Monday, January 29, 2007

Itching to Stitch

I worked on some sewing projects over the weekend. Among them was sewing a new wallet for my husband. I'm so proud of the new wallet! I made this wallet tutorial detailing the correct procedure for reproducing this wallet. It took me longer to put the tutorial together than it did for me to sew the thing, even though I ripped out most of my stitches after noticing a vital mistake. Now I'll be able to follow my own directions for a new one when he needs it. I was thinking of making some wallets, purses, totes, etc. to sell at the farmer's market in the spring. We'll see if I manage.

Learning to sew has been interesting and fun. Its been really nice to see that this is a skill for which I seem to have a knack. I like trying to figure out how to make things according to my mental picture of them. Sometimes I can find the patterns that are very close to the end product I'm imagining. Usually though, I have to either alter a regular pattern or create my own.

Last winter my kids picked out purple leopard skin fabric to make into a dog coat. This was important because our dog is the color of dirty snow and blends in a bit too well.

This year for Christmas, I made my niece and nephew on my husband's side each a custom stocking. Both were inspired by stockings I've seen on the web. However, I forgot to take pictures of them. Luckily, my sister-in-law snapped some photos for me. Here they are, Ballerina Stocking and Monster Stocking:

Now Lolly wants a monster stocking. I should have known. She can use the sewing machine but it's usually put away so it doesn't occur to her that she could use it if she asked. (Out of site, out of mind, I guess.) But get out the machine and her eyes light up, a maniacal grin spreads across her face and the fabric scraps pull themselves deeper into their storage bins. She has 50million little projects milling around in her head. I'm almost afraid of setting her loose on the world with the capacity to sew.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Lolly was upset this morning. She was doing a good job at covering it up but I can see she's nearing her upsetment quota -- that mental state at which she can no longer ignore a lingering social problem. Yesterday, a "gang" of 4th grade girls decided they were both the fashion police and the naming authority. The head gang member approached Lolly with some things to discuss.

Lolly doesn't care what she wears. I let her wear whatever she wants as long as it is sufficiently modest, isn't completely full of holes and it's clean. She even ENJOYS thrift store clothes. Except for the time she tried to get me to buy her a wetsuit, it's been fantastic finding her unique things at secondhand stores. She's an unconventional kid and she doesn't follow the laws of fashion because it's just silly to look like everyone else.

I enjoy modest veto authority throughout the year but I try not to push my opinion unless there's a need. If it's simply not my taste, that's not an issue. I do, however, require her to wear a reasonably matching modern-ish outfit whenever it's the first week or school or she's visiting a doctor for the first time. I want her to look presentable for teachers and doctors. Before she or I open our mouths, I want the first impression to be that this is a child who conforms to expectations. A good first impression is always important, even if it’s completely inaccurate. After that, Lolly's quirkiness is more acceptable.

As a girl who isn't into the current definition of "fashion," it didn't bother Lolly when the head of this clique of girls was chatting her up about her enormous blue boots. But when the girl asked Lolly's name, she wanted to know why her mother would name her Lolly. That annoyed her. (I secretly giggled when she told me the story--this has got to be one of the 40 girls in the school named Emily or Ashley.) She said she was ignoring the girl but I could feel it. She could ignore her, but not for much longer. Then she would say something. Let's just say that some of Lolly's comebacks take a while for kids to understand.

Actually, her mother didn't name her Lolly. Her parents named her Lauren. Lauren's mother, who was under the influence of various pain management medications after having Lauren agreed when her husband suggested "Lolly" as a nickname for their newborn. It really stuck.

She'll get over this conversation about her name. She'll continue to ignore this little girl's comments and we'll continue to campaign on the part of greater ignorance. But one day, probably when she's about 14, she'll dramatically declare that her name is Lauren,not Lolly. "Oh, so you want to be a walking cliche?" we'll, say, "That's fine."

And we'll endure several years of attempting to correct ourselves when we address her.

This is somewhat similar to Cassidy's naming dilema. Being our first, we had lots of time to read through baby name books. We selected her name because it was Irish and meant "clever." We knew it was traditionally a boy's name but didn't care because we’d never heard it used before. We thought that she would probably never meet another Cassidy in her life. Then Kathy Lee Gifford had a daughter and, let me say, that ended the whole unique name revolution for our eldest.

There were Kassidys and Cassidies around every corner. We've never called her "Cass." She was nearly out of grade school before her permanent nickname took hold. CaSIDidy became Sid. Most people don't call her Sid though, which is just fine. She was annoyed at her new nickname, initially. But it fit a need that was there. Now she accepts and even likes it. Maybe it's because you can't shout out the name Sid with the same dramatic flare as when you emphasize the different syllables in Cassidy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Easiest Listening

I can't carry a tune. This has been a real dilemma for me in life. Everyone needs a method of expressing themselves artistically. Music can make people feel a range of emotions from inspired and introspective to despondent and depressed. My music is a different story. It doesn't create emotions, per se, but something vaguely similar to mortal pain.

I play no instrument except the one or two songs I've memorized from my electric keyboard's lesson files. I cannot sing, having such a limited range that it's in negative figures. I have, however, learned the fine art that is lip synching. As a kid being short meant that I was always in the front row in choir and nobody was directly in front of me to hear the lack of sound actually emerging from my body.

I can hear unique tunes in my head and imagine them played outloud but I can't get them outside of my head, for the world to hear. It's like those artistic things I envision but have no artistic skill to accomplish. Sometimes I feel frustrated by my complete inability to express myself artistically. I can see or hear things in my head but I can't get them out. It's likely that they only retain their intriguing qualities in my mind and that, once out, I would be disappointed at the physical representations of my introspection. Maybe there's a loose wire in there and perhaps my lack of skill is saving me from myself.

Somehow my kids have managed to have their wiring intact--or at least the artistic expression portion of their wiring. The jury's still out on the rest of the circuitry. They seem to be sufficiently skilled at drawing, writing and playing music to accomplish the expression they desire. Both of them have somehow managed to become first chair in their preferred instruments (though I don't know about Sid this year). This is, of course, beyond my comprehension because it obviously doesn't reflect their devotion to practice. It would be nice if their chair status had been more reflective of their will to practice. That can be a very effective motivator.

Lolly took lessons from a percussion instructor last year. This was partially motivated by some suggestions made by the Davis program instructor who helped her with her mild dyspraxia. Since then she's started playing trumpet in her music class at school. Her percussion instructor had pegged Lolly pretty well, which is something I can't say about most of her life's instructors. She's kinda "unique" in her approach to life but he continued to get her on track undaunted. He taught her a little piano and we found out she could memorize songs very quickly.

Sid plays the trombone. This is her 5th year playing it. Her first instructor said that trombone was a good fit because she had long enough arms to have sufficient reach for all of the notes and she had full enough lips to work the aperature. Now she's in Jazz band at her high school. Last year, she pulled off a stint in the pit for marching band. This had her playing bells, the xylophone and keyboard. Since she can't march (juvenile arthritis) it was the only way she could participate in marching band.

Lolly's music teacher approved of her choice of trumpet which Lolly was desperate to play. I don't think Lolly would have played trombone even if it were the only choice available to her. Thank goodness. I'm not saying she's a clutz or is totally and blissfully unaware of the world around her but I could somehow imagine her accidentally launching the slide into the air and into the head of some kid in front of her.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Bucket and a Brush

I am determined to paint my dining room today. I'm in my painting clothes. I have the paint. We picked a deep red. The adjoining rooms are an herby green and a golden yellow. I may paint over that green but I'll decide once the red is up.

We use that low-odor paint so it's not a big deal to paint even though it's about 4 degrees outside and we can't open windows -- just run the ventilation fans. The only one who notices the smell is the dog. It must be tough to be a dog. She gets blamed for every odd smell but she's the only one who knows what's truly going on in the smell department. Since she can't talk, she's got to take all of the blame. On the occasion of my painting, however, she's the only one who is really bothered and she can't complain.

My father would have a cardiac event at the thought of having his house done up in these colors. In their house, my Apple-a-Day red would have to be called Nitroglycerin Red. I think my mother might like it but they've always picked safe colors. There was the time in the late 80's when they went with a really pale mauve which turned out to be pink. I don't remember actually pointing this out to them, wanting to see them live on the wild side for once. However, in their next house (their current one), they went with a white. I think it was either antique or off.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Irony

I'm procrastinating again.

Embrace Your Inner Geek!

I'm in the middle of beginning to write a book. I've been in the middle of beginning to write books before but I may just complete this one. It's YA sci-fi/fantasy. This is the genre that I tend to read since I find these kinds of books laying around the house, their pages being bookmarked with a spoon, throw pillow, or whatever was on-hand when the kids were done reading. I pick them up and peek through them. So I decided to write with my kids' taste in mind. This one has a feeling of possibility. I've been having fun with the details but I'm still also working on plotting. I'm one of those people who likes to plan everything out in advance. I find that, through planning, I build the sense that a story is realistically spontaneous. Yeah, Alanis, that actually is ironic.

On one of my tangents of wandering around the web for inspiration in building my story's background, I found this interesting book: A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science by Michael C. Schneider. I wonder if my library has it. I try to check there first. We have lots of books and I try to keep their population down (and a few trees intact) by buying only the ones I'm totally enamored by (unless they are yard sale bargains). It wasn't exactly what I needed for my story but the inner geek in me says this looks like a fantastic read.

My family often follows our inner geek now. It began after last year's Family Art Night at Lolly's school where we did a number of activities including family crests. Since I organized the event, I made an example using our family. It had books, art tools, computers, etc.. Once I was done and saw how truly geeky it seemed, I decided to add a motto: Embrace Your Inner Geek! At the end of the evening, it was the one thing I neglected to take down. It was on the wall of the school for a few months before I realized it and took it down, our geekiness laying naked before the world.

Cleaning the Cosmic House

Last year we failed at having a "new" year. We found ourselves in transition mode all year, and not feeling particularly cheery about it. This is not to say that I actually believe that there is such a thing as a "bad" year, bad day, or bad millennium. I discourage my kids from chalking-up a series of seemingly crummy events to a "bad day."

"A day, an hour, a minute -- they're what you make of them, not part of a cosmic conspiracy." I tell my kids as I grit my teeth because I know what they mean when they complain about a bad day.

Instead, I have to assume that bad and good things seem to hang out in groups and descend upon people in clusters because of the expectations of people, not the nature of time. I've read the classicThe Magic of Believing and its modern, scientific equivalent The Luck Factor. These both talk about the nature of luck and the power of the expectations of people. Though I'm convinced in the power of positive thinking, I still have trouble being one of those super-cheery-look-on-the-bright-side types but I'm working on it.

Our traditional way of dealing with the celebration of a New Year is to make everything seem fresh and new. While I still stand-by what I say about labeling time periods as "bad," I believe that when you start on a new road, its length seems to resemble its beginning. As such, for a new year to begin I like to make everything fresh and newish. I root through closets and cupboards and take out stuff that we don't need and try to sort-of organize things. The time between Christmas and New Years is perfect for this because 1) I have slave labor since the kids are out of school and 2) having just received new stuff for Christmas makes it the perfect time to get rid of old stuff.

Last year our house was set upon by a barrage of illnesses resulting in a lackluster holiday. My youngest stayed up well past midnight because she was ill. Nobody went and did anything. We TiVo'ed the ball drop in Times Square, the traditional New Years bread was not broken and we just let things stay as they were -- kind of messy. And we regretted it.

My husband, who was on various medications to maintain his health because of previously aggressive arthritis turned yellow early in the year. The general malaise and nausea accompanying it were a concern. A blood test and ultrasound later revealed that one of his medications was inhibiting his liver's full function giving a similar effect to gallstones. It all turned out okay but he was yellow for a while. Then there was the eye inflammation which was later attributed to his arthritis. However, his opthamologist (now affectionately remembered as the Eye Nazi) decided she needed to see him at least monthly. Then she prodded him about every aspect of his life, however unrelated. She was, in general, rude and didn't seem to think it was connected to his arthritis. After doing a phone referral with another opthamologist/rheumatologist, she had Jason on another medication which drastically lowered his white cell count and did nothing for the inflammation. When Jason was finally fed-up with all of this, he stopped taking the medication and ignored his appointments with the Eye Nazi and it all seemed to right itself on its own.

There was so much more than happened last year. But it needs to be put behind us. We did our traditional New Years celebration. We cleaned house, organized, and planned a proper celebration. We broke the New Years bread (and I am happy to report that I got the penny). We had champagne and sparkling cider.

Just so you know, new year bread is a round loaf of bread baked for this occasion. I don't have a traditional recipe. This year, I used the one on the yeast package.
1. Bread symbolizes sustenance for the new year.
2. It is round to represent eternity (because the circle has no beginning or end)
3. It contains herbs to represent the spice of life.
4. It contains garlic to ward off evil (corny, I know).
5. A shiny penny (I prefer old ones cleaned with vinegar) is placed inside the loaf prior to baking to symbolize abundance. The person receiving this penny in their slice will experience particular abundance.

The loaf is prepared and the penny is placed vertically near the bottom to make it easier to divide the bread without revealing its position. It's baked. Then we determine the number of guests and score the top like slicing a pie so its divided between everyone there -- no leftovers. We present the bread and explain what it contains and what each thing symbolizes. It's sent around the table and each person tears off a piece. Once everyone has a piece, it's time to dig. Nobody gets to eat it until we know the whereabouts of the penny. When the penny is found, that person gets to gloat in their penny victory. Then we eat the bread.

Ok, I've rambled a great deal. I just want to post and state that I plan to be better about not letting life get me down this year. I also plan to post more. Or, as my friend, Dot, has said, I'll resolve the opposite of my intention (since we all break New Year's resolutions anyway). I resolve to refrain from posting. Lets see how that works for me.