Monday, August 31, 2009

No Mojo

I am thinking with the fires stripping the hills beyond us, the smoke wreathing our skies and the heat suppressing my will to move, I am going to take a break from this space. This week is shaping up to be very busy. School is here, but with it comes more work and papers and plans. And I am excited but still tired and hot, so so hot.

This summer has been a crazy wonderful busy time, busier than ever before. I am feeling the end of it and the change in the season that will not truly come for months in this heat soaked part of the world. Hope my mojo comes back well before then.

Until I find some I thought I would link to a few good posts from friends. Last weekend was another gathering of the L.A. (and surrounding area) ladies. Jillian, who just happened to host on her birthday, wrote up a great post here. It was intended to be a sewing night, but power went out due to nearby fires, so we sat in the warm close dark by candle light and chatted. And man, did we chat. We joked that the neighbors were getting an earful due to open windows, it bordered a bit on a "Sex in the City" episode for a few minutes. Girls can be a bit racy when we gather.

Then I just wanted to link to Julia's post about the fires. She gives some very useful links. Intuitively, I know the fires have always happened here, though in a less destructive, more natural way. Now, development and population have shifted these rhythms and as a result people lose home and life. I am praying for them in the midst of this week and its missing mojo.

Catch you back here next week. Like I said, hope I come raring back with lots to say and show and tell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Tired Post

Wow, this week feels like it has been a long one. We are having an exhausting and exhaustive time around here. It started with a nice anniversary and I have to say a big thank you for the lovely wishes sent our way. They made the day feel special, even though it was fairly standard, except for the three movies we sat through.

Sunday feels long gone, by Monday I was slammed at work, Tuesday we had school appointments and paperwork, and then family arrived later in the day from Holland. My lovely cousin Ester and my uncle Bill are here to clear up some paperwork and they made it into a short visit. I am so glad we are part of their trip as I have never had a chance to know this part of my family. It is made extra special by the fact that she is expecting her first child and we have had a great time talking about the joys and challenges of parenthood. And now I can expect to knit for a little one that will actually have need of thick wool sweaters.

As wonderful as it is to have company, it adds into the mix of chaos and I feel myself dragging along a bit, tired and red eyed. I could blame it on the smoke hazing Southern California right now, but more likely it is due to lack of rest. It seems when things get manic, I do too, so I found myself Tuesday rifling through stash fabric and cutting out large pieces to sew into a modified beach blanket. I saw a version on Soulemama, and though I do not own the book, I liked the idea of having a go-to-the-outside blanket.

Just a note :: I do love the fact that there are so many choices in books created by bloggers I follow, but it seems like they are starting to reach a point of saturation. There are so many wonderful ways to create and inspire and share and I appreciate all the efforts made by each writer, but I am finding the projects all start to blur. I have been a little disappointed in some of the books I pre-ordered and did not take the time to find and scan prior to purchase. I have so many books I rarely even open lately, so I have sworn off the accumulation of any more, at least in the craft area. Well, at least for the time being. Until the next big thing comes along. Again.

beach blanket in progress
Anyways, back to the blanket. Simple large rectangles, 33 by 18, sewn into a larger rectangle and yet to be joined to a backing as I have to go find a thrifted sheet or something. I took it today because I like the way it looks and wanted to use it ASAP. It seems I have no compunction against using a half finished sewn object in public. And it worked just fine for now. And it will likely languish with the other half finished projects until I can get some sleep, some centering and some way to organize all these projects that I keep starting and forgetting to complete.

The great thing about the week has been beach trips (even though today there was frightening boiling surf at Laguna) and family dinners and getting re-acquainted with the school director who happens to know my parents. Which brings this rambling post back to the thing present in my mind...
unlimited sand play

School! Next week it starts and it dawned on me that when we drop them off, they will stay there for three hours and we will come home and and and...have three hours to do stuff. Tim can work on his wood shop, I can craft (and clean, yeah right). We could nap (sure 930 is a little early, but whatever). I am aiming at leaving their school days open so I can work in the class room as needed, but non-work days will be wide open. Wow. Feeling a little floored by this realization.
favorite place :: the curb

And more than a little excited. But also very very tired. G'night, all.
car nap
I have to go do some of this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seis Anos

I know it is unabashedly sentimental, but I have to do it. It is important to me that I put these things down because everyday life does not always allow me to express these sentiments, these thoughts, this love. I think we have to foster love as we grow and as we go. It helps me remember and I hope it makes him feel good (he reads my blog when I am not looking, you know).

Thanks for seeing me at 19 and deciding you liked me.

Thanks for hearing me at 21 and moving to NYC to keep us going strong. And for humoring my father’s advice with your cross country route even though your truck broke down on the steepest road ever in the middle of nowhere. And you still made it to me.

Thanks for being there at 23 while I tried to be a big girl and work in the real world.

Thanks for taking me at 25 to Portland to try a new life and agreeing to go home when it did not work out.

Thanks for standing by me at 26 when I fell apart and then waiting while I put myself back together.

Thanks for marrying me at 27 and writing the best wedding vows I have heard to date.

Thanks for journeying with me at 28 to Oz to live in a car for months while playing with a camera. And then figuring out how to get out of Fiji when everything went south.

Thanks for trusting me at 29 when I thought we should buy my parents house with them in it.

Thanks for getting me pregnant at 30 with the most wonderful people I have met under the age of three. And for not freaking out when you heard there was two.

Thanks for standing by me at 32 when I fell apart again, and waiting patiently for me to come back, always calm on the outside, reassuring me I could do it.

How can I thank you enough for living this life with me, tolerating the things I do and do not? 14 years seems like a blur, and though this day marks the date we put the rings on, it feels like we have been there for much much longer. I have known you forever, and only a day. I want to know you forever and add one more day to that.
So, thank you, Tim.

All my love.
Happy Anniversary, MCD.

And for those that are not Tim and reading, the ages are mine. He trails me by a few years. Get 'em young, that is what I say.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kai Shirt :: Almost Complete

The sewing machine is still humming in the background of my life. God, I love sewing. I really wanted to try this pattern from the Heather Ross book I so often gush on.

It is the boy's shirt, a proper button up pocketed one. My boy's own one or two button ups, we run a fairly informal ship around here. I thought if I could manage to sew this pattern, we would have years of button ups in the each a year or so.

I am totally happy to report they are done. Well, nearly done. The want only for actually buttons to button them up. I even have the buttons. But stalled in the finishing due to a lack of place to go that require button up (or button down?) shirts.
kai shirt

I have been working on these piece by piece for over a month. I know the book is called Weekend Sewing, but with the twins and the work and the knits, it just takes me a few more weekends. I have to say it went really smoothly. The pattern is easy to follow, the pieces easy to cut and decipher. I had a rough time with joining the collar on the first shirt, it took three tries of sewing, looking, realizing and ripping. But it finally came together.

I love approaching sewing clothes like a 1000 piece puzzle. I study it a bit, the whole picture, then break it down into bits. The part I liked the best was sewing in the sleeves, it was so satisfying to turn the right side out and recognize the fabric as an actual shirt. And the other fun was the buttonholes. I have made some for a past project but this time I got to make eight. 8!!! (Mace's new favorite number. He counts 1...2....8!!!) If you have a machine that will sew buttonholes for you, do not be afraid. It is easy to do, just read the manual and you will be ready to go. If your machine does not do it automatically, I have no idea what to tell you. It looks like it would be a challenge to do properly (well, for a moderate novice like me that still cannot seam straight all the time).
kai collage

These shirts make me happy. I found the print at Fabric Temptations during my visit to Arcata. Heather Ross is going to start thinking I am her stalker (she used to live up there). It is a cool, almost Hawaiian like print of caravans (that is what the Aussies call RVs) and they are all boy.
kai shirt

Now, only one word of advice. The pattern runs really big. Really big. I made the smallest size (12 months) on the advice of this awesome lady and it still has a bit of room on the boys (now 26 months). Definitely check the fit on your little one before you choose a size.

I am pleasantly discovering that sewing clothes is as much fun as sewing bags and hats and other accessories. More steps, a little bit more ripping, but fun.

Next up though is use of stash fabric (some just donated by Lori Z who is hightailing it back to Canada). It is roughly based off of a few pictures of a project by Soulemama and seems to be coming along just fine. One can always use another blanket to sit on. Especially as a family that is proving to be pretty rough on things.

Happy weekending to you, hope it holds some time for creation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Go, baby, gone.

mace and his hair

Somehow when they took those baby soft curls, it also stripped away the illusion once held that I somehow still had babies. Two boys emerged, proud of their new appearance and unfazed by the change. While I had to sit a bit and bite my lip, holding back a surge that insisted they could not grow up, how could I let them? Not that I could stop them.

pre cut

Owen was born a boy. At 6 months old I understood this feeling, the day he decided to stand up on the edge of the couch unassisted. My dad saw him and called him a toddler, I recall the wild feeling coming up and my snappish reply that he was just a baby, but I realized I could see the boy emerging already. He was taking a stand and this not even metaphorically. I cut his hair at 18 months, collecting curls, sad to see them gone forever as his thick darker hair grew out ruler straight, still silky but without that indescrible baby lightness.

Mace has always been the baby. If I would have delivered natural, he would have been first, nestled in the bowl of my pelvis scratching to get out from the day he could scratch. But they came via incision and Owen was first, pulled into firstborn due to position and size of head. Mace has always been one and a half pounds lighter, his build is slight like his father, and he bruises easier and takes longer to shake it off. And so in my mind he is ascribed baby brother status, though only one minute younger.

I was not truly prepared to meet the boy hidden under that head of wild curls, postponed the haircuts many days over. But also in Owens’s case, I forgot how much boy was hidden behind the too long bangs that obscured his vision. Cutting it seems to have released something, longer sentences and complicated pronunciation, complex play scenarios and even more independence. Or maybe I am just now acknowledging these changes. Forced by an event as inconsequential as a hair cut.
summer eats
summer eats

Mamahood can be so much about loss. Initially, you lose control of your body as it becomes haven to a growing being, foreign until they emerge to become your people. Then you lose your time, any moment you once had to sit and think and shower and brush your teeth consumed by the demands of infancy and helplessness. You may regain some of this lost time, but then comes the slow thorough loss of sanity as the new demands of toddler hood and two-ness march in, an endless flurry of messes and challenges.

But I did not quite expect to feel this loss, the one of the moving away of your child. The way each step towards growth brings a small step away from the comfortable bond that is established when your tiny little one only knows your embrace, not your commands and stern looks. I feel a bit foolish describing it as a loss, but it is the way it feels.

I watch my youngest brother Jon pack for his imminent move to San Francisco today, ready to charge into a city, a new life, his first true taste of independent living. And I feel indescribable panic. Because I remember his birth, his infancy, his toddler days….but only vaguely. And seemingly yesterday. And now he goes. And it makes me know my children will too. I want them too. And yet, that mother heart of mine does not.

All this because of a hair cut.
boy cut
bot cut

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cowl Swap and other Good Things

Sometimes you get lucky. There are times I have a little blog disenchantment, but then something reminds me and pulls me back to the 'why' of the 'do it'. My knitting ladies are a huge part of that. They were my first experience with contact, with making real connections and the community I found has been invaluable. These women are so talented and lovely and able to knit a mean cowl. A really mean cowl.

So, we planned a cowl swap and a baby shower and a good bye.
Cowl Swap/ Baby Shower

They all fell on the same day and it could not have been better. We had the chance to hang out with the coolest kid in the universe and his Mama.

I think Kat is my knitting She is fearless in her design, she walks her design, lives it. I am always a little bit in awe when we meet up, so glad to call her a friend because she is that cool.

And then there is Shannon and Lucy.

She was the baby part of the party. And, bab-eeee. Man, that little girl stole my heart and made my ovaries ache. 75% of my photos featured her because I just could not stop focusing on her. And Shannon is Mama personified. It was so nice to shower her with gifts, all the pieces and fiber and love crafted to give to this little girl. Who has a killer look, all baby doe eyes. I wonder where she might have gotten that from. Shan, you are awesome, seeing you and your baby girl made my heart happy.
Mama and Lucy
Mama and Lucy

The cowls each came out with their own personality, own beauty. It is the first time I have intentionally knit for another (very accomplished) knitter and there were the twinges of fear and panic that she might see my mistakes, but there was also a little bit of envy that she would get the cowl. Whatever it was I knit with, it is soft and plush. And Jillian liked it, so I felt great.
Jillian from Me

It was funny, we all agreed that we fell a little in love with our own creations and wanted our recipient to love it as much. And we all did. Mine, what can I say? Julia knit mine.
Julia Made for Me

If you would have asked me 5 years ago that one day I would know, hang out with and receive a perfectly gorgeous cowl from Julia, I would have jaw dropped. She was the impetus for the swap, but she was also the first blogger I ever read. So it makes my cowl that much sweeter. Thanks, J.
Julia from Kat

Swap if you can, knitters. It serves for such a rush of real knitting love.

And last but not least, there was the good bye. Lori has come fully through her Phd, dissertation completed, job procured near her home in Canada. Which means Lori is leaving us. Oh, Lori, I miss you already.
Lori with Child

She has made a promise to bring back her blog and for this I am grateful. It would be much too much to lose you totally, L. This woman rocks and I only wish I could have had years more to get to know you in person. Just know I know where you live, Lori. And I might be coming your way. Especially if this country does not clear up their confusion regarding the whole health care reform. Go, social medicine.

Whatever you do, you should always have one of these around. Aching ovaries and all.

And you should always have good good friends. Love to you all. Here is the video message from the boys (ignore the kitchen state, that is what happens when you make ganache filled cupcakes).

Cannot wait to do it again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


1. a gathering of people who have been apart
2. the act of coming together again

Morning Misting

There was a full size pool table in our rental cabin but I did not play one game on it. Instead, I watched my boy’s toddler dance to good reggae on its surface and cautioned them not to throw the cue ball at my forehead.

There were three sets of stairs at the 2 neighboring cabins but I did not have to worry about their climbing skills. They finally have those down, taking them with more ease than I. My knees are killing me after 5 days of stair climbing.
The Stuntman

And yet this kid can jump out of a tree like this. He is the daredevil.

We did not go out to any bars or have any quiet drinks. Instead there was an intense dance off on the 70s era shag carpet with the three small ones taking the center at every opportunity. And the bar? I did not sit at it, rather rescued my boys when they trapped themselves in the metal foot rest at its base.

I did play a few rounds of Passoi, the loudest one at the table, ribbing everyone else for their card choices.

I did eat three meals a day, but only cooked one of them. I canoed with the boys in lap and then solo, flipping myself out mid-lake at one point and being rescued by three strong men, all to the frantic cries of Mace in Tim’s lap screaming “Mama Up! Mama Up!”.

I did knit a bit, watch a movie all the way through, and watch naked babies cavort in the sand (Why do boys like to rub sand on their penises? Just curious).

Parenting is such an endeavor, adventure and challenge.
O and I

This weekend I was reminded to lower my voice and not even bother to carry a stick unless it was to throw in the lake for Mishka to fetch. I recalled that I am understood and known. I saw a woman surrender herself to the water, floating in abandoned bliss as her offspring giggled and admired.

Then I waded out with the camera to capture her and hug her.

Our world holds uncertainty and pain, sadness and obligations, loss and gain. But for these days I have sat in my world, surrounded and supported. And remembered we all grow up, take on new roles, rehash old ones, scheme about new ones. Discuss moving to a farm in Canada to live cooperatively.
Shore Art

Sometimes this world delivers. Delivers big time. Not with a slap in the face but with a smile, an embrace, a quiet moment with a baby girl singing with me on the shore, two boys exhausted in deep sleep taking up the better part of a California King size mattress.

Not a romantic vacation getaway. No rest, No quiet. But bliss. Oh yes. Bliss.

Addendum :: I did get a game of pool in after all...last night there, beer in hand, playing against my husband. Made me feel like a school girl. I love pool.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mi Familia

We all have a family. It is part of how we got here. They all look different, some structured in more unique ways. I come from the traditional kind, parents together after many years and many children. 8 to be exact, 5 boys and 3 girls. I fall second in line, the oldest girl, flanked by two brothers. In what might be called anomalous these days, we all like each other, have very little animosity towards each other. We eat dinner together when we can, eschew drama for the most part and find as we are becoming adults we are also becoming really great friends. Sounds a bit boring, right? I assure you it is not, but it is loud. Really really loud.

For the first time in 6 years we are all together, gathered for 3 days in my favorite place on earth. 19 people and all the food and bags and canoes that come with them. Speaking of canoes, we (Tim and I) have been coming here for 14 years and never once have we gotten into the pond by our cabin. Within an hour of total arrival, the canoes were in and the guys were doing laps. Leave it to my family to find a way to add a twist to things.
august 2009 201

Here are the guys.

And here are the girls.

I expect the next few days to hold too little sleep, too much food and drink, lots of games and adventures, some heartfelt confessions and a touch of drama (of the ‘but I wanted fake bacon not real pork’ kind).

august 2009 192
This precious moment brought to you by one of my sons and my big brother. He is a Major that has brought himself and many men back from Iraq whole, so I had not a qualm with this toddler diversion. Mace was begging for more, more, more the whole time.

I don’t wish for more tantalizing soul wrenching family experiences. I fully expect the world to dole that out to me at some point. I am content to let happiness course through my body and our family and this blessed event. It is not often one can be present with 18 others that love you unconditionally, even knowing your deepest ugliest times. And they watch my kids without even asking. It is all win win.

I wish for others that they have a community akin to mine. All it takes is a commitment to unconditional love. It sounds harder than it is, really.
Love you Mama and Dad, Dan and Angie, Alon and Jeanette, Stelly and Amanda and Kayda, Emmy and Michael, Isaac Rick and Jon, Brady, Mason and Owen and

Tim (sorry honey for getting the brunt on my crankies from not enough sleep)(See there is your drama for you).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

So, my version of an existential navel gazing blog post coming up, just to warn you. (Smile from me).

I have been thinking about this blog lately, prompted by reading about some of the happenings at Blogher and then by some of the great bloggers found due to reading about Blogher. The conference has always been somewhat fascinating and scary to contemplate, the thought of all. those. women gathered in one spot. Whew. Awesome and scary all at once.

But back to blogging, me and a place in this world. It feels like lately my blog is an afterthought, skipping from craft to craft, a half look into what life really looks like around here. Sometimes when I read back I feel like the quality of my writing has suffered, not improved, as time has moved forward. The proverbial mama brain everyone claims in those infant months seems sharper and more realistic and in touch than my recent tepid efforts put to page.

I know in part what the 'problem' is, my return to the workforce has changed so much in my life, so very many places inside of me. The line up of posts of 'hand made' things march along, a bit of a disingenuous mask, seeming to say to me 'look at all of this time I have to do things'. In reality, lately, I have not been sleeping enough, not thinking enough, not stopping enough, not really meeting any of my duties well enough.

Working right now is essential but I attend to it like a reluctant teenager at times, avoiding paperwork and delaying appointments. I would like to say I am a good employee but marginally adequate is probably the best description. I can't say I hate working, can't say I love it, I do it because I have to and I am grateful that it is there. But I am finding it saps a lot of things, my creative energy, my time (of course) and my ability to focus. I dedicate time to making things because it enlivens the part of me that needs more than to just walk through days, but that too takes its time. And then I feel guilty, wasting a little bit more energy on that state, energy better used reading the boys a book rather than fretting that I did not.

I think what I am finding is that I have to decide how to make my precious Time work better for me. Managing it all is not getting easier, I find myself feeling more fractured and discombobulated than I did in the infant months. At least then there was a laser focus created by the demands of two infants, simple and easily defined tasks that I could meet. Now, I am all over the place and it is taking its toll. I want to feel more present and connected, less harried and dull.

Last week I got really really sick. Sicker than I have been in years. I think it was the Swine flu, for a few days I was literally bedridden, a little bit delusional and almost unable to care for myself, much less my family. I laid in bed at one point imagining my white blood cells eating the virus (told you I was delusional) and it struck me how very out of sync I am with my body, with my mind, with my Self. I used to meditate, I used to dream about things, I used to be a lot braver. And now I just float. And I am thinking that is not a terribly good thing.

So, I am taking this week to do a few things. I am re-evaluating what I can do to re-engage while balancing what I need to do with what I want to do.

I am deciding how I can fit dreaming and story telling and creating back into my daily life. And how I can use this space to chronicle not only the things I make, but the things I think and need to work on and want to share.

I know there are tools and places and ideas that foster the things I am craving. I am committing to finding and connecting with folks that share the desire to take a life that feels too ordinary and settled and shaking it up a little bit.

I do want change and growth and energy...and I am realizing this place can be more than what it is right now. Here is hoping that taking a fresh perspective on blogging will lead to a few more fresh perspectives in other places.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Silhouette Stitch Shirt :: A Tutorial

I do not know what it is about the boys growing up. It is making me a sentimental mess. First I start by knitting them school vests though school is months away and we are talking two days a week, not college. And now I am making up projects that secure them to my chest, a place they never really took to until recently (ah, the explosion of toddler curiosity and my non-functioning breasts).
Silhouette Stitch Shirt

One thing I have wanted to do since having children was make shadow silhouettes. Really, it seems like one of the real perks of parenting, to freeze on paper the sweet cheeks and perfectly rounded heads and place them in a classic frame. The execution of the shadow silhouette eluded me until recently. After a failed attempt with paper on wall and a flashlight, it dawned on me that a photo would work just as well. Here is a project that developed from my desire to freeze my boys in time. Hope you enjoy it.

Shadow Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
This project takes a few steps but I am beyond pleased with the result. Unabashedly sentimental, but sweet in its own way. It borrows heavily from my favorite book, Alabama Stitch Book.

You will need to gather a few things ::
- T Shirt
- Scrap T shirt (I used one of the boys tiny shirts)
- Tracing paper
- Freezer Paper
- Fabric Paint
- Thread and Needle

Step ONE :: Create silhouette

I took a profile picture of each of the boys then printed it as a 10x10 photo.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Then I traced their outline and TaDa! Instant silhouette. I used the copier at the library to shrink it to tshirt size but I hear tell there is a new fangled machine called a scanner out there. And something called Photoshop you might want to mess around with.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt

Step TWO :: Create Freezer paper template

Now, lay your freezer paper over your outline and trace the image again then cut out the outline carefully preserving curves and hair wisps etc. I use a cutting mat and straight razor to make sure the details stay clean and sharp.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt

:: Prep and Paint Shirt

Lay your freezer paper on you T shirt, centered and straight and iron lightly until paper adheres to shirt.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Apply paint to shirt, making sure to place an extra piece of paper inside the shirt to avoid bleed through of the paint. Let dry.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt

:: Stitch

Cut a piece of scrap t shirt to layer behind your shadow image.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
I used black on red, another nod to sentimentality as it is from one of their small worn shirts. Make sure your scrap is a bit bigger than the silhouette image.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Pin scrap in place behind the painted image.

Use needle and thread to straight stitch around image. Make sure to catch both layers of tshirt in the running stitch. Also make sure to add eyelashes because baby eyelashes are essential in shadow silhouettes.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt

:: Cut and Finish Shirt

Carefully cut through top layer of t shirt and cut away silhouette, leaving a thin bit of painted fabric. Be careful not to cut through backing layer, I make a cut in the center then carefully cut from there.
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Silhouette Stitch Shirt
Turn shirt inside out and cut away excess backing fabric.

And there you have your own way to wear your heart on your sleeve, I mean chest.

Silhouette Stitch Shirt

I have plans to use the silhouettes for some other projects. I recommend you keep an original template just to have forever.

(You may have noticed I had to draw in Mr mace's lips. We cannot dislodge the dot from his mouth for the last few weeks. Well, we can, obviously as we are the ones in charge (guffaw) but the most terrible of whining ensues and I am just not up for it lately. So, I fudged the lips, and you can too. You have my permission. Pick your battles, that is what I say).