Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I've created a map that shows links to our camping/hiking/general family fun review posts that you can find here. It's pretty much the coolest thing on this site. Thanks, Google!

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

Palmer Lake Trail Review


We enjoyed a new-to-us hike this weekend to the Lower and Upper Palmer Lake Reservoirs following the Palmer Lake Trail along North Manitou Creek. The hike to the far end of the Upper Reservoir comes in at just under 2 miles, and the elevation gain on the way up was steady, so it was a good beginning to the hiking season to break in our 5 year old’s legs.


Pros:  Plenty of views of the North Manitou Creek and the two reservoirs, good intermediate distance (I’ve noticed it’s hard to find hikes in the 3-5 mile range), ice cream nearby for an after hike treat.  The ‘ice caves’ are a detour off the main trail that we will check out next time!

Cons:  Infrastructure and wide road keeps it from feeling like a true escape into nature, popularity means it could be crowded on a day with nicer weather.

Distance/difficulty:  Less steep than Mt Cutler (my favorite beginner hike), this is a longer trail (about 3 miles if you stop when you first come to the Upper Reservoir, 4 if you continue onto the back) and so good for stretching out distance with your little hikers.  Ellie at 5 tackled this as her second hike of the season without any difficulty whatsoever–she have easily gone farther.  I’d say this would be great for an experienced 3 year old or a novice 4 year old.

Directions:  The large parking area is at the end of Old Carriage Rd in Palmer Lake (note: no restrooms or portapotties).  From exit 161 of I-25 travel west on C-105 to Palmer Lake.  Take a left on S. Valley Rd and another left onto Old Carriage Rd.  The parking and trail head are at the bottom of the hill.


Trail teaching:  Plenty of opportunities for learning on this one!

  • Purpose of dams and reservoirs (and though these aren’t producing hydroelectric power you can certainly talk about how they might–a great segue into some physics with discussion of potential and kinetic energy)


  • Lots of granite, quartz and pyrite
  • We spotted wild strawberries as well as a few other flowers.  (As always, please let me know if you can identify any of these flowers–I would love to know the names to share with the kids!)


  • Discussion of the power of water to erode and sculpt canyons when it is moving quickly, and the way it drops its load and becomes a building influence when the land levels out (you can see this depositing action as the water enters both reservoirs)
  • Boulder field-more erosion and rock talk!  This would also be a fun place to let kids scramble around if you don’t work in a hospital and see death and dismemberment at every turn.


Further reading:  Jennifer has a great description of the hike in her post here.


Everyone should have a generous friend with a long arm quilting machine


Melissa is one of the most generous people I know, and one of the things that she does that is totally crazy is pretend that family photos are a decent swap for time on her long arm quilting machine.  And I am in love with that thing.  I quilted two baby quilts this morning in the time it would have taken me to just pin baste them.  It’s amazing.  I even would have made it to drop Ellie off to preschool on time had I not gotten up to all sorts of adventures on the way over including pulling myself over because I thought I’d been caught speeding.


I haven’t had a working speedometer in my car in like two years.  Because there are apps for that.  (When you remember to use them.)  So when I was cruising down the road getting my Taylor Swift on and saw a cop, I looked down and I was going 180 mph according to my speedometer (this is also how fast my car thinks it’s going right now, as it is parked outside my house). Her flashy blue lights were on.  “ARGH.” I thought. (Or something with more swear words.)  So I pulled over.  She was taking her sweet time following me, so I bent down to get my wallet and find my insurance info.  I looked up because she was pulled alongside me.  “Is everything okay?” she asked.  Oops.  “Yes,” I said. “I just wasn’t watching my speed so I thought I was going to get pulled over.”  She laughed at me.  “Nope–you’re okay,” she said.

I think I’m an excellent candidate for a fascist state.  I always assume I’m guilty.


Anatomy & Physiology Course Tips


If you are a pre-nursing or pre-med student you’re going to hear a lot of horror stories about how A&P is the worst hardest thing ever.  And they’re a lot true.  But if I can get an A in A&P, anyone can!  Here are the things that really helped me ace Anatomy & Physiology and kept it from being the GPA-wrecker I thought it would be.  My test scores were all above 97% and I got 100% on the final A&P2 practical exam.  I’m not a natural when it comes to the sciences, so I know my success was because of these study techniques!

  • Meet Professor Fink.  This guy is your new best friend.  His videos are your new [insert show people watch these days here].  (I would have provided a show name, but I’m still watching Greys Anatomy.  Which is a show I watched the FIRST time I was in college.)  I found it so helpful to see a different take on whatever subject we were learning.  Even if he sometimes went into more detail than my professor on a topic, it was incredibly helpful to hear the more detailed version to understand the simpler version.  I highly recommend watching the video before the lecture.  In other classes I would read the chapter before going to lecture, but the A&P textbook was just too dense.  Watching Professor Fink’s lecture first and getting introduced to the topic meant that I was able to follow along with my actual professor’s lecture instead of just sitting in stunned silence. I watched each lecture several times, but always tried to do it once before class (I noticed a huge difference when I would get behind and have to watch the video after my lecture).  I like to knit, so I would watch his lecture while knitting, which made it more enjoyable.  You can also watch them while folding laundry, making dinner, doing the dishes…any chance you get.
  • Break down and buy a dumb micro recorder.  (And then put a piece of tape on it with your email address written on it for that inevitable time when you walk out of class without it.)  You can listen to the taped lectures in the car and in the shower.  If you’re looking at your notes and wondering what exactly he said that prompted you to write [ ], you can go back and check.  It’s also great to be able to help out a friend if they’re running late or miss a lecture!
  • Get this iPad app.  It was included with my textbook with A&P 1 but I ended up using it a bunch for A&P 2.  It not only allows you to look at the structures at home, but if you tap on a structure it will pronounce the name of it for you.  So much of A&P is made harder by the fact that it’s impossible to feel confident asking questions about things that you don’t know how to pronounce.
  • Don’t study, revise.  In England they don’t call it “studying,” but “revision.”  Revision isn’t a passive process like studying notes, but rather an active revising of your notes into shorter and shorter versions.  As you cliff-notes it down from 20 pages to 10 to 5 to 2 you internalize it all.  I think a lot of students get caught up in having 20 different colored pens and fancy flash cards, but at the end of the day my simple pen and paper method did the trick.  I usually ended up writing the notes about four times.  The first time, in lecture, then later that night or the next day I would rewrite my lecture notes.  The before the test I would rewrite them again, and then a final time.  Standing outside a classroom before a test I usually have a simple piece of paper with the little triggers that will help me remember all the rest of it.   In the UK they have preparing for tests down to a science.  If you’re not getting the results you want with looking at your initial or even second draft notes, try revision.  🙂

Would you like some nude pumps with your mesh panties?


As someone who works in postpartum and is passionate to the point of annoying about the care of new mothers, I have all sorts of feelings about Kate stepping out like some sort of movie star 10 hours after giving birth.  I know that looking great is her job, but really?  10 hours?  In heels?!  And a WHITE skirt?!  Really?!

I see a lot of women 10 hours after giving birth, and honestly, I am beyond thrilled if they are able to walk themselves to the bathroom.  If they can do it without getting blood all over the bed and floor in the process I’ll give them a gold medal.  And if they throw on a pair of yoga pants and some mascara I tell them that they are ridiculous movie stars.  BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO HAVE GIVEN BIRTH.

Giving birth is a natural process.  I am passionate about that.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  And I feel like maybe, just maybe, it’s not really fair to act like women should be walking around in heels when in actuality they’re doing well if they can maintain a decent waddle with that giant ice pack between their thighs.

Ten hours after birth is about recovery.  It’s about establishing breastfeeding.  It’s about pain management.  It’s about a nap.  It’s about making sure you can safely stand to go pee and MAYBE shower.  It’s not Business As Usual time.

We go into birth with all sorts of expectations.  Some ours, some from society…and I think the last thing women need is one more yardstick that they cannot possibly measure up to.  It would have been crazy for her to look like that tomorrow.  But walking out of the hospital ten hours after birth like nothing at all happened?  Of all the things the duchess could be a champion for when it comes to pregnancy and birth and newborns, looking glamorous 10 hours after birth is a pretty wasteful one.

Mourning Google Reader

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

sewing blog

When Google Reader went away a couple of years ago I pretty much stopped reading blogs.  I tried BlogLovin but I found that I never went to the website.  I just found out about their app this week, though, and it’s amazing!  They’ve also really spruced up the website in the last few years and it’s spot on in making recommendations to me for new blogs.  Anyway, if you are like me and still at an RSS feeder loss post Google Reader, no need.  It’s actually a lot better than Google Reader ever was!

And since a blog post with no pictures is boring, here is proof that self control doesn’t last forever.  I finally gave into Cotton and Steel.  (I’m actually impressed I held out this long, but I need more quilting fabric like a hole in my head.)  Little note: the photo was clearly staged.  I was nervous having the rotary cutter so close to these piles.  Like I’ll ever actually cut into this precious fabric!



Susanne - Holy Heaven, thank you!! I stopped reading blogs too, after the death of Google Reader. Who has time to type all of those words into the search bar?

Becky - I too panicked when google buried Reader for seemingly no reason at all. But then I found Digg Reader, which is simple, free, and fun. That’s how I get all my blogs now. If you miss being able to quickly scroll through a hundred new craft blog posts, you should try it!

Everything you heard about working the night shift at a hospital is true (a love story)

I have been working as a CNA at our local hospital’s birth center for the last five months.  It is my dream job while I finish nursing school and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get it.   Every night as I drive to work I tell myself “try not to mess this up, dumbie” and most of the time I just want a manager to walk by and say “I don’t think hiring you was the biggest mistake ever.  I don’t actually cry myself to sleep at night thinking about it. ”

But sometimes it is 3am and I think “oh God it is so hard not to screw this up.  and also to keep my eyes open. I am definitely not going to make it to the morning.  I am probably going to just die right here in this chair.  if only I could get up right now and make it to my locker I’m pretty sure there are jelly beans in there.  the jelly beans might save me.”  And then a nurse will walk by and make that “oh my God it is 3am and I think I might die–WHY ARE WE NOT ASLEEP RIGHT NOW?!” face and you  realize you are not alone in the universe and you will probably actually make it to 7:30am after all, or at least if you don’t you will die among friends who understand your pain.

When I took this job I did a lot of poking around google trying to find out what to expect while working as a CNA on nights, and if it was actually doable, and if I really needed childcare or if maybe Blues Clues would suffice…and I didn’t find much.  So here is everything I know about working nights, with the caveats that I am definitely not an expert and everyone’s experiences are different.

night shift tips

Exactly how much night are we talking about?

The funny thing about the job postings is that they assume you know things like what the night shift is, and whether or not you’re looking at 12 hour shifts or 8 hour shifts.  At my hospital it is 7pm-7:30am with a 30 minute lunch that you sometimes don’t really take because some days you go a whole hour without doing anything truly productive.  (That’s one of the many parts of this job that the Air Force prepared me well for–some of the time you are dramatically overpaid, some of the time you are dramatically underpaid…it all evens out in the wash.)  I work part time, which means two 12 hour days a week and I am benefits eligible (huzzah! since it is cheaper for me to be on my own plan than on Nic’s).  Full time is three 12 hour days.  At my hospitals CNAs aren’t required to sign up for call, but I have a feeling that will be my least favorite part of being an RN (judging by the faces of the RNs when they show up to work after being called in).

Give in to the awful.

For the first three weeks at my job I oriented on the day shift.  People were fairly confused about why I would want to go to the night shift and if I was really going to be capable of surviving such a made-for-sparkly-vampires schedule.  This made me a little nervous.  A lot of people asked if I’d ever worked nights before, and I had–in the Air Force I worked swing shift for a year (2pm-midnight) and whenever we had exercises I always ended up being on the actual night-to-morning shift.  My only fear was due that those experiences were (a) a decade ago when I was spritely and (b) before I had children.

My favorite quote came from a coworker on the night shift when she met me while I was on day shift orientation.  “I mean, it’s awful,” she said.  “But eventually you just give in to the awful and then it’s not so bad.”  Genius.  She’s a genius.

The majority of us night shift CNAs are students and moms that don’t really sleep…um…ever.  So for us, working the night shift is a lot like having a newborn.  It’s awful, but eventually you just give into the sleep deprivation and know that it’s not forever and that eventually your tiny little career baby will let you sleep again.

I’m a little different in my schedule than most people because I request to never ever work back to back.  Because this is what happened the one time I worked back-to-back shifts:

On the second night I went into the break room to eat my dinner.  I was eating my dinner like a normal human being….and then I wasn’t anymore.  I proceeded to pass out like a floppy dead person while sitting in the chair.  Slumped over, limbs everywhere…totally OUT.  I came to with a start as the break room door opened and one of the nurses walked in.  I jumped up, mortified and completely confused as to things like my own name.  It was awful.  And therefore I learned that while I can work night shift without daycare, I cannot work back-to-back night shifts without daycare.

Here’s a little peek at my schedule of awful on the days that I work:

7:30am – wake up and start the day  like a normal day. do normal day stuff, though all the while feeling sorry for myself that I will have to be awake all night.

7pm – start work. do work stuff.

7:30am – get off work and go home.  This begins what I call my ‘recovery day’

8:30am – oldest child is safely on the bus.  my five year old now tucks me into the sofa and sits on top of me playing with toys, watching television, and waking me up every 10-15 minutes with kisses and murmurs of how adorable I am.  This is what I call ‘sleeping.’

11am – The worst thing in the world happens. (The struggle is real, people.)  I have to get up.   I have to get ready, I have to get Ellie ready, we have to have lunch and we have to get her to preschool.  Every time I think that we probably just aren’t going to be able to undertake such a feat.  But then I remember that I pay $260 for her to go to preschool and I do it.  It’s impossible.  Like when you have a newborn and you have to get to an 8am pediatrician appointment.  But we do it.  Twice a week.

1pm – I’m back from preschool and it’s time to be a real person.  I go for a run and then come back and shower and do schoolwork.  The run feels impossible too, but I’ve found it really helps keep my daytime/nighttime confusion down.  Being out in the daylight for 30 minutes and working out means I’ll go to bed without trouble.

Somewhere after 6pm but before 9pm – Sleep.  Blissful sleep.

Avoid the jetlag.

Working nights is a little bit like having permanent jetlag.  To minimize the symptoms I:

  • Run outdoors on my recovery day
  • Wear a watch and look at it OFTEN, reminding myself of the actual time and not the emotional time (which, incidentally, is always oh-awful-thirty, so the emotional time doesn’t matter that much, anyway.)
  • Get to bed before 9:30.  If I’m up past 10, I’ve noticed that I get a second wind and have a really hard time going to sleep.  As long as I go to sleep when I’m still in exhausted mode I’ll sleep until the morning.

Come for the differential, stay for the people.

I feel like the night shift slogan should be: “come for the differential, stay for the people.”  It is true that if I fold little tiny baby shirts in a closet at 3am I get paid 33% more than if I was to fold those same shirts at 3pm.  This is awesome.  But I absolutely love the people I work with and that makes folding tshirts at 3am something I’d do for half the price.  Except don’t tell Centura that.  Tell them I’m the best darn shirt folder EVER and deserve twice my pay.

You are probably going to get a little bit fat.  It’s okay; I’ll still love you.

I’ve neglected my body a little bit in the last several months and it’s starting to push back.  It is really hard to make good food choices in hour 20 of consciousness.  I’m trying to turn this around.  Hopefully I’ll have some good advice in another 5 months for how to lose the weight you gain in the first 5 months!

Alli - You are doing a great job! Your schedule sounds so hard, but you are doing a great job! 🙂

Valerie - Traci – I just got on your website to check up on photos of the kids (still adorable) and I got sucked into your blogs about nursing school. This post totally spoke to my heart. I am in such awe of all of the mommies who work night shift with me. I couldn’t imagine not being able to come home and pass out for 7 hours before my next shift. So kudos to you! I’m so proud you’re reaching your goals that we talked about so many years ago 🙂 The quote about coming for the differential and staying for the people could not be more true. I always thought I would take a day position once one opened up and I had the seniority but now it’s close to that time and there’s no way I can imagine leaving my night shifters. We are a special breed of people. Running outside is a great idea, I just wish liked running! I miss you and the kiddos and I will definitely be checking back in to read your words of wisdom 🙂


Brittany - I was so happy to read your post! I am hoping to start a night shift at my local hospital in about 2 weeks. Same pattern of day shift orientation followed by night shift working in pursuit of my RN degree. Although…. I don’t have children! So, kudos to you! Good luck in your future, and thanks for the post.