"that mom" is a series of inspirational women who
share their thoughts on motherhood, style and grace.
by lee kriel
I was born in Glen Burnie and lived there until I was 9. Then we moved to Arnold. Woah! This was a traumatic experience for me! Until that time, I truly thought there was one main road in life: Route 2. It took us from Glen Burnie to Ocean City. That was all there was in my world. How funny is that!? But the move made a huge difference in my life. All of my siblings and I went to Severna Park High School, and I met my husband there. I went to Shepherd College in West Virginia and earned two degrees: English and Sociology. I also earned a Master’s degree from George Washington University.
I’ve always been a very creative and artistic person. When I was little, crayons were the best thing anyone could get me. I was always painting or drawing or sewing or making something. In seventh grade, art class was so easy for me that I also did all of my best friends assignments in class for her. The teacher thought we were both very talented. Lol!! We still laugh at that!
I do wish that one of my degrees was in design or art. But I was never sure that it would be able to support myself with an art degree and I didn’t get much support from the art teacher in high school and my parents had no experience with what I could do with an art degree. That is such a bummer! Fortunately, creativity always followed me. As an English major I got to do a lot of creative writing. I was always the editor of yearbooks or newspapers at school or at my job. I did a lot of graphic design and still do. Once I had my first child, I wanted to get back into that creative mode, so I asked my best friend’s mom to teach me how to quilt. I took off from there! I also did a lot of graphic design side work and worked on two books with my father-in-law.
I’ve always been a creative person, and quilting was just a creative outlet for a long time. Being a stay-at-home mom was scary because I didn’t want to lose my identity. I wanted to do something that meant something while taking care of the kids. Eventually I started making and selling baby quilts on Etsy. As word got out, I started getting custom quilt orders and I realized, “Hey, these quilts really mean something to people, and the more thought I put into them, the more I became a part of something greater.”
The first memorial quilts I made were for three kids who lost their father to cancer. I used his clothing for the quilts, and I felt like this was so important to make them something that would help them grieve and recover from this loss. Several years later, I lost my father-in-law to cancer and made a quilt for my mother-in-law using his clothing. She uses that quilt every day, and when I see it, I feel he is near.
Since then, several people have been approaching me about making quilts for them and then Judy Tacyn’s article in the Severna Park Voice came out about a quilt I made for a Severna Park resident who recently lost her husband. So, I made a conscious decision to open myself up to becoming this person for people. To make these quilts and to be this positive force in their lives when things seem very low. It inspires me to keep sewing when I’m tired and to keep thinking of creative things to do with all of this clothing.
So, a client can expect everything I have on each project. I think about quilts all of the time. I put thought into every one. I know how important they are, and I take it very seriously.
I have always been inspired by a challenge, in general. Whether that’s making a quilt, running everyday, or just trying to get the laundry done. A challenge I make to myself is what gets me going everyday. I make lists (and so does my husband). We get a lot of things done everyday and do many different things each day. We work well off of each other’s energy. I have a saying: “the more you do, the more you do. The less you do, the less you do.” It sounds simple, but basically means stay active. In all aspects of life. Mental and physical.
Something people don’t know about me:
I published two books about Bristol, Rhode Island with my father-in-law. One was about 15 years ago, just as I was having my first child. The second was about 5 years ago, as he was battling cancer. They are photography books with some history of the town. I am very proud to have worked with him. He was a real genius. He had so much faith in me. It really gave me a lot of confidence to do other things. I designed the layouts and he took the photography. He did most of the research and I edited his writing. I still look at those books today and think, “Hey, those are pretty good!” This is a perfect example of how challenging yourself to go a little outside of your comfort zone can really take you far. I had done a lot of similar stuff before this, but never a book. I was nervous about seeming like a rookie. But I learned so much and was so lucky to work with him. It is one of my proudest accomplishments.
Another thing: I worked at a prison when I was in college as an intern. Hagerstown Maximum Security Prison. This was part of my Sociology degree. I loved that job. It was so interesting to be inside a world most people never get a glance at. I learned so much and gained a lot of perspective about the criminal justice system. If I were to go back into the workforce, I think it would be in some sort of capacity like I filled at the prison.
Best Part of Being a Mom:
The best part of being a mom is the quiet moments when you look around at your kids and they are just all doing their own thing, but we are all together. When I see them smiling and having a good time at whatever they’re doing, that makes me happy. Or when we are eating around the dinner table. Everyone is getting along. We’re talking about our days. We aren’t rushing to the next thing. That’s the best kind of reward.
The hardest part of being a mom is the sheer energy it takes to get everything done and to try to carve a little bit of time out for yourself. As a SAHM mom, I don’t get a paycheck or a quarterly review or a pat on the back from the boss. That kind of life is not for everyone. I work hard from the moment I get up to the moment I drop in bed. It’s a job that comes without verbal “Thank you's.” But you have to look deeper and believe in what you’re doing.
I spend two and a half hours getting the kids out the door for school. That’s not just sitting there watching them eat their cereal. That’s cleaning the kitchen, straightening up whatever I can so that when they leave I’m not stuck with a mess. I usually clean after they leave for about an hour and a half. I try to sew for at least two hours a day during the day, since I have deadlines for people all the time. Lots of errands. Lots of Coke Zero. Depending on the schedule for the day, I cook dinner. Help with homework. Clean up some more mess. Get them all to bed by 9:00 and then do whatever I didn’t get done during the day at night…pay bills, sew some more, get organized for an Annapolis Quilt Guild board meeting, laundry, laundry, more laundry, and maybe a bath, if I’m lucky. Sleep is important. I try to get at least six hours of sleep a night.
I almost always wear jeans and a solid colored shirt or some sort of running-related t-shirt. Usually running shoes from fall to spring and flip flops from spring to summer. I’m not fancy. I don’t spend much time or money on clothes. If I have a dress on, you know I’m way out of my comfort zone. I haven’t worn a pair of high heels in about 16 years. I used to dress up somewhat for work and then 9-11 happened. I was working full time and going to GW for my masters degree full time in dc. I stopped wearing dress shoes when I was riding the metro and wanted to be able to run from danger if I needed to. Never took up the girly habit again!
This is a funny concept to me. I’ve always kept it simple. I don’t wash my face at night or use some fancy cleanser. I don’t dye my hair. I rarely get it cut even. I buy make up from the grocery store. I do always wear mascara! My eyelashes are non-existent! I wear blush and powder to even out my red-head skin, but thats about it. I hate lipstick. I’ll wear chapstick if I remember. I do always, always, always wear a lotion with spf 15 everyday on my face. I hate nail polish. Every once in a while my girls will polish my toenails. But I find nail polish very distracting. I can’t function with it on. Truly.
I started running on the cross country team in college when I was urged by my roommate to go out for the team. I had never run before, but I still run because of that decision. I’ve never been fast. I like to compete with myself mostly. I’m usually the middle of the pack, which makes me pretty happy. Last year, I ran every day of the year. It was a challenge I made with myself about a week before the new year. I stuck with it. EVERY DAY. I really showed me that we can all make a half an hour for ourselves to get some exercise. There is no excuse. I ran through sickness, traveling, crazy busy days with the kids. I ran outside every day. Snow. Sleet. Heat. Hurricane. Never missed a day. This year I’m taking it a little easier, but running is my thing. I also am not a huge snacker. I love chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts and chocolate. But if those aren’t around, I’m not going to eat chips or pretzels. Just not worth it, usually. I’ve also cut a lot of carbs this year. When you do that, you realize how much sugar you are eating every day in the form of things you think are healthy — whole wheat bread, pasta, granola bars, etc. It’s helped me lose 13 pounds since January. And I’m not farting any young so I’ll take it!
Don’t sweat the small stuff, and everything is small stuff.
Let your kids explore. Without you sometimes, even when they’re young.
Everything is just a phase.
It will all work out the way it is supposed to.
Let them fail. You learn the most when you fail.
Don’t worry. He will talk when he’s ready. (Both Joey and Domenic were late talkers. Sara was too)
You can do anything. (My father-in law told me that one day about a month before he died).
I have always been a library geek. There are a few books that i’ve read to all the kids, like, “My Big Shiny Sparkly First Words Book,” but we go to the library. So, there aren’t specific ones we read over and over.
They all have played really well, alone and together. And I was never one to sit and play with them. I liked to let them figure it out. Joey and Domenic always have “guys” — like batman and superman figures— that they played with. Molly and Sara had their dolls when they were younger and a lot of arts and craft stuff.
I love color. So the house has a lot of colors on the walls. I also decorate with things that have meaning. I don’t buy a lot of “chotzkies.” If it’s in our house, it usually was made by someone, painted by someone, given to us by someone, etc. And I hate clutter in the kitchen. Sometimes it happens, but for the most part my counters are clean, other than when I’m cooking. My husband has a huge say in the house design too. He is very good at that kind of thing, so we work off of each other in this area.
There is definitely a tie here. My craft room and our family room are my favorite rooms. I love the family room because that’s where we are all the time. My kids don’t go to their rooms unless they are going to bed, for the most part—or if they’re in trouble. We hang out in the family room. But the craft room is the only room in the house that is all mine! My fabric and my sewing machines are there. My big huge Mac! It’s where my creative chaos happens!
Designers that inspire:
Amy Butler was one of the first fabric designers I fell in love with 15 years ago. She had a bright, cheery, modern style. Since then there are so many quilt and fabric designers who have inspired me. I am also inspired by the women in the Annapolis Quilt Guild and the 12 or so women who are in my bee. We meet once a month at a different house, and have show and tell and sew and talk about ideas. It’s one of the highlights of my month each month. They are so inspirational. They are all mostly older than me, since most quilters are not young and they are so incredibly supportive. It’s really awesome to have that support system in an area that you love so much.
Favorite pieces of art/decor:
I love all of the elephants that I’ve collected throughout the years. I love decorating with quilts and homemade things. All of the stuff my husband makes is amazing. He’s a wood worker, so he’s made a lot of the tables and frames in the house. He’s also made most of the crown molding from scratch in the house. He and I really collaborate on what our house looks like because he’s definitely into design too.
So, we don’t keep too many toys in the family room. We seem to rotate them down to the basement/dungeon, and when they get bored with the toys upstairs we rotate some of the ones from downstairs back upstairs. They are all in bins. In a perfect world, those bins and baskets and large Tupperware would be organized. Most of the time they are all a mix of “guys,” legos, stuffed animals, train tracks, lost batteries, mc Donald’s happy meal toys and other junk. I just paid the girls $5 each to organize it all!
My kids rooms are not fancy. They are allowed to decorate themselves with things that have meaning to them. I don’t like the idea of having a room that looks like it’s out of a Pottery Barn magazine. They should be able to walk into their rooms and see things that make them happy.
If you want to start your own business, don’t get caught up in what other people want it to be. It can be as big or as small as you want it to be. If it’s something on the side and you don’t have much time, that’s ok.
Never look at any relationship as “quid pro quo” or expect people to know what you want out of a relationship if you haven’t said it. No one but you is going to make you happy and never expect a favor to be returned. Just do things because you want to. This way you’ll never be disappointed by people. It’s not always easy to lol at things like that and I don’t claim to do it perfectly.
I also work hard to let things go. Don’t hold a grudge. Holding grudges is like giving yourself poison and expecting the other person to die. Just forget about it and move on!
I try to quilt almost every day. And if I’m done, I’m done.
Everyone asks me how I get so much done with four kids. Here’s my trick: 15 minutes. If I can look at 15 minutes as an opportunity to get something done, I take it. Sometimes I'm even able to string lots of 15 minutes together, and that is super nice! But as a mom who has had at least one toddler at home for 15 years straight, 15 minutes is all I can hope for. And I constantly think about where I am in different projects so when I do get a chance to sit down, I know just where I left off. I don’t waste time backtracking. Always move forward.
And also you don’t have to play with your kids all the time. It’s ok to leave them alone. That gives them a chance to grow their minds on their own.
I like to be the best I can be, but I’m not really competitive because I don’t know too many people who do what I do. If I am friends with people who do what I do, I try to be supportive and tell them any tricks I have. The favor is usually returned. My best friend is a quilter. Her mom taught me to quilt. We are constantly sharing projects and bouncing ideas off of each other. I would never compete with her. She’d probably beat me up. LOL!
1 head Napa cabbage, finely shredded
2 bunches green onions (optional)
Saute in 3 tbsp of butter until golden brown:
1 package of broken up ramen noodles (the flavor packet is used in the dressing)
2 oz. sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Drain and cool on papertowel
TO MAKE THE DRESSING
Bring to a boil:
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup vege oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
season pack from oriental flaver pack from ramen noodle package
I like to keep that boiling for a while, until it starts to look a little like it is bubbling up and forming a caramel consistency. That way it won't completely separate after it is cooled. Cool this completely -- in the fridge for at least an hour before serving is best.
Ready to EAT! Don't mix the crunchies and the dressing with the cabbage until you are ready to eat or it will get soggy.
This serves about 8 people depending on the size of the cabbage and how much everyone loves this salad!
Favorite Travel Destination
Anywhere. I love to go to new places and see new things. But definitely the redwood forest is my favorite place I’ve ever been too. I’ve wanted to travel to Africa for as long as I can remember. I will get there some day and see the elephants!