homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today's Forecast

Partly sunny, 55 degrees. Not bad for early February in Pennsylvania.

First, we shook off a little cabin fever by hanging some laundry on the clothesline.

Yes, I said "we". It started as just me...with the dog running high-speed laps around the yard...but I was soon joined by a 7-year-old boy with a stepladder and a desire to "spend some time talking". So he helped. His idea. How many times can I fall in love with one person?

While we were out, I saw our next door neighbor. I think I've seen her, briefly, twice since Christmas. Sad, I know, but between the crummy weather and our respective hectic schedules, it just hasn't been happening. Anyway, I was dog-wrangling ("No, I do NOT want to go IN!") and she was doing some maintenance on her van and we got to chatting. We moved it inside and sat down with a cuppa tea and had a real live visit. It was much needed, and a really nice detour in my day.

Then I loaded up the kids and the bikes and we went to the park. O Happy Day!

Oh, riddle me this: How can you identify the homeschooling mom at the park?

She's the one using the sidewalk chalk to write practice sentences for her kids.

Is it wrong that I made T read things before I'd continue our game? *evil laugh*

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Big Pink Shirt

Okay, now I'm starting to see why so many sewers (seriously, folks, is it safe to say "seamstresses" even if we aren't tailor-level skilled? I can't help seeing that word and thinking of a damp understreet lair...) give up on the idea of maternity patterns and just start altering off-the-rack items or drafting their own. Part of the problem, true, is both the dearth of maternity patterns, period (Vogue? I'm talking to you!) and the relative lack of attractiveness of the styles that are offered.

Although, in the defense of the pattern industry, the current line of empire-waist blouses is far more flattering than the balloon-stylings of the 1980s. Good Lord, back then if you didn't have a giant lace collar and about 7 yards of fabric, you just weren't maternal. But I digress.

Okay. There aren't many patterns, and most of them are for not-so-stylish clothes. I get that. But there are some simple classics you shouldn't be able to really mess up, right? And some simple rules that should ensure at least a *close to accurate* fit.

Or not.

Once upon a time (8 years ago, during my first pregnancy) I made a sleeveless summer top from McCall's 3940 and loved it.

Flashback! T at 24 weeks gestation.
Then I got a little older, wiser, more experienced at sewing, and (ahem) bigger. I realized that many of the clothes I sewed during that pregnancy failed to fit for the entire time because I'd made them according to size number instead of measurement. It turns out that the "off the rack" size and most pattern sizes are off by a range of at least 2. Silly me! So a 12 in a pattern is an 8 off the rack. See where I'm going with this?

Armed with this knowledge AND a careful set of measurements of my now-larger form AND a mistrust for pattern ease (I've been burned before on the bust thing...see previous post), I identified my size as between two and erred in the favor of the larger. I recreated the pattern *two full sizes up* from the original.

Witness my new shirt, which other than some damn fine construction (which I failed to accurately document as my camera no longer zooms or focuses correctly)...has really nothing to recommend it.

Mom? I left my feet, clad only in clashing socks, so you could comment on them. Come on, you know you're dying to.
So what's wrong with this? It's a big pink maternity shirt. Big deal.

Okay, I will grant that I am going to need something roomy. Each successive pregnancy culminates in a final belly that is freakishly, painfully huge. I could *use* a tent to accomodate what I'll eventually be carrying out front.

But look at the bust ease on this thing.

You have GOT to be kidding me.
Yes, I need some room to move (it's called EASE, and it's *usually* your friend). Yes, I will likely go up a cup size or two. Yes, I may wear this for a few weeks postpartum when I'm freakishly engorged. But look at how MUCH ease!

My X-ray vision powers are legendary.
Holy good gravy...the body of the shirt almost reaches to my elbows! It's a Big. Frickin'. Shirt.

Granted, the shoulders are also too wide, so in retrospect I should have opted for the smaller of my two potential sizes. But even so, if *I* were a pattern designer, I'd consider embracing the A-line. Fit it better at the shoulders/chest, then flare the hem for the belly. Crazy idea?

Yeah crazy like a fox. A pregnant fox who is not shaped like a box. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Maybe it's time to take that leap and start drafting. Somehow I doubt I could do appreciably worse...

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Which My Pants Do Not Fit

It was surreal, how fast it happened. Literally--I wore a pair of my favorite casual pants on Tuesday evening and they fit fine. Fine, I tell you. No pinching at the button, no pulling at the hips. On Saturday morning, I couldn't get the zipper pulled up. How does this happen, I ask you? HOW?

Oh, well, the fact that I'm nearing the end of my first trimester might have something to do with it. Hello, Uterus!

So if there are any readers out there who haven't already heard (Kelly? You may be the only one, as I think most of my other regulars are also friends IRL and/or on Facebook ;) ), I am Expecting. Quite unexpectedly, as luck would have it, but excited and blessed nonetheless. Wow, is this going to shake things up around here!

The adventure for the weekend was wardrobe expansion. I've been slowly accumulating pieces here and there, but as I've been scouring mostly thrift store and clearance racks, most of what I've bought has been suitable for summer wear--when I'll be most in need of it. However, I do still have a few cold months to get through and the super cute capris are *not* going to cut it. So I went to Target and spent far too much on some not-terrific black pants for work (seriously, I thought Target's maternity line was supposed to be awesome? Maybe if you love T-shirts and yoga pants. Which I do, but sometimes I like to leave the house. Aherm.) and spent the rest of the weekend "refashioning".

I used this tutorial from Grosgrain to modify the Tuesday pants into some low-belly maternity wear. And other than having to get used to the feeling of wearing my pants this exposingly-low, I am very happy with the results.

For Mary--and anyone else keeping score at home, this would represent my belly at 13 weeks. ;)
I was so pleased with the results, in fact, that I also did a pair of jeans.

These, I'm not *as* in love with, but they'll do for the interim. The jeans in question were tight and low-rise to begin with, and as you can see by where the band falls on my back...well, that's not my back. If I ever hope to SIT in these things, I'd better be wearing a really long top. Oh well, not bad for my first try...I sacrificed my least-loved jeans first, for practice. I have another pair awaiting transformation but they have a much higher rise and I'm considering trying for a full belly panel on them. Wish me luck!

And speaking of long tops, I made one of those, too.

I really need to clean a backdrop area in my house; this dim hallway is not cutting it.
Again, I'm *mostly* happy with how this turned out. I love the color, although the photo doesn't do it justice at all (light tan with delicate blue and white flowers). But as you can see, there's a problem area. I cannot understand why professional pattern publishers scale their patterns without adjusting proportion. Guess what, Simplicity/Butterick/McCall's? Bigger girls have bigger boobs! I'm going to try to redraft this pattern with some bust darts, but I'm frankly not sure how that would translate into a surplice/crossover. If anyone knows of any handy tips, I'd sure appreciate hearing them! In the meantime, if I make this pattern (Butterick 4201, View D) again, I will use a stretch knit rather than a woven cotton.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Journal Entry/ Homeschool Snapshot, 2/12/11

I found this simple and graceful set of writing prompts on another homeschool mom's blog and am embracing it as a starting point for some guided musing on our journey. I'm not sure yet if I'll try to keep up with this weekly, or just "as needed", but we'll see.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week...

I've been doing some soul-searching and questioning. I'm not sure whether to embrace my current sense of "is this right?" as enlightened and flexible, or to condemn myself for being a hypocrite and a potential quitter. Basically, I'm going through one of those phases where I wonder if our current approach (unschool) is what I really want for us, and this inevitably leads to wondering how strongly held my convictions about homeschooling are, period. I've been here before, and I've cheerleaded friends through this quagmire, but all of that past experience doesn't seem to help much in the here and now. I have a lot more personal thinking to do on this before I can even really feel comfortable discussing it, but let's just say that I feel a little insecure at the moment.

In our homeschool this week...

We spent several days in a row running errands and visiting loved ones, and there was little time spent on intentionally focused "now we will learn" activities. Still, there was plenty of PBS and game-playing and building play. When I saw how C is keeping up easily with T's level of academic work (reading & math), I asked my mother to purchase duplicate copies of the workbooks we've been using. I see no point in holding a learner back simply because of age. We did a lot of reading, and both boys delighted in identifying words and discussing concepts.

We also read an excellent library book: Hey, I'm Reading! by Betty Miles. I am sure I've mentioned that reading is an intense interest for C, and seems to come easily to him. T is curious, but finds the struggle of learning the skills to be intimidating and is easily frustrated. This book is designed to be read to children, and discusses why they are developmentally ready to learn this skill, and then outlines different tactics for improving their skills. My favorite part (and I'll have to paraphrase here, because I don't have the book handy) is the reminder that learning a skill, like growing, takes a long time.

Places we're going and people we're seeing...

Not too many field trips this time of year. We did, however, spend two afternoons with my mother and an afternoon with a friend of mine from high school (who was gracious and entertaining...keeping the boys happy with printouts and craft projects and snacks). They also spent an evening or two with my mother-in-law, and the entire extended in-law side of the family had two parties this week. No playdates this week, or for the past few. I need to get on the phone and fix that, pronto!

My favorite thing this week was...

From a homeschooling perspective, it was a simple moment. T, who hates the work of phonics, spontaneously sounded out a few words in a book that I was reading *to* him this week. I didn't prompt it, I didn't push it...he just did it. On his own. He was so proud of himself when he got it right, and I was so proud of him for putting in the uncomplaininng effort.

What's working/not working for us...

Easy readers and phonics. Working great for C. Backfiring with T. I'm still trying to determine if it's a matter of aptitude/readiness or just interest/motivation with him.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...

I'll refer back to the first topic. The basics of my current ennui are as follows:

1. C is thriving on structured academics. And asking for them. And I'm finding that often, I'm too busy or distracted to answer his questions adequately. I spent all week thinking about ways in which I could illustrate his questions about place value (he's trying to figure out hundreds/thousands/millions, and the proper order for "saying" the numbers once more than one place value is involved), but never got around to *doing* any of it. I feel like I'm failing to meet his needs this week.

2. T loathes structured academics, and resists them. He is absolutely opposed to the idea of "doing school". None of this would be a problem except for my own current sense of discomfort with the unschooling. No, I don't think that we need a curriculum per se, but I do want my child to develop certain skills and his refusal to cooperate with my attempts to teach him is very frustrating for me. As with much of parenting, I find myself second-guessing when to push and when to wait...when to respect his boundaries and when to pull out the tough love. It does not help that I'm such a shades-of-gray, big-picture thinker. I can see the value of both approaches, and I find myself lost in the middle, stuck in indecision. I hope I shake out of this soon, for all of our sakes.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...

It's probably cheating, but I refer to the site that inspired this post...
The Homeschool Chick

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Which the Midwinter Slump is Somewhat Redeemed by a FO

I need to keep reminding myself, on almost a daily basis these days, that I am doing something. Though I feel as though a lot has slipped (housekeeping, socializing, learning, crafting), the truth is that we are making it from one day to the next and I am making progress...even if it's less tangible in finished products than I might like.

It seems natural to fall into kind of a slump this time of year. Especially with crafting, I find that the intense burst of making a lot of things rather quickly in preparation for the holidays leaves me feeling rather burned out once they've passed. I usually tend to knit "mindlessly", at least inasmuch as in I have a pair of needles in my hand if I find the rest of my body idle for any period of time. I knit at social events and at work and in front of the TV. I knit while watching the kids play, and in waiting areas, and any time I get to be a passenger in a car. But post-Christmas? I seem to get easily bored/distracted. I'm just not *feeling* it.

Add to the holiday burnout just the simple fact that the weather is crummy (you can't go out to play in sleet) and the days are short. It's natural to feel tired and uninspired. No wonder this is a terrible time of year for resolutions. Start a running program in spring, when the world reflects the energy you need to embody. Trying to get fired-up for any new venture in the gray, wet, dim? Bleah.

Okay, I'm bumming myself out. The point I was trying to make is that, yeah, I've been pretty *meh* lately. But I seem to be pulling out of it. The kids and I are working hard on this reading hurdle. After a month of largely avoiding it, I'm suddenly making great progress on the current knitting project (baby gift for bestie). A recent windfall resulted in my acquisition of a new sewing first ever that wasn't a hand-me-down in need of some repair...and I'm happily producing things.

There's activity, in other words. Maybe not enough for me to feel validated that I'm not just "wasting" time...but forward momentum nonetheless. The proof? 2011's first Finished Object. May I present to you, T's Nintendo DS case!
Dinosaurs make everything cooler
I used this tutorial from Craftster, with a few modifications. I eliminated the pocket for the extra stylus, opted for a sewn-in wrist strap, and used a magnetic snap for the closure...faster than regular snaps, and strong.

All in all, it was a very easy project with extremely satisfying results. It's a great gift for a wide age range, and either gender. Definite win.