Monday, October 28, 2013

Sewing Halloween costumes

There is something vastly pleasurable in the sensation of sewing fleece fabric on a brisk autumn morning.  The fabric is so soft and cozy beneath my fingers, and I smile knowing how warm it will keep my munchkin in the days ahead.  The print is a bit wild, though.  I am sewing a tiger costume for my wee girl.

sewing assistant

Unfortunately, my girls seem to have inherited my procrastination gene.  They only decided last Friday (under duress) what their Halloween costumes will be.  Of course, we cannot buy them.  For one, everything good has been sold out for weeks anyway.  For another, making them is so much more satisfying.  Thankfully, we have three whole days left before the deadline (ha!).

After much debate, our sweet Eleanor decided she wants to be a black bat.  She wants the costume to be as simple as simple can be "because my teacher doesn't like Halloween and I don't want my costume to upset her."  As thoughtful and sensitive as that reasoning is, I couldn't accept it and insisted she at least look at some grander ideas, still on the simple theme.  I want her to like it, not just her teacher.  Luckily for me, her friend was over when I pulled up this bat costume tutorial on MADE, and her friend gleefully proclaimed we had found the perfect costume.  Ellie scaled it back (wearing a hood or sewing shiny material on the inside were out), but then proudly participated in the making.  She helped draw the pattern onto the felt with chalk, cut as carefully as she could and then loved her first experience sitting at the sewing machine with me standing by (rather than her in my lap) as she sewed the detail lines in dark grey.

sewing the costume herself

I added the arm loops and attached bat ears to a headband with a hot glue gun, and voila!  Now, I just need to track down a black long-sleeved shirt and pants for her.  I have two more days, right?

bat costume

Stephanie wants to be a tiger.  Of course, not only are there no tiger costumes to be found, but there are no tiger costume patterns to be found either!  All sold out weeks ago, the sniggering lady at the fabric store assured me.  No matter.  I'm winging it.  I bought some tiger-print fleece from JoAnn's and am sewing a tunic, pants, a hood (similar to the MADE bat hood) and possibly mittens, if I can get it all done in time.  The pants are my favorite basic pant from Happy Handmade Vol 2, and the tunic is a basic peasant dress adapted from this tutorial.  Everything is cut and the pants are sewn.  If I plow through the school day today, I might just get it done!

tiger costume in progress

My favorite part of Stephanie's as-yet-unfinised costume is her creativity applied to the idea.  When I brought home fancy fabric hoping to inspire Eleanor to bat wing enhancement, Ellie rejected it...but Stephanie loved it!  She immediately declared she wanted to be a flying tiger and promptly drew me a picture.  I love love love this.  I can't wait to see the result!

flying tiger costume drawing

Will your family be dressing up for Halloween?  What costumes did you choose?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Away we go

these boots are made for cycling...?

Nothing helps relieve the mania like a little holiday, no?  We'll be back on Monday night.  I expect to have many gorgeous photos to share!  Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The power of vulnerability

creek walk

At over 11.5 million views, I seem to be one of the few people who hadn't seen Dr. Brene Brown's TEDx talk on vulnerability.  The talk is long, as TED talks tend to be, but make the time for yourself to watch if you can.  She is a great presenter and peppers in humour to a very powerful, moving talk on a tender subject.

I admit, there were moments when I felt a bit uncomfortable listening to this talk, because these issues are at the core of all of us.  Vulnerability is uncomfortable at best, but her point is that it is critical to being a whole-hearted, fulfilled person.  Denying the experience of vulnerability and negative emotion takes away the potential for fully experiencing positive emotion as well.

My favorite take-away from her message was when she talked about parental tendency to perfect their children, where what was truly needed was to raise children to believe:

"You're imperfect and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging."

It seems so simple, but how completely amazing and life-altering if a person truly believed that and acted accordingly.  If you'd like to see the whole talk, check it out here.

p.s.  if you're interested in another amazing TED talk, watch this.  The spoken-word poem for the first three and a half minutes moves me to happy tears.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Malala Yousafzai

Do you know about this girl?  Have you seen this?  What an incredible young woman.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

That scores a big U for "unsatisfactory"

I just read my last post, and even I couldn't help saying, "What the?!  I mean, seriously, lady.  Why even post with no info like that?"  Sheesh.  Sorry.

We are all good here, I assure you.  Last week, Stephanie was the Star of the Week in her kindergarten class.  That meant every day brought new opportunities for this mama to be involved in her such an extent that by Friday morning, Hubby suggested I request a salary.
Do I love it?  Yes!
Is this a big part of why I am a stay-at-home mom?  Yes!
Is it still a whole lot of crazy?  Oh, yes indeed-y!

So, what were all those things that kept me so busy?  Simple things, really.  We completed an interview and shared pictures.  I helped three groups of kindergarteners make no-bake pumpkin oatmeal cookies.  Stephanie and I performed a science experiment of making Sticky-Icky* (which is pretty much the way to any little boy's--and most kindergartener's--heart, let me tell you).  Somewhere in there, I had a 3rd grade parents' meeting with the Head of the Lower School.  Oh, and on Friday, I was slated to provide faculty treats for all Lower School teachers...and my oven crapped out (I discovered after 2 debacles that the oven thermometer was suddenly 30 degrees off).  I have a reputation to uphold (and delivery was expected first thing in the morning), so I couldn't just buy something.  I ended up providing strawberries, grapes...and at least part of all three baking attempts:  jacked-up banana bread, chocolate chip cream cheese coffee cake and our favorite pumpkin muffins**.  I now have no flour in the house.  For the record, the secretary told me that I could have just brought the jacked-up banana bread, because once the teachers knew there was Jack Daniels in it, that was the first to go (ha!).  As it is, they only left 2 grapes, which cracked me up completely.  Someone really didn't want to be the last one to eat everything, so...

In case you still aren't buying my busy excuse (who would?), I'll toss in the mix that our girl's asthma issues have returned.  After six months of no medication whatsoever, we are now back on all kinds of meds plus my little homeopathic remedies...and she still wakes up a few times a night coughing despite all of that defence.  It isn't nice.  I have no idea why this is happening.  I'm just thankful her issues are of the coughing variety rather than the horrible-terrifying-gasping-for-air-cannot-breathe variety as some families face.  But I still have not slept through the night in weeks, so there you go.

Anyhoo, life is good.  I can say that with a straight face, because it is true (also, I just watched this and boy oh boy are we blessed just by the grace of where we were born).  I really do intend to get back in the writing habit soon.  You know as well as I do what they say about good intentions, but I will try.  Just for you!

*I promise to post the recipe for this when I figure out where I put it...

** I omit the pecans, cinnamon-sugar and reduce the sugar in the muffin to 1/2 cup.  This seems adequately compensated by the milk chocolate chips we prefer to the carob, and I don't bother restricting us to 1/2 cup there, if you get my meaning.

Just ducky

In case you were wondering what happened to me this time, everything is just ducky here in Pittsburgh!  The crazy simply hasn't let up yet, though the manic-stress part of it has.  I need to make space again for writing.  I'm working my way back to it.  In the meantime, here's a picture of a giant rubber duck:

quack PGH

This duck sculpture has traveled around the world, and Pittsburgh is the first US city to get it.  It arrived at the end of September, and today we finally made the trek into town to see it.  Pretty cute, huh?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recommended reading: Code Name Verity

I have a confession to make: I love reading kid lit.  I always loved it, but my brief years teaching reading to pre-teens--which coincided with publication of the first book of Harry Potter--sealed the deal.  Recent happy finds have included The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Invention of Hugo CabretWonderstruck, Wildwood and The Mysterious Benedict Society.

At our small local bookshop works a wonderful woman named Tess.  Among her myriad talents, she is the buyer for the children's department and an avid reader of kid lit.  We have decided to form our own kid lit book club of two.  First up, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.  It is classed as "young adult" (too intense for kid lit but not targeted for adult readers), but I didn't find anything too young about it.  This book knocked my socks off.

Code Name Verity is very well-written historical fiction set during World War II.  It tells the story of two friends, both young women, one of whom has been captured as a spy in France and the other was the pilot who flew her there.  The woman who has been captured has succumbed to the horrific interrogation and has agreed to write out everything she knows, which she does in detailed, dramatic style rather than flat reporting.  Her story forms the main text of the book.  While the author doesn't go for shock factor by providing too much detail on the horrors of war and captivity, the shock and horror is felt.  This book stressed me out, but I couldn't put it down.  I had to abandon my preferred reading-before-bedtime with this one several chapters in (it gave me bad dreams!), but I stole time during the day to keep it going.

True to that "young adult" classification, I cannot recommend this book to anyone under 15, but I do strongly recommend it for women ages 15 and up.  It is an intense, emotionally- and mentally-engaging story of two strong female characters whose unlikely friendship provides the backbone of the book.  The worth of these women is not defined by men, though they are constantly surrounded by men given the nature of the story and the time period.  There is no sappy romance to portray them as feminine cliches.  They are powerful characters in a compelling story.  If you pick it up, please let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sheila goes to kindergarten

Sheila visited Stephanie's kindergarten class today.

Sheila goes to kindergarten

Despite making two rather large and smelly poos in the cat carrier, she was a perfect lady while on display.  She pecked at the carrot shavings I offered her, politely observed the children as they asked questions, preened and stretched so they could properly admire her feathers and wings, and then inspected everyone's shoelaces.
The kids were fascinated.
It was awesome.