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Where do Mon-stors come from? Tacky jammies!

For today’s magical transformation, I’m sharing this funky leopard print nightgown turned radical and adorable Mon-stor! Yup, I converted this discarded nightie…

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Into this mega adorable Mon-stor toy storage bag! How cute is she?

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This month, I have been hard at work turning other textile discards into cute monsters, and I am stoked to be turning my textile recycling efforts into a fun keepsake monster project launching soon, called Memory Monsters!

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I still need to make a few more prototypes from various materials (Tee shirts! Receiving blankets! Sweaters!) before I am ready to launch, plus figure out what sizes of clothing I can feasibly turn into monsters (just in, newborn sized sleepers are too small to cut monsters from!). But be sure to follow along on Facebook or Instagram to check out the prototypes as I post them, and sign up for my newsletter to get an email when they launch, so you can send me your child’s special article of clothing or lovey blanket to be converted into a monster!

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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40 Weeks Pregnant – Life Currently

Hello, 40 weeks! My son wanted to take some baby bump pics today, commemorating what is *hopefully* my last week of pregnancy!
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I’m so ready to meet baby Z – these last few weeks have been mega rough! I’ve been having what the doctor calls prodromal labor for almost three weeks, with on & off again contractions daily (most recently lasting 21 hours straight, 1-2 minutes apart, so painful I couldn’t breathe or talk through them over this weekend). So naturally, there’s been a few false alarm trips to labor and delivery, lots of wondering if THIS IS IT & lots of frustration when told to come back when I “feel like it’s the real thing” and then more frustration when having acquaintances & family tell me “you’ll know when it’s really happening, stop worrying about it” (because obviously I rush to the hospital crying in pain at midnight when I don’t think I’m actually in labor – ha!). I’ve struggled a lot emotionally with being told “you’ll know when it’s real” because I didn’t feel a single contraction with my son, and I slept through him crowning – so no, I’m not actually sure I *WILL* know when it’s the “real thing”. I mean, contractions 1-2 minutes apart that are so intense I’m crying & can’t breathe or walk? That SOUNDS like the real thing to me, that’s the sort of thing the doctor tells you to hurry in for – but it wasn’t the “real thing”. Just stinky prodromal labor contractions. This entire pregnancy has been so different compared to my pregnancy with my son 11 years ago! Especially this last trimester – whew, it’s been a doozy!
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That’s life currently, and why I’ve been so quiet on social media. I work when I can between contractions, home schooling, and getting the house ready for baby Z. I sleep as much as I can, since the super intense contractions like to wait until bedtime to start happening.I’m up to 1-2 appointments a week because the doctors insist I measure too small on the outside to have a healthy baby on the inside, even though every ultrasound & test shows she’s growing fine & perfectly healthy. You know how doctor’s like to fixate on arbitrary “average” numbers like fundal height measurements, without taking into account the woman was 110 lbs prior to baby so obviously she’ll measure different than  the 130 lb woman of the same height just because that’s the “average” means of measurement.
So yeah.  Life is chaotic but beautiful.  I have a feeling AFTER Z gets here I will be able to get SO much more accomplished than I have this entire last trimester, ha!
So until I have some cute pictures of my babe to show off, here’s a cute picture of my sister’s new baby, Leah Alaska, my newest niece (making me an aunt ten times over!). She was born 9.23.2016, weighing a squishy 7lb 1oz! Isn’t she precious?! I keep going over to hold her in hopes it will start labor for me. No luck yet, but I’m not giving up. 😉
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Monster Mash! Easy Peasy Monster Halloween Costumes & Accessories

This year, I had the honor of collaborating with Opposite of Far for a monster themed Halloween photo shoot done by the lovely Qiana K! Opposite of Far launched her Monster Masks, which are fun, colorful, and when paired with basics from Primary.com & monster trick or treat totes or stuffies from my shop – make the cutest simplistic monster costumes ever!

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Aren’t these little monsters the cutest you ever did see?! Hurry to place your monstrously awesome Halloween orders – it’s spooky how soon it will be here!

 

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Making Back to School Monstrously Awesome – Qiana K Photo Shoot!

Just because we’re homeschooling this year, didn’t mean I didn’t get to have fun with back to school photos! I was honored to be able to send some of my monsters to the awesome brand photographer Qiana K to be a part of her Back to School shoot – and boy, I love love love what she did! Here’s a collection of images from the shoot – Qiana made it easy to make back to school monstrously fun, with cute clothing, great fall accessories and fun monster toys to give as back to school gifts from yours truly. 😉

Other brands featured:

Little Nugget KnitsThe Wishing Elephant Bright Eyed Baby  / Greyson & ColeFJ’s Pop ShopPegheads / Sunshine by Channon / Spunky Onion

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Aren’t these images darling?! Those grins! Gah, these little dudes stole my heart!

If you are a maker looking for awesome brand photos, definitely be sure to book a session with Qiana – her work is amazing, she is incredible to work with and her fun style & great attitude is infectious! Coming soon: A gallery of images from my monster mash Halloween collab shoot by Qiana, with Opposite of Far!

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Tips for Maker Moms: Make the most of your summer mornings.

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Summer break can make being a maker mom exceptionally difficult, especially if one or more of your kids are school aged and you have gotten adjusted to having several kid-free hours a day to get things done for your little handmade biz. I’m far from a list making, future planning, staying on schedule mama/maker (I’m actually REALLY FAR from even being remotely organized in any way, ha!) but I do have a few things I’ve implemented over the years that really boost summer productivity for your life on the maker end of things, while allowing lots of time for summer fun with your kids, too!

wake up early

I opt to wake up early, since my son stays up fairly late in the summer some times to use his telescope or watch a movie together or something. Plus, night time is my time – it’s time I invest in my partner, and myself. I watch some TV, color, read, have a sweet snack or just sit and stare at the wall. Gotta get that me time in! Self care is so important. Some mornings “early” is 7am, some mornings (like this morning) it’s 5:30, when my partner’s alarm goes off and my eyes pop open and I immediately know there’s no way I’m going back to sleep. This gives me between one and four hours of kid free time center myself & tackle some projects.

drink some water

Seriously, before your coffee, drink a glass of water. It really does wonders to wake up your body through hydration instead of caffeine. For me, I feel more focused, less achey, and more awake after drinking water than I ever did when I drank a cup of coffee right after waking up! Add in some lemon for some extra health benefits while you’re at it!

eat breakfast

Eat something nutritious for breakfast to give yourself an extra boost of energy & get your gut moving. I don’t know why, but eating first thing in the morning helps set a good foundation for the day and helps to keep my energy levels up through the day,  while helping wake my body up naturally.

“meditate”

I put quotations around mediate because I feel like it’s different for everyone. I don’t expect you to pop into lotus position and “ommmm” your way to peace – just find your inner zen, set some intentions. Maybe you do this in the form of stretching, doing some yoga, or just drinking some tea/cocoa/coffee while it’s still hot (you know, since you’re up early, before the kids, and are able to enjoy it all, right?). Whatever centers you – do that. For me, I drink my water, then I light some incense and make a cuppa cocoa. I sit for a while and just breathe and enjoy it, and think about what I’d like to accomplish today for a few moments. Usually this practice lasts about a minute, sometimes five minutes. Sometimes I take a little extra time and color a picture in one of my zen adult coloring books while I drink my cocoa and just let my mind wander for a bit before I get up and set to work.

get some sh*t done

After I’ve “meditated”, I use this quiet time before the kid(s) wake up to tackle some projects – whether that’s drafting some blog posts, scheduling social media content, cutting out monster bits, sewing, playing around with some design work, reordering business cards, packing up orders – I use it to do something, anything to move my business forward & keep up productivity. The more I can get done before my son wakes up, the more time I can spend with him! I still have to a bit of work while he’s awake, but there’s a lot less pressure to be working, checking social media, posting to social media, even thinking about my business if I am up early and getting things done before he’s awake. Sure, I’m a little more tired some days, but that’s just a reminder to go to bed a little bit earlier the next night (hello, back to the whole self care thing).

set up independent play in the mornings

For my son, whose 10, before he can play video games or we go out to do fun summer activities, there’s a list of things he has to do independently – all total it takes about two hours. I help with some of it (checking his work in his work books & math lessons) but the other stuff, like doing the dishes, tidying his room, reading, practicing Spanish, doing an art project – those are all things he can do independently and it gives me a little more time in the mornings to get some work done when I need to prep for shows or stockings or I’m rushing to finish a wholesale order. Depending on the age of your kids, this could be settling them in for a TV show or to color for a bit while you type up a blog post. They could have special toys they are only allowed to play with this during this time. It could be them running around the yard while you watch from your work space. This may not be feasible for you at all, and that’s okay – it’s just something we have found works really well for us during summer vacation because it provides my son with unplugged activities for a few hours, prevents boredom, promotes a healthy variety of interests & gives me a bit more time to dedicate to my monster biz. Whatever works for you, do that.  It may be something completely different for you. Plus, having the “quiet” activities be the first activities of the morning is just so peaceful – after about ten, things get cray & noisy up in here.

take days off

Sometimes, throw work to the wind and just embrace being a mom. Take a day to go hiking, go swim in the rivers (or the pool if that’s more your thing), go to the art museum or science museum or something! Completely unplug for a while and just enjoy time with your kids. I bet being home with them is one of the driving forces in your mama maker business dream (I know it is for me), so live it.

And that’s how I do around here, to keep things running smoothly over summer break. Feel free to weigh in down in the comments – how do you keep up momentum when all you want to do is just sloooow it down & relax in the summer?

Do you struggle with productivity in the summer?

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What’s a Mon-stor? Plus Six Places to Use Them!

I’ve been making Mon-stors for 7 years now. I’ve made THOUSANDS of Mon-stors, and as vain as this sounds, they are probably my most favorite thing ever. I actually use them EVERY DAY in EVERY ROOM in my home! I’m definitely not someone who pushes a product I wouldn’t use – as a mom, not the maker, dude, these storage solutions are such space savers and so easy to get my son & the kids I baby sit to use! That is WHY I started making them all those years ago, when we lived in a tiny basement apartment. That’s why I’ve loved making them for so long & why I know other moms will enjoy them too – fun toy storage kids like using? Heck yeah!

As my audience has grown, I thought it would be fun to do a refresher for everyone who is new to Mon-stors! So I put together this post with some examples of their uses & lots of fun fan photos (to prove I’m not the only mom who loves these guys!).

Mon-stors are made entirely from textile discards (fabric that would otherwise end up in a landfill), so they’re sustainable storage solutions that are mega cute & fun for kids to use! I’m pretty sure you could find a purpose for one in any room of your home, whether you have kids or not! But here is six quick examples of Mon-stors in action, ready to gobble up messes and keep your home clutter free!

kid’s room

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Laundry, toys, books, stuffed animals, dolls, costumes & blocks can be gobbled up by Mon-stors! They can hang from the door handle or bed frame, so even toddlers can have easy access to them, or they can be hung in the closet! Kids will love to “feed” their Mon-stor each night before – and parents will love that their children are actually enjoying picking up each night!

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bathroom

No more wet towels or dirty clothes on the floor! Kids can “feed” their Mon-stor their laundry and then it’s easy  to haul the Mon-stor to the laundry room to empty! Small Mon-stors can also be filled with fresh shampoo, soap, towels and toiletries for house guests and hung in the bathroom as well to make entertaining overnight guests even easier!

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hallway/mudroom/entryway

Use a Mon-stor to hold mittens, hats, scarves, umbrellas, jackets, bathing suits, outside toys or even shoes right on the back of the door – no more tripping on clutter on your way out in the mornings, plus all your outside gear is right by the door!

kitchen

I would say to hold plastic bags but I know you are going to go green & use this cutie to store your reusable bags instead, right? 😉

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living room

No more losing the remote! You can also use them to store video games, controllers & charging cords, as well as coloring books and craft supplies so that they are easily accessible – and quick to put away! They are also great for storing diapers and wipes in the living room cause moms, let’s face it, we rarely venture all the way back into the nursery to the changing table to change every diaper, right?

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car

They are great to contain small toy, books, DVDs, a change of clothes for the kids or diapers & wipes in Mon-stors to keep car clutter under control! They can also be used to keep bottled water and snacks hand during road trips, or bathing suits, sunscreen, bug spray and hats handy in the summer!

Where would you use a Mon-stor?