Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm always reminding myself to count my blessings

One of the things I appreciate most about staying home with my kids is being able to be outside so much more. I don't miss being in an office one bit. I cherish the many moments that are nearly magical; it balances out the hum drum in a way that keeps me jazzed. This day was one of those synergistic occasions. We were headed out on a walk with friends. We'd done this walk just two days prior, but on this particular day, the cows and their babies had been moved. So, our kids got to experience heifer motherhood up close and personal. It was pretty amazing, and these tired women (the cows) were fairly easy going, considering that a bunch of rowdy humans came tramping among their newly born sweet young.

The kids, fluctuated in their responses... mesmerized, highly verbal, flat out loud. And still, these cows really didn't mind. It was just something to be there with them. When I was little we read books about farm animals. The cow goes "moo," you know. But it wasn't a part of my every day experience. I am in awe that my kids are growing up, learning about birth and death through farm animals. My six-year old can explain to you that these cows are being raised so that humans can eat their meat, and that they are cared for in a kind way. She doesn't blink an eye in describing this to you. Now, me, the 20-year vegetarian, I still cringe a little. I have a hard time looking at those beautiful big eyes and being just fine with eating that soul. But there you go... diversity. My daughter is fine with the life cycle. I guess what's important to me is that my kids understand that meat doesn't just arrive in the cooler. She gets it, and I didn't necessarily set out to parent this intentionally. It has just evolved over time, and it's such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What I've been up to....

I repainted their room! I wish I'd taken a before and after pic, but of course, I didn't. Getting the paint slapped on the wall is about all I could handle. It was a marathon too. My sweet friend helped, or I would have never gotten it done in a day. I used Sherwin Williams Harmony paint which is no VOC. I was really pleased with it. They said it wouldn't cover as well, but two coats did the trick. The color is mariner. The color choice required quite a bit of negotiation with my daughter. She wanted pink or purple. I told her it was her brother's room too, and that in another year he might not be too into that. Then we went through yellow, orange, green. Finally she agreed on turquoise. I have to tell you that negotiating with my six year old took more time than the actual painting of the room. My daughter calls it their ocean room now, and they both think that they are dolphins sleeping underwater.
This wall hanging is a quilt that was passed on to me by my sister. Long story, but don't you love the vintage print? It's perfect in the room.

The Raggedy Ann and Andy print is from a thrifted book. Brother and sister love.... this room is filled with it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day to You...

On the way to school today, my daughter and I talked about Earth Day. Caring for the environment isn't a new concept in our family, but it was interesting to hear her perspective based on this year's public school experience. (Sometimes this school is environmentally proactive, but I think it's safe to sum up their premise is to "talk the talk" with kids, but "not walk the walk" of diligent environmental stewardship. It's easy to criticize, of course, when really I need to step up to the plate and offer my time to facilitate those changes at the school. I, myself, struggle with my own commitment to least harm versus convenience versus amount in the bank account.)

My daughter had concluded that we better start taking care of our earth because we only get one. I liked that and agreed whole-heartedly. She decided also, that she would like to make a sign when she got home to post at the bottom of our drive asking people not to litter because "it hurts the earth." It was interesting to hear her thought processes about the need for this sign. I think she truly believed that some adults just don't know about this, and that her sign would give them the information they needed to make good choices. Her six year-old logic floored me, because that is, exactly how it should be. But it's not... and I didn't have the heart to tell her that many adults have information and still choose hurtful behaviors. Instead, I'll embrace her enthusiasm and do everything I can to foster her commitment to her planet and optimistic ideals. When she gets home, we'll be making (and posting) a sign.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Turning the corner

Thank you so much for all the sweet supportive emails, comments, and phone calls I got last week. Things shifted quickly once I fessed up. All my other usual coping mechanisms were not working, so I guess I just needed to reach out to others.
We had a really nice weekend. It certainly helped that the weather improved. We just do so much better when we're outside. It was nice to be together as a family without lots of commitments. We did our usual thing... walks, fishing, worked in the garden, checked on the bees, hung out, ate... you know, all the important things.This is a gong garden that we created for kids (and kid-like adults.) Credit for this inspiration goes to my honey. He recycled used tanks, cutting and welding them with a friend to create gongs. He has big plans to make a Japanese style wooden stand to hang them. They actually sound extaordinarily beautiful. I love this new addition to our garden.
I set up a tent for the kids out of an old duckcloth shower curtain. We'll probably need to replace it, but for now it works. The kids had a ball camping out underneath and looking at a stack of new library books. We hauled out a quilt for them to hang out on underneath.

And just finally, I want to share with you what one of my dearest friends emailed to me:

I don't for a second think that your life is without it's ups and downs. It
wouldn't be real if it was. We are all vulnerable. It's part of being human.
It's just harder to accept that instead of being angry with our boss or
frustrated with our co-worker, we are angry or frustrated with our children.
The very being we would easily give our life for is also the recipient of
our anger and frustration, as they are our joy and love. That is the nature
of life and love. Our greatest acheivement is to keep the balance right so
love and joy always out weigh the negatives. It is through these actions
that our children will learn their own coping mechanisms.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some days I just hit the wall...

Lately I have gotten plenty of feedback from friends that our life seems idyllic as presented on this blog. It's not really, and blogs are just a quick blip of any one's day. It's like flipping through a magazine... glossy, tailored, and inspiring. And let's face it, really, who wants to read about hum drum over and over again? I don't, and I don't gain inspiration from reading about other's misery or doldrums. I do, however, think it's important to be authentic. I have about a thousand ups and downs in a day. In fact, since I had kids, that roller coaster ride has increased in it's intensity. I think the difference is, that I don't take all those ups and downs quite as seriously as I did before. It just seems to be a more ordinary occurrence, and therefore, it's "par for the course." You know, the little things... like when I peel my two year old's banana, I'd better do it without breaking it, otherwise this will lead to hysterics that would make the neighbors consider calling D.S.S. I should also mention that thus said two year old eats about five bananas a day, on average, so you do the math. There can be quite a few ups and downs in a day. Do you want to hear all about them? Probably not... and I don't have the time to write about it all.

What I do like to write about is that things that inspire me or the things that I have accomplished. I like to focus on the beautiful things in our life and those that bring me a greater sense of peace and joy. Some days it is a fleeting sense of joy. This week, there have been many more dark moments for me than bright ones. I have been an impatient mommy. I have yelled. I have cried. I have wondered why it is that I think my children are better off at home with me, instead of child care. It was just one of those weeks. But, you know, I will get up tomorrow morning, and put my feet solidly on that hard wood floor. I will pledge to be a more compassionate, patient, loving, present, soulful, joyful mommy. Chances are that for the most part, I will succeed. I laugh at the advice I gave parents previously during the days of my occupation as a child therapist. It was idealistic, a perfectionist's, and lacked the understanding of real life endeavors. I know, now, that ups and downs are as real as it gets. The ideal of perfect parenting is a veneer, but love is as rooted as any plant or tree.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

sewing for my sweet girl

For as long as she'll wear my dresses, I'm going to make them. I derive such joy from creating clothing for her and then seeing her wear my work. I love that she comes to me and says, "mama, can you make me an owl skirt... a dolphin shirt... a dress with flowers and bees?"

This is the Claire pattern by Sandi Henderson in her Portabellopixie line. It was such fun to put together, and contains four different styles within the pattern. This one is a little biased towards serger use. I happen to have my mom's, so I'm lucky. It calls for a rolled hem, but you can substitute a regular hem at the neck, cuffs, and bottom with more work (thus, skipping the serger.)

It also utilizes elastic thread, but don't be deterred. It's easier than it looks. On this pattern, I learned how to gather on my serger... way easier than doing it on a regular machine. There's a peasant top version in this same style, just shorter. That's next on my list for her.

My last little bit of advice would be to figure out length before you put on the gathered ruffle at the bottom. I like her dresses to be short enough that she can run, and this one's a little more restrictive in terms of fullness and length. Otherwise, I'm thrilled with the pattern and will get plenty more use from it as the sizing goes from infant to 8 years.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I finished the quilt in time for her birthday. It's a twin size for her new big girl bunk bed. Actually, truth be told, I didn't actually completely finish it. The binding has yet to be slip stitched. I had counted on doing that during the evenings after I gave it to her, but she's insisted on sleeping under it every night. The picture above is a nice portion of it without the unfinished edges. They may stay that way for a while.
This quilt was made from a pattern called "Turning Twenty" and uses 20 fat quarters for a twin. It is super fast to cut and piece. I choose it because I was short on time, but also because I love how it shows off big chunks of fabric. I've had this pattern for a long time. The backing fabric I've had for an even longer time, waiting for the day when I would use those Alexander Henry fish for my daughter's twin quilt. Seriously, she wasn't even two yet when I bought the fabric.

I always reminisce when I quilt. This time was no exception. Of course, I thought about my daughter and these past six years of being with her. But I found myself thinking back quite a lot to the days of my favorite quilt shop. It was called Piece Gardens, and has since closed it's doors. I know many locals probably grieve that loss. It was the first fabric shop I walked into whose collection of fabrics inspired me to want to create. Sometimes I would go there just to be inspired and purchase nothing at all. It was warm, friendly, and the owner's selection of contemporary fabrics was outstanding. I always felt welcome there with my children. The owner knew my daughter's name before she knew mine. (We eventually became good friends and still are.) She would play with my daughter while I looked at fabric. It was the kind of place where it was just fine to sit down and breastfeed if we needed. I've been to many fabric stores now, and I have to tell you that this kind of shop is not easy to come by.

I'll never forget the first time I saw the Amy Butler line above in her shop. Ginger Bliss. I used some from that collection for our queen size quilt on our bed. I searched far and wide back then to find as many colorways as I could in her line. And, I can remember when it wasn't easy to find Amy Butler prints! The industry has come so far in the past six years, and changed so much. Hmmm.... but I've digressed. My best friends can tell you that I have a tendency to tell very long-winded stories once I get going. Well, the sun has just come out so it's time to unplug, and go play. Enough of these ramblings. Have a wonderful weekend, friends. Here's to more communities with wonderful local quilt shops!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What I'm lovin' today

These new bee boxes in our garden. The kids that came to my daughter's birthday party last weekend had a ball painting them. Doesn't it just make you happy looking at them?

All of the flowers that are blooming in our yard right now. I splurged several years ago with some gift money and bought a hundred daffodil bulbs. I'm so glad I did because now there are at least three hundred blooming. My garden is my sacred place...

Family and friends who are so dear to me and make my life rich. I am incredibly lucky and generously loved . This sweet bee was created for my daughter by our friends. Doesn't that bee seem to being eyeing the flower seeds on the table? At this very moment, I am licking a spoonful of cream cheese frosting left over from this cake. It's perfect with my tea... what?! Don't tell me that you've never eaten the left over frosting! At least I used a spoon instead of my finger this time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A year in the making

This bleeding heart was planted for my sweet girl's birthday, six years ago. A dear friend gave it to her when she was a tiny infant; it blooms every year on her day. How is it possible that she's six years old already, I ask you?! She seems so grown up. It's hard for me to think about six more years racing by. I marvel all the time at her independent spirit, and her sense of self. In the days leading up to her birthday, there were several moments of cuddling between my little/big girl and me. I recounted numerous stories of when she was a baby, although many of these details she knows by heart. I often hear her reciting these stories about herself to others. They have taken on a fable-like quality with occasional extra details. Such is the nature of the story passed down from generation... not written, but told from memory. She chooses each one to tell like she would pick from among some treasured pebbles in her hand.

Giving this sweater to her for her birthday was such a big deal for me. It's funny, by the time I was actually able to slip this gift in, it was the end of a very big day for her. There had already been so much excitement that my gift of hours and hours of labor was nearly brushed aside. She was polite and thanked me, but there was no exclamation of joy on her part. She was exhausted, and frankly, so was I. It was the next day that she found it again. She smoothed it with her hand, held it, and then told me how much she loved it. We talked about how many times she had watched me work on it, and pestered me to hurry up and finish. We also talked about how much she had changed in the past year while this sweater was being made. She insisted on wearing it to school the very next day. It made every stitch and blessed bobble on that sweater worth it.

So here's the pattern should you ever like to give it a try. It was well written, but plenty of work. Maybe it was a little much for this "less-than-expert" knitter to take on. When I bought the pattern, the woman at the shop said that when she chooses new patterns she always likes to challenge herself to learn one new thing. I learned several with this one; at times I felt very stretched by the enormity of my knitting ignorance. Still, I'm proud that I finished it so that she has plenty of room to wear it for a while. One last important little detail is that my mom was the elf that sewed up the seams for me. It wouldn't have been done on time otherwise. (Thanks so much, mom!) Such a special gift in so many ways, and my six year old has begun another year of amazing discoveries, accomplishments, and growth.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

sneak peek

I'm working on a quilt for her 6th birthday which is any day now. Yikes!

And... some dresses and skirts. Won't be checking in much this week, I'm afraid. I'm driven to get it all done, crazy mama, that I am.