Tuesday, May 26, 2009

That's one small library tote for Sara, one giant leap for Mamakind

You have to understand where I'm coming from: My mom? Not a domestic diva. She could sew a button on Dad's pants when under extreme duress, but that was about it. Anything "fancy" -- like hemming pants, let's say? -- required a trip to the tailor on Broad Ripple Avenue. (Who, I swear, is the same first-generation American tailor wearing the same sandals with the same white socks today, just like he did when I was a kid. Ah, consistency.)

So it's not like she taught me the ins & outs of sewing. We didn't have a sewing machine to be sure. And my few encounters with the sewing nazis at Joann's didn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy feeling about taking it up as a new hobby. In fact, even friends and family members that I had observed in action seemed to morph into something a little less than "exuberant" when I watched them put their Singers into action.

Still, I am particular enough, and creative enough, and cheap enough that I decided that I needed to learn how to sew. For real. My sister got me a sewing machine two Christmases ago, and I was very excited about. Then I found excuses (some of them actually valid) not to pull it out. The thing seemed ironic in every way: archaic, yet mechanically beyond my mental grasp; freeing, yet paralyzing; full of potential, yet fruitless without me doing... something.

So one day I threw caution to the wind and pulled it out. I spent an hour just working up the courage to turn the blessed thing on. And then?

Then I jammed it.

My first "project" was to make some placemats for Sara - because if there is one thing I feel strongly about, it is providing my child with seasonally-appropriate placemats. So I cobbled together two of them: a red one for Valentine's Day and a green Snoopy one for St. Patrick's Day. I didn't actually measure, or bother to cut straight lines -- and it showed -- but at the end of the evening I had produced two functional, if not fashionable, seasonal placemats for my three-year-old.

And this is the point in the story where you learn about my tendency to exercise poor judgement while basking in the glow of minor victories. Thinking I had made it over the learning-to-sew hump I decided I could make a simple denim jumper for Sara. The pattern said "VERY EASY," after all. How hard could it be?

Turns out, very hard. At least when you don't know what you're doing. I should have put the fabric back when I realized I didn't understand how much I was supposed to buy (ah, the lure of the fabric.... but that's another post). As luck would have it, that day I happened to meet the only pleasant sewing lady on the north side of Indianapolis*. She didn't snarl at me when I asked her if she could cut fabric for me, and despite my absolute certainty that she would sneer, like all the others before her, when I admitted that I was little more than an amateur she was actually helpful. Helpful!

Too bad she wasn't so helpful as to come back to my house and walk me through that blasted jumper because making it was, shall we say, treacherous. Sara wore it once (yes once!), so the week I spent making it wasn't a complete waste. (But mostly.)

This little reality check slowed me down quite a bit. The sewing machine seemed to mock me from the corner, knowing as well as I did that I really wasn't worthy. It sat, unused, for weeks on end. Eventually Rob took it back to our house where it sat perched atop an old loo gathering dust. At least I felt like I was having the last metaphorical laugh.

But eventually the bug bit again. Sara's doll cradle needed a new matress and I decided that if I couldn't sew something acceptable to a three-year-old then I shouldn't sew anything at all. And so I did. And she loved it.

Stoked by this apparent turning of the tide, I dared to imagine other small projects: Blankets for her baby dolls. Maybe a pillow for the cradle. Maybe...

A tote bag.

And then we took this wonderful trip to the library, and I knew it would happen. Because my kid? She had to have a book bag. A cute one, too.

So I scoured the internets for the perfect (read: simple) pattern, something cute and not too boring but one that wouldn't cast me into a pit of despair like the demon jumper before it. Two weeks later, I found it: The Pink October.

God bless Dianne Hadaway and her site for sharing this pattern -- along with simple, illustrated instructions (and a tutorial on boxed corners!) -- with the masses. After I read through the directions three times, stepped away for a couple of days, read them again, slept on it, had a strong cup of coffee, and read them again, I felt ready.**

Eight hours later?

Sara's library tote. With a pocket! And a coordinating fabric to line it! I lined something! And just to prove that it all was, indeed, meant to be, the child loves it. LOVES. IT. And it fits her books perfectly -- just big enough that it holds her Stella and Clifford books while still being manageable when full.

Ah, sewing machine. I am still not your match. You have settings I can only dream of using and your bobbin still vexes me. But I'm not through with you yet.

I'll be back.

Yes, I know the Dora undershirt is ridiculously small. I'll let you take it up with her next time she insists on wearing it.

*OK technically, Carmel. Which is counter-intuitive but a fact nonetheless.

**This should in no way imply that Dianne's instructions were inadequate, incomplete or poorly written; instead this should absolutely imply that the reader of said instructions (me) was incompetent.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New love

A rainy Saturday with a busy three-year-old is always a crap shoot.


Ours has, so far at least, turned out to be a pretty good one -- thanks in no small part to our (newly renewed) effort to get by on the cheap.

Yes, I sense a new series coming:  Indy On the Cheap

As for my new love?  The new (grossly over-budget, chronically delayed, much maligned) Central Library.  I had never been before today, and I must say I'm sorry I waited so long.  So many possibilities -- I can't wait!  If you are one of the six people left in Central Indiana who hasn't been yet, you should go.  Soon.

Now, off for some fresh-baked cookies & then a snore with the Bear.  More adventures to follow....  puddle jumping will likely be on the agenda.

Happy Rainy Saturday!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Puddle jumpers

In a twist that surprises even me, I have come to realize that the thing I love doing more than anything in the world is taking Sara on a walk in search of puddles. Because really, what is better than a three-year-old in rain gear -- pink & purple kitty-cat rubber boots, purple & pink butterfly slicker -- bobbling down the way looking for the perfect splashing opportunity?

Nothing. Nothing is better.

The surprise on her face and the belly laugh that follows when she jumps into a particularly deep & muddy puddle... nothing is better.

The smell of the honeysuckle that hangs heavy in the humidity and the way she wrinkles her nose when she smells the flowers... nothing is better. Nothing.

The time we spend together, talking about nothing and everything while she connects the dots from one little pool to the next... Right. There is simply nothing better.

Thank you, God, for rain and honeysuckle and pink & purple kitty cat boots, and thank you for giving me this girl who is teaching me about all the best things in life, one puddle at a time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My new goal

Here is my newest goal/aspiration/fantasy:

That the number of undocumented workers rustling around my property cannot be used as a direct measure for my overall happiness.

I'm just saying.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bummer (but I can't help it)

Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist - Michael J. Fox
courtesy ABC

I watched a broadcast last week done by Michael J. Fox that looked at the traits of optimists. Fox considers himself to be a hopeless optimist, and given how he is living his life despite what he is up against, I would have to agree.

It was an interesting and hopeful hour, as you would expect. Fox looked at optimists from NYC to Chicago to Bhutan, featruing dairy farmers and actors and baseball fans and some guy handing out free newspapers to New Yorkers. He listened to their stories and perspectives and then visited with researchers who are trying to determine whether optimism is a choice or a product of genetics.

They seem to lean toward genetics. Which is a bummer, because I tend toward pessimism. (Figures.)

The most interesting thing for me, though, was learning that optimists and pessimists tend to benefit from stimuli that feed their disposition -- in other words, an optimist will perform better if bolstered by positive input prior to a task; the pessimist will perform better if fed negative input prior to a task. The reasoning? Evidently pessimists look for problems not just to seek out the negative, but to prepare solutions to those problems.

Which explains why I can look at any given room at any given time and determine eight different ways my kid can kill herself. OK maybe not kill herself -- but at least do permanent damage. (You think I'm kidding? Think again.)

Anyway, I am a little bummed that I seem to be stuck with a pessimistic outlook on life but it's good to know that my brain is always looking for a way around the roadblocks. Of course now I want to read all of Fox's books, but I don't know how I'll begin to do that given all the other stuff I need to work on. Hmmm. I guess I'll just have to find a way...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Not funny ha-ha

Bodies are funny.

I was looking at the portrait work on a photographer's website today and was suddenly struck by how very odd the human body really is.

It is hard and angled
soft and round.

It is soft and smooth

It is flabby

It is oily

It is always changing.

It is never good enough.

It is the best I've got -- at least in this moment.

Bodies are odd: gangly, bendy, wiggly, bumpy
mysterious: autonomic, reflexive, cyclic
beautiful: in the eye of the beholder.

My body limits me
enables me.

It allows me to see - hear - smell - taste - feel
the world
and then
remember it.

It gives me life
someday will take it away.

No two are alike
and yet
I have just described my body

I hate my body
I love it for giving me a child.

Bodies are funny.
Not funny ha-ha

An amazing mystery.

Perhaps I should take better care of it
learn to love it after all.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I've been thinking about blogging quite a bit lately. Haven't had much to say, I guess.

Here's what else I've been thinking about:

Kitchen tile
Bathroom tile
Range hoods
Kitchen cabinets
(Are you detecting a theme?)

What I'm good at
Day dreaming
Not much else


Never enough sleep

My friends
You (Yes. You.)

Business time
Too tired
(Never enough sleep)

Keeping her alive
Keeping her happy
Sometimes, mutually exclusive endeavors

More space
Our own stuff
Lots of windows
A patio

Outer Banks
Disney (Because... right. It's Disney.)


My broken Tab key
(Keeping her alive)

Dreaming big dreams


Most definitely, you
I miss you
(Yes. You.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Are you real sleepy?

If you are married and tired, you have to see this. Don't ask me how I came upon it. Just watch it.