up” resales before I even had children as a way to shop for gently used clothing, books, toys, and gear at a significant discount. In the whole “reduce-reuse-recycle” circle of product life, shopping previously-owned results in a lowered carbon footprint and allows us to tread a little more lightly upon the Earth. As my own children have outgrown their clothes and toys we have handed things down through friends and family, but find that there are always items that are the wrong size or gender for the littler ones in our lives at a given moment. Many end up being donated, but selling some of these items at local “pop-up” resales lets me squirrel away a little money for the kids’ clothes for the season ahead. Selling and/or volunteering to work at sales often comes with the added bonus of getting to shop the sales before the general public, when the best selection and deals can be found. For those who may have less experience with children’s resales or consignment sales, I wanted to take a minute to pass along some tips so that you can take advantage of the bargains to be had in and around your town.

How do you find the sales?

In order to sell and shop at sales, you first have to know where to find them. I have found sales through a number of channels. The first (and probably best) is through word of mouth. Talk to other mothers at playgroups, school, place of worship, around the neighborhood, etc. Do they have experience shopping or selling at any sales in the area? Are there sales that they recommend or have had poor experiences with in the past? If you have experience shopping or selling at a particular sale that you like, ask the volunteers or sellers there if the can recommend similar sales in the area. It is not uncommon for “resale moms” to be familiar with other sales that happen nearby at other times.

Another resource for finding sales is through listings like Craigslist. I suggest looking in the “for sale” listings using search terms like “resale; kids” or “consignment; children.” This can be a good way to find sales to shop, as well as places at which to sell. Remember to also keep an eye out around town. Schools and churches will often post signs weeks in advance to announce upcoming sales.

Finally, as clothing resales have grown in popularity online resources have become another way to find local sales Consignment Mommies is a site that lists sales by state as well as by date; often providing additional information such as sale dates and hours, location, admission costs, and discount day options. The site also has great tips and information for the new shopper or seller.

What to look for in a sale as a shopper, seller, or volunteer?

Sales can vary greatly in the quantity, quality, and variety of merchandise sold, as well as the type of shopper that they aim to attract. Some sales are held in very large venues with tens of thousands of items piled onto tables and in bins by size and gender; requiring more time to sort and sift through. Other sales are smaller and designed to emulate a resale shop; with items hung and displayed on racks and shelves. Some sales focus on higher-end merchandise; restricting the brands sold to higher-end chain store and boutique brands, whereas other sales may be a goldmine for play clothes and baby/kid gear. It helps to know what you are looking for when shopping a sale as well as the types of items that you might be looking to sell, and the time and motivation that you have to dedicate to finding that great deal.

In addition, when considering where to shop and sell, think about the price that you are looking to pay, or the dollar amount that you hope to earn as a seller. Sales aimed at a boutique market will often price clothing higher overall, even though some of those same brands may be found as lower priced “diamonds in the rough” at more general sales. As a seller, it is also important to know what percentage you will earn if your items sell. Seller earnings typically range from 50%-80% of the item sale price, with lower earnings from more “full service” sales where your items are tagged, priced, and prepared for you; and higher earnings from sales where you fully prepare your items and volunteer to work to support the sale during promotion, preparation, sale, and/or clean-up. In addition, some sales welcome volunteers who are not actually selling at the sale with the incentive of being able to shop the sale before the public; other sales may require volunteer hours of all sellers.

Tips for success as a seller:

As the kids outgrow their clothes or when I rotate the wardrobes with new season, I sort their items into what to keep; what to pass along to friends or family; what to donate; and what to sell. Sale items have been given the once over to make sure that they are in good to excellent condition and free of stains, spots, or holes. These items then go into bins labeled by season (fall/winter or spring/summer). When sale time rolls around, I pull out the bins and get to tagging my items. Sales will differ in their tagging and display rules, so be sure that you know if you are handwriting or printing tags; pinning to the item or tagging with a tag gun; hanging all items, or pinning outfits together. I keep my supplies (pins, tag gun and fasteners, sweater shaver, etc.) in one of the stored sale bins so that I’m not scrambling each season. I also keep items that may have been leftover from other sales in bins all ready to go so that I don’t have to do my work again. Some things may need a quick ironing or other freshening, but that is all.

Bin of shoes, boots, & slippers ready for the sale.

Bin of shoes, boots, & slippers ready for the sale.

It is important as a seller that you understand a bit about the sale that you are selecting. You will want to know what percentage of your ticket price you will receive. You will also want to understand the volunteer responsibilities, drop off and pickup arrangements, and sale times. If you are hoping to shop the sale, be sure to understand if and how you will qualify to shop earlier than the general public. As a seller, I also like to know how well the sale does overall (i.e., what percentage of the total items typically sell); are they well-established, is the sale at a desirable time and location, how do they get the word out to potential customers, and how many customers generally come through their sales (hundreds? thousands?)? I also ask questions about security available at the sale because sellers must often sign a waiver releasing the sale sponsor from liability for damaged or stolen items, and knowing about security allows me to make informed decisions about what I choose to put in the sale. Finally, I ask about pricing. If their customers are looking for $1.00 shirts and onesies, a European Boutique outfit probably won’t sell for $25 even if that is a small fraction of the retail price. This helps me find the right sale for the types of items that I am looking to sell.

If you are new to selling, tagging guns, needles, and fasteners can be bought inexpensively on eBay or on Amazon. Some sales will specify plastic hangers, wire hangers, or will accept either type. Plastic hangers can often be obtained for free from stores like Carter’s or Old Navy who often otherwise dispose of their excess hangers. A quick call to the store’s manager is usually all that it will take to see if a store has free hangers available. Friends and family may be more than happy to unload their wire hangers that have accumulated from trips to the dry cleaners (I can’t even type that sentence without having “Mommy Dearest” flashbacks). Zip ties may also be required to attach shoes together. Amazon or home improvement stores can be good sources for these, although if the sale allows, I prefer to tie shoes together with yarn or ribbon (prettier and more eco-friendly).

When it comes to pricing, a general rule is that items in good to excellent condition can sell for 25%-35% of their full retail price. This percentage may be a bit higher or lower depending on the item. For instance, an outfit from a brand with a cult following like Matilda Jane might fetch a higher percentage, but that gorgeous French designer outfit that was a massive splurge, may have to be reduced even less than 25% of the full retail to sell to the general resale crowd. Of course, if your items are “priced to sell” you will likely end up selling a larger percentage of the items that you brought to the sale. Likewise, if you price an item too high and it ultimately goes to half price toward the end of the sale, you may end up making less than if you had priced it a bit lower to begin with and sold it for your full asking price earlier in the sale.

Tips for success as a shopper:

To best prepare yourself for any sale, you first want to have a sense of what you are looking to buy. If you need some really special outfits for holidays, a special portrait, or an upcoming occasion, or you have a preference for higher end brands, you may want to head over to a “better brands” boutique-type sale, which is not to say that the same items could not be found elsewhere, but it may be hit or miss. If you are looking for a lot of varied items, especially for everyday, a large sale with lots of items may help you cross more items off of your list.

Kids looking cute in their sibling portrait. Fancy dresses bought at a “better brands” resale. Asher’s shirt was bought later at a thrift store to work with the color story (yes, I watch Project Runway).

Kids looking cute in their sibling portrait. Fancy dresses bought at a “better brands” resale. Asher’s shirt was bought later at a thrift store to work with the color story (yes, I watch Project Runway).

Speaking of lists, I would recommend that you make one. I try to review the boxes of hand me-downs, last season’s clothes, and things that I’ve picked up here and there to see what I need to fill in the wardrobe for each child. I also note shoe sizes and other necessary sizes on my list, as well as current clothing preferences or needs for each child (e.g., will only wear dresses and leggings; needs elastic waist or adjustable waist pants; brown or black dress shoes). Then when I hit the sale I know who needs a winter coat, boots, or snow pants; who needs layering t-shirts, play dresses, a bicycle with 20” wheels, etc.

As a shopper, it helps to know a bit about the sale before you go. If resale shopping or a particular sale is new to you, here are some general tips to consider. Resale enthusiasts often show up early. Do not be surprised if there is a line outside before sale doors open. If you want to get the best deals, by all means line up early, but don’t assume that if you arrive later all of the good items will be gone. The shoppers before you may have needed different sizes, different items, or have different preferences. Admission to the sale may be free or they may charge a nominal fee such as one dollar. Exact change helps move that line of eager shoppers along when they are excited to get in.

It is often helpful to bring a container with you to hold items while you hunt, gather, and shop. Sales generally have sorting areas set aside from the main hustle and bustle to let you review items and make purchase decisions, but you’ll need a “shopping cart” to transport items to the sort area and to the payment line. Shoppers often bring a laundry basket or large box or bag for this purpose. A wheeled laundry basket like this one can be a big help. I got mine at Target and I didn’t have to buy three of them like the Amazon bundle. It is worth noting that sales often do not allow children or restrict strollers for safety and space reasons, so inquire before heading out with children in tow.

When I arrive at the sale, I consider my list and prioritize heading over to areas with less selection like shoes, coats, gear, or special occasion clothing. Once I’ve taken a look through those areas, I make my way over to the clothing; working from the size of the child who needs the most, to the child who needs the least. Books, games, and toys are usually pretty abundant, so unless there is something really specific that I am looking for, I save those areas for last. It is sometimes also worth looping back to areas to see what has been put back by other shoppers who have “rejected” items that they initially scooped up but decided not to purchase after sorting through their items.

As a shopper, you want be sure to review your purchases carefully before buying as sales are almost always final. Volunteers often try to check items for quality control before they make it to the sale floor, but sometimes spots, stains, or holes are missed. You will want to look items over carefully, checking behind tags as well if tags are secured to the front of the garment. Another thing to consider is how tags and items have been attached. If a plastic hang tag or pin has been poked through the garment fabric you will want to consider the likelihood of it leaving a hole and damaging the material when the tag is removed. As a buyer, I far prefer when items are hung (not pinned) and when tags go through the manufacturer tag or are secured at a seam to minimize holes. Likewise, fabrics like knit jersey or silk are more susceptible to hole damage than more robust fabrics such as fleece, velour, or denim. When looking over items, review factors such as wear and shrinkage (i.e., is the fabric pilled, are the knees worn down, is the item likely true to its labeled size?). Consider whether the price fits the quality and purpose (play clothes or daycare outfits with some wash wear for cheap are not necessarily a bad thing). Be mindful of reasonable item value as well as gear and toy recalls. A quick search online with your phone before buying can be a big help. As a general rule, buying previously-owned car seats and cribs is often discouraged for safety reasons. Likewise, if you stick to low-tech toys made from natural materials as we do, it is far less likely that the item would have been involved in a recall.

While you have that smartphone out, give that older child, tween, or teen a ring. I have found that as children get older and embrace their own style and preferences it can be harder to shop for them without having a number of “misses” when their personal shopper arrives home with the loot. I have sometimes taken photos of items at the sale and texted them to Rich to show to the girls for a thumbs up or down. Recently, Eva and I FaceTimed while I was at a sale and I gave her a live-action show of what I had selected, allowing her to provide her input before I made my purchase.

What do you think girls, yes or no?

What do you think girls, thumbs up or thumbs down?

Another thing to be aware of as a shopper is that some sales will have discount days or hours where some or all of the items that have not yet sold will be reduced. It may help inform purchasing decisions to know if an item will be 25%-50% off at a later time when you might be able to revisit the sale or if it will not be reduced further. Of course if it is an item that you really want, you may not wish to wait as it could be gone by sale time. Likewise, you do not want to assume that an item is on sale during “discount time” only to find out at the register that you are wrong because you are unfamiliar with sale rules; some sales designate discount-eligible items with tags of certain colors or with a specific symbol on the tag such as a star, dollar sign or the words “Discount” or “Do Not Discount.” Before you show up at the register, it is also worth knowing the forms of payment that are accepted and if credit cards will carry a fee. In addition, some sales are affiliated with a charity and are tax-free purchases, whereas privately-hosted sales will often require the buyer to pay sales tax.

It is getting to be late in the season to sign up to sell at most fall or winter sales, but there is still time to buy. It is also a great opportunity to check out the sales as a buyer and learn about how you can be alerted of future sales or how you can participate in the future as a buyer or a seller. In my area, most established pop-up sales have a fall/winter sale in August or September, and a spring/summer sale around March. So make your lists and head on out there. It’s a really great way to give the environment and your wallet a break.

Have you shopped or sold at kids resales before? Please share any tips or great finds. I’d love to hear them.

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Happy Hedgehog Post Waldorf Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-August 2015

Happy Hedgehog Post is an indie subscription service featuring products for children and families to enhance their home, crafts, and nature tables. With a distinct focus on the handmade, seasonal, and natural, this subscription may be a good option for families who are familiar with, and appreciate a Waldorf schooling and play approach. Each month will include materials and instructions for one or more craft projects, a Zine featuring season-specific stories, recipes, and more, and a special gift often appropriate for play or to beautify a nature table. In addition, each month, HHP donates 10% of the purchase price of every subscription envelope to support a different charity of their choosing. This month, funds went to Foodlink to help fight hunger in America. The August Happy Hedgehog Post envelope is sold out, but the September envelope is still available for purchase.

Envelopes cost $31.00 per month, (shipping included), less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, if you want to purchase a second envelope for a sibling, a Sibling Envelope can be added to your purchase for $18. Sibling Envelopes include a second dose of all supplies necessary to complete the month’s crafts. They do not include the monthly Zine and bonus gift. I purchased this envelope and I was not compensated in any way for my review. You can check out my other Happy Hedgehog Post reviews here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The August envelope had an Michaelmas theme. For those who are unfamiliar with the holiday often celebrated in Waldorf schools, you can learn more about Michaelmas, with some suggestions for versus and activities consistent with Waldorf education and homeschooling here. In brief, Michaelmas tells the story of brave St. George taming a dragon who was terrorizing a town. St. George musters his courage to triumph over the dragon, just as children must summon their inner courage at times of challenge. Likewise, as Michaelmas falls near the autumn equinox, there is often a focus on light and dark; looking inward for light during times of darkness.

*Rainbow playsilk not included

*Rainbow playsilk not included

The box included the Happy Hedgehog Post August Zine which contained a number of seasonal poems and verses, a short story called The Brave Boy, and two recipes; one for an Irish Michaelmas pie filled with seasonal blackberries, and the second for Dragon Bread, a traditional food eaten in celebration of Michaelmas. Waldorf education is aligned with some spiritual beliefs which can be incorporated to a greater or lesser degree into the children’s consciousness depending on the approach of a given program. Some of the poems and verses in this month’s HHP Zine did tend to have a religious and spiritual overtone, so it is worth considering how this might fit with your personal beliefs and with your family.

The box also included a beautiful small nested cave, perfect for hiding small dragon figures or other toys or natural objects. The cave was handmade out of reclaimed barn wood by From Jennifer as a custom item for this month’s HHP box.

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

*Rainbow playsilk still not included

The first craft project included was a wool dragon. This item had been teased before the envelope’s release and I was excited for it, although I think that I was expecting a more traditional, Waldorf-style, three-dimensional dragon. The pattern had more of a cute “stuffie” feel, reinforced by the tropical aqua and mango colors of the wool provided. I think that the kids will still like the dragon, and Asher may be especially enamored with it, but I would say that it is more of a cute dragon than a fierce one that would require courage to tame. HHP included the pattern for the dragon as well as 100% wool felt, wool batting to stuff the dragon, embroidery thread, and a needle. The tutorial was posted as a three part video series of over an hour’s worth of video instruction, and can be seen on the Happy Hedgehog Post YouTube channel.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

*Rainbow playsilk from my own collection. Not included. My children would miss it.

Despite my confusion in the video, HHP did include a second craft; a wool felt treasure pouch. I think that this project is just perfect for autumn. My children (and their mother) have a tendency to collect treasures from nature in all seasons, but fall is an especially tempting time to gather objects that tumble to the ground from the trees. The kids always seem to have pockets filled with goodies that they collect. A treasure pouch would make clear that the items contained were special and not to be forgotten (in some pants pocket that mom might absentmindedly toss in the wash). The 100% wool felt pouch comes together quickly through techniques like the blanket stitch, finger knitting for the strap, and sewing on the lovely wood button. I think that this would be a very nice project for one of the girls to make. Asher is really the perfect age and size for this type of pouch, so I may suggest that one of the girls consider crafting it as a gift to him. HHP included the pre-cut 100% wool felt, wool yarn, wood burned wood button, embroidery thread, and needle for the project. The instructions were available as a fifteen minute video.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

*Playsilk not included, but you knew that.

As I mentioned in my last HHP unboxing and review, I think that Happy Hedgehog Post can be a difficult subscription for assessing value. I believe that the perceived value will vary greatly depending on the priorities and experience of the crafter. Happy Hedgehog Post stays very true to their mission of providing craft projects using natural materials and with a seasonal and Waldorf-based feel, in addition to writings, recipes, and a bonus item in keeping with that same spirit. The craft projects and videos are accessible to the beginning crafter and can be tailored to inspire creative expansion by more experienced crafters who may have their own additional supplies on-hand. For instance I might choose to embroider acorns, leaves, toadstools, root children, or other seasonal images onto the treasure pouch. HHP is a great window into Waldorf education for those less familiar, and a wonderful way to bring handcrafting with natural materials, seasonal appreciation, and familial rituals and rhythms deeper into daily home life. Individuals very familiar with Waldorf or who have themselves gained a great deal of experience with handcrafting may find that they use the themes and projects as a gentle reminder to fold verses, celebrations, and their talents in their own home even more, or as a springboard for more advanced craft projects.

I really appreciate what a unique subscription service Happy Hedgehog Post provides. There are other crafting subscriptions on the market with a “green” theme, but I am not aware of any who can compare to the commitment to natural materials that HHP embodies. I also like the online video tutorials that demonstrate the crafts, and the opportunity to learn basic crafting techniques that can be applied to many projects in the future. Families who appreciate nature and celebrating the seasons will likely enjoy what HHP has to offer and people looking to bring or enhance a Waldorf education experience in their children’s lives will be hard pressed to find anything else like Happy Hedgehog Post’s subscription. The September envelope looks like it will be all about pumpkins, with three pumpkin-themed craft projects included in addition to the Zine and surprise gift. Are you thinking about getting one?

You can find the Happy Hedgehog Post subscription as well as many other subscriptions for home, baby, beauty, lifestyle, food, and more in the revised and expanded Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes. You can also check out the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more crunchy subscription box unboxing and reviews, and be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com.

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 3 (the one where I talk about hair)

I sometimes wonder if I am being self-indulgent or living in the past when I post these excerpts from my personal cancer blog from early 2011. I may be, but I also think that although these experiences and feelings are in my past, they are very much present for others who might relate to my words. A longtime friend-through-a-friend whom I have known since college will be having surgery to remove cancer from her body tomorrow while her children wait at home wondering why mommies and daddies get cancer. I saw her recently and it was clear that so much of what I struggled with is washing over her. I hope that for her, and for anyone else who might be fighting against cancer right now, these words serve as some form of empathy and validation. Just keep moving through it. If you want to read parts one or two of the cancer series, please do. This will be here when you get back.

This entry was originally published on January 28, 2011; six weeks after receiving my diagnosis and about two weeks into my radiation treatments. It reflects in part on my gratitude for looking well despite being sick; this allowed me to protect the kids from some degree of my vulnerability. However, the mismatch between my outward appearance and my internal state also reminded me a bit of being in one’s first trimester of pregnancy; so much is going on, you may feel exhausted, sick, concerned and yet to the average passerby there is no hint of a deviation from normal, unless you tell…

Several people have commented lately that I’m looking great (thanks!) It makes me think of a t-shirt that I saw when looking for cancer advocacy clothes (I’ll show you the t-shirt that I settled on once I get a picture of me in it).

My mirror selfie in the women's changing room at the cancer center. It was Feb. 4, 2011; World Cancer Day. I wore my t-shirt as my battle armor before changing into my hospital gown for radiation.

My mirror selfie in the women’s changing room at the cancer center. It was Feb. 4, 2011; World Cancer Day. I wore my t-shirt as my battle armor before changing into my hospital gown for radiation.

Anyway, the shirt that I saw said something like, “Nobody told me I looked this good before I had cancer.” It took me a second to get the joke, but once I did I found it quite funny, and it’s true. I am hearing with much greater frequency that I look good. No complaints, I’ll take it thank you very much. I’m not sure though if the joke is that people say that you look good because they’re trying to make you feel better, or if they don’t know what to say, or if they are in fact surprised that you don’t look more “sick” given the gravity of what’s going on with your body. In my case though, there has been one recent significant adjustment that I imagine factors in to the observed change in my appearance as well.

When Eva was born, amidst all of the drama and stress and confusion my hospital bag was brought back home even though I had not been. I was stuck in the hospital for six days with a brand new baby, limited ability to move, tubes in my hands and plastic hospital bracelets all up my arms that kept scratching her new baby skin, and no ability to pull my hair up and out of the way because my hair elastics had been brought home in the bag. I remember thinking that my hair was such an annoyance and always in the way as I struggled to figure out how to mother this new little person from the confines of a small bed in a miniscule room tethered to machines seemingly everywhere (Interesting Fact: Rich hit his head 112 times on the TV suspended from the ceiling in that room). About fourteen minutes after we got home from the hospital I assumed my “mommy hairdo” of my hair pulled back off my face in either a ponytail or makeshift bun. For eight years I’ve pulled my hair back to keep busy little fingers from tugging at it or tiny faces from wiping their noses in it as they snuggled against my shoulder. Wearing my hair down became relegated to the extremely rare adult-only outing, so much so that Alina developed a unique Pavlovian response wherein she would burst into tears any time that she saw me take my hair down even briefly for fear that I was leaving her to go off somewhere.

When I go to radiation each morning, I tend to see the same group of women moving in and out of the women’s changing room. We smile and chat briefly. There’s Breast Cancer, Colon Cancer with Metastases to the Kidney, Stage 3 Endometrial Cancer, Round 2 of Chemo, Lady with the Pretty White Wig, Lady Who Won’t Wear a White Wig Because She Always Dyed Her Hair Dark, Lady with the Grumpy Attitude, etc. I can’t help but to notice that among them I am clearly Young Lady with the Baby as they are all between the ages of my mother and my grandmother. I can’t help but notice that I’m also The One With the Hair Who Doesn’t Need Chemo, as all but one of them comes to radiation sporting a wig or a hat to protect her against this windy cold weather and this evil disease. I hear them talk about chemo and the nausea and the debilitating pain and I am acutely grateful that at least for now that component of the cancer trifecta (radiation, chemo, surgery) is not part of my future. Truth be told, there is not really an effective chemotherapy for liposarcoma, which is why it has not been recommended as a part of my treatment. Regardless of the reason, I have been spared the physical and emotional pain of losing control of one more part of my life, and I have been allowed to keep my hair and at the same time allowed to remain healthy looking regardless of my cancer status. To my children their mom looks and is healthy, and for that and many other things I am thankful. So if you’ve seen me you may have noticed that after an eight-year hiatus I am once again wearing my hair down. It’s my very small tribute to the others who have needed to sacrifice so much more than I have to this illness, and it is my personal expression of gratitude that I still have my hair to enjoy, even though Asher has been wiping his nose in it all week.

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 2


Counse / Foter / CC BY

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog began in its original version back in 2007 when I was a crunchy parent trying to live a healthy and mindful life with my husband and two children. The blog got sidelined when we were faced with a series of health challenges that started in the summer of 2008. I kept thinking that life would settle down and I could return to my writing at CrunchyParent.com, but amidst the years of chaos we forgot to pay the annual web hosting fee. As a result, the blog content vanished. I had backed up some of my posts, but far from all. Those that I saved are on a computer that has been languishing in storage with the majority of our possessions while we have been living with my parents and house hunting these past nine months. I hope to retrieve and re-post some of what I had written in the past because I think that it provides context, perspective, and maybe even helpful information.

Until I am able to post some of the “greatest hits” from CrunchyParent.com of yesteryear, I wanted to periodically share some of what I had written on a private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org, a free website service for individuals with cancer, back when I was going through my cancer treatment and early recovery. For more about why I’m revisiting my cancer treatment days and to read part 1 of The Cancer Series, take a look here.

The following entry was initially written on January 26, 2011 five weeks after I had received my diagnosis and almost two weeks into my radiation treatment.

Radiation warning sign

Radiation #9

I had my ninth session of radiation yesterday, which I only know because the nurse told me that, right before saying that I’m almost done! I’m not sure how 9 out of 25 equals almost done, but I appreciate her optimism.

I meet with the radiation oncologist once a week to discuss progress, symptoms and whatnot and yesterday was the day. It is supposed to be Mondays but she was not in on Monday so I guess Tuesday was the day this week. Before leaving for treatment in the morning, Rich asked me if I had any questions that I wanted to bring up when I saw the doctor, and I did….

Question #1: Lymphedema-what is my risk and what if anything can I do to minimize this? (See here if you want to know more about lymphedema. Don’t go to Wikipedia unless you want to lose sleep trying to remove the images from your brain).

Question #2: Radiation-why is nothing done to protect the rest of my body during the daily x-rays and radiation treatment? Haven’t they heard that radiation can cause cancer?

So here are the answers…secondary lymphedema can result from damage to the lymphatic system following radiation, removal of the lymph nodes, surgery etc. Although my lymph nodes have not been impacted by my cancer they may be compromised by radiation (scar tissue) and the whole lymphatic drainage system will be disrupted by the tumor removal. The surgeon should be able to comment more about the degree of the disruption. In any case, I am at a lifelong risk of developing lymphedema in my leg although the doctor suspects that it would be mild and hopefully transient. To prevent this I have to try to avoid overuse/underuse of the limb (e.g., standing for long periods of time, immobility during lengthy air travel, etc.); infection (cuts on my leg, pedicures at a salon), and injury (no sharp objects for the kids and a suit of armor for me). She also wrote me a prescription to be evaluated at the lymphedema clinic at the hospital to discuss anything else that I can do before or after treatment to reduce my risk.

Now for #2…I can’t help but notice that every day I walk into a room with a great big door that bears a rather threatening-looking sign saying, “CAUTION very high radiation area.” I recognize that the picture above shows a sign with a less aggressive warning but that’s only because my sign is in a restricted area and I don’t bring my fancy phone with me when I enter the restricted area. I was unwilling to enter the restricted area later to snag a scary-sign picture because I’m basically a rule follower (*unless the rules make no sense, in which case all bets are off). Anyway, every day I pass the scary sign and enter the room and lay down on the strange table under the giant machine with the robotic arm and whirling parts and I have only a hospital gown to protect me from the beams so strong that they warrant their own special sign and an eight inch thick door. Asher has his thumb x-rayed and I had to wear an iron apron, yet for this daily adventure, nothing.

So the doctor tells me that the beams are targeted and that there is some minimal internal scatter but no protective garment would impact that. There is some external risk as well, but I’d have to wear a protective garment the size of a house to provide sufficient protection so no luck there either. She adds however, that the residual radiation is less than I would receive flying on a plane from New York to LA (which I did every day for 25 days straight LAST month). So, asked and answered I suppose.

There you have it, my first official update. Mylifeline.org has kindly provided me with tips for making my update “great.” In brief: 1. Post a new photo with updates for more visual appeal (check); 2. Write the truth. People want to know what’s really happening. (yup); 3. Even though the truth may be hard news or a serious setback, try to end the message on a positive note. Can you share a special memory from the past, or an endearing moment from the day? (*I would like you all to take a moment to recall an experience in which I may not have exactly been an unabashed rule follower. One might spring to mind without too much difficulty). 4. Add a video from YouTube. Copy and paste the embed code from the YouTube video and post it into the content area of your Connecting Update. Okay, there were a whole lot of instructions there that I don’t understand. I’m sure that Rich can translate later. In the meantime, check this one out. Nothing to do with cancer, but it makes me laugh:

Oh wait, I just re-read the instructions and I think that’s what I just did. Woo hoo!

Love to you all!
-C

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Barganic Alerts: What they are and why I strive to highlight affordable healthy living


PinkMoose / Foter / CC BY

You may have noticed that I post a lot of “Barganic Alerts” and that may have you wondering what they are and why I bother making such a fuss about them. Bargainic Alert is a term that I coined when I started writing this blog in its first iteration back in 2007, before the crash (read more about that here). I developed the term to clarify that I was pointing out a good or even great deal on an organic, eco-friendly, or otherwise crunchy product. The reason that it was, and continues to be especially important for me to broadcast these deals is because making healthy, green, crunchy choices often comes at a higher price point than more conventional ones. As a result, families may shy away from crunchy practices not because they are not interested, but because they get sticker shock, feel financially overwhelmed, and just conclude that crunchy options are too expensive to be available to them.

I really want people to have access to the choices that they wish to make, and that they believe are the best fit for their families. My children and I often have discussions about needing to allocate resources mindfully; to find a balance between time, talent, money, and desire. Everyone, no matter what their station in life will find at times that they want more than they have, or that their resources will allow. They then get to decide where they want to channel their time, talent, and money; and which desires are worth striving for, or living without.

In the case of my family, Rich and I both worked and put ourselves through graduate and professional school in the earlier years of our marriage and family, leaving us with very little disposable income. In addition, we have always been a single income family. My employment was a condition of my graduate studies, and thus did not pay for much more than the cost of tuition compensation or the expense of daycare to allow me to be there to complete my degree once Eva was born. As with most single income families, my being home with the kids comes with a tradeoff; there is less money in the bank account. Three years ago, when Rich was laid off from his job, we were suddenly a zero income family (save unemployment) with no idea of how long it would be before new employment would be found. Moreover, we were still reeling from the medical expenses of my cancer treatment on the heels of a high risk pregnancy and delivery. We were scrutinizing every expenditure that we made, and trying our hardest to make every purchasing choice a wise one. I say this not to elicit sympathy; we are fine and grateful, and Rich is happily employed once again. My point however, is that there are ways to be crunchy and live frugally at the same time; that living a more natural, attachment-friendly lifestyle can and should be available to those who want it, regardless of wealth. Hence, me shouting from the hilltops when I have a Barganic Alert to share.

The first crunchy bargain that I can remember finding was at a children’s resale event. I did not even have any children yet (I’m always one to plan ahead,) still I could not resist this sweet little soft doll with knotted hands and a gentle face. Not being familiar with Waldorf Education at the time either, I did not know that I was face-to-face with a Waldorf blanket doll, or that the $1 price tag was a steal, but he came home with me nevertheless. About a year later when I was newly pregnant with Eva, a visit to a children’s resale store introduced me to a gorgeous Maya Wrap sling for $10 that I went on to use to wear all three of my children.

Ready to rock the 4th of July in the Maya Wrap

Ready to rock the 4th of July in the Maya Wrap

I continued to keep my eyes out for crunchy bargains as I prepared for Eva’s birth. I knew that I wanted to use cloth diapers, but was overwhelmed by the cost. I poured over diaper sites looking for deals so that I could amass a usable system (daycare would use pocket dipes for her but they weren’t going to be bikini twisting any prefolds). I built up my stash with a dozen precious Kissaluvs size 0s and larger sizes that I got on sale for being second quality, Fuzzibunz seconds where the print was sewn inside out, hemp prefolds that were stitched in slightly the wrong dimensions, and ProRaps diaper cover seconds that had mildly wonky stitching. Everything was new, adorable, and still worked just fine, they were just a little less pretty to the trained eye.

Years later, I stocked the play kitchen with small dishes and wooden bowls found at the thrift store, bought a deeply discounted Moby Wrap in a style being discontinued on Amazon, and snapped up organic cotton sheet sets and blankets for the whole family when a company had a closeout sale (the latter was a Barganic Alert from years ago). I looked for ways to support health and beauty for my family and in our home that resonated with an attachment parenting lifestyle, yet still worked within our minimal budget. I participated in many mama swaps where crunchy goods, crafts, or talents were traded. I have organized and joined co-ops and CSAs. I have filled my gardens and pantry by participating in seed, plant, and food swaps. I treasure every crunchy bargain that I have ever gotten. I see it as the Universe and I being in partnership toward providing my family the crunchy lifestyle that I think fits us. It is my absolute commitment. I honestly believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Now all of this is not to say that I don’t buy crunchy products at full retail as well. I absolutely do, and I believe that it is important to support companies whose products we value with our dollars when we can. In addition, I try to “pay it forward” when I get a good deal by sharing it with others, but also by advertising the product (and crunchy choices in general). I cannot tell you the number of people who have stopped me over the years and asked me about that $10 Maya Wrap sling or that sale Moby as I wore my babies in them; who chatted with me about cloth diapers after seeing me pull one from the diaper bag and demystify the idea of cloth. I know that there have been many slings, wraps, and cloth diapers purchased by families who saw me using mine, and who let me tell them all about, and show them how to use them.

As I said before, we all have to allocate out time, talents, and money. For some, I hope that Barganic Alerts will make you aware of a great company or resource that was previously unfamiliar to you, whether you take advantage of the deal or not. For others, it may allow you to provide a crunchy treasure for your family that might otherwise have been beyond your reach. If you all lived nearby I’d tell you when organic stone fruit or berries were on sale at the grocery store too, and we could all make jam together. I’d send out an alert when my friends were putting together a group order for raw, organic, local honey. We could start a really great co-op. Since we don’t all share the same neighborhood, broadcasting Barganic Alerts to my online crunchy community is the best that I can do for now.

Barganic Alerts are generally precious and limited. Some are first come, first served. Others may be for a brief period of time. I think that they are usually pretty fantastic, and I often take advantage of them for myself and my family. If you want to make sure that you do not miss out on a Barganic Alert, I encourage you to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com so that you can be emailed directly whenever I post a new alert. If you tend to spend more time on Twitter or Pinterest, you can subscribe to me there too as Crunchy_Parent and I will do my best to tweet and pin the Barganic Alerts as well so that you are sure to see them.

If you see a great bargain on a crunchy product or service that you think is worth sharing, please let us all know. Comment here, send a tweet, or email me directly at crunchyparent@sbcglobal.net.

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TBT: The Cancer Series-Part 1


Counse / Foter / CC BY

As I’ve mentioned before, this blog began in its original version back in 2007 when I was a crunchy parent trying to live a healthy and mindful life with my husband and two children. The blog got sidelined when we were faced with a series of health challenges that started in the summer of 2008. I kept thinking that life would settle down and I could return to my writing at CrunchyParent.com, but amidst the years of chaos we forgot to pay the annual web hosting fee. As a result, the blog content vanished. I had backed up some of my posts, but far from all. Those that I saved are on a computer that has been languishing in storage with the majority of our possessions while we have been living with my parents and house hunting these past nine months. I hope to retrieve and re-post some of what I had written in the past because I think that it provides context, perspective, and maybe even helpful information.

Until I am able to post some of the “greatest hits” from CrunchyParent.com of yesteryear, I wanted to periodically share some of what I had written on a private blog that I maintained through MyLifeLine.org, a free website service for individuals with cancer, back when I was going through my cancer treatment and early recovery. Although it has been almost five years since that time, so much of what I had written feels like yesterday to me. When I attend my Cancer Yoga classes or interact with others going through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery right now I see so much of what I experienced; fear, uncertainty, confusion, loss. I feel a particular connection to parents of young children who are struggling to battle cancer while simultaneously trying to care for the needs of their kids, juggle work and financial demands, and plan for a future that has suddenly become unclear. Cancer survival statistics often only extend out for five years, which can seem especially discouraging when you are in your twenties, thirties, or forties. I know that when I was first diagnosed, I was actively looking for survivors who had lived many years beyond their diagnosis. It gave me hope and a brighter vision for my future.

As I begin to approach that five year survival mark, I want to acknowledge how I felt when I was there, and also say that I am (very gratefully) still here, and plan to be here for a long time. If you have found your way to CrunchyParent.com because you or someone who you love is battling cancer right now, I hope that you find a connection and know that you are not alone. No one fights alone.

This post was initially written in January, 2011 about a month after I had received my diagnosis.

As many of you know, I spent much of last year on bed rest growing Asher into a strong and healthy baby. For the majority of those 166 days, I was in bed lounging on my left side and counting the milestones in his development. My most exciting activities were short walks to the bathroom and visits to see my various doctors. Somewhere in that time I began to notice that the front of my left thigh seemed to be raised relative to my right thigh. I speculated that maybe it was unequal muscle development since I was supporting all of my weight with my left side while my right side atrophied. I was also concerned that perhaps it was a blood clot from excessive horizontal time. I showed the raised area to several of my doctors but they did not seem impressed, so I dismissed it as another pregnancy-related oddity.

With Asher’s birth came great joy and an intense desire to make up for time lost stuck in the house. The kids kept me busy and I was also going to physical therapy 1-2 times/week to recover some of the strength and mobility lost to the pregnancy complications. I thought that maybe PT would resolve the “leg lump” as I came to call it, but the months wore on and there was still no improvement. In fact it seemed that the lump was getting in my way even more, and limiting my range of motion. I asked my PTs to weigh in with thoughts and they speculated that it was an unresolved hematoma and referred me to my primary care doc. This move earned me an MRI which revealed a large mass in my thigh muscle. I was told to see a doctor who, “is familiar with tumors” and sat waiting for the first available appointment with an orthopedic oncologist.

Once the first available appointment rolled around, things began to move rather quickly. I met with the doctor on Monday, Dec. 20th, had a biopsy on Tuesday the 21st, and received my official diagnosis on Wednesday, December 22nd. To my great surprise, I was diagnosed with a low grade myxoid liposarcoma; a rare cancer of the soft tissues. Thursday, December 23rd was a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere, and then we waited and waited and waited for results (note: try to avoid being diagnosed with cancer just prior to major holidays). Fortunately, the cancer did not appear to have spread and I was given a stage 1B (“B” for, “Boy, that’s a mighty big tumor you have there.”).

Since my diagnosis I have met with two radiation oncologists and also received a second surgical opinion from an orthopedic oncologist. Our good friend at a respected cancer institute has also been weighing in with his sage advice and bending the ears of the sarcoma specialists out there. It has been recommended by all that I undergo a 5-week course (25 rounds) of radiation to help define the margins around the tumor and then have surgery to remove the tumor after a 3-4 week rest period (to allow residual swelling to subside). I am told that following this course of treatment should result in an 80-90% chance that I will not have the cancer reappear within a 5-year time period. I personally am interested in the statistics for a 50 year time period but I have yet to find them, so I guess we’ll just aim for five years at a time.

I began radiation on January 13th. So far things are rolling along fairly smoothly as we adjust and try to manage the logistical odds and ends. I have been touched by all of the support that we have received from family and friends far and wide. With all of the changes that have been going on I am finding it increasingly challenging to return emails and phone calls in a timely fashion so I am hoping that I can post updates here to help keep people accurately informed and streamline my “workload.” Please know that I receive, read, and appreciate all of your messages and forgive me if I do not get to reply to each and every one.

***As a final note, although the girls know that I am getting “special” medicine and will need to have surgery on the bump in my leg, we have not used the word cancer with them. Cancer is hard enough for adults to manage emotionally and we’d prefer to save the girls from the stress of worrying unnecessarily about my health and future right now, since we have every reason to be optimistic about a cure. We would appreciate if you would please be sensitive around their little ears.***

Thank you!
-Corrie (and Rich and the rest)

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