homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In Which It Snows

Okay, to be fair we *did* have snow alllllllll the way back in October. But that was a freak one-day thing for which we were not prepared. Now? It's December and the warm clothes have been moved into daily rotation and new snow boots have been procured and we were ready. So when it started snowing on Wednesday, C gathered his gear and went Outside to Play. What a great idea!

He suggested making snowballs. I insisted that there wasn't enough snow. He proved me wrong.

Then T made a snowman.

Alas, when Mom has a baby, she does not keep up so much with autumn yard maintenance. So we have a very leaf-infested snowman. But he's the first of the season, and we love him.

The pets also enjoyed a bit of a frolic.

I dug into my pockets to discover that I really need a new pair of "playing outside" gloves.

Yes, this was what I wore, because I was too lazy into the moment to go back inside the house and search for another set. One that matched, even...

...this was the "mate". Um...opposites attract? o_O

But at least I have a pretty hat.

This was one of the small indulgences I knit for myself just prior to J's birth. Sadly, the gorgeous woolen socks got forgotten in the wash and now belong to T (the heartbreak of shrinking and unintended felting!). I'm going to be extra careful with this. It's better suited for physical activity than last year's Love Hat. The pattern is the Amanda Hat...although I think I may call this one Amandy, since the yarn is "Andy's Merino". ;p

Not pictured are T and I zooming down our awesome back hill. We have the best sledding around, right in our own yard. WHEE was that fun!

So, Are we forgetting anyone? Anyone who might have featured nicely in a pictorial essay entitled "First Snow"?

Yeah, J had his own agenda for the afternoon.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

this moment: babywearing

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Join in at Soulemama

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Which Things Don't Go Well

Whether you're a blogger, a homeschooling parent, or both, there's an ingrained tendency to never be far from a camera. Any activity--whether spontaneous or carefully planned--has potential as a good story or fodder for a portfolio. It's like your life is a constant documentary. Unfortunately, it's also a constant improv. Sometimes things go well and you end up with a terrific final product that you're proud to share with an audience, then with a sense of contentment and satisfaction, tuck away in your memory box.

Other times, it all just goes to hell. That's how I've ended up with a number of (entire, exhaustive series of!) photos for blog posts that never materialized, because the activity didn't turn out as planned/hoped/expected. For example:
Yarn "Easter baskets". Kids use a LOT of glue. These never really stiffened. Even when fully dry, they were limp and unsuitable even for display empty. Very disappointing.

Cool caterpillar we discovered, captured, and identified. (I've since forgotten its identity, alas.) We looked up its basic info, including appropriate food, and watched it every day to see it change into its adult form. It took us quite a while to realize that our chrysalis was desiccated and contained a dead critter. Sigh.

T's several weeks-long quest to reassemble a groundhog skeleton we'd discovered. We spent so much time sorting, identifying, classifying, and organizing bones...but we never got around to figuring out a method of connecting them and kind of gave up on the whole thing after a while.

I thought "egg in a hole" would be a lot more fun if we used shaped cookie cutters.
Too bad the volume of the egg surpassed the area of the shape. We ended up with blobs.

And our most recent...
Solar oven experiment. It totally didn't work.
In other words, there are plenty of activities that don't make the papers because they weren't "wins". I'm trying to take consolation from these words:
Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.
--Abraham Lincoln
Well, our enthusiasm is intact. As is our optimism. We'll be back to try more crazy adventures...and maybe from here on out I won't be so self-conscious as to not share them. After all, they are learning experiences too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Welcome Sight for a Very Hungry Pooh?

Oh my.

Between some crazy weather (early snow!) and my tendency to be a slave to a certain very small person's napping and feeding whims, we don't get as much outdoor play these days as we're used to. It's starting to affect us; we're obviously a bit stir-crazy. T finally escaped to the woods over the weekend with Dad...a "just us two" moment. He came back excited, and demanded that C and I (heh...the pronoun "I", not another name-dodge) come see something that they'd discovered. J was asleep, so with Dad on baby-watch, I put on some shoes and followed T down into the woods, camera in hand.

Not far from our property is what we call "the Bee Tree". It's a huge (but far from record-breaking, as we found when we measured it and compared at white ash; largely hollow, with a constant stream of bees entering and exiting at the largest opening. We've often speculated at the probable size of the nest. Even so, what I saw came as quite a shock.

Seriously, what is that thing hanging from that branch? From a distance it looked like a deflated...something. Too big to be a balloon. Too high to be anything that made sense other than "something that fell from the sky". Then it registered.

The bees had produced so much this season that they outgrew their space and built an addition.

No Georgia O'Keefe comments, m'kay?
This thing is, I kid you not, a good square yard in size. We were...awed.

One for the "inexplicable" files

I found this recently.

Yes. It's exactly what it looks like. A 9-volt battery mounted on the wall with poster-tac.

No. I have no idea why.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Midnight Hour

Although age and circumstance are conspiring to make me follow a more traditional schedule (being a mom kicks me in the butt!), I am a night owl by nature. Always have been. It's far easier for me to stay up late than to wake up early when extra time is required in my day. I'm more likely to be awake blogging at midnight than watching the sun rise. So it really has come as little surprise to me that my children seem to share my nocturnal-leaning tendencies. Whether it's by nature or nurture is something to ponder another day.

C is strongly nocturnal, and I have some fun stories (and memories of exhaustion!), but tonight's tale is about T. When T was a baby, I learned that an interruption in his sleep pattern often heralded a developmental leap. We room-share with our babies, so when they get too active (crying *or* cooing) in the wee hours, I often take them to the living room to wait it maybe Dad can get at least a moderate amount of sleep before he has to leave for work at dawn. T's first time rolling over? About 3 AM, living room floor. First time pulling himself up to stand ? Ditto. And so on.

I flashed back to those days tonight. It had been a rough day for old Mom, courtesy of  a crabby and overtired J. We finally got him conked out in the swing (see previous post) and I was feeling major stabs of guilt for all of the time I didn't spend with the other two. So I read a chapter book to them at bedtime.

The entire thing.

Okay, it was a Magic Treehouse book, but even so. It was a nice long reading session. I finally got everyone "sweet dreamed" and tucked in, and headed out to the kitchen to load the dishwasher. It wasn't long before the kids pitter-patted out to find me. I took a deep and patient breath. Long days with the baby for me mean long days without me for them. Yes, it was late. But they missed me. I'd let them stall just a little more before sending them back to bed.

T had a book with him...

this book
...and he asked me a few questions about it. First, he admitted that he knew the title because he is familiar with the book, but then turned to an illustration within the book and asked, "Why does it say FerdinandO here?" He also asked about several other words, all in illustrations, and all in Spanish.

Yeah. My reluctant reader was suddenly trying. On his own. And asking for help.

I will not lie, I was tired...both physically and emotionally. Why now? Why couldn't he show an interest in reading oh, I don't know...when I was actually trying to teach him to read?

Okay. So what, it's past 11. We are going to read.

The dear thing...he attempted a few storybooks on his shelf that were far too difficult given the skills we've worked on so far. Simple phonics are not going to help a kid through, well, words like through. I patiently watched, though, as he used his knowledge of some favorite titles to guess his way...using word length, first letters, even pictures to help him. No, he wasn't doing perfectly. But he was trying. On his terms. And using a number of tricks that up until now he has dismissed as "not reading". (Says Mom: if the context helps, embrace it!).

I hesitated. Yes, he was happy and engaged. If I pushed, would I ruin the moment? Or cement it?

I took the risk. I chose an easy-reader book. Another title with which he was familiar, but which had words that were a lot more phonics-friendly. And with only a few stumbles (and--ye Gods be praised--no self-loathing and quitting following the stumbles)...he read the book.

It was a big night. I just hope this is a harbinger of a shift in attitude toward this whole reading thing. If it takes more time, well, I'm in it for the duration. All the same, seeing him want to do it...seeing him happily try...made me feel really proud of him. And really excited to be a part of it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The song that never ends

OMG people, can I just rant for a moment here?

Of course I can. It's my blog. I can do whatever I damn well please.

Okay, I have an infant. A gorgeous, scrumptious, snuggly, smiley, wonderful infant. Who, like many of us, turns downright miserable if he's overtired. And yet, he fights naps. Well, who could blame him...there's some pretty novel stuff happening around him and who knows what he might miss if he loses consciousness for a bit?

But I don't so much enjoy his company when he's miserable. And also, when I haven't had a break from the constant tending of him--to the point that I will rant and moan about how I wished I could do housework for a little change of pace--well, I really need for him to nap. There are two surefire ways to make this happen. The first is nursing, but that isn't foolproof. Yeah, I can knock him out with a little of the ol' Mom Juice, but the problem there is that he's a bit of a gulper. This means that his nap time can be counted in minutes...usually on my hands...before he's up and squirming for a burp. And no, I can't nurse, then burp, then expect him to sleep. The act of burping wakes him up enough to realize that I was trying to trick him into missing stuff with that whole sleep racket. The eyes pop open, he coos (or cries), and we're back to square one.

The other method is The Swing. Nothing like a little soothing repetitive motion to zonk a kid out. I'm a big fan.

As you are probably aware, modern baby swings are pretty much all equipped with a music feature. Ours plays 15 nursery-rhyme songs, in chiming digital tones.

Boop beepy beeping BEEP! Bee-bee-boo-boopedy BEEP!

After a while that can really get under your skin. It can drill right into the brain of an adult with all the subtle grace of a relentless toddler. (Hm, perhaps this is meant to break prepare us for that stage? I wonder.) It's gotten to the point that my husband and I will exchange long-suffering "help me" looks every time one of the Helpful Older Brothers turns on the music to aid in the baby's relaxation. I hear this music when it isn't even playing. On the day that I finally snap, my Clockwork-Orange violence montage will be ironically punctuated by the Graco 15 Top Hits soundtrack.

Bee bee BOO Bee bee BOO beepedy boo bee bee ba BOO!

Yeah, so, the baby is a bit "Hell no, I'm not napping" fussy this afternoon. I plopped him in the swing. Turned on the motion. And, since Helpful Older Brothers are outside and not here to interfere assist, I did it sans music.

Kid stayed awake.

I turned on the music, and...
I'm not sure whether to grudgingly admit that the manufacturers of baby equipment know something I refuse to accept (namely, babies find electronic beeping soothing), or to be resentfully sullen that, with my compliance, the Graco company has conditioned my child to like this.

They should include earplugs with these things, that's all I'm saying...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Which I am Thankful for Self-Directed Activity

T is smart. Smart, but stubborn. Throw in a little bit of perfectionism and a whole lot of self-doubt and you have...well, me. I could give this a positive spin and call him a skeptic (which he is, and it's a quality that can serve one quite well as far as intellectual inquiry goes, thankyouverymuch) but right now I'm going to just sigh and lament that he can be very frustrating to teach. He's easily discouraged, and it doesn't take a major setback to get him throwing up his arms in defeat; just the mere suggestion of having to put forth effort, and you can see him shutting down. He doesn't want to *learn* so much as to *know*...and the thought that he isn't a natural and instant master at everything he encounters just bothers him to no end. He has no patience for trial and error, or for practice, and Heaven forbid I should even look like I'm trying to teach him something, because his defenses go into full protective mode and that's the end of the party.

But, um, at least I can see through the drama to the underlying stuff, right? It would be terribly easy to write him off as lazy or defiant...and I'm sure many professional educators, tasked with getting an entire room full of kids motivated at once, reasonably might. I know that it's just a matter of cracking through those self-imposed obstacles (fear of failure?). However, that is easier said than done. There are days that I am not creative enough, or patient enough, and I just cannot get through to him. As a result, he is behind in certain academic areas that he certainly has the aptitude to handle.

So what do you do with the kid who can sense "teaching" like a shark tasting blood on the current?

Sometimes you're lucky and hit on just the right "yay! This is fun and not at all educational!" game-play that sneaks a little something in without them noticing. It's like Jessica Seinfeld masking veggie puree within baked goods. Yeah, the content is getting into him, but I have this nagging feeling that without context, it isn't particularly valuable. And he's really good at spotting the camouflage.

I spend a lot of time banging my head against the wall on this matter, but sometimes I get lucky and he will take on a task all by himself that--surprise!!--requires him to pursue exactly the skill he's been resisting when I try to introduce it.

Our most recent case in point came in a box of assorted goodies from a neighbor who is cleaning out her basement in preparation for a move. Remember these?
I wish my blog photos looked this good. My arms are full of baby most of the day, not camera:
so I stole this image from someone else's blog. I have no shame.
Not only has the boy who hates writing practice been gleefully labeling everything in sight (board games, treasured possessions, the dog) but he has also done so entirely on his own...not asking me to spell out every word because he fears getting it wrong. There are embossed labels all over our home...some correctly spelled, some with interesting invented spellings. The invented ones are a Big Deal to me. First, it shows that he's able to let go of the perfectionism and self-doubt and just try. Secondly, it gives me a good idea of where he is as far as understanding I know what we need to work on.

As soon as I can figure out how to do that without him noticing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

this moment: serenade

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, September 23, 2011

this moment: cousins

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A chill in the air

The nights are getting colder this week, so we put on some socks. Hand-knitted-by-Mom socks.

J has a custom-made pair too, but it was past his bedtime when the rest of us be-cozied ourselves. ;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

C, Unboxed

There's an ongoing criticism of standardized testing that many of the questions are culturally biased...that children from less mainstream (Judeo-Christian, white, middle class?) backgrounds might not share the same frame of reference and therefore misinterpret the intended meaning of certain elements. I think the issue goes beyond testing, all the way to instruction...and it's based more on a personal level than a necessarily shared one.

C has been reminding me of this as we make our way through some practice worksheets. Case in point: we did a few worksheets on phonemic awareness yesterday, and because the materials are aimed at pre-readers, the clues were pictograms. When T saw this picture:

he interpreted "bib" and answered accordingly. However, C interpreted "apron" and answered based on that. They had different answers, both correct according to their assumptions; and yet going by a teacher's key, one child would certainly be considered "wrong".

But is it wrong? Frankly, that looks just as much like an apron as it does a bib.

It reminds me of something that happened to me when I was in Kindergarten...something that struck me as so unfair--and illogically so--that it got burned into my memory. We were doing worksheets on color. Each page had a number of line drawings. The idea was that the student should color only the pictures that were the assigned color. For instance, on "red" day one might color the strawberry but not the banana, and so forth. The assignment was blue, and I was told that my work was "incorrect" because I had failed to color the bird. I argued with my teacher that I didn't color the bird blue because MY bird was a crow.

Oooh, now I've crossed over to a slightly different issue...but I do think they're essentially the same. First, standardized materials and greatest-common-denominator instruction and grading/evaluation are flawed if the subject matter is in any way open to subjective interpretation. In addition, there's the creativity-and-imagination element that gets suppressed in the interest of matching an outside expectation.

Both of these things SUCK.

I've seen a lot of "alternative interpretations" from C as I try to guide him through more structured, traditional "learning" tools, and it's really opening my eyes. We've had a bit of a rocky time lately, me and him--with him asking to attend school and me scrambling to reconcile my desire to honor his interests with my own hesitations about the public schooling model. Seeing how my extremely bright child would quickly get hammered down as "wrong" for not fitting the mold has reassured me that my instincts are in many ways the right choice for him. Yes, he could learn to suppress his instincts and play the game by learning how to anticipate the desired answer. Many children do. But what are they compromising in the process? What are they losing?

I'm not sure it's an acceptable loss.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In Which Popular Culture Makes Me Neurotic

I drafted this post eons ago. Well, *months* ago. And then I forgot about it. I was reminded of it as I walked down the stairs this morning without a death-grip on the handrail, and dusted it off. It's still relevant, I think. ;) Here's a little peek into the inner workings of my overthinking...a few of the ways in which media has shaped me into the mildly crazy person I am today. Such as...

I don't think I've watched this movie in its entirety since I was about 9 years old. I know everyone's (or at least us womenfolk) expected to luuuuuuurve it, but it's just never really grabbed me the way it's apparently supposed to have. At any rate, one image has stuck with me throughout my life, and as a result...every time I am pregnant, I become hypervigilant about using the handrail on staircases. Yes, I have this breath-quickening phobia of falling down the stairs and losing the baby. All because of Scarlett Freaking O'Hara.

I've done a lot of pondering on parental guilt and it's a complicated beast...born of our own pasts (both personal and cultural) and fears and more. Every time my kids want me to play with them and I refuse because I have grown-up obligations to take care of and sometimes it really is more important for me to spend my time preparing a meal than pushing around Thomas characters...well, I feel guilty. Whether I cave and play, or stand firm and do grown-up chores, this little voice in the back of my mind whispers things like, "They'll only be this young for a short time" and "what will you regret more in the future: time lost with them, or a dirty house?".

Maybe mothers have always fought this battle, but it seems that modern mothers are far more likely to cave to the playmate role more frequently than our predecessors in previous generations. I think a big part of this is the song that was drilled into my psyche in my formative years (and then reinforced with a cover version right around my advent into adulthood, just in case the message hadn't gotten through). Thanks, Harry Chapin. And Ugly Kid Joe. My battle for emotional balance is SO much harder because of this song.

This little gem screwed me up twice. It's a touching story of the power of love and loyalty. It's also creepy as hell. Seriously, re-read it as an adult...its harsh "way of the world" sensibilities are a bit horrifying. Devote your entire self to another and get rewarded with casual derision and a firey death!

Ahem. Anyway. The story of the sensitive little toy did two things to me. First, as a child, I was neurotically conscious of my stuffed toys and their presumed feelings. Although I secretly felt drawn to favorites, I carefully cycled which toy I slept with every night, lest the others feel jealous or unloved. The fact that I remember this speaks to just how long this process continued.

Now I am all growed up, I suspect that part of my difficulty in purging clutter comes from the lessons taught in this book. No, I don't think that the ratty old teddy bear has feelings. But when I look at items that have outlived their usefulness in our lives, I often have trouble parting with them because of the memory of a time when they were useful, and loved. I get nostalgic for the memory and cannot easily draw a distinction between the memory and the thing. As a result, I have a great number of things in our living and storage areas that really should have been jettisoned long ago.

So there you have it. Apparently I take in just a little bit more than I need to from entertainment.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Which Everything Changes

Sixteen days ago, my family welcomed its youngest member...a little boy, strong and healthy. And this change is changing everything else.

Because I have a newborn (and because I have been recovering from surgery), I have not been as available to my other children. I have not been able (at first) or as willing (later) to go on impromptu outings. My desire to start some more structured homeschool instruction? Back burner, alas. And blogging? Knitting? Sewing? Ha! I cannot plan my day, or commit to others' plans. My house is a disaster, I shower sporadically...ah yes, I remember how this time goes. My older kids are understandably a bit put-out, but I really have to give credit where credit is due. They both, at  only 7 and 5, have shown a great deal of emotional maturity in their patience with the baby and with me, and in their ability to articulate their feelings rather than just acting out. I'm awed...and grateful.

Because I have a newborn, I also have an overabundance of joy. Yes, this little bundle of needs is high-maintenance, but he's also just wonderful. I complain that I can "never put him down" and then the moment he falls asleep in my arms, I find that all I want to do is just gaze at him and nuzzle him and take in that new-baby smell. And the joy is shared and returned with interest. Every time my husband snuggles the little one, I fall in love with him all over again. Every small chore that my stepsons help with gives me faith that teenage boys may not be beyond redemption. (Sarcasm, people...don't get your panties in a bunch.) And ZOMG when T and C sing to their baby heart just about bursts from happiness.

The "wonders" in my life have just increased immeasurably. You just might not hear about them so frequently for a while. And that's as it should be. ♥

Welcome our newest wonder...J.

Friday, August 26, 2011

this moment: a new face

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, August 19, 2011

this moment: summer

{this moment} - A soulemama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Slippery slopes

It's funny, the connections that one can make from seemingly unrelated discussions. I read an interesting article on the usually-sarcastic but sometimes-dead-on website this morning, about some extreme policies in place at various public schools. It's an entertaining read in its own right, and one might think that it would be an excellent springboard for a little homeschooling soapboxing.

The Six Dumbest Things Schools are Doing in the Name of Safety

But I find myself thinking in a different direction, based on this one passage that beautifully nails the idea of the slippery-slope, panic-based, black-and-white-thinking argument:

If allowing children to be photographed playing soccer or doing a drama club performance of Fiddler on the Roof is enough to turn on pedophiles, then we probably just have to accept that fact. The next step is just throwing a tarp over the students any time they're in public for fear that someone nearby is getting aroused.

Throwing a tarp over them? Gee, that sounds familiar. Like, maybe one of my other favored soapboxes: breastfeeding support/awareness/rights...

Are we really so mired in fear that we cannot see this kind of thinking for what it is? Hiding a shameless activity (whether it be children playing or infants eating) because of the possibility that someone, somewhere, is getting perverse pleasure from viewing the event, is to acknowledge that the activity is shameful. It's pure "s/he was asking for it", blame-the-victim mentality. It's offensive and unfair and absurd.

I have an ex-friend who was extremely bold in her negative judgment of many of my actions. You know the kind, someone who will criticize you based on their values, "for your own good". One of her most biting comments was her accusation that by posting images of my pregnant belly on the Internet, I was inviting sexual deviants to use them for nefarious purposes.

Yup. Apparently I was guilty of child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, perversion, you name it...because maybe someone somewhere might see a photo of my swollen abdomen and think, "oh God YES!!!"

Guess what? Their problem, not mine.

There is a line between exhibitionism and fetishism, and people seem increasingly unable to discern it. If I'm posing in a lascivious fashion with a sultry look on my face and obviously revealing clothing...yeah, maybe I am asking for it. But if I'm just sitting on a park bench wearing my flip-flops and someone with a foot fetish gets all hot and bothered at the sight of my naked piggies...that's on them, not on me. And I'm sure as hell not going to shun open-toed shoes--or worse, attack those people who choose to wear them--because of a pretty unlikely "what if?".

Let's stop overthinking these things, could we? Maybe a mother nursing her child is exactly that, and not an exhibitionist. Maybe someone who casually observes her is just a passing pedestrian and not a predator. Maybe someone who takes photographs of children just loves photography. Or that child. If you haven't been following the news from across the pond, it may surprise you to know that there is a push in England to ban all public phototography of children...even your own. Everyone, it seems, is guilty until proven innocent. Oh wait, I haven't seen much in the way of the opportunity to "prove". Just guilty.

A friend of mine was accosted by a neighbor a while back. Her "crime"? She and her daughter were on a walk...part of a homeschool activity...and were taking photographs of various features of their environment: trees, wildflowers, etc. The neighbor saw this young mother and child on a stroll in a residential neighborhood and freaked out that they were *casing the area*.


Have we become so isolated and paranoid that we are instantly suspicious when we see anyone actually out on the streets? Come on, people...broad daylight. "Seen and not heard" is becoming less of a throwback and more of a social expectation, as we allow fear to convince us that everyone is out to get us. This xenophobia is robbing us of community and turning us into a society of individuals. Very frightened, mistrustful individuals.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Green Living is not Clean Living

I'm a treehugger. And I'm frugal. Both of these tendencies mean that I rarely throw anything away. I'm getting better at the actual purging...stuff *does* eventually leave my house. But even so, the collecting of things creates a number of problem areas in my house in the meantime. I know that this is preferable (to my, and my husband's, sensibilities and values) to the alternative of just blindly throwing everything into one general trash receptacle (and therefore landfill), but even so...I'm starting to feel a bit like a hoarder.

For example:

At any given time, there are piles of fabric, reusable shopping bags either thrown on the floor in the pantry (immediately following grocery-unloading) or stuffed into 1-3 master bags and waiting by the front door, to be put back into the van for their next use. And from those times when I've forgotten to take my bags into the store or have run out, I have a large bag in the basement (hanging from my laundry sorter, for reasons that once upon a time probably made sense to me) stuffed with other, recyclable, plastic bags. Eventually these get taken to the grocery store and shoved into the recycle bin there. So, I'm overrun with bags of several varieties.

We garden. Which means that we compost. Which means that there is a large bowl on the kitchen counter for plant-based food scraps. It's ugly. And often smelly. And in particularly hot weather, attracts flies. Lovely addition to our kitchen.

My BIL has a hobby farm and an obscenely large flock of laying hens. He provides us with fresh eggs, which makes him one of my most cherished relatives. :) To encourage his continued generosity, I never throw away egg cartons. Therefore, the top of my fridge is usually buried under stacks of egg cartons, awaiting our next visit with him.

We recycle the usual suspects through our municipal pickup program. This means that we have a number of bins out back by the trash cans, overflowing with various plastics, glass, and metals. This *also* means that we usually have a number of these items sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting for someone to carry them out. So, empty container clutter on counters.

Also picked up by the municipal guys is cardboard. It's amazing how much cardboard we go through. We have a mountain of flattened boxes blocking the bicycle racks in the basement. We often forget (since it's a new addition to the recycling program) to take the cardboard out for the biweekly pickup, so that mountain is often pretty big.

We recycle paper in two ways. Matte paper (coloring book pages, old invoices, newspapers) go into a box near the woodburning stove. Glossy paper (magazines, junk mail) goes into a separate box over by my laundry sorter (apparently my center of operations) to be taken to the Abitibi bin behind the church.

We also *intend* to recycle batteries. Unfortunately, the last two places where I used to take batteries for donation have stopped accepting them. Which means that I have a shelf in the basement overflowing with dead batteries. Also old/scratched/unwanted CDs and DVDs. (I *did* finally close my eyes and pitch all of the old floppy disks, but obviously that still haunts me a bit.)

We have a corner of the basement--okay, TWO corners of the basement--cluttered with outdated and/or broken computer equipment. Apparently this stuff is a no-no to just pitch, but until we figure out how/where to dispose of these things, we are tripping over them.

And that's just the daily stuff. It does not include one-time purges like boxes & bags of outgrown clothing, discarded toys, weeded-out books, and other things destined for donation bins at the library and local charities.

In other words, even when my house is clean, it's cluttered. Because I'm trying to "do right". There are days when I wonder if it would be better to...

Nah. I don't think I could deal with the guilt. I guess I'll deal with the mess.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Apron Monday: Maternity Edition

Hey! Who out there remembers Apron Monday? Where I show off my impressively, impractically large collection of aprons and expound on their various virtues and drawbacks? Yeah, it's been a while. I stopped around the first of the year, when I ran out of current examples. Since then, I *have* acquired a few, but I have neither created any nor blogged the ones that were given to me because I've been a little preoccupied with other things.

Yup. Primarily *that* thing...
But there's one that I must blog PDQ, as the window for opportunity is about to close. And alas, this is going to be a warts-and-all post because despite the fact that I've had this apron for months, it's still not really ready for public sharing. Here, then, is my Maternity Apron.

First off, let me say that I am not interested in any comments from the Peanut Gallery about the shitty look on my face. It was 90+ degrees outside and God-knows how hot in my non-air-conditioned kitchen right in front of my preheated oven. And I'm in my ninth month of pregnancy. I'm uncomfortable. Eff you if you demand a toothpaste ad...sometimes I don't smile.

Next, all of the "this is real life" caveats. Yup, it's an action I'm in front of a messy counter and my apron is covered in cake batter, egg yolk, and most likely some leafy smudge from wiping clean the green beans I had cut for canning earlier. What does this tell you? This apron gets USED.

Okay, now for the "why I haven't blogged this yet" excuses. See the straps? Yeah, they are D-rings. Which are awesome and professional looking. And unfinished. This apron (Simplicity 2390, View D) was lovingly made for me by my mother, who is intimately familiar with my love of, and deep practical need for, aprons. She wanted to have it ready for me to wear while I hosted a party, and delivered it unfinished. I love my mom, but let's be honest here...finishing that after guests had started arriving was not high on my "likely to happen" list. I safety-pinned the tabs that secure the D-rings and put it on.

And it kept falling off. Until I got frustrated and just removed it and went back to one of my bib-style standbys, offending my gifter. Sorry, Mom. I love it. I just couldn't keep it on.

Part of the problem is the D-rings themselves. They're a great option if you have a heavier fabric. But on quilter's cotton, things seem to slip and slide and they just don't hold.

The other problem is the sheer size of this apron. I'll give Simplicity major props for the roominess of the body. This is a smock to be reckoned with. I'm ginormous now and still, nothing binds. However, like most pattern publishers, they are woefully UNskilled at creating garments that actually fit a gravid figure. I have a wide middle but my shoulders are about the same size. This thing could fit over my husband's hockey shoulderpads. (Okay, I don't know that for a I almost feel obligated to go test that theory. Almost.)

Rather than trying to sew this darling into something fitting, I kludged it. The straps, which should hang straight over my shoulders, are crisscrossed in the back. The strap ends, which should tuck nicely through the D-rings, are knotted around them. And yes, the D-rings themselves are still tacked on with safety pins. It's "done" enough for me. And seeing how I have three more weeks of pregnancy, I don't see this getting formally completed anytime soon. Or ever. (Sorry, Mom!)

The crisscross totally messes up the drape in the back,'s less of a lovely garment and more of a "look, she has some fabric haphazardly wrapped around her." Alas.

Now that I've admitted all of that, I will say some nice things about it. And maybe someday my mother will speak to me again.

1. This was made for me by my Mom. That's enough to get it high ranking in the Love category.

2. The fabric was leftover from my second son's baby quilt (made by my Mom).

I added the egg yolk myself. Tres artistic, no?
The pattern is drawings from the children's book "Guess How Much I Love You", which was the theme of his baby book, etc. Super points for nostalgia and cuteness.

3. It has full coverage. FULL coverage. Boy, if I thought that was necessary before, pregnancy has made it infinitely more so. I have an even worse case of general clumsiness, plus with this new acreage out front, less of my spills make it to the floor. No wonder this thing is filthy.

4. Giant pockets. Which, honestly, I haven't used as much as I assumed I would...but it's still nice knowing that they're there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What He Said.

An education is not just a technical training in the arcane knowledge of a discipline (whether that be history, politics or a science). It is a training in how to think and evaluate, how to marshal evidence for and against a position, how to approach a problem critically without falling prey to prejudice and preconception. Those are skills that everyone from bank manager to politician, journalist to local government functionary, needs every working day. But to train those skills, it is necessary to excite an interest. And somewhere along the line between primary school and university, we are managing to stamp out that sense of excitement and enquiry. We will rue the day we lost sight of that.

--Robin Dunbar, “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

No Easy Feat

I'm going to have a baby soon. Exactly six weeks from today, in fact. I know the date because I am having a scheduled C-section. After years of equal parts hope and stubbornness, fueled in no small part by a good dose of highly judgmental brainwashing ("Surgical deliveries are for the weak and fearful!" chanted our prenatal instructor), I have finally, finally come to peace with it. The details are not important for this little essay...just suffice it to say that it's not going to happen the natural way. I tried myself halfway to death once, and really valiantly a second time, and now I realize (in my heart as well as my head) that "it is what it is". Yes, I would prefer an alternate reality but this is the one I have and I'm through beating myself up and second-guessing and over-researching and questioning what certainly *must* be a misdiagnosis, because damn it, I am too strong/smart/tough to have this happen to me...

(And incidentally: Your commitment and confidence and education and OMG level of fear have no bearing on what is just physically Not Possible. A story in today's LA Times Online discusses the subject of the planned C-section and cuts right to the heart of the matter where judgment is concerned: "...the idea that if only you were permitted to try, you would succeed." This narrow-minded optimism can be deeply damaging to mothers who labor and cannot deliver. In many--perhaps most--cases, repeat C-sections have nothing at all to do with attitude. It's time we stopped pressuring ourselves to measure our worth as women and mothers based on our success or failure at a very difficult and full-of-uncontrollable-variables event.)

That said, I would really appreciate a little sympathy. Not "poor baby" coddling, mind you...but some acknowledgement that I am not "taking the easy way out". That I am not making an uninformed choice or being pushed into something unnatural by The Establishment. But mostly, I am tired of encountering the attitude from others that what I'm about to go through is no big deal.

You know what? It is a VERY big deal.

I've been through this surgery twice now (unplanned, following two vastly different trials of labor) and I am not going to sugarcoat it. It is horrific. Especially for someone who previously requested to be knocked out for minor outpatient procedures (I'm sorry, if I can *hear* what's going on, I can imagine all sorts of pain for myself and it freaks me right the hell out) go through something as violently invasive as major abdominal surgery while you are completely awake and aware is no fun.

Then comes the recovery period, which is by no stretch of the imagination "easy". Not only do you get the full host of typical postpartum unpleasantness, but oh yeah, um, let's refer back to *abdominal surgery*. You have a newborn to care for, sometimes a house full of other family members who need attention and maintenance, and you cannot take a full breath or more than a few shuffle-around-the-house steps without discomfort. Straining against staples (informed by experience, I've begged for flexible sutures and gotten the brush-off) to do simple abdominal-engaging activities like getting in and out of bed or a chair or OMG the potty results in the stabbing pain of, well, literally a handful of tiny little knives. Every cough, sneeze, or (TMI) bowel activity can leave one with the vivid sensation of potentially splitting that incision right open again.

And yet some people--including several who had a front-row seat to my previous birth and postpartum experiences and should have half a clue by now that it's NOT a minor outpatient procedure--have made recent flip comments which indicate some unrealistic assumptions about my recovery time and the speed with which I will be returning to Life As Usual, including social obligations, travel, etc.

Whatever happened to the tradition of a period of confinement? Today's society does not seem to allow for this. Hospital policies and insurance company pressures broom patients who are still dazed, sore, and often incapable of basic self-care. Societal expectations pressure new mothers to resume "normal" life as though nothing has happened. Get back to your full exercise program, get back to work, and for heaven's sake if you aren't fitting into your prepregnancy wardrobe within days, there is something drastically wrong with you, you selfish, lazy wimp.

I need time. Time to drowsily gaze at the baby, yes, but also time to take a deep breath (metaphorical, anyway) and to not fret about taxing my just-been-through-hell body by demanding that it feel, look, and behave as it did immediately before conception. Let's be honest, pregnancy alone is rough on the body...and then cap it off with delivery of any kind...damn it, new mothers deserve a little down-time. A little forgiveness for not being "themselves". And a whole lot more understanding that "bouncing back" doesn't happen on a timetable, and certainly not on someone else's timetable.

I will feel better when I feel better, and not a second before. And what's more, I will apologize to no one--most especially myself--for taking a little time-out to act like someone who's recovering from a pretty major ordeal. Because I will be.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Overthinking Things

If I have one defining quality, I would have to say that it is my lifelong tendency to overthink things. I have a hundred pieces of writing scattered amongst my papers and computer files which I started and then second-guessed myself out of finishing for any number of reasons. I have a million more that never made it out of my head because I wasn't sure where to take them or how. I do more planning and designing than actual crafting. I pre-emptively worry about every potential outcome of many if not most situations. I want things to be *perfect* and often end up shooting myself in the foot by not settling for "good enough". Yes, high standards are laudable...but what's the point of holding oneself to them if you hold yourself back from doing anything?

As my best friend keeps reminding me, perhaps my focus should be on "progress, not perfection". Yeah? Easier said than done. Let me tell you about a few of my current concerns.

1. Even though I've had two successful breastfeeding relationships, I'm spending time pondering whether this third (impending) one (baby arrives next month!) might hit an obstacle that I'm not even sure is possible to exist. That's right: I'm obsessing on an issue which could well be a complete non-issue. It's a complicated question which really would require an endocrinologist to answer to my satisfaction, so I won't get into it here...other than to point out that this obstacle, if it indeed exists, is most likely to only delay the natural process and not derail it. Yeah, worst case scenario is still essentially "inconsequential". And yet, I am investing time trying to understand it.

2. I have spent the better part of the past three weeks researching, planning, surfing, asking, calculating, testing, knitting, and frogging a pair of knit slippers that should reasonably have taken 2-3 days to complete. Above-referenced Best Friend is going to verbally abuse me when I admit this, but I have now made 4 slippers and am still not satisfied with the fit. I think I may have FINALLY figured out the perfect (see, there's that word again) formula (not universal, alas, but for this yarn/gauge/foot) and am going to task myself to NOT frog the current slipper when it's done--with luck, later today. Godwilling, then I will finally make a matching mate and be done with it. (Poetic justice, by the way, dictates that I will never actually wear these things. LOL)

3. I sewed one of three matching new curtains for my bedroom two weeks ago. I have left the project dormant ever since, because I cannot decide on the most accurate method to compensate for a design challenge (the windows are differing lengths and the curtains have contrast panels...and I want them to look as visually consistent as possible). I have a number of ideas; I just can't seem to pick one and dive in.

4. I've had a pile of pattern pieces (tissue paper, not cut fabric) sitting on the buffet in my dining room for probably a month now, waiting for me to redraft an ill-fitting bodice for fifth time. Yes, it matters. I did three test muslins to find a good fit, then sewed a garment in a fabric with a different ease requirement and it didn't work. Part of me actually has a practical need for this garment (nursing attire), but I'll be honest--most of me is just stubbornly committed (as with the knit slippers) to beat this challenge because I will not let it beat me.

Does it surprise anyone to learn that the one time in my life that I accepted a prescription for psych meds, they were to control OCD?


The optimist in me would like to point out that in all of these cases, my search for answers has invariably expanded my knowledge and understanding of a number of topics, processes, and techniques. I've learned a handful of methods for knitting heel turns in toe-up socks, a counterintuitive but so superior starting point for altering commercial sewing patterns, and a boatload of cool biology. For the autodidact in me, it's hard to discount that kind of "win". All the same, there are times when I wish I could step outside of my need to understand the "how and why" of everything and just go for that progress instead of bogging myself down in so many stalled projects at once...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

When the 5-year-old asks to make something "new" for breakfast, a mother may well be tempted to ask an eye-rolling, battle-experienced, sarcastic, "What could possibly go wrong?"


Surprisingly little, actually. What can I say, the kid likes fruit.

He *was* a little bummed when I reminded him that we (mostly he!) had eaten all of the cantaloupe last night. And he couldn't understand why I was perfectly happy to donate black raspberries from our garden but not zucchini. So I micromanaged just a little. But mostly, I just played sous chef and let him run the show.

Thanks, C, for a great meal and an even better memory. ♥

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kid crafts

While I busy myself with knitting, sewing, cooking, and other tangible creative endeavors, let's not forget that the children have their own artistic outlets. Here are a few of their more recent projects.

C made a treat for us, all on his own.
The inspiration, from one of our many kids' cookbooks.

We don't buy technicolor, sugar-frosted cereal. Ever. I made an exception for this project.
The kids were so awed that they insisted that I photograph the "leftovers"
so they could remember this rare moment. ;)

More of a science experiment than a craft,
but I threw it in here because T did this on his own.
I was only involved in witnessing the results. Yay upcyling, and yay science!
Coloring on fabric, to make flags for their "clubhouse" (tent in living room)
I'll actually revisit this once my fabric-coloring project is complete...
we all had fun with this one!
A paper box, conceived and executed by T.
Paper-bag Pinatas!
Yes, I ran to the store way too late in the evening to get candy.
What can I say, it was a fun idea!!
Ready to hang...
Camera pooped out for the actual hitting...but yay! Candy!
Apparently it's much more fun to eat after it's been through the pinata. ;)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Backyard Wildlife

It was a mixed bag, for a Monday. We did some TV-watching (DVDs of Marty Stouffer's Wild America), the kids worked on their respective "clubhouses" (note to self: must photograph those!), Mom did some chores. It was late in the afternoon when I decided that we needed to Go Outside And Play in the gorgeous low 70s, light-breeze weather. So despite the fact that we were closing in on the Witching Hour (when I attempt to simultaneously prepare dinner and get cleaned/dressed for a short evening shift at work), we jumped into the car and headed to our closest public park. One with a creek. I figured even if we didn't have much time, we could at least maximize our fun with a little exploration.

It didn't take the kids long to find something. T waded into a deeper area, and C followed a few yards behind. We spotted some large-ish minnows (about 4 inches) darting in between the boys' ankles, seeking shelter, and that tickled us plenty. Then T spotted it: a snakeskin.

He got a branch and fished for it. I tried to catch up from the bank, armed with a bit of cautious parental skepticism. After all, this is a public park and I could think of a few unsavory items that might be mistaken as a "snakeskin" by an overly excited young naturalist. But sure enough, he was right.

So we had a little fun speculating, and a little discussion over whether it would be a good souvenir to take home (he eventually decided that I was right; it wouldn't hold up for long). Then C spotted a fish! Yeah, we know...we saw the fish. No, he insisted...look at the big silver fish!

Um...look at what's holding that fish.

We'd found the snake. It was really gorgeous. I don't know enough about local reptiles to have identified it, and perhaps I will soon from these photos, but I figured it would be just as well to post the story with its name still a mystery. It was about 4 feet long, and the fish it had caught was about 6 inches long. Very impressive for this shallow, narrow waterway. It spent some time holding the still-struggling fish above water, but got spooked by our excited shouts and swam around until it found cover.

At which point we noted the time and headed for the car, armed with a really great story to tell Dad over dinner. :)

ETA: I did manage to identify this creature as a Northern Water Snake. Non-venomous. ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

When you grow up.

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life." ~ John Lennon
I grabbed this quote from the Facebook feed of an unschooling group this morning, and my synapses have been happily firing with "yeah, THAT!" recognition ever since. I'm going to attempt to say something halfway coherent on the subject, although I realize that my voice is just joining a chorus in progress: many others have already addressed some of my thoughts in a very articulate manner.

In fact, I've already discussed part of the feelings aroused by this quote in an earlier post. We are accustomed to the idea that one's life goal should be attaining, and defining oneself by, a career. What's more, it's one's obligation to pursue and attain the highest-paying, most widely-approved-of career of which one is capable. If that's where your priorities lie, well...congratulations; you're a successfully-conditioned product of 20th-century society. But it bothers me to think that that's really the bar we're content to set for ourselves. Yes, I have the aptitude necessary to have succeeded in medical school (for a sterotypical example); so does my life-choice of stay-at-home mother mean that I've fallen short of my potential (and am therefore wasting my life)? Should I apologize at class reunions when I admit what I do, and accept the implications of what I don't (egads, perhaps can't? or won't?) do? No thank you; I hold my head high (figuratively, as I have little desire to actually attend class reunions) and embrace what I have chosen and the reasons for which I made my choices. (And I hope that I never lose sight of, or take for granted, the fact that my option to choose this path--this occupation--is a gift.) To fall back on my chosen catchphrase, I would rather my children be the world's most content ditch-diggers than the world's most miserable executives. Not because I value one profession over the other but precisely because I value their peace, happiness, and well-being (and, let's be honest, define them) separately from how they earn a paycheck.

This segues nicely into my next two points, which I will introduce with an anecdote. My 5-year old has a very impressive sense of spatial relations which has prompted a lifelong fascination with and interest in construction. He builds with Legos, Duplos, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Erector sets, and a number of other specialized toys whose trademarked names escape me at the moment. He repurposes items, creates pieces from scratch, draws up plans (not yet technically blueprints, but it's only a matter of time), and many of his creations are machines with moving parts that work. He told me once that he wants to be an inventor when he grows up. My response?

"Honey, you already ARE an inventor. You just don't get paid for it yet."

He loved this answer, and now happily defines himself by his passion. Not by some dream of a "someday" job, but by what he loves to do right now. And why not? I'm a knitter. I'm a seamstress. I'm a chef and a gardener and a childcare provider and a home educator and none of that will ever be declared on a tax return, but if defining oneself by what one does is a valid point of reference, it's far more accurate and telling than my saying, "I am a part-time receptionist." He is an inventor. And a scientist. And a singer. And a comedian. And a philosopher. And more.

The second important point is recognizing the "already" part of my statement to him. We have this ingrained tendency as a species, I think (it really does transcend culture and society and changes over time and geography) to see childhood as a transitional phase...a preparing for "Real" life, which is the role (primarily economic, sigh) filled by an adult. True, children are intially helpless to care for their own physical needs. They're certainly less experienced in navigating difficult social obstacles, they have by virtue of their youth attained less knowledge and fewer practical skills, and they're sexually and emotionally immature. But they ARE people. Not some featureless little lumps of clay waiting to become, or grow, or be made into people at some distant future time. They are people right To attempt to define a child by asking him what career he might pursue a decade or more into the future disrespects the person he is today. A much better--and far more respectful--ice-breaker with a child would be, "What do you enjoy doing?"

But we don't often think to ask adults that, do we? We are far more likely to go for the job description. "Oh, where do you work?", "What does your husband do?" It's no wonder that when faced with a non-working, non-adult, people are often stymied for how to relate to them. My question is: does knowing that information about your adult companions really help you relate to them on any meaningful level? Sure, it might help to establish common ground, but so might questions about hobbies or birthplaces, both of which I'm convinced open up far more enjoyable conversations.

All of this makes for interesting musing, but as with all things, I believe in balance. Don't take away from this the message that I do not value preparing my children with the skills which will enable them to function in their future workplaces. Yes, I want them to be economically self-sufficient and free from worry about their immediate physical needs. I don't want them to be reliant upon others to survive, if they are capable of taking care of themselves. I'm not advocating that they follow their bliss if what makes them happiest is exploiting others, or causing harm to anyone. If you know me, you know how I dislike the restrictions of black-and-white thinking. Yes, of course I want them to do well for themselves as members of a wage-earning society.

But all that aside, I value the things that I tried to express here. I think that their interests matter today. I think that postponing any personal respect until they're wage-earners is absurd. And I think that "happy" is about the best goal that one can pursue.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Spoiling the surprise

There are countless decisions in parenting about which people have a tendency to get very judgmental and/or defensive, and I'm about to discuss one of them. Please understand up front that I believe that everyone is entitled to their choices as long as they "do no harm". This wasn't written as a soapbox or a diss or any other blanket statement about what you and yours do. It's just about me.

So. I'm expecting a baby. Between some math calculations, the modern miracle of ultrasound technology, and the unfortunate situation of requiring an undesired but necessary surgical delivery, I not only know roughly when, but specifically when this little one will be emerging into the world. I'm already well-armed with a lot more knowledge than the guesswork afforded my foremothers.

I do not, however, know whether my child has indoor plumbing. An innie or an outie. An X or a Y in that second position. Nor do I want to.

This is my third pregnancy and I have chosen to keep the gender a secret from myself (and therefore everyone) with each one. I'm amused (and sometimes annoyed, as certain people's incredulity can come across as accusatory...why is that?) when people ask why. "Because I like the surprise" doesn't seem to appease some folks. After all, we have the technology to gain this information, so why wouldn't I? It would make planning easier, etc...

With all due respect and a nice pre-emptive "thank you" to those who wonder if they should spend their time making (or their money purchasing) a lovely ruffled dress or an adorable rugged set of mini overalls for my child, it's my choice. Not yours. And it's not my duty or obligation to make decisions based on whether it will please the general public. (Oh yeah, and we will still love gifts after Birth Day, I promise.)

We're so impatient in this society; we want instant gratification at every turn. Between DVRs and microwavable everything and the ubiquitous presence of cellphones (each individual is expected to be reachable at any time--heavens, when we go play outside, or exercise our family rule of not answering phones during dinner, we have gotten some serious backlash from folks who *blame us for worrying them* by not picking up), we seem to be increasingly losing the ability to just WAIT. You'll find out the baby's gender. Just not today. And guess what? The world won't end because there's something that you want that you can't have yet.

Also, I'm pretty sure I won't be color-coding my child. I would have purchased white Onesies and yellow sleepers regardless. And I chose a lovely pale green for the blanket I'm knitting because I like green.

The whole clip is classic; the punchline which applies to this post occurs at 3:55.
And knowing ahead of time really won't affect our decorating (with four children in two rooms already, it's not like there's a nursery to our babies cosleep anyway) or our name choices (despite a "short list", our older children were named well after birth, as many selections that we'd loved in theory just didn't seem to fit that child).

So really, for us, knowing would just be...knowing. And no, there's nothing at all wrong with that. If you want to know the gender of your unborn child, I'm cool with that. And still a little geeked out that it's possible. But not knowing is okay, too.

Let me paint a metaphor for you...if only to amuse myself. I seem to process things best by relating them to other things. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person, but I kick ass at picking apart the symbolism in classic literature (har).

Think of this baby as a Christmas present. I know I'm getting a gift. I can see the wrapping, touch the package, and I know when this gift will be officially presented for me to open and enjoy. So the question is, do I just make guesses about what I think might be inside? Or do I peel back the wrapping and find out?

Although one might naturally presume that the excitement lies in "what you got", I am convinced that what makes the experience so special isn't only the matter of what's inside the package, but the joy which is magnified by delight at the moment of revelation. I had a recent conversation with my sisters-in-law in which two of us admitted to having peeked at hidden Christmas gifts as kids...and both of us had the same reaction. We'd felt terrible. It's not that we disliked the toys or were disappointed, or even that we feared discovery and punishment. It was the fact that when we opened them in front of the family, our surprise was feigned and our delight was diminished. We already knew we were getting the Barbie/bike/ there was no mystery, no moment of fresh surprise to make it even better.

That's kind of how I feel about the baby thing. Yes, I will be super excited to meet this person even if I know more details about what to expect. However, there's something magical about the announcement of "It's a..." that seems to me so much more awe-inspiring and celebratory than simply, "S/he's here".

Interestingly, like the woman in the clip above, I have had to ask for confirmation in each previous delivery, and expect to again. I suspect that doctors are so accustomed to the knowledge being, well, common knowledge, that they don't think to announce the gender at birth anymore.

I know I'm getting a gift. I know on which day it will be "opened". I don't need to know what's inside it. I'm going to save that discovery as a gift to myself. ;)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Love Shirt!

This one was a long time in coming. Other projects were quicker, and less emotionally taxing. This one? This one I had high hopes for. I didn't want another obviously homemade item...I wanted this thing to surprise the hell out of people when I said that I made it. I wanted a real live grownup button-down blouse with precise details. The challenge scared me a little.

Since I've had such a roller coaster time in the past using commercial patterns, I did make a muslin of this first. There was NO way I was going to waste my beautiful polished-cotton fabric (charity sale: woot!) only to end up with something that fit too poorly to ever wear. I made my muslin from a threadbare, paint-stained old bedsheet and whaddya know? It *fit*! I had been preparing myself for a long process of alterations and frankly, all this required was a little extra ease in the upper arms (again, Heredity? You can suck it) and a readjustment of the sash tie position. (Seriously, why would anyone position ties at the natural waistline...for a maternity garment? Do you think I *want* the buttons to gape and expose my used-to-be-a-bellybutton?) I was pretty psyched. And I actually have a muslin I can and will wear...although only for dirty around-the-yard jobs. If our raspberry patch manages to produce this year (we're doubtful--it rained a LOT and the cherries and pears all turned black and fell, sigh), it will be my berry-picking shirt. Hey, it's not like I have a lot of long-sleeved items that fit at the moment. ;)

Okay, enough buildup...check this out!

Oh snap. Hire a 5-year-old photographer, expect focusing issues.
Sigh, at least he got me into the frame...

5-year-old photographer says,
"You get what you pay for!"
Ahem. Okay...let's see if anything survived intact from that session. Ah we go!

Yes I know my pants are too tight. I can't keep up.
They were $4 at the thrift store and I only have 80-some days left; I'm wearing them!
I love this shirt. LOVE it. Even though the photos show a bunch of not-perfect stuff, I don't care. I'm too happy. Look how happy I am!

Yeah, my wedding band doesn't fit either. It's all temporary. ;)
Now for the recap:

What I love:

The color! The fabric! How awesome it looks when it's been properly ironed! My topstitching! The crisp, pointy cuffs! And the matching buttons. Which aren't quite perfect (I seem to lack that little plastic doohickey to hold them stable while wrapping them)

but I. Don't. Care. I freaking love them anyway. Same goes for the collar, which I realize isn't supposed to lie that wide...but when I starched it to stand up it looked and felt weird. So? I have a wide collar. Do I care? No. No, I do not.

What I'm not nuts about:

I swear the bust fit when I made my muslin. Now, not so much. Again, I refer back to the extreme difficulty of making (or hell, buying) maternity clothes that fit. Either they fit on the day you acquire them, or you go too big in anticipation and wear a tent for a while. Sigh.

Also, although I did some crazy precise hand-stitching to attach the collar (seriously, I'm so proud), I kind of crashed and burned when I got to the edge, and you see this.

And finally, there are a few tiny puckers where my sleeve easing was less than perfect. But if you've noticed a trend here, it's that I don't care. Seriously. I could stress over it or I could remember that I'd chosen a different easing method than I'm used to doing because I was concerned about messing up the gorgeous fabric. So, learning curve.

What I've learned:

Hm. Not really too much in the way of new skills, per se...other than the collar attachment and the button facing. This is the first self-faced garment I've done and while it was a little tricky and I had to be very careful about all of my pressing and stitching, it really wasn't all that difficult to learn. And OMG it looks so much better than the faced things I've done. And actually, it's less work now that I think about it, because there's no need for finishing an extra raw edge, or understitching.

Okay, so...Love Hat, Love Booties, Love Shirt. It's small victories that keep me wanting to further improve my skills. Hell no, I'm not perfect. Yet. But I'm getting better, and that feels great.

 ETA: In the haze of pregnancy-brain, I neglected to identify the pattern! It's Simplicity 4704, now out of print.