Tips for renewing your child's passport

The Pea's current passport is set to expire next month, so we renewed her passport today. Since she is under 16, we had to renew it in person. Renewing US passports in person has always been a tedious process, but this time, somehow, it turned from tedious to almost nightmarish.

It certainly seems like the number of passport applicants has skyrocketed. If you need to apply for or renew your child's US passport (or if you need to do it for yourself, and need to do it in person), read about our experience and learn from our mistakes! Or just scroll through to the bottom and check out my tips for applying or renewing in person.

Knitting TIps for Beginners


Never in my life did I think that I would learn, much less love, knitting. My mother taught my sister and I how to embroider and crochet when we were about 6 or 7, but I was always the messy one. I loved to cross stitch, but my work was never very neat, and I never got beyond crocheting small, ugly doilies. Knitting always seemed much cooler and more practical, but there was no way I could ever do it. No one in my family knew how to knit,and it looked even more complicated. When the kids were born, my mother in law knitted sweaters and blankets, but it all looked way too difficult for me.

This year, I finally decided to teach myself to knit, and I'm loving it! It's definitely shaping up to be a hobby that helps me relax and get away from obsessing over politics on Facebook. Right now I'm in that honeymoon phase where I'm knitting every day, and I fully expect to taper off to two or three times a week. But even if I end up knitting just two or three times a year, I'm happy to have learned a new skill. I don't know why I ever thought it was so difficult!  If you want to try out knitting (hand knitted things are sooo hipster) but don't think you can do it, take it from me and take the plunge. I learned how to knit simply from watching videos, and if I can do it, anyone can. I've put together some tips for beginners to make it even easier. Happy knitting!

Start with chunky yarn and needles

In the beginning, your hands will feel huge and clumsy. It only makes sense to avoid the baby-fine yarn and skinny knitting needles! I would start with size US 13 (9.0 mm) needles and bulky yarn (#5). You'll have a lot more yarn to hold on to, and you'll be be able to see your stitches more clearly because they'll be larger. As an added bonus, you will need to do less stitches to complete a project than if you use fine yarn, so you'll be able to complete your first project sooner!

Start with the basics

You don't need to learn how to cable knit right from the start. In fact, the only four skills you need to start knitting most projects are casting on (getting yarn on the needle), knit stitch, purl stitch, and casting off (getting the yarn off the needle and completing your project). In a pinch, you can leave the purl stitch for later and just cast on, knit, and cast off. There are tons of videos online that will teach you these four skills, and within 30 minutes, you'll be off and knitting.

Make something right away (but keep it simple)

Where's the fun in knitting a square?  Like I said, as long as you know how to cast on, knit, and cast off, you can already knit a scarf, a blanket, or a hat!  If you have young girls in your life, I recommend starting by knitting a blanket for their American Girl dolls. Okay, that's essentially knitting a square, but it's a square with a purpose. Another great alternative is to knit a pussy hat. It's essentially a knitted rectangle that you fold in half and sew the sides down. My first knitting project was a pink pussy hat, and having something (or someone) to knit for really helps with your motivation.

Don't worry about how to hold your needles

When you watch knitting videos, you see people threading yarn through their fingers in all kinds of complicated ways in order to hold the proper yarn tension. Don't let it intimidate you. There is no one right way to hold needles. There is no one right way to hold yarn. The usual expression for being clumsy is being "all thumbs", but I felt more like "no thumbs" when I started knitting. I had balance one needle upright by jamming one end into my stomach because I felt like I didn't have enough fingers or hands to do everything! Eventually I figured out a way to hold my needles that worked for me, and so will you.

Don't worry about speed

When we visited Bruges a few years ago, we saw a bobbin lace demonstration and were so impressed at the intricacy and speed. We couldn't believe how quickly these little old ladies' hands flew! I'm sure they started out slowly, and that's the same with knitting. It takes me days to knit hats that some people can finish in an hour or two, but it's not a competition. I just concentrate on making my stitches as nice and even as I can.

Don't burn yourself out

Knitting can be monotonous work, so don't try to do too much at once. Lift your eyes from your work and take a break every now and then so you don't cramp up. Right now I'm in that phase where I'm so pleased with myself for learning a new skill that it's all I want to do. But I try not to knit for more than 30 minutes at a time so I don't get sick of it.

Find a charity to knit for

We all know that practice makes perfect, but the thought of knitting thousands of stitches for months on end to make a single blanket exhausts me. I've found that knitting hats gives me the motivation to knit because they are easy and relatively quick to finish. But my family can only wear so many hats! So my plan is to knit hats for babies at our local pediatric ward, and for cancer patients at our local Ronald McDonald house. I've contacted both organizations and they both take new knitted hat donations. At the end of the year, I hope to have a basket full of hats to donate!  When 3Po and Jammy were born, they received little knitted Santa hats to take home (they were born in December). They were adorable, and I've always wished I could thank whoever knitted them. I feel good knowing that I'm paying it forward and that some future babies will be wearing the hats that I'm knitting.

newborn baby twins

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Missing: Teen Brains

Part of my job as social media manager for a diabetes nonprofit is to attend and recap educational events featuring medical professionals or other experts on diabetes. Most of the time the information shared is relevant only to people with type 1 diabetes, but many times I come home with pearls of wisdom that apply to anyone.

My latest a-ha moment came during a talk by a clinical psychologist who works with teens with type 1 diabetes. He was talking about getting teens to manage their condition more diligently. He said that teens are pretty much developmentally incapable of thinking about the long-term health consequences of diabetes because part of their brain is missing. That prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with executive function, attention, is not yet fully developed in teens. It won't fully develop until their mid-20’s, and even mid-30’s.