Monday, 5 September 2011

Rats!

It would appear that I completely failed to blog every day for the month of September ALREADY.

'Twas a lofty goal, indeed.

Why I'm not so good at gardening OR, An admission of lunacy

I am trying to grow avocado trees. I originally thought I'd just do one, but you really need more than one in order for them to pollinate, right? Also, it's too cold here to leave the plants outdoors and depend on bees to pollinate the trees, so I may have to do it myself with a feather or something.

That's assuming I don't kill them first. I'm not the most green fingered of individuals, but I came across a little tutorial on the web about growing them, and it was so cheerful that it made everything seem so simple.

I love the idea of growing my own food and depending less on the local grocery store throughout the year. I realise that living a subsistence lifestyle isn't glamorous by any means, but doing a bit of grow-your-own can't be bad.

My plans entail getting an allotment and owning chickens. I want to grow a mini orchard and have a fence covered in trailing blackberries and raspberries. If we manage to put up a greenhouse, maybe my avocado trees could live there during the summer.

But in the meantime, they are just avocado pits, skewered on four sides, suspended half in, half out, in a glass of water. My job is to keep the water topped up until the roots start growing and then plant them in a pot-o-dirt. I am going to have to refresh my memory by that point, because the tutorial said something about pinching leaves off in order to force more growth, but that sort of thing makes me nervous and makes me sad for the plant who just grew the leaves in the first place.

It's possible that my anthropomorphising of plants inhibits me from being a good gardener. Cut a tree back? Ack! Pull the weeds? Poor guys.

I think it stems from a science fair project I did as a kid wherein I said nice words to some plants and mean words to others and the insulted plants withered away.

Or maybe not. I can't remember for sure.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I'm not a hoarder. YET.

I've been watching old episodes of Hoarders, and gosh. I can see why the show is so popular; it's the quintessential train-wreck that all at once makes you feel disgusted at other people's houses and pleased as punch about the state of your own house.

I must admit, though, that I can see myself going down the path of hoarding in my old age if I'm not careful. My particular weakness is books. They contain USEFUL information! Or they are lovely stories! Maybe I will read it again someday! It cost a fair amount of money (or, it was really cheap and a GOOD DEAL).

Except, libraries exist for a reason, google is my friend, and I will always have money to buy that book again in the future if I really needed it that much after I got rid of it.

We moved to a bigger house earlier this year, and with it came a lot of storage space. I am trying very hard to prevent that storage space from filling to the rafters with excess stuff.

So now, I am in the midst of sorting through old books, but I do find it difficult. There are lovely picture books that the kids just don't care for any more, but the baby might like them, so I am tempted to keep them. Although I must admit that there are just so MANY books that anyone would be overwhelmed by the quantity and the kids generally are.

Another reason why I find it difficult to get rid of books is because we home educate. I keep thinking we'll need it in the future and if the books go than an EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY will be WASTED.

Again, google is our friend. Libraries are helpful. My kids will not be without opportunities to learn things.

So the show is good for me. It's helping me to gain the impetus to clear up and clear out. I like having cupboards with hardly anything in them. I love it when the garage is tidy and that the attic is only storing seasonal clothing and holiday decorations (aside from my sewing nook, that is).

There is a wonderful freedom to not having so much STUFF. The important things are easier to find, for one thing.

I don't know if I will ever succeed in having a completely pared down life. One of my big dreams is to live without any computers or televisions in my home whatsoever, but it's not realistic; how would I blog?!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Time well spent

I am American, and have been living in England for the past 12 years. For whatever reason, the closest friends I've made while living here (aside from my English husband) are other American women.

And they are both leaving the country by the end of the year. (maybe) (very likely) (sob)

Two years ago, the three of us got pregnant within the same sort of time frame, so now our toddlers are merely weeks apart in age.

Logically, I knew that our time together would be short - I am the only one of the group married to an Englishman and I'm the only one who is a citizen of this country. (yep, I hold dual nationality) Their husbands are here for a specific job, and both of those jobs are coming to an end.

Technically I was the first to move away; our family moved to a town 40 minutes away at the beginning of the year. One of my friends moved a couple of months later, meaning that she now lives an hour away from our house. Getting together with our young families is a challenge.

But yesterday we managed to spend the day together; three mommas, fifteen kids and one on the way! It was the kind of day that you know in your heart won't happen again - an end of summer sunshine, kids playing in the pool, moms lounging on the couches watching the toddlers try to figure out how to play nicely.

These women have become the sisters that I never had, but always longed for. While I am happy for them to move back to our homeland (my family came with me to England, while they have been heartsick for theirs for years now), I wish this world of ours wasn't quite so big.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

In Which I Kill Myself Whilst Wearing Wheels Strapped To My Feet


That is not me. That lady up there is in the process of whipping a team-mate, or is being whipped. Not sure.

And here is where all you readers who have clicked through from a quilting blog go, "Huh? Why am I reading this?"

Well, the main reason is that I'm a dabbler. Two and a half years ago, I started teaching myself how to quilt; I was pregnant with my fourth child and wanted to make quilts for all of 'em. I made a few other things and it was great.

Then I had my baby, and sitting at a sewing machine was not on the agenda. My baby is now 15 months old and I still haven't really gotten back into it, unfortunately. I still sew, but I don't really have the drive to make quilts any more, much to my husband's disappointment! His camo quilt still isn't finished....

So I've moved on to a different hobby that takes up my time and money! Hurray! Only this one is as far removed from quilting as you can possibly imagine - Roller Derby.

I am not a particularly athletic person, really, but roller skating is incredibly fun for me and I've decided that I need to keep fit and active by doing things that I enjoy.

And boy, do I! Last night I went to practice and participated in my first "scrim" - a practice bout. A bout is made up of several "jams" that last 2 minutes each. I was able to play different positions on the team, and even managed a few hits and blocks!

I've only been to 10 practices, and am happy to say that I'm bruised and battered and thoroughly enjoying myself. It seems ridiculous to say that, but I kind of love falling - I have lost my fear of it, and suddenly everything is just fun. I'm also getting fitter, too!

Roller derby is not for the faint of heart, but it can be for everyone - there are young, single ladies on the team; there are women with teenaged kids; there are women with babies at home (or sometimes even at practice!). I probably break the mould of the stereotypical roller derby girl with my four kids and our home schooling lifestyle, but that's cool. It just means that this sport can cross all sorts of social strata.

What I love the most is that women of all body types are able to play together. We use our shapes and sizes to our advantage and get in there to knock people OUT! All that matters is your skill on the skates.

And I'm getting there.....

Monday, 29 August 2011

What have I done?!

So now that I've committed myself to NaBloPoMo for the month of September, it turns out that I have a huge sewing job ahead of me - I am going to be making 250+ bags before the end of October.


HELP

NaBloPoMo, redux. Also, roller derby.

Here we go again! Nearly four years ago, I embarked on a month-long odyssey of writing in this blog every single day. Hopefully I won't choke at the finish line, like last time, but we'll see. I have more children and have more hobbies, so life is totally easier this time around. HA.


Speaking of hobbies, I've decided to fall in love with a little sport called roller derby. Oh yes.


I am not what you would call a "typical" roller derby girl; I am very straight laced, conservative in most of my behaviour and views, religious, tee-totaller in every sense of the word, and can't really see myself becoming totally devoted to the sport like other people are. And yet, aside from these fundamental cultural differences, I love it.


I am not a sporty person - my track and field coach in high school described me as "not particularly talented, but enjoys herself". But I turned 30 this year, and in an effort to stave off morbidity in my declining years, I decided that I need to be physically active.


Raise your hand if you ENJOY exercising. I think you'll find that I just sat on my hands! However, I find that if I am roller skating, or riding bikes, or even taking adult ballet classes, I enjoy it quite a lot. So that's my rule of thumb; if I am going to be physically active, I have to have fun doing it.


I won't be playing any bouts any time soon, but watch this space for more fresh meat roller derby insights. In addition to derby, I am also hoping to get into more sewing and re-fashioning projects. It's going to be a fun month!Link

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Hot in the Summer, Cold in the Winter....

My sewing clubhouse is up and running! I think the reason why it took me so long is:

1) I announced my intentions before actually doing anything about it, thus giving me the warm fuzzy feeling of DOING something when I was only THINKING it. My brain, it is Not Very Observant.

2) I didn't have any pressing sewing projects at the time (other than my abandoned ones, that is), so sewing stuff wasn't foremost on my mind anyway.

3) I wanted the Perfect Sewing Corner, and didn't have the money to make one. So I put it off, and sort of gave up the dream a bit.

But today! Today I was motivated. I think it's because we went to a local allotment open house fete thingy, and after walking past people's plots with their ingenious methods of reusing other items to make a fence, shed, or even a chicken house, I realised that I could do the same in my attic!

There is an old baby changing table up there that was left behind by the previous occupants. Up until this morning, I was using it to store Christmas decorations and such, but after re-jigging some boxes on the shelf above the table, I was able to clear it completely and use it for my sewing machine instead! (I couldn't fit my original sewing table through the attic entrance, which was a shame. I'm not sure what to do with that particular item of furniture now.)

The flooring is not meant for heavy, frequent use, so I decided not to haul a chair up there. (I actually prefer standing to sew anyway) In order to get my machine to a height comfortable for me to use, I grabbed a stack of attic floor tiles that were left in the corner up there and put them on the top of the table. I suppose I could have put them under the legs, but it was already balanced on the wonky flooring and I didn't want to mess with that. I covered those tiles with some cloth, since they have sharp and/or splintery corners.

Add in a makeshift ironing board made from an old sheet cloth covering some batting, balanced on a length of wood and additional lighting in the form of my halogen lamp, and voilà! My own private hideaway that is not very pretty but can be improved slowly over time.



Fabric! Notions! Scraps! Patterns! All organised in clear plastic containers that didn't cost very much!!!




The view from the ladder as you climb in and out of the attic.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Creating Tudor Costumes for Children

I'm not the best at creating tutorials, but I wanted to provide some information that I have gleaned recently in putting together Tudor costumes for my children. There isn't a whole lot of information available on the web about creating period-accurate Tudor costumes, so I hope this bridges the gap a bit for anyone who might need it!

The Tudors were a family that ruled England and Wales from 1485 to 1603. The most famous royals in this family tree are probably King Henry VIII



and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I



I am no expert on Tudor fashion. There are lots of Wikipedia entries and such on these topics, so I did a cursory google search and checked out a few children's library books on the Tudors to get a vague idea of what I wanted.

First of all, I was determined to spend as little money as possible on these costumes. They were required for a visit to a historic house, so the kids could have a hands-on experience with history. Fun! But not something that you want to spend £££ for costuming three children, really.

After digging through my to-be-donated pile (thank goodness I never actually donated those old clothes!) and my stash of fabric, I came up with the following:

3 white shirts
1 pair of black velour trousers
1 plain black skirt
1 patterned black/white/brown skirt
1 heavy off-white tablecloth
1 white pillow case
a length of blue shiny velour fabric
1 black necklace, cheap costume type jewelry
3 feathers

All clothing was in adult sizes.

After looking through my options, I decided to make a fancy costume for my son (a rich Tudor, perhaps a merchant of some kind?) and two plain costumes for my daughters (poor servants). The girls were a bit disappointed when they realised they weren't going to be dressed like Elizabeth I, but after explaining to them that my resources were limited and that they have mounds of frilly, shiny dressing up clothes and their brother didn't have much of anything, they graciously accepted their fate!

I only had a week to put together these costumes, so the descriptions of how I altered the clothing is definitely more for costumes (ie, don't look to closely!) rather than for daily wear. If I were cutting down an adult shirt into a child's size, for instance, I would have cut the sleeves off and re-attached them to a smaller shirt instead of the rough-and-ready method I used!

I also heavily relied on my pinking shears throughout the costume making process, because I wanted to limit the number of hems I had to sew. Definitely don't look too closely....!

=================================================================================

A Rich Tudor Merchant

First things first, the shirt! Of the 3 white shirts in my posession, this shirt was the "fanciest". It has a faint striping to the fabric, and already had ties on the sides to cinch the fabric in the waist. However, it was very, very big on him!



Okay, so to bring the shoulders in more, I used a series of large pleats at the back of the neck:



This helped the shirt have a more "ready to grow into" look rather than a "ready to fall off" look!

Next step was to bring the sleeves in. I don't have any pictures of this process, but if you imagine flipping the shirt inside out and sewing along the inside seam of the sleave and down into the waist, using the original seam as a guideline, you'll get the general idea. I had to tweak this process several times in order to get the best fit for my bean-pole child. The sleeves still ended up being puffy, but that was what I was after.

I cut the sleeves shorter (with the pinking shears), removing the cuffs entirely. I also cut the bottom hem off the shirt to shorten it for him.



This is the final product. I added a bit of elastic around the new "cuffs" of the shirt, to give it a lacy, blousy effect under his jacket. If you'll scroll back up to the picture of Henry VIII, you'll see a peak of white floofy sleeve poking out of his jacket at the cuff.

The trousers-slash-shorts-slash-pantaloons were totally made up by me. I had a vague notion of what I wanted (kind of like these), so I aimed my scissors at my black velour trousers and got to work. In order to make them roughly my son's size, I used a pair of his trousers, folded in half and laid on top of the fabric, in order to cut around them. I used a pretty sneaky short-cut by cutting the shorts out of the trousers but keeping the inside seams intact. Essentially, the crotch of the Tudor trousers is the same as the original track pants. Less sewing! Sweet!

After cutting the Tudor shorts to shape, I decided I wanted a bit more flounce to them so I added a strip of blue velour fabric to each side. This is how they looked pre-sew.



I measured his waist and added elastic around the top and did a bit of jiggery-pokery with some elastic at the bottom. It was a botch job of sewing some narrow elastic into the shorts themselves and then adding a large, slightly baggy hem over the top. Result?



Ta-da! Not as poofy as I would have liked, but hey ho.

The next part of the costume I made was the hat. This turned out better than expected, especially since I messed up on it to begin with! I cut a large circle out of the black velour trousers, and a smaller circle out of the blue velour. Top Tip: Cut the circle MUCH bigger than you think you should. That sucker needs to be floppy! If I could do it again, I would make mine bigger, but I was happy enough with the result. My initial plan was to have a black hat with a blue band around the edge. Unfortunately, I cut a whole out of the blue circle for my son's head that was far, far too big. As the fabric I was using had a slight stretch to it, I didn't want to bother with elastic and just hoped to have a hat small enough to stretch snugly around his noggin. I was forced to add another bit of black inside the too-large blue whole, but all in all it turned out well.

So basically, you have your large circle and brim, sew them right sides together along the curve, flip right side out, and ta-da! One floppy Tudor hat. Whatever they're called.





I later went on to add three feathers from our craft supplies - one black, one dark blue and one light blue - but I don't have a closeup of that.

I was really pleased about the hat and danced around the house celebrating my cleverness. My son was not nearly as happy about it as I was, although he "quite" liked it.

Really, all that is left is the jacket. This aspect I was not quite so thrilled about, because up to now the things I had been making were mostly cut-to-size or throw-together type costume pieces, but the jacket had to be built up from scratch. I didn't have a pattern at all.

My idea was to have a close-fitting jacket that stopped directly at the waist with the puffy, pumpkin sleeves that good old Henry is sporting up there. This tutorial helped me get my head around the idea of a puffed sleeve, so after tracing around on of my son's suit jackets and adjusting the paper pattern slightly after measuring it against him, I went to work.

The jacket was made out of the blue velour fabric, which didn't have much structure. It was nice and soft, and perfect for the floofy trousers or floppy hat, but I felt that it just wouldn't stand up to being a jacket. So, always one to make more work for myself than necessary (remember, these costumes were only for one days' wear), I went to work to line the flipping thing as well! Argh!

I also added a black collar to the back of the jacket, and stuffed a bit of paper inside to make it stand up straight. (no, I don't plan on washing it any time soon!!)

There are no photos of this process, I'm afraid, but the jacket was relatively simple to construct since there weren't any buttons or tricky shoulder pads and collars. The tutorial for the puffy sleeves worked a treat and everything came together well.



Before the sleeves. I was very tempted to leave it at this point, but it just didn't look finished, y'know?



The sleeves were a bit too tight on him; in hindsight, I shouldn't have lined them at all. Ah well! They were meant to be slightly shorter in the wrist, better to showcase his floofy shirt cuffs!



In the end, I had to use a safety pin to keep the jacket from flopping open at the neckline, so I wish I'd done a button. I think it looks pretty awesome, even so!


================================

Poor Tudor Servant Girls

For my girls, they really should have been wearing a kirtle. However, I had a limited amount of fabric to work with, and not enough to make a full-blown dress. So, to make it easier, I made long skirts and a little pseudo-corset out of the same fabric. I even sewed my own eyelets like this! Okay, not just like that, but the same idea. I used the ribbons in the velour trousers I cut up for my son's costume and the skirt I used for my daughter's costume to lace up the corset.

The white shirts were cut down similar to the way I did my son's, although with my smaller daughter, the adult shirt I used had 3/4 length sleeves and they ended up being a perfect length for my daughter's arms. I whacked the collars off both shirts to make them look totally shabby and took the sides in as much as possible.

The skirts were simple to construct and I followed existing seams as much as I could.

The aprons were made out of a pillow case, cut in half with pinking shears!

But the hats! Oh, I do love those hats. They are called coifs and they are so cute. Do have a look at that website I just linked, because it has very good instructions. I wish I could get away with wearing a coif on a daily basis. Modern fashion really needs to bring hat wearing back!



This is when she realises that being a Tudor servant isn't all it's cracked up to be.



"I don't really have to scrub clothes by hand, do I?"



"Work, minions!"


================================

I hope that description (rather than actual tutorial) is helpful in some small way! I am happy to answer any questions you may have, so don't shy away from asking.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Habiba and Alma are together! They are a family!

Directly from the Facebook page, "Worldwide Mothers Support Habiba!", no more than 10 minutes ago:

TOGETHER, EMBRACED AND FREE. little Alma is recovering leaning her head against her mom's breast without separating from her for an instant, as if everything had been a bad dream. Habiba shines with joy, as we have never seen her before. We reassure you everything you have done has been worth it. Alma, Habiba and us we will be eternally grateful for all your support.
Fundación Raices


My kids and I just started bawling, hugging each other, and laughing a little bit, too, when I read this on Facebook.

Thank goodness that baby is back home. Today is a beautiful day.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

Friday, 17 June 2011

Habiba y Alma

It has recently come to my attention that a 15 month old baby in Spain has been forcibly removed from her mother's care because she did not follow the protocols set up in the government-run Mother and Child Home with regards to feeding her child. She refused to stop breastfeeding her toddler, and as a result, her child was taken away from her.

As the mother to a breastfeeding toddler (my baby is now 12 months old, so not far off from baby Alma), I am heartbroken for this family. They have suffered so much, and continue to suffer, and for no reason! The WHO and even the Spanish government have stated that breastfeeding children up until the age of 2 is NECESSARY and HEALTHY, and yet this mother is being penalised for her behaviour in the most horrific way possible.

For those interested, here is a timeline of the recent events:

May 30, 2011. The Minor and Family Institute of Madrid, Spain (IMMF - Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia), dependent of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, separated the child from her mother without explanation or notice, and the mother was evicted from the shelter. The IMMF claims that Habiba’s parenting practices (which included on-cue breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “being affectionate”) were chaotic and harmful to her child. There is no medical report attached to the case worker’s files. The case workers consider Habiba ‘a bit immature’ and with a ‘certain degree of instability’ but no psychological exams have been done to Habiba while in the shelter. Pediatric reports or general medical reports had not been conducted either. This is compatible with the law for protection of minors, that gives IMMF the faculty to remove children without a court order and has a very broad definition of what constitutes a ‘situation of risk’ for a child.

June 1st, 2011. Habiba seeks the help of Fundacion Raices, a Madrid-based human rights advocacy organization that assists immigrants, youth, and families. That same day, Raices contacts Dr. Ibone Olza, a child psychiatrist, writer, professor, researcher, advocate and lactation specialist. Habiba undergoes several medical examinations and Dr. Olza concludes the mother is mentally healthy and has no prior history of mental illness or drug abuse.



June 2nd, 2011. A precautionary measure is presented in Family Court asking that the child is immediately given to her mother, or in it’s defect, that measures are taken to help restore the bond, such as visitation, communication and breastfeeding. The precautionary measure includes medical reports conducted by independent physicians

June 5, 2011. The Ombudsman receives hundreds of letter about the case and decides to investigate it, further issuing a report. The report considers that Habiba’s rights have been respected by the Community of Madrid, but that mother and child have a strong emotional bond and their relationship should be allowed to be as broad as possible.[2]



June 7, 2011. The District Attorney's Office interviews Habiba and announces the DA will contest the decision made by IMMF to separate mother and daughter.[3]

June 14, 2011. Dr. Carmen Pallas, head of the NICU of a hospital in Madrid, Dr. Adolfo Gomez from the University Hospital of Tarragona, and Josefa Aguayo of the Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville, all members of the Breastfeeding Committee of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, issued a statement disputing the IMMF’s position.[4] “The arguments in the report of which we have had access to, not only fail to justify that Habiba’s maternal relationship with her daughter could be harmful, but they actually demonstrate that Alma was perfectly fed, cared for and loved. The decision to separate Alma from Habiba is harmful for both of them.”

June 16, 2011. Ombudsman releases a letter asking for mother and child to be urgently reunited, due to the child’s mental and physical health. [5]

June 16, 2011. Habiba is allowed to see her daughter, with supervision. While visiting. Alma begins rooting for the breast. As she is about to latch, a supervisor energetically yells ‘NO’, preventing Habiba from nursing her baby.


If you would like to do something to help, PLEASE contact your local Spanish embassy. Get in touch with national papers, radio stations, and other news outlets. Join the Facebook group, Worldwide Mothers support Habiba! IMMF Give her baby back.

And, if you are so inclined, please pray.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Sewing Club House

I have a plan. I am going to set up a sewing corner in our attic. It isn't a finished attic, so I'll have to climb the attic ladder to get to it, but the beauty of this idea is that the kids won't ever be able to get into my stuff! AND it won't take up any of our living space! AND our attic is mostly empty and a really good size, too.

We'll have to get an electrician in to put some outlets up there, but for now I'll be using my extra long extension cable.

It's silly to get excited about this, because it certainly isn't anything fancy but it's terribly practical and will allow me to have my own special private area of the house.

There might even be room for my laptop so I can watch iPlayer while I'm up there.

It's pretty much a grown-up version of a club house. Such fun!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Parenting Paths

I'm not big on labelling parenting styles. If you ask me (and I'm going to assume that you did, which is why you are reading this blog in the first place), many, many parents are doing the best they can with the resources they have available. I am one of those parents.

However, if you were to break down my parenting decisions in bullet point format, I suppose much of what I do and how I do it would fall under the umbrella of "attachment parenting". I don't even know exactly what that term means, or if it even applies to older children at all.

When my eldest was born, I didn't have a clue. I was 22 -- practically a baby myself, if the pictures are anything to go by -- and maybe read a book or a couple of websites about parenting. I knew I would do a couple of things:

1. I was going to breastfeed, because I was lazy and cheap (this still applies)
2. I was going to use cloth nappies (only because we had two washing machines at the time, and again, cheap)
3. I was going to be a stay at home mother for as long as possible
4. I would not feed my child junk food AT ALL FOR HER ENTIRE LIFE (yeah, that one really worked out well for us....)

Everything else was a learn-by-the-seat-of-my-pants process. I think back to those early days with my first newborn, and I wish I could take my 23 year old self aside and give her a few pointers. Things like, "if baby is crying when you put her in the buggy, try a sling instead." Or, "change the bedroom furniture around so you feel comfortable co-sleeping; it will work out better than you think."

I wish I could be there for my younger self when I had my second child, and went through a bout of depression as a result of the emergency c-section. I wish I could tell that young mother that she will end up with a home birth someday, and the bleakness and sadness she feels over not being awake for her son's birth will heal.


My fourth baby is one year old now. I feel like I am finally coming to grips with raising a baby. It's EASY now. Like, so easy that I could do it again many times over. I wish I could have a reboot of the past 8 years, but with all the confident baby knowledge I have right now.

But anyway. It doesn't work like that, and we all have to learn as we go along. I've learned that I am more comfortable with using a sling than a buggy, with co-sleeping than cots (at least during the first six months when baby can't roll/crawl!), with baby-led weaning than purees (seriously, it's way easier than spoon-feeding the child), with on-demand feeding than schedules (I can never keep track of when baby last had a feed. Never.), and with cloth rather than disposable nappies (especially now that we have a larger washing machine and a laundry room for storage).

I suppose that list makes me an attachment parent? I don't subscribe to a certain philosophy -- there are no basic tenets that I live by other than the ones my husband and I have deemed right for our own family. This is what we are comfortable doing.

Other families are bound to make different choices, for a variety of different reasons. If what I choose to do with my kids doesn't work for you, watch me as I stand over here completely NOT surprised! You do what works for you, I do what works for me, and look at how nicely our kids play together.

Parents are in the business of raising decent human beings. If the end goal is achieved, the path taken to reach it is completely irrelevent. Just ask my kids! I've done different things with each of them, and amazingly they are all healthy and happy. Life is good like that.

Friday, 3 June 2011

At Least There Were No Flames?

I made a foolish decision earlier this evening and put my foam block for felting projects on top of our tall halogen lamp. I wanted it out of the way so the baby wouldn't grab it and hurt herself on the needle (she was cross with me for not giving it to her while I was working on a felted fairy doll), so put it as high as possible.

Fast forward about four hours, and it was starting to get dark. I'm sitting on the couch with my laptop and decide to turn on the halogen lamp. I had totally forgotten about the foam block up there.

It must have taken a few minutes, but eventually I noticed the air was looking foggy and I smelled something funny. I wasn't cooking anything, and outside smelled fine. The gas fire was off, and I was getting confused when suddenly I remembered the foam on the lamp. EEEEEEK!

The second I removed the foam from the lamp (or rather, what was left of the foam), a horrible chemical smell permeated the room and I was gagging. I had to go outside and even spit the taste of it out of my mouth. Gross.

Unfortunately, the fun didn't end there, because the fumes were still lingering so we set up the fan to blow them out of the room. My husband and I then took the lamp apart, scrubbed all the melted foam off of the internal bits, dried them, and put it back together again. It's now outside, turned on, hopefully burning off any leftover melted foam that we couldn't reach. Maybe it won't stink the house out the next time I turn it on. Even more hopefully, maybe I won't put stuff on the top of the lamp next time, either!!

Sometimes I wonder if I would cope with life without my husband. He helped with every aspect of the clean-up. He is very practical, and while I stupidly positioned to fan to blow the smoke out the front door, he reminded me that the back door was closer and we didn't want the smoke blowing upstairs to the kids' rooms. Duh. He scrubbed most of the gunk off, took the lamp apart and put it back together again, and never once made me feel foolish or complained at this unexpected amount of work at 10pm on a Friday night (yes, we know how to live it up). He's an awesome guy.

He also reminded me that I am never allowed to mention the time he left the toaster on the hotplates while they were still hot, thus melting the toaster.

TWICE.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Today was a busy day - we ended up visiting two different families and we were out of the house from about 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.

The first family we visited have 3 children, 1 cat and 5 kittens, 2 dogs, 2 chickens, 1 guinea pig and 3 goldfish. They live in a village in a converted barn with a very rustic and tumbled-down sort of garden. It is noisy, a bit smelly, and full of every sort of interesting thing you could imagine for a child.

The second family we visited have 3 children and 1 cat (that was in hiding the entire time we were there). They live in a town, in a house that's probably no more than 10 or 15 years old, and their garden is neat and tidy with a trampoline, slide and swingset. They have a 3 televisions and plenty of toys and books and lots of amusements for children.

It is interesting to me to experience such a stark contrast in the way people live in a single day. I wouldn't say that one family is doing things "better" than the other, but they are doing it very differently, to say the least!

I personally enjoy visiting someone's house that is on the messy side of the scale. Number one, it makes me feel more comfortable about the mess that's waiting for me at my own home. Secondly, I feel like my disdain of housework must be more universal than I first imagined, and so can confidently claim that the kids are being raised in a normal household. Normal-ish, at least.

But I like visiting very tidy houses, too. I'm always taking mental notes like "Oh, I like that hand soap," and, "I wonder where she got those wicker baskets," or simply, "How on earth does she keep her house so clean?!" I'm always impressed, and have to wonder what people who live in such neat homes would think of my house. Would they feel comfortable? Would they be silently judging? Or do they think "Whew, my house usually looks like this, too, it's just that most people don't see it because I tidy up before they arrive!"

I think it might be that, for the majority of us. I always clean the house before I have guests, and if I ever get surprised, I can't help but scurry around and straighten up while they are sitting there wanting to have a conversation with me instead. It's silly, really.

Personally, I don't think I'll ever overcome my hoarding tendencies to the point of reaching a completely uncluttered and permanently tidy existence. I was recently unpacking a few boxes of books onto a shelf in the garage, and I just can't get rid of them. I probably won't need them or read them at any point in the near future, but they are BOOKS. They are filled with stories or facts; they have in intrinsic value that I can't quite put my finger on. I am surrounded by books in ever room of the house, sitting on shelves, in plastic boxes, on the floor, on window sills, at the back of the toilet, under pillows, everywhere.

I hope that when someone comes to visit my house, they get the impression of books everywhere. I think that would be a fantastic way to sum up my priorities in life.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bit of this, bit of that

I've been thinking about my blog lately, because I feel regretful over not writing regularly, and also because I struggle to keep a theme going with my blogging. In the beginning, it was just a collection of random thoughts that I managed to blog about from time to time. It veered into parenting and baby stories frequently, with recipes or movie reviews sprinkled in.

Last year, it became a quilting blog, because I was desperate to finish making quilts for my children before the fourth child was born. I obsessively read through other quilting blogs, used their tutorials and entered contests, learned as much as I could, and documented the process here. More or less, anyway! I complained about being pregnant occasionally and annonced the birth of my sweet little baby.

And now, here I am, contemplating what incarnation my blog will take on during this current phase of my life. I consider myself a creative person, but more of a dabbler than a specialist. There are quilters out there that do amazing, awe-inspiring work, but I am content to say that I will probably never be one of them. I do well enough, I learned enough to make a decent quilt that will last for a long time, but I rarely get the chance to do sewing any more, and quilting is just out of the question for the most part.

That's not to say I don't do creative things at all these days. I am slowly chipping away at my hexagons, and have introduced my daughter into the obsession (which is so fun!), but I've also come into the hobby of needle felting, sewn a few things for my kids, and am trying to get back into freelance writing, which is very exciting.

Needle felting is the art of making objects out of dyed wool with a barbed needle.


This mother and baby set is made in the Waldorf doll style, and the baby is just resting in Mother's arms so can be repositioned if needed. (This is for sale in my Etsy shop, in actual fact.)

My kids are really into Super Mario Bros, so I made a felted Mario for my son,


and a felted Princess Peach for one of the girls.


I'm in the process of making some miniature fairy felted dolls for them, to live in a fairy house that is under construction along with some miniature food that I bought on eBay. I used to adore miniatures when I was a child, and the children are really in love with the idea of a tiny fairy world at the moment. Hopefully my fairy dolls will be up to snuff, because the kids weren't particularly enamoured with Princess Peach. Ungrateful swine! :)

My daughter was recently baptised, so I made her a white dress for the special day:

front

back

slightly awkward pose (that's my fault for pretending to be a real photographer)

The dress is made from my wedding dress. Many people have gasped in horror when I say that, but I don't ever plan on wearing it again, so why not? I'm 100% confident that my daughters will think that the dress is hideously out of fashion in 20 years when they want to get married, and I'm not willing to hang onto it for 50 years just in case a future grand-daughter might want it. I did save the bodice to the dress, because someone might want to work it into a dress design someday. That way they have a piece of the dress, but can make it into something that fits in with current fashions.

I'm happy with how the baptism dress turned out. The plan is for each of my daughters to wear it, but with a different sash reflecting their favourite colour/s. The sash was woven from several widths and colours of double-sided satin ribbon. It was just tied around her waist.

I grossly over-estimated the size of the bodice of the dress, so those pleats you see in the back are there out of necessity; I made it far too big and could only take it in on the sides so much. I'm just glad I had those covered buttons to hand so the pleats were dressed up a bit and look planned. The sleeves are cut down versions of my exact sleeves of my wedding dress.

See?


I gotta say, I absolutely love both dresses (my wedding dress, the daughter's baptism dress). I especially love that 4 people will be able to wear it now (I have 3 daughters), and I'm hoping that my grand-daughters will be able to wear it to their baptisms, too.

--------------

As far as regular sewing goes, I'm hoping to set up a sewing area in my attic. I originally intended to use a corner in a downstairs room, but I don't like having my things in an easy-for-kids-to-access location. For a while, I was using my bedroom, but the table ended up as a dumping ground for all sorts of detritous. My goal now is to use the attic. It isn't furnished or anything, but there is plenty of space up there for shelves, a table, extra lighting and maybe even a design wall! I have this little fantasy of pottering around up there in the evenings while the kids snooze below me and my husband plays his computer games in peace. I love the idea of being able to stop mid-way through a project and not have to pack it away in the interim. Bliss!

I've also become a convert to standing and sewing. I didn't have a chair in my room for sewing my daughter's dress, so I emptied a toy box, turned it over and put my sewing machine on top. It's a perfect height for standing, so that's what I do. I really prefer it, because my back and neck don't bother me after sewing for long periods and it's easy for my to move over to the ironing board and back again. At the risk of sounding incredibly lazy, I hated getting up and sitting down between every ironing session! After the first time of standing for 2+ hours sewing one night, my leg muscles felt pretty achy, but the next day I was fine. So when I get my sewing area set up in the attic, it won't include a chair at all!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Babies, babies everywhere

A year ago, I was pretty miserable. That pregnancy was my hardest, for a multitude of reasons, but now that the memories aren't quite so fresh, I'm feeling nastolgic. Isn't that insane? HOW can a person feel nastolgic about full-body swelling, constantly aching joints, 9 months of nausea, and a labour that leaves you sore, bloodied and bruised? But I get a baby afterwards. A yummy, sweet, snuffly little baby that's all MINE.

I had my fourth baby at home, in the middle of the night. The midwives cleaned up and left me sitting in our overstuffed armchair, holding my sleeping 2-hour-old baby and watching the sun come up. I couldn't sleep at that moment. Everything was too perfect.

And now, as if I've woken up from a dream, my brand-new baby has turned into a roly-poly, curly-haired, walking and babbling TODDLER. She doesn't even turn one until next week! I have a hard time comprehending the changes that have taken place. At least with the older kids, some years have more gradual growth, but that first year is almost on par with the metamorphosis of a caterpiller.

I love having so many kids. I feel like my skills have improved greatly over time, and the way I deal with my baby is so much more relaxed and easy going than the way I've dealt with things in the past. If she gets dirty, so what? If she falls over, she'll usually be okay. A little bit of ice cream won't hurt her.

Several friends of mine are either pregnant or have tiny babies. Now that I'm sure that I have this whole baby thing sussed, it doesn't seem like such a big deal to add another.

Remind me of the flaws in this thought process in 10 years or so, when I am inundated with teenagers and have more to come. Who knows, though; it may seem easy to have a teenager, too, when I get to my fourth. It's the first three that I have to worry about.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Has it really been almost 6 months?!

Wow, sorry bloggees! If any of you are still out there, that is.

Life has been very busy and has left me little time/energy to think about blogging. Or sewing, or anything other than trying to catch my breath!

We moved house at the beginning of the year, which was more tumultuous than expected, given that we were told by the letting agency as we were about to drive to the house with a fully loaded van that we couldn't move in, oopsie! They didn't get the gas boiler inspected until the day of move in, and the gas man didn't do a thorough inspection and so failed the boiler. No boiler certificate, no move-in. For several days we scrambled around, trying to fix the situation, and thankfully were able to get in touch with the owners of the house and discovered that the boiler DID pass, so we moved in the next day. Whew. It was a stressful, painful time. I don't recommend it!

However, our new house is LOVELY. I am very happy here. So there's that.

So now we're pretty much totally settled, although the garage is a mess and I still don't have my kitchen and laundry room cupboards organised (at this point I'm not hopeful), and I'm no longer getting PSS-style flashbacks to the move. My sweet baby, who was only born TWO SECONDS AGO, will be one year old in a week and a half. She's my fourth child. I should be expecting this, but no. I am always surprised when their first birthdays roll around.

I call her a baby, but she's technically a toddler now. She walks more than she crawls, she has little temper-tantrums (is it wrong to laugh and go aaawwww when my 11 month old is screaming in frustration over her foiled plans to nom on a doggie toy?), and she's trying to talk. She signs occasionally, but it's pretty clear that she understands more than she's letting on.

This is my favourite age; about 8 months to 18 months, when their personalities really start forming, their language acquisition is increasing almost daily, and they can move around and entertain themselves. They are just so much fun! I think it's even better having a baby/toddler (boddler? taby?) with older siblings around, because she clearly ADORES them and thinks they are SO FUNNY. I am her safety net, but they are definitely her teachers/clowns.

We've been home schooling the kids since we moved, and it's been going well. Better than I'd hoped, but in a different way than I imagined. I still feel like I don't know what I'm doing most of the time, but when I look back on the list of things we've covered and learned, and when I pay attention to the things they come out with, I feel like we're doing okay. For now, at least. There are two schools less than 10 minutes' walk away from our house, so at least we have options, should we need them.

So I've been taking adult ballet classes recently. I've gone maybe 8 times or so? It's definitely outside of my comfort zone (she says, in a forcibly understated tone), since I consider myself the epitome of clumsy and uncoordinated. But hey ho, I went, survived, and kept on going. I am actually improving a bit. I'll never be a dancer, but this doesn't bother me.

Another thing that doesn't bother me is my thirtieth birthday last month. Sometimes I'll stop and think, "Oh yeah, I'm in my thirties now", mentally shrug and move on with my day. I spent so much time in my teens and twenties feeling unsure of myself, unhappy with how I looked or with my relationships with others, and now I think I've turned a corner. I think that I'm more sure of myself. At least more often than a few years ago! Ageing rocks.