This Is How You Know You’ve Been Blogging Too Long

Hobby Lobby is my second favorite store in all the land.

I love everything about this store–the sales are amazing, and oh great day all the crafty gear makes me instantly want to weave potholders the minute I walk into the door.  They are probably running a craft-lovers racket, and I am the Chief Sucker.  My budget has taken a battering over the years, because, “Look!  It’s decoupage glue for 50% off!  And what if I need decoupage glue in the next decade?”

See?  Chief Sucker.

Yesterday Corrie and I went to Hobby Lobby to buy some gifts.  Now, here is where I should tell you that as much as I love their store, their grocery carts are horrible.  Nearly every one I’ve ever used has been top-heavy and wobbly.  There was one incident years ago in which my then-one-year-old son ended up hanging upside down by his pants, and I can assure you it was entirely the cart’s fault.  My preoccupation with the 50%-off florist ribbon had nothing to do with it.

We walked in, got a deathtrap cart, and Corrie asked if she could stand on the end of it.  I said no, because I am a safety-conscious woman who watches Dateline NBC.  I turned my back for 2.8 seconds to get a sales flyer (because I needed to know what entirely useful craft supplies were 50% off this week).  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of metal and my daughter crashing toward the floor.

In slow motion, I turned to my right to see that Corrie, ever obedient, had not climbed up on the end of the basket, she had climbed onto the side of it.  The whole thing was in the process of falling down on top of her.

And I, in that instant, wanting to redeem myself for the son-hanging-upside-down-from-his-pants incident, inserted my leg between my falling daughter and the falling cart.

She is safe.  My leg, however, is not.

It hurt SO badly that it took every bit of self-control I had not to sit down in the floor of the store and weep.  But I couldn’t, because they might think I was one of those crazy lawsuit people, and what if they flagged me as a troublemaker and wouldn’t let me buy 50% off scalloped scissors anymore?

I managed to hold myself together, though I was gritting my teeth and fighting back tears.  I even finished my shopping trip.  (That is courage, friends.  Courage.)  I came home and nursed my wounds.

But the point of this entire story (believe it or not, there is one) is that a few minutes ago I took a picture of my battered leg so I could blog about it–truly, there are some glorious bruises–when I realized in the nick of time that oh my word, I nearly posted a picture of my thigh on the internet.

I think I need a new hobby.


Guess Who I Met Tonight?

Tarik.  My new little niece.  They're home. 

Reed, Lee Ann and Tarik flew into our city tonight, after spending a jaw-dropping 20 straight hours in planes and airports.  Tarik traveled like a champ.  Reed reported that she only had one major breakdown, and it was in the Houston airport, in a waiting lounge in which everyone was trying to watch the Super Bowl.  (Poor baby–I feel the same way about professional football.)

Hubs snapped this picture of the kids, my Dad and me, waiting like anxious maniacs eager loved ones at the airport for our first glimpse: 


They finally made it (For privacy's sake, I schmutzed out Tarik's face in this picture, which is really a shame, because oh my stars, it is a cute face.  But I think the look on Reed and Lee Ann's faces say it all):


Just after this photo, I got a chance to hold my new niece while her momma made a quick dash to the restroom.  She is absolutely scrumptious and she melted my heart, though even in her sleep, she was a little squirmy in my arms.  But the moment I passed her back to Lee Ann?  Every muscle in her body relaxed, and she nestled comfortably against the mother she's known for only six days.  That is a testament to the gentleness of my sister-in-law.  Even more, it's a testament to God's faithfulness to knit together hearts even across oceans.  I'd say He knows how to put together a family.

A fun little side note:  Lee Ann had e-mailed that Tarik is quite a spitter-upper, so I told her I'd have a stack of burp cloths laundered and waiting at the airport.  Thanks to all our fidgety at-home time during the ice storm, I even managed to embroider one with her name on it, because a name that pretty just begs to be written:


(I didn't make the actual cloth.  It's a dish towel, terry cloth on one side and waffle weave on the other, perfect for embroidering and extra-absorbent because of the terry.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out.)

Thank you so much for your prayers–so many of you sent sweet comments and e-mails that were profoundly moving and encouraging.  If it crosses your mind, I'd appreciate your continued prayers as this sweet family establishes its new rhythm, and as the two big sisters meet little Tarik first thing tomorrow (Monday) morning. 

Thank you again.

The Scoop on CPSIA

Like many of you, I'm a big fan of supporting creative small business owners, such as those found on Etsy and elsewhere on the web.  The "cottage industry" environment fostered by the web inspires me, especially as I see creative women (many of them moms) making brilliant, artistic items in their home, and giving me–the consumer–a chance to buy something special and handmade.

So it's been with increasing alarm that I've followed the story around CPSIA.  (Never heard of it? Bear with me just a minute.)  This is a law that goes into effect in only a few short weeks, and it has the potential to greatly inhibit the productivity of crafty small business owners that make products for children. 

I do not own a business making children's items, so my knowledge on the subject has been fairly limited.  But I wanted to understand it better–and to be able to tell you about it–so I decided to ask for some help.  My real-life friend Heather is the owner of Blessed Nest, a small but growing company that makes organic nursing pillows.  This law has thrust Heather into the position of reluctant activist, as she's had to discern what this law means for her company (newspaper columnist Susanne Tobias even interviewed Heather on the subject here).  

Thankfully, Heather agreed to sit down and answer a few questions, and you may be surprised to learn just how far-reaching this new law is.  Heather's answers to my questions are in italics, below:

What exactly is CPSIA?

CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The way it was summarized for the U.S. Senate vote was: “A bill to establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children's products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

Terrific, it’s about time, read no further… right?  Well, it’s sort of their jobs to read the whole thing and think about it before they “yea” or “nay”.  See how your favorite Senator voted here and Congressman/woman here.

How will it affect Etsy shop owners and other small crafty businesses?

According to the actual scope and wording of this bill (H.R.4040), as of Feb. 10, 2009, all products made and/or marketed to children under the age of 12 will have to comply with mandatory lead and phthalates testing for each component of each product they sell or face felony charges and hefty fines. Tests have to be conducted by labs that have been approved by the Commission, and range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. (For one small business’s estimate based on actual quotes from approved labs, see Happy Panda’s blog). Even if you use the same materials for the 30 different things that you sell, every component of all 30 have to be individually tested, regardless of whether those materials have passed testing by other agencies or other manufacturers. For example, we use Harmony Art fabrics, which conform to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) . Even if we had them tested by the lower standards of the CPSIA for our pillows, a mom who sells hand-made slings out of the very same fabrics would have to have her products tested as well.

In a nutshell, if you knit booties (or sew burp cloths, or make bibs, or create hair bows) and sell them on Etsy (or at your church craft fair or to your neighbor down the street) you will be required to have each size and style of each item you sell tested, even if they are made from the same material. Let's say, for example, you knit booties and sell them. Even though yarn is not known to inherently contain lead or phthalates, and even if your yarn has been certified organic by GOTS standards, which exceed CPSIA standards by more than 300%, your yarn would have to be tested.  And if you opt to have the testing done, next time you get the same yarn from the same manufacturer in a different dye lot, everything has to be re-tested.

There are some less expensive tests available through “unapproved” sources, but they will only be good until August, 2009.  So, it either means that if you sell without certification you are breaking the law or that you better have a rich uncle.

Will any other businesses be affected?  What about consignment stores and/or eBay?

The law applies to all products, even used items. This means that unless the stores (including eBay sellers and private parties) do the testing themselves, on Feb. 11 all of those products are to be treated as hazardous waste and destroyed. In a vague memo issued this week by the CPSA “resellers” may be excluded from certification, but these proposals also say that businesses owners will still face the same penalties if an item they sold ends up containing lead. It not only omits a specific definition of what a “reseller” is, it also fails to explain whether it applies to their entire inventory or just used items. So it exposes the store owner to the risk of either being shut down because of an item that may or may not have actually been purchased from them, but also to the nuts that could sue them if they claimed they were injured by the product. (Ouch, McDonald’s… I spilled my coffee!)  It also is a very effective tool for competitors to use against businesses who they know can’t comply, a practice that has already been used by some of the big guys.

Something else to consider is that Canada is apparently watching to see what happens with this legislation, as they structure their own policies for safety standards. Many other countries could follow suit, making handmade children’s products a thing of the past, globally!

How will it affect consumers?

If the only products on the market are those made by companies who can afford to comply with the CPSIA rules (especially on such short notice), consumers will have very few options. Taking away handmade and even used items will create a market that is little more than mass-produced, mostly foreign-made children’s products. It also sets a precedent which allows one government agency to determine what is in the best interest of “public safety”, without having to take other factors into account.

One other big issue is that the jury is still out whether books, including text books and library books will be exempt. If the law isn’t changed, libraries will have two options: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves, or they ban children from the library.”  (according to Emily Sheketoff, associate executive director of the American Library Association.

To play devil’s advocate for a minute, I suspect that advocates of this law support it in the interest of keeping kids safe.  What’s your response to that?

The irony is that most of the people who will be hurt by this are those of us who have been trying to get the government to pass safety laws all along. We all want our kids to be safe, and in fact many of our businesses were started as a way of being proactive in providing safe alternatives to the mass-produced, unregulated products on the market now. I doubt that many people want this law to be vetoed altogether, just for it to be reasonable. We want it to focus on areas where it will do the most good without forcing everyone else to break the law or live in fear of being shut down and hauled off to prison. There are many intelligent recommendations that have been made that would not only protect children but also would allow small businesses to operate and let parents make informed choices for what they buy.

Is it inevitable? Can something be changed?  If so, what?

Well, not to sound too dramatic… but I believe that inevitability is the enemy of liberty. Without going into too much detail here (feel free to read my soapbox letter here), I think that this is much deeper than whether I can call my pillows “nursing pillows” or not. Fortunately, this is still America, and our voices do matter. This bill was pushed through under the radar at an unusually fast pace, but our representatives are still responsible for representing us. You can join the efforts of the Handmade Toy Alliance here, sign a petition here, and vote to bring this issue before the President-Elect on Inauguration Day here.

Once you get into this it can become very emotional, confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are a small business trying to make ends meet (insert raised hand here).  We have made a page on our blog where we are trying to stream-line the most up-to-date information, links, articles and support that we find. We’re also looking into the technology to put a hug on it, but that could be years off and would be regulated anyway.  In the meantime, at least we know we’re all in it together!

I expect that many of you are very knowledgeable about this issue as well.  If you know of additional resources, please leave them in the comments section below.  In addition to contacting your congressional representatives, you might consider alerting local, state or even national media to this story that will affect so many hard-working women.

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation

Hello, my internet friends–I've missed you!  I hope you had a great holiday season.  Here's a quick run-down of what I've been up to, in numbered list format, because I haven't blogged in two weeks and can't remember how to make a paragaph transition:

1.  Watched one of my sons give another of my sons a package of stink bombs for Christmas, and realized, in a very horrible moment, that absolutely nothing good can come of this.

2.  Had an otherwise lovely (and mostly stink-free) Christmas, in which my brother and sister-in-law showed us all up with the most sentimental, creative gifts you have ever seen.  Pictures to follow, just as soon as I find my camera.

3.  Have developed a slight obsession with Guitar Hero.  I feel certain that if this momblogging thing doesn't pan out, I have a future as a Pat Benetar impersonator.  I am, after all, a real tough cookie with a long historeeee.

4.  Started reading this book aloud to my children.  It's so good–very Narnia-esque.

5.  Got an e-mail from my designer friend Jo-Lynne of DCR Design that said something along the lines of "oh how I love you, but please, your blog header polka dots are pixelated and it is killing me, and please will you let me change it?"  And I said, "Sure, honey, but I think you're probably the only one who notices."  So she fixed it, and all these friends started coming out of the woodwork to say "THANK YOU for fixing the pixelated polka dots–they were killing me!" and "Oh, it's about time, all that pixelation was driving me crazy," and I'm all, "Really?" and feeling like I need to issue a blanket apology for the pixelated polka dots that were, evidently, gouging out eyeballs everywhere.  Who knew? 

6.  Awakened on January 1, 2009, with a viral thing including all manner of stomach unpleasantness, a raging headache, and a fever.  Spent the whole day in bed watching the SciFi Channel's marathon of original Twilight Zone episodes.

7.  Learned that watching Twilight Zone episodes while one drifts in and out of a feverish sleep will make for some trippy dreams.  Trippy.

8.  Had a fantastic visit from my husband's sister and her husband.  Cementing my affection for them once and for all, they gave me this for Christmas:


Barry Manilow.  Singing eighties music.  It's like one big joyous cheese-ball explosion, and I'm not sure I can contain myself.

9.  Did not finish my sister-in-law Lee Ann's personalized hankies, but I showed her the fabric and said, "Look, won't these be cute when I finish them in a couple of years?  Merry Christmas!"

10.  Finally took down my fall wreath and porch decorations, which seemed like a timely thing to do on January 2nd. 

11.  Gave some serious thought to going ahead and putting up the 4th of July wreath since I appear to have abandoned seasonal propriety altogether.

12.  It occurred to me that we have only 15 days to wait until the season premiere of this.  Raise your hand if you can't wait.

13.  The 2008 Weblog Award finalists were announced, and I was so pleased to see many of my favorites as finalists, including my sweet friend Jen of Conversion Diary.  You can vote for her {wink, wink, nudge, nudge} right here.  Congrats to all the finalists: go check out the entire list of bloggers here.

14.  Sent the kids back off to school yesterday with a smooch and a pat and equal amounts of relief and wistfulness.

15.  Am ready to jump back in my blogging groove.  WFMW resumes tomorrow, and I have a fun giveaway lined up for Thursday.  You'll need your thinking caps, so consider this your fair warning.

So.  What have you been up to?

If You’re My Sister-In-Law, Don’t Read This

Lee Ann, I’m serious, stop reading now.

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Last chance.

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Thank you.

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A couple of years ago, my family started a meaningful and sensible tradition.  The adults draw names and give to only that one person. (Not kids, of course.  Everyone gives to the kids.  They make out like bandits.)  This means we can put a little more thought (or effort, or money, if you’re so inclined), and it’s considerably less stressful (or expensive) to shop for one person instead of the whole crew.

The hardest person to shop for is my dad.  This is mostly because a couple of years ago my brother gave him a gift certificate for a Razorback tattoo, a gift so spectacular that no other gift will ever measure up. 

The easiest name–the one we all fight for–is my mom. She is the most gracious person I know.  I can promise you that there has never been an easier-to-please soul walk this planet.  She loves (LOVES! LOVES!) anything.  It is impossible to buy her a gift that she won’t enjoy.  One year my dad visited a craft show and bought her a free-standing, hand-carved cow. Let me repeat that, in case you missed it:  he bought her a free-standing, hand-carved cow.  It had purple ears and hooves, and it was holding a sign that said (I swear I’m not making this up) "Kitchen Closed: This Heifer Is Gone."

To this day, I have a sneaky suspicion that he gave her that as a test, to see if she would love (LOVE! LOVE!) it. 

She did.

Anyway, I drew my sister-in-law Lee Ann’s name this year.  She’s my brother’s wife, and she is a remarkable woman.  She’s an artist, in the truest sense of the word–the kind of person who can casually glance at a pile of raw supplies and they suddenly transform into something spectacular.  As an artist, she appreciates things that are lovely, sentimental, useful, handmade and eco-friendly.  This makes her easy to shop for.  Hello, Etsy.

I’ve been having so much putting things together for her, I couldn’t bring myself to stop at just one gift.  I’m not spending very much, but I’m getting things that I know she’ll love.  For starters, I got her a piece at The Vintage Pearl with her kids’ names on it.  Second, she loves going to the coffee shop, so I got her a handmade Coffee Cuff from Bon*Bons (these are so stinkin’ cute, and they’re only $7.  Score!)

But I really wanted to make something for her myself, because I know that’s the type of thing that means something to her.  Anyway, I’ve been completely swamped lately, and I have a long and fruitful history of dealing with being swamped by starting craft projects.  Perfectly logical.

So I’ve decided to make Lee Ann some hankies, handmade with flannel, and embroidered with her initials.  That seems so personal, and she will appreciate that it’s much more eco-friendly than wads of Kleenex.  It’s softer on the nose, too.  I even did a little investigating about buying some organic flannel. 

HOLY SHMOKES that stuff is expensive.  Anyway, I felt a little intellectually dishonest shopping for organic stuff, being, as I am, a fan of Velveeta.

Instead, I’m going with with pesticide-and-preservative-laden-but-gosh-it’s-cute-and-cheap stuff I found at JoAnn’s.  Look how great this fabric is (one side will be the brown floral print; the other side, with her initials, will be the ivory):


I’m planning to construct these identically to my burp cloth pattern, except they will square (probably about 10" by 10").   

I realize it’s really lame to write a blog post about a craft you’re going to do but haven’t quite accomplished yet, but I thought it was a fun idea some of you crafty girls might be be interested in tackling yourself.  I know myself, and I know I will likely still be working on these December 24th, which wouldn’t leave a lot of time for the sharing of the information, would it?

So, if I promise to keep my lips absolutely sealed, will you tell me what is the most meaningful gift you’re giving this year?