Tuesday, November 25, 2014

String Jewelry Trick

Money is kinda tight for Christmas this year.  So some of my gifts are going to be homemade.  Right now I'm working on some new hemp jewelry for my kids.  There are many tutorials online for how to do the knots and add beads and all that jazz.  But I've discovered a few tricks to make the process itself quicker, easier and less frustrating.

Remember making friendship bracelets when we were kids?  Keeping the base strings taut was always a necessity.  I remember using tape to secure the ends to a lap board or using a safety pin to clip the project to my jeans while I was working on it.  These days I don't really want holes in my clothes.  And the tape method rarely held like it needed to.

But somewhere between being a preteen and having my own, these little babies were invented. 

Command Adhesive hooks.  They stick amazingly well, can withstand being pulled on, yet are fully removable without a trace.  I stuck one to a tabletop to give myself an easy place to attach the starting end of my project.

Now for the other end.  The working base strands need to have constant even tension, but still be moveable.  I attached a split ring first.  The design of the ring allows it to be easily removed if you need to add a bead or when the project is complete.

I tried several methods to keep tension... hooking it over a toe, attaching it to my belt, etc.  But whenever I leaned forward to make a knot, I lost the needed tension.  (And when Fed-Ex rang the doorbell... I had to awkwardly detach myself!)

In a stroke of innovation, it occurred to me the ring would fit over the neck of my water bottle.

I added the cap to secure it, let it hang from the table...

And this project just got a whole lot easier! 

So... how about you?  Are you making anything homemade to give as gifts this year?

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Darn wind...

Trying to stay on top of things this year, I borrowed a leaf blower from a friend.  I worked on my front yard for 3 hours until my back was burning... but it looked really good (from what I could tell... it was dark when I finished the last part.

The next morning... I woke up to a huge wind storm.  I think all the leaves in the neighborhood were in my yard. 

Good timing, huh?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tutorial... Spiffing up your Converse

It's no secret that I love Converse Chuck Taylors All-Stars.  They've become a bit of a trademark for me... even people I haven't seen since high school send me links having to do with Converse.  I currently own nearly 30 pair in a variety of colors and styles. Some even have sequins! 

(This is just a portion of them.)

A friend of mine recently said he was at the outlet mall in Marysville and walked into another shoe store (Vans, I think) but felt guilty and walked immediately to the Converse store.  He felt disloyal buying the others and instead came home with some ROCKING new Cons.  I love that!

Unfortunately, over time, they can lose their lustre and start looking dingy. 

In a pinch, a baby wipe can work wonders at cleaning up the white rubber parts.  But if you really want to make them sparkle again, here's my trick.

Use a Mr Clean magic eraser to thoroughly scrub the rubber until it's sparkling white again.  (They get into the crevices really well, even on the textured toe section.)  The generics from the dollar store or grocery outlet work just as well.

Next, pop in a new set of laces.  I got these Harley Davidson orange ones at the Converse outlet for $3, but recently replaced some white ones with a pair from Deals Only for 49 cents!

Here's the before and after...

Practically like new for $1-5.

You're welcome. :)

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Sunday, October 19, 2014


This has been my view at church for a few weeks now.  I'm learning the software and routine to operate the tech computer for the services. 

I've wanted to be involved at my church.  I believe in serving where I'm placed.  But I'm not what you'd call a "people person."  I'm an introvert.  Being in constant contact with others, particularly strangers really takes it out of me.  In high school I was actively involved in theatre... but backstage... building sets, running lights and sound, giving cues to my team over the headset as stage manager.  I don't like being out front... I want to use my talents behind the scenes.

Not long after I started attending this church, I mentioned to a friend who was actively involved that tech is something I'd love to do.  But what I've found in most churches is that they have an established team for that kind of thing and there isn't much need for anyone else.  But as providence would have it, within a few months of making that desire known, the worship/administrative pastor made it known that they needed more people to fill in that role.  So... here I am!  I've helped out for a month or two now while I learn... and in a few weeks I'm taking a solo run.  I'm nervous but excited.  Mostly I'm just thrilled to be able to serve God and my church without leaping WAY outside of my comfort zone.

Tech involves running music before, after and between services, operating cameras and projectors, putting up the lyrics for worship songs, slides for announcements and pictures, notes and videos during the sermon. 

Yep... basically I'm an AV nerd. :)

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Saturday, October 18, 2014


Gideon has loved soccer from before he came to our family as a teeny tiny 7 year old.  It's been fun for him to play on his school B team this year.  It's his first time on a real team.

His siblings and I, along with his grandma, went to support him for his game this Thursday.  They won!  Go Wildcats!

Before I had kids, I always imagined being that family... where we all make a point of attending games and concerts for each kid and cheering each other on.  My family certainly hasn't turned out the way I pictured.  Not even close.  But I'm glad we can at least get little glimpses now and then of that ideal... our own version anyway.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Molly's Birthday

Molly turned 11 earlier this week.  For the first time ever one of the kids birthdays fell not just on a school day, but on a day they were with their dad.  I thought I was ok with that... we'd just celebrate when the kids got home.  But I woke up the morning of her birthday in kind of a funk.  So my friend Petor and I devised a plan... we kidnapped her after school and took her out for frozen yogurt.  (Don't call the cops... I informed her father and we have a good working relationship. He was fine with it.)

The next day (when she was back in my care), I picked her up after school and whisked her away to the outlet mall.  The thing she wanted most for her birthday was a new pair of Converse. (That's my girl!)  So I took her to Marysville to let her pick out a pair. 

Her request was for double chocolate monkey cupcakes with Runts bananas on top. 

Her other gifts included a tablet (like the other kids got for Christmas while she was at boarding school) and a movie she'd really wanted (from Petor.)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hallie's Birthday

For Hallie's 11th birthday (also in July) she made specific requests... a pink swirled strawberry cake and strawberry milkshakes.

We went to the theatre as a family and watched Rise of the Guardians. She (like Sam) got a non-activated, WiFi only phone, among other things.

Hallie has always been precocious.  She was walking at 9 months and reading at 3.  She had the attitude of a 2 year old long before she turned 2... but woke up with it doubled on her second birthday.  Now that we're well into the preteen stage with Hallie, the glaring and nasty attitude are already well established (though I'm working hard to change that)... Her moods are volatile and rapid cycling.  I've suspected bipolar since she was 5... but we were told it couldn't be diagnosed (and thus managed) until 12.  One more year...

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Sam's Birthday

Sam's birthday was in July, but I wanted to make sure I got it documented, since I wasn't consistently blogging at the time.

- I  made Sam a tie-dye cake.
- We all went to the theatre to watch the Lego Movie.
- We started a new tradition for the first teenage birthday.  Their own soda (he chose Sprite), since they weren't allowed soda in my house before 13 to protect their developing teeth other than special occasions... namely Superbowl.  And their own pizza... that they don't have to share.  He picked plain cheese.
- His main gift was a cell phone... for apps and texting under supervision - no cellular plan, just usable on WiFi.
- He was granted the right to have his own Facebook account... also fully supervised.

And thus... we launched headfirst into the teenage years.  It's been a really rocky start... My eldest is giving me a lot of challenges that go way beyond normal teenage issues.  His electronics have been all taken away for a while, his freedoms extremely limited. There may be some big adjustments ahead for Sam.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Molly was adopted at age 6. She came with her biological brother, from a very rough beginning.  Much of what happened to them before joining our family, we still don't know.  The way those wounds manifested in her behaviors gave us a child who was belligerent, entitled, violent, destructive, dishonest and... shall we say... physically inappropriate?  She needed her own room, with an alarm on the door. We had security cameras all over the house. She was almost always in my line of sight.  And still, somehow she continued to kick holes in walls, rip wallpaper, make obscene phone calls to strangers, make false allegations, and endanger others.  Eventually the hard decision was made to send her to a boarding school for girls with severe behavior issues stemming from reactive attachment disorder.  She and I flew out in May of 2013 to take her to her new residential school in Mississippi. By the first of July, the girls in the school had banded together to make false allegations of abuse against the school staff and the school was shut down... we all had to go get our girls immediately.

Molly admitted to me immediately that none of what they told the sheriff or the child protection social workers actually happened... but the older girls told her if she said what they told her to, she'd get to go home.  And what do you know? It worked.

In early December 2013 the school reopened (the case the state was making against the school was dropped for lack of evidence... many of the girls had written statements renouncing their original accounts.)  Molly's behavior had continued to escalate, and the family was not safe with her here.  So once again, she and I made the trek to Mississippi. And again... in the beginning of July, I got a phone call... "come get your daughter."  According to the school staff, despite their decades of experience with these kinds of girls... MY daughter was beyond their help.  How's that for a badge of honor?  My daughter got kicked out of a boarding school for behaviorally challenged girls because she was too much for them to handle.  She isn't welcome back.

I flew to Mississippi to retrieve her, scared of what I was going to encounter, deeply concerned about how I was going to handle her by myself. 

But the truth is... despite some nasty preteen moments, and a bit of lingering entitlement that will probably always be an issue... since returning home, Molly has been my easiest child.  Granted, a few others have gotten exponentially worse in the past year or so... but Molly has matured and grown and I honestly believe her boarding school helped her... even when they thought she was beyond their help.  I enjoy this kid now!  I'm glad she's home.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Confessions of a Former Homeschooler

Yep... I said former.  I'm no longer homeschooling my children.

When my ex first moved out, I took a short break from homeschooling and put the kids in school while I figured out how to balance everything as a single mom.  (Ultimately, I found out I couldn't!) 

Last year I pulled them all back out of public school and began homeschooling again, but used a computer-based curriculum, to ease back in, and not overwhelm myself.  They quickly fell behind.  It seems they picked up some little habits at school... like... not doing the assigned work, because it didn't really matter in public school whether they did it or not, for the most part.)  I adjusted and readjusted.  I reorganized.  I simplified.  I dropped subjects that weren't absolutely necessary for the time being.  And still, they couldn't catch up.  They lied about doing assignments.  They complained.  They gave minimal effort.  Despite being warned repeatedly that if they didn't complete the year's work, they wouldn't move forward... that they would either be held back to repeat that year or they'd be put back in public school... they continued to slack off and fell further and further behind on work that was neither too much nor too difficult for them.  So well in to what should have been our summer, I gave them a choice.  You can put in the work... and continue behing homeschooled, like you insist you want... or you can quit now and go back to public school, knowing once I'm not homeschooling anymore, I don't plan to do it again.  So, once you go to school, you're staying there.

Molly immediately gave up.  (Yes, Molly's back home.  More on that in a future post.) 

The boys continued to lie and cheat on their work... sealing their fate as well.

Hallie... well, she was determined.  Through (figurative) blood, sweat and (literal) tears of both herself AND her grandma, who dedicated her summer to doing study hall so Hallie could catch up, Hallie finished her work a week before school was set to begin again, and was my only remaining homeschooler.  (Happy birthday, by the way, Mom!)  That lasted only a few weeks.  Despite her insistence that she wanted to remain homeschooled, bit by bit, she delayed and complained, and finally one afternoon, she dug in her heels and refused to do her work.  So I told her to grab a backpack, and I immediately drove her to the middle school where her brothers attend, to enroll her.

So... all my kids are in school. 
Hallie (6th grade) has joined the band and hopes to play the flute.
Gideon (7th grade) has joined the soccer team and has practice everyday after school... they had their first game yesterday, and unfortunately lost... but there are plenty more games!
Molly (5th grade) is applying to join a girls running program after school 2 days a week.
Sam (8th grade) is preparing for high school and... well... so far he's giving his new special education teacher plenty to handle.  That boy's gonna be the death of us all.
And as for me... I'm figuring out what to do when your full identity has been turned on it's head.  Homemaker, wife, homeschool teacher and foster/adoptive mom... becomes... just... Hilary.  This transformation hasn't been easy.  It's required the support of a few faithful, understanding friends, and admittedly, also a prescription for antidepressants.  But a few things are in the works, and I'm figuring out who this new person is, bit by bit... in the end, I think I'll be as surprised as you to find out who I end up.

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Beginnings

Yesterday my divorce was finalized.  At 2:45 pm, I entered the courthouse... went through the metal detectors, took the elevator to the 2nd floor, walked to the commissioner's courtroom and took a seat.  After finishing the previous case that went overtime, I was called to the front to be sworn in and read my prepared statement for the court record.  Identifying information, legal mumbo-jumbo, and in the middle of it all... one important statement.

"My marriage is irretrievably broken."

By 3:20, I was out the door... declared divorced and my new name announced.  My new name.  My old name.  My maiden name, reclaimed.  The name change was a difficult topic for me.  I could have kept my ex-husband's last name.  My ex had no problem with it.  My kids preferred it.  But I realized I had no attachment to the name, had never liked it, and part of moving on was leaving it behind.  The struggle came with realizing that 16 years ago... the last time I had my maiden name... I was a completely different person than I am now.  I don't even know that girl anymore.  Struggles mature us. Pain breaks and rebuilds us.  Nearly everything in my life seems to have changed and I'm trying to figure out what I want and need from this life... while still handling the responsibilities that remain.

Welcome to the journey...