Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Blast from the Past

I'm really bad at documenting the things that I make for the girls (and for myself). Partly because my house is a mess and I never know where the camera is when I remember to photograph my creations and partly because I'm just too caught up in the moment of seeing my kids in the things I've made to remember to take a picture. What I really need is a photographer to follow me around and document this stuff. Or to have the camera attached to me permanently somehow.

I came to this conclusion while sorting out clothes that no longer fit Gwyn and filling the closet with things leftover from Maeve. Yes, I saved almost everything that Maeve wore, since it was all still in excellent condition, with the hope that I'd have another girl who could wear it. So now pretty much everything Gwyn has in her closet is hand-me-down from Maeve. The wonderful thing about this is that a lot of it is good-quality children's clothing from H&M and C&A in Germany, so usually it's interesting in design and/or fabric choice in addition to being well-made. I have an outfit for her to wear at Disney in October - red and white polka-dot capris and a t-shirt with Minnie Mouse embroidered on it- that came from H&M and only cost $12 or some ridiculously cheap price. In the States it would easily cost $25.

Anyway, as I sorted these clothes I was remembering Maeve wearing them and thinking about the places we'd gone (France, Holland) in them when I came across a dress that I'd made for Maeve when she was 3 or 4. I know I made it in 2004 because I ordered the fabric from and distinctly remember that it came the day I was leaving for Amsterdam to spend Easter at my aunt Karin's house. It's purple linen, embroidered with vines and flowers in aqua, purple, orange and magenta - really lovely.

This pattern is Burda 9845, which is probably out of print by now, given that it's at least 6 years old. The style is classic, though, so I'll probably use it again. It's very simple - puffed raglan sleeves with elastic in a casing, drawstring neck, slightly flaring body, but not too much. The linen is a bit thicker than I would have liked, so the casings are a bit wonky, in my opinion, but all in all it's a wonderful dress. Gwyn clearly loves it:

As I was writing this, I realized that I have another dress that I made for Gwyn (also Burda) last year that I didn't really document. These are the only 2 photos I have of her in it - taken at the Maryland Renaissance Faire last year:

This is Burda 9583, made up in a fabric called "Citronella" that I purchased on ebay (sorry, don't remember the manufacturer) and a 2-tone yellow Campan stripe which is still available at Banberry Place. The Citronella fabric was an impulse purchase - I had to get it but didn't know what I was going to do with it. The stripe had been in my stash and was used for Gwyn the previous year as a puff-sleeved onesie-type shirt. I had enough left over to do this dress and it worked out perfectly. The day the photos were taken I'd had several people stop me to say how cute it was and ask where I'd gotten it. I wish I had better pictures of it but, alas, it is packed away with the things that were outgrown already.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Color by Mother Nature

Today, in an attempt to break from the negativity I've been feeling and my overall lack of inspiration to sew, I was going to get the dog to the groomer to (as Gwyneth says) "get the stink off of her". No really - that's what she says. It's actually more of a need for the dog to have a hair cut but Gwyn tends to point out the obvious that escapes the adults. Like, hello mom - the dog stinks. Anyway, the regular groomer had no openings for today when I phoned yesterday, so I called Petco. Normally they have plenty of openings but when I called this morning they were full. As I have to leave tomorrow, Fiona will simply have to wait. Maybe I can have K. make an appointment for me and we can leave her at the groomer on Saturday while we're out doing whatever. If not, oh well.

After I realized that I just wasn't getting the dog groomed today, I decided to take a cup of coffee out in the yard and take a look for some yard bags in the shed. There were none but the hydrangeas are now a riot of blooms and I was inspired to take some photos of them. I've read that the color of hydrangeas differs depending on the pH of the soil. Apparently the soil in my yard has a pH that varies every few inches or so, because on one bush alone there were several different colors.

As you can see, there are pink, white and purple blooms on this bush and some of these are even multi-hued within the blooms themselves:

This particular shot shows the bloom in the foreground whose flowers are lavender/blue with whitish centers and a pinker lavender on the edges. The bloom in the background is mostly creamy white but the edges of the individual blossoms are pink.
Another bush in a different part of the yard is mostly blue with hints of lavender-pink, though I did find one bloom that was almost completely pink.

I was also able to get some wonderful shots of the bumblebees who are busy pollinating the lacecap hydrangeas. In case you didn't know (and I didn't until we moved here and I wanted to find out about the hydrangeas) there are 4 main types of hydrangeas and the most common are mopheads, which I've already shown in the photos, and lacecaps. The lacecaps are the plants that have the sexual parts and therefore the pollen. See? Now you've learned something. Anyway, we have 1 lacecap bush which is the Blue Billow variety (I think) and it's planted between 2 mophead bushes. It happens that the lacecaps are right in front of the window where I have my computer and I've been seeing the bees buzzing around them. Today I was able to capture them while I was outside.

I'm not sure if you can see it in the photos but the pollen sacks on their legs were huge and I can only assume that means that they've been getting lots of pollen from these blooms.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just what do you think I do all day? or better yet: Do you care?

It never fails to amaze me that people who work at a job outside or from their homes seem to think that women who stay at home with their children don't do work. Kelly's personal blog and her website, Underbellie, have recently dealt with domestic work (meaning the work of raising children and of caring for the home and all that that entails) and how it is undervalued or not even valued at all by those who choose to focus on a career other than/in addition to parenting and care of one's children. I can see this in my own husband, who has voiced on various occasions his astonishment that so little seemed to get done that day while he was gone, and I can see that in other women I know from various places. Tonight I kind of had a moment of "this person really doesn't get it" while I was at Maeve's Girl Scout awards ceremony.

One of the moms, K.N., is a co-leader of the troop but she's involved in such a way that makes me wonder why she bothers to be involved at all. The first couple of meetings that I went to I saw that she spent far more time talking to the other moms who were there than running the meeting (she left that up to the other leader who, in army parlance, is far more squared away than K.N. is) and recently I saw that when the other leader wasn't there, K.N. has really got a difficult time running things. Maybe it's because she's disorganized, maybe it's because she has a lack of experience in this area, I don't know. I just know that every time she runs the meeting by herself I want to take over and do it for her. Anyway, K.N. knows that I sew and I have done sewing for the girls in the troop - sewing badges on their uniforms and such - for a minimal fee. I don't really want to take money for it because it takes very little time to do, but it makes them feel better and it compensates me.

Earlier in the year, K.N. and another mother both asked me if I did alterations to clothing. I said yes a bit hesitantly because it's not my idea of fun. I like to sew because it is fun. Altering someone else's RTW garments I don't really find to be a good time. I have hemmed a pair of uniform pants for a friend of Scott's and I've sewn on insignia to uniforms when needed at the last minute. But I'm not into taking apart a pair of pants in order to take in a seam because you've lost weight in your backside. Sorry, there are tailors for that. Of course when I said 'yes' K.N. and the other mom immediately wanted to know if I would do alterations for them and how much I would charge. I named a price - I think I said $15 - and K.N. said "Really? Because the tailor charges $12". At this point I wanted to smack her. I have no idea what people charge to hem pants, as I hem my own. But I do that on my time. The tailor has a business and can afford to charge a bit less because s/he has a bigger clientele and because that's what s/he spends 8 hours a day doing. I don't spend 8 hours a day doing alterations - I have other things I do during the day. If you want me to take time out of my free time to sew your clothes you're going to have to compensate me accordingly. What I said to her was, "Then you probably should take them to the tailor. I'm really busy right now with other things." This didn't deter her from asking once or twice more but she finally stopped asking.

Tonight K.N. asked me if I wanted to work at home and I said. "I already do." She looked at me with a puzzled expression, so I elaborated, "I have the 3 year-old and the baby." She said, "I mean if you want to do some extra work - make some extra money." Really? Extra work? Oh yes, let me jump right on that. Because, really, I don't have enough to do already and I so want to fill up any empty minutes that I have for myself doing work for someone else. And extra money? Yeah, because someone pays me to do all the laundry and housework that I currently do. I'm thinking this and she keeps going, "Do you do computer work?" "Um, no." And I really don't want to. "Well what about writing, can you write?" Huh? I'm going to pretend she didn't say that. "Yes, I can write. Like what?" "Well because you know I have my own business. Advertising, that sort of thing." " I don't know. I don't have any experience in that." "Well, I mean, if you can write then you should be able to...what did you say you went to college for?" Now I really want to smack her, and hard. "K.N., I have a Master's Degree in French Literature. I'm not sure that qualifies me to do what you require but I am pretty busy." "French? Oh, wow. I love French. Not that I speak it. But you know, I really love the way it sounds." Uh-huh. Me too. But your loving it doesn't make me want to do work for you any more than I did prior to knowing that. "Well, think about it, Jen." Right, I'll keep that in mind. Because I really want to do work for someone who clearly doesn't think what I do already is work.

Which brings me to Kelly's blog posts about how much value we place on those jobs like housework and child-rearing that are uncompensated and seemingly never-ending. K.N. has been working at her career for a long time. She's in her early 50's and didn't start having kids until she was almost 40. Her career was probably well-established enough that she's always had her girls in day care. And I get the feeling that she doesn't have the greatest rapport with her kids. I mean, I think she wants to and she may even think that she does, but I've seen the way the kids act toward her and I have to wonder... Anyway, I don't think she gets the whole concept of being an at-home mom without an outside career, and she obviously doesn't think of it as REAL work.

My sister-in-law, K.L., is the same way in some respects. She has a career as a medical provider, though she's currently between jobs. Her girls have always been in some kind of day care, whether it's a sitter in the home or in a group day care center. Even when she's not working, her kids go to some kind of an organized day program, unless she has something extra planned for them (a trip to the zoo, visit to grandma's - whatever). And when they aren't at an organized program, there is almost always some kind of planned activity going on. There's almost never any kind of free-flowing schedule and almost never any down time. When we go to visit them I feel like I'm being shunted from one activity to the next without a moment to breathe. I wonder: does she do it to tire them out so that they'll go to sleep and not bother her in the evening? Further, this flurry of activity makes me wonder if she doesn't know how to just be with her kids, since they've spent so much of their young lives with other care givers. Or is it that she's so used to not being with them that she doesn't have the same attachment that I do to my kids? I'm not attempting to pass judgement, merely trying to understand what motivates her.

This sort of nonstop 'busy-ness' is not limited to the children. We're supposed to go to visit K.L. and her daughters this weekend and already she has tons planned so that there won't be a moment of inactive time, including getting a babysitter so that there is time for just me and her to go out - something that I don't feel the need to do. She's purchased tickets to a comedy show (something I'm not really interested in going to); around that I think she has planned for us to go to an arts festival and possibly even dinner. I drew the line when she wanted to include a pedicure. (The last time we went to have one done it was just about one of the least relaxing things I've ever done, mostly because the people at the nail place took a bunch of walk-ins right before our appointment and then we had to wait around the mall for an hour because they kept taking walk-ins and not calling us, which caused K.L. to get all pissy with the Korean woman running the nail place, so the Korean woman got bitchy with her and it was just ridiculous.) She claims that I need to go out and "get away" from my kids. In fact, when my mother in law is there, she often wants to take the children so I can go shopping alone. (P.S. - I don't like to go shopping alone. It's boring. And lonely.) It's like they want to force me away from my kids, as though they think I need their help to do this. News flash: I don't need to be rescued from my kids! They are not a drag and being with them every day for most of the day is not a burden! Yes, I have moments when Scott is gone for extended periods of time and I would like a little help with them, just to make it easier. But I love being with them and watching them grow and learn and just be themselves. At the end of the day I don't need to escape them. And taking them from me so that I can go 'do something' when I'm in a city that I don't live in, in a home that isn't mine so I have none of my sewing with me, is pointless. Unless you're coming to my house and taking them out to the playground so that I can sew at home, I really don't need the help.

I once said to her that I don't know how to go out with adults and not be with my kids anymore. The fact is, I'm not interested in it. My job is a 24/7 job and I don't mind that. I didn't tell her that I didn't want to go out, because I figure that there must be some reason that she feels compelled to go out with me. I mean, she could just as easily have made plans to go out with a girlfriend on a different night, when the kids are with their dad. I do plan to confront her about this, since I'm tired of her pitying me or whatever it is. We're different people, she and I. I respect that she has a career in medicine. I don't always understand her choices but I'm not in her shoes. I just wish that K.L. and all of the others like her would respect the career that is parenting and treat it as a choice, not as a punishment. I don't expect her to understand it. But I do expect her to respect it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What's in a friend?

This isn't a sewing post but more of a subject that I've been pondering. I recently got a page on Facebook and so I've gone through the process of finding friends and making friend requests, yadda yadda yadda. And during this process I've noticed that some people I'm friends with on facebook have a lot of friends. I mean, A LOT. And I'm curious, do these people really think of the members of their enormous 'friends list' as real friends? I mean, are these all people that they want to spend time with, have drinks with, go shopping with or whatever? Or are these people fans?

Perfect example: a woman on my friends list, someone I went to high school with and with whom I was good friends has over 400 friends! I was surprised at this so I decided to take a look at who was on her friends list. Yes, there are people I know from high school. And guess what - a lot of these people weren't what I'd call friends with her. I mean, they're people she knows, people I know. But I wouldn't call them my friends if I was talking about them to my husband or my brother or another friend. I'd call them "this guy/girl I went to school with". Now, I know that Scott has a lot of friends on his facebook friends list but a lot of that is people he knows from all over the army and it's a great way to keep in touch with them - because they are really friends and/or colleagues and it's always good to know when you're going to be in the same part of the country as one of them, just to get a meal and catch up with them, you know? But I can't really see friending people just because you went to high school with them, especially if you have nothing in common with them. I mean, I basically have no desire to keep in touch with people who couldn't have cared less about me 20 years ago, you know?

My theory about this is that, as a country, we are desperately looking to be a part of a community or group and facebook allows us to be a part of that group - particularly if you weren't part of the in group in school. I could be wrong, but that's how I see it. Personally, I don't go looking for people to be friends with if I don't know them. I've hooked up with a lot of family members through facebook and have friended them - but only if I've met them. To me it seems disingenuous to want to friend someone you've never met or even spoken to on the phone. I don't know - maybe I overanalyze it but I'm only friends with people I want to be friends with, people I've connected with and shared a lot of good times with in real life. My friend from high school was always a really nice person whom everyone liked, so I'm not surprised that she has people on her friends list that didn't run in the same circles as her ever.

Then there's my brother (if you read this Stef, I'm not writing this to diss you or anything). Much of his life he's attracted lots of people. He doesn't always have deep relationships with all of them but I think he considers most of the people he knows to be his friends. That's just how it is with him. A lot of the people he knows are younger than him and I think that for those who are 10 years younger than him, they grew up at a slightly different time, so they tend to label people they don't know as well as friend - almost like they collect them. Nothing wrong with that - it's a different world view. He tends to have way more female friends than male friends, too - I suspect that it's because he's a well-rounded person in terms of his interests and activities. For him, I'm not surprised that he has a lot of so-called friends. Most of them, I'm sure, are Stefan fans: people who think he's so cool but don't know him that well, he's a friend of a friend of a friend, etc. All well within the realm of possibility.

Me, I've got 40 friends. Yes, one is my husband, one is my mom and one is my brother. A lot of them are cousins. But the ones who, in fact, are really friends are just that - real friends.