pumpkin

Halloween is my favorite holiday, and my favorite part of Halloween is carving a pumpkin. I like them elaborate and awesome. Last year my pumpkin carving took a total of probably 8-10 hours. This year, I had nothing even vaguely resembling that kind of free time, so I’m just going to share last year’s pumpkin:

It is seriously one of my favorite things I’ve made. I’m thinking of just posting a picture of it every year, because I love it, and was a lot of hard work.

Pumpkin Carving Tips:

1. Think 3-dimensionally. Start with your design, and select a pumpkin with a shape and surface that will work for what you are trying to do. Pumpkins come in different colors, (including white for your ghosts and skeletons and such) textures, and shapes.

2. Use creative tools. You will probably have a pretty tough time trying to create a multi-layered look, or fine detail with nothing but a big kitchen knife. The specialized pumpkin tools you buy at your local box-mart along with a set of patterns are helpful for punching through the pumpkin, because they’re small and serrated. To create any significant depth–like you see in the eyes and background above–you need some type of scraping tool. And for details you’ll want a small, very sharp knife. Ideally, go to your local craft or art supply store for sculptor’s tools, those work best for me.

3. Preserve. Sometimes you don’t have a huge chunk of time to work on a pumpkin. Or you do, but not the day of your Halloween party. To preserve an already cut pumpkin to complete or display later, take wet paper towels and fit it down in any cut areas (including the top cut-out). Really soak them, and try to make sure there’s no air between any of the cut areas and your towels. Then cover the lot with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. It will keep the pumpkin from drying out too much and add a day or two to the life of your Jack-o-lantern. Just a couple of days, though, so do not carve any sooner than you have to.

4. Display. You can always go with your typical tea light candle, but if you do, make sure to cut a notch or hole completely through the top of the pumpkin. Because the front is not cut all the way through, if you don’t take this step the candle will be suffocated and will die after just a minute or two. You can also buy tap lights, battery powered lights, or flameless fake candle lights (check the Halloween section of your favorite store) instead. If you’re using these, you don’t have to worry about the candle suffocating and/or blowing out, but I don’t think it looks quite as cool as a flickering candle.
Happy Halloween everyone!!!

giggles

It’s halfway through the week, things are moving kind of slow this afternoon, but you know what will cheer you up? A laughing baby, that’s what.

Fun fact, when you try to edit a video you took on your phone, it’s kind of harder than it should be. Every time I tried to trim it from my camera roll, the audio got all chipmunk-y. I finally had to download an app for the express purpose of trimming ten seconds off the beginning of this clip. So I saved you ten seconds of your life, which you have now wasted reading about how I saved those ten seconds. Unless you’re a really fast reader, in which case, you’re welcome.

model

Photo shoots with 3-month-olds are difficult. You get a lot of blurry shots. Since I do all my own pictures, instead of taking her down to a portrait studio, I have an advantage. I can wait until she’s in a quiet mood for less wiggling, or cut the shoot short if there are tears and try again the next day. The downside: I don’t have a permanent backdrop or professional lights.

But that’s ok; I have a bunch of tricks for faking backdrops for cheap/free. I’m going to do another round of shooting tomorrow, and I’ll make sure to include a few “process” shots so I can show you how it’s done.

In the meantime, however, I’m feeling pretty good, because my recent post on choosing not to go back to work is featured on Offbeat Mama today. I am particularly grateful for all the comments over there discussing my post, the tough choices we all have to make, and the rather sad state of parental leave in America. So hi to everyone coming in from Offbeat Mama, feel free to hang out!

thirteen

In the United States a woman who has a child can take up to 12 (unpaid) weeks off under FMLA. Today is the start of my 13th week. I was supposed to go back to work, but I stayed home.

We looked at our new budget, and visited several child care centers, and came to the realization that the cost of returning to work simply wasn’t worth it. My paycheck would have to cover child care, gas money, work clothes, and the “convenience cost” that comes when mommy has only had 12 hours of sleep in the past three days and cannot summon the energy to pack her own lunch, or cook dinner that takes more effort than programming the microwave. After all that, there would be precious little left, and when you consider the tradeoff would be leaving my firstborn with a stranger for most of her waking hours, I simply decided it did not make sense for me to return to work.

It’s a difficult choice, and I think almost every woman who works and wants kids struggles when she finds herself at this point. And there is so much judgement that is either implied or explicit when we talk about ways that women can contribute to the workforce and to family life. I know I’ve read way too many headlines about “mommy wars.” Enough of that can make a girl feel judged and worried before she even sees that second blue line. I’ve worried what people would think of me for abandoning my career–or my baby.

And I worried (still worry) about so many other things. Am I setting a good example for my daughter? Am I teaching her my career matters less than her father’s? Or that there are more important things than having more money? Am I jeopardizing my family’s financial security? Am I pulling my weight in this household? Am I doing this for the right reasons? What would the “right reasons” be anyway?

So many women, including my mother, were here before me; and so many women, likely including my daughter, will be here after. That’s one thing that helps quiet my worrying, knowing that so many have joined me here. Some of us have more choices than others, all of us have our own unique set of priorities, but we all pass through the same place of hope and doubt.

We all have to make a choice about the thirteenth week. I made mine, but along with it, I’m reaffirming another choice I made in parenting: that I wouldn’t let my choices make me defensive or jealous of other moms. Maybe you work, maybe you stay home, maybe you do a combination of these things.The line in the media seems to be about “having it all,” but there’s no such thing. We all make choices that close us off from other ways of living. These choices can separate us, make us feel “other” and that leads to judgement. Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that, regardless of where we go from here, we all were the same in the moment where we made a choice and followed our hearts.