Friday, July 11, 2014

Are you always the one behind the camera?  I am, although that has gotten a bit better now that my husband has mastered the iPhone camera.

When you look at your massive library of family pictures, is your face conspicuously absent?  For me, yes. Except for those few iPhone photos here and there.

Have you thought about what how your children will feel about that when you're old or when you've passed on? YES.  I have this awful image in my mind of my kids spending hours sorting through billions of photos, looking for their mama as they first remember me, but coming up with next to nothing.

If you answered yes, here's what you do.  It feels ridiculous and indulgent.  And maybe it is.  But so what?

Get some photos taken of yourself.  Just you.  In a pretty setting that makes you smile.  

Photos courtesy of Sincerely, Sarah Phototography.

Use a good photographer.  One who can make sure you look like you, but the you who's gotten plenty of rest and has flawless skin.

When the photographer is pointing her giant camera in your direction and you're feeling silly and awkward and wondering what in the world you were thinking, just picture your kids being goofballs.

Now here's the hardest part.  When those photos come back, resist the temptation to find every flaw.  You may see imperfections, but your children won't.  They will see you.  And they will love that.

Furry friends.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My daughter is away at summer camp this week.  I miss her a lot.  A whole lot. 

So I've been writing her letters.  From the cats.  Her furry friends.

In other words, I'm losing my mind.

I haven't mentioned here, but a few months back we had to say goodbye to the only family pet my kids had ever known. 

Years ago, we were in the midst of the very long and difficult process of trying to have a baby.  Things were looking pretty bleak.  There was loss and uncertainty, stress and disappointment.  We needed some cheering up.  We needed to laugh.  I started browsing the cat personal ads, mostly as a distraction from a depressing reality.  When we saw an ad for a rescue kitten with a funny orange leg, we went out for margaritas and discussed the possibility of a pet.  

Before long, Rita joined the family.  And she was great.  A sweetheart of a kitty.

When we did finally have babies, Rita was a bit neglected.  My lap was often full, and the house was often noisy, neither of which thrilled the cat.  But she tolerated it, making sure to claim time in my lap most nights after the kids went to bed.  I imagined that the babies Rita put up with patiently in those early years would grow to become the greatest sources of love and affection for her.  I could see a future in which Big Sister and Rita became the best of friends.

But just as that friendship began to develop, Rita got sick.  She stopped eating and dropped a lot of weight.  She began sleeping all the time.  And soon we had to say goodbye.

Big Sister, who felt she'd lost her best friend, was devastated.  She's still grieving, and every night she asks me if Rita is having a nice time in heaven.  Big Sister's favorite stuffed animal has become a tiny calico kitten that our neighbor gave us when Big Sister was a baby.  Baby Rita.  And now it wears Rita's collar.  It is the stuffed animal Big Sister insisted on bring with her to summer camp.

About a month before Big Sister left for camp, we adopted two new kittens.  One is a calico like Rita.  The other is her brother, who's white except for a couple of gray spots on his head that look like little horns.  

The kittens have had a host of health troubles, which has prompted a quarantine and slowed the bonding process.  They will likely be fully grown before they get to visit the kids' rooms, which isn't exactly what we had in mind when we brought eight-week-old kittens into our home.  But we're trying to make the best of it, and even though the kittens are stuck in the kitchen, they're working their way into our hearts.

With an empty seat at the dinner table and a dark bedroom at the end of the hall, I find myself again looking to furry friends for distraction.  And it's helping.  A little.

Each night I've written letters from the kittens, telling Big Sister about their-mostly boring days and their dreams of escaping the kitchen for big adventure.  I hope Big Sister smiles when she reads those silly letters.  Even if she does end up telling her new friends that her mom is crazy.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A few weeks back, Big Sister had her first violin recital.  She's a determined little thing, and she practiced her heart out before the big day.  We were singing Lightly Row all day long for weeks.  

She had done everything she needed to do to prepare, including getting new strings when her bow started bumping along a string instead of gliding.  She had rehearsed with the pianist and nailed the piece on her first try.  She had a group class that morning.  She had a new dress and a fancy hairdo, thanks to a YouTube video.  She was ready. 

But she was very nervous.  What if I make a mistake?, she kept asking.  We reassured her every way we knew how.  Her violin teacher reassured her, even telling her stories of her own performance mistakes.  But nothing could quiet her fears of messing up.  It seemed that all the hard work and preparation had increased her performance anxiety, because she felt she had so much to lose.  

We brought a little friend with us to the recital, for some extra love and support, in hopes that it might help calm her nerves. 

The violinists were seated together during the concert.  Although we could see Big Sister (and her little kitty) during the performances, we could not tell how she was doing.  It was clearly a friendly audience, full of supportive parents and loved ones who cheered for their little stars.  And there were plenty of students less advanced than Big Sister.  Some even played cute little cardboard box violins.  We hoped that would all be comforting to our nervous performer.

When the time came for Big Sister to play, she couldn't do it.  It was as if she were glued to her chair and all the love in the world could not get her to her feet.  Through tears, she told her teacher that she was too scared.  The show went on without her. 

Before I could get to my daughter, her teacher was seated right next to her, holding her hand.  This teacher is gentle and patient, a personality so perfectly suited to working with young children.  From the very beginning, Big Sister felt comfortable confiding in her about her feelings.  In their first lesson, they talked through Big Sister's fear of participating in a group class with other young violinists.  Big Sister responded surprisingly well to this teacher, agreeing to give the group class a try.

In that moment, when Big Sister was paralyzed with fear and had declined to play when her name was called, my child did not need her mother; she needed her violin teacher.  She needed a violist who had felt those very same fears and overcome them.  She needed a teacher who had already helped her get past a very real fear of performing.

Before I knew it, before I had much of an opportunity to offer comforting words or do damage control, the two of them were walking to the stage.  My daughter, who had been gripped by fear, was going to play. 

They began playing together.  Although I'd heard Lightly Row a million times, I'd never been so happy to hear that piece. 

Soon the teacher quieted and backed away.  By the end, Big Sister had the stage and the spotlight to herself.

When she finished playing, the applause was astounding.  We cheered for her playing, which was beautiful.  But, more than that, we cheered for her courage.  Everyone in that room knew that she had accomplished something really big.  She had conquered fear.  She had overcome a feeling overwhelmingly powerful, something that we've all felt at one time or another.  At seven years old, she had learned her own strength.

I don't know what the teacher said to her before they took the stage.  But whatever it was, it was exactly the right thing.  I don't know where my child found the courage and bravery to overcome fear so gripping.  But I've never been so proud. 

Best of all, Big Sister was proud of herself.  Although the recital did not go how she'd imagined, there was a lot to celebrate.

Even this guy, who spent most of the concert wiggling and fidgeting around, was proud of his sister.

2013 Sewing Stats.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Last year I kept a list of my sewing projects.  And I'm feeling pretty proud of myself.

I didn't count mending and alterations, and I didn't count the endless Girl Scout patches I sewed.  I probably forgot to log some projects too.  And I still made it to 50!  That means I averaged almost a project a week.  Not bad for somebody who works full-time, has two young kids, and always has a to-do list a mile long. 

So what did I sew?  All kinds of things.  Too bad I didn't do a very good job of photographing or blogging it.

It probably comes as no surprise that my daughter came away with the largest number of my creations.  I sewed 18 items for Big Sister, including dresses, leggings, nightgowns, shirts, skirts, skortings (see here if you have no idea what I'm talking about), a scarf, and a gnome costume.

I sewed 14 items for Little Brother.  I wish I'd branched out a bit more, because his mama-made wardrobe consisted only of pajamas, dress-up clothes, a muscle tee, and a couple of scarves.  I think his lumpy muscle shirt is probably the most fun thing I sewed all year.

Speaking of dress-up clothes, I spent a surprising amount of time working on costumes.  Incredibles, knight, lucha libre, gnome, Batman.  15 items.  Fun stuff.  And funny, coming from somebody who used to think sewing costumes was not worth the time.

I sewed 12 pajama pieces.  Pants, shorts, shirts, nightgowns.  PJs are probably my favorite thing to sew.  Quick, easy, soft, comfy, always a big hit with my kids.

I didn't sew a lot for myself, but what I did sew turned out quite well.  Too bad I haven't taken photos of any of it except the Incredibles costume!  My 6 items of selfish sewing also include a lovely purple Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt, a Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress, a Neue Mode 22990 skirt, and a Sew Much Ado Seafarer top.  I hope to do even better this year.

I sewed 3 items for the home.

I sewed 8 gifts.  I think that's lower than the past few years, but still something to feel good about.

I sewed undies and dresses for dolls, and a doll Incredibles costume.

By far the coolest statistic of all is that I used 27 new patterns.  I love trying new patterns.  Although it would certainly be faster to reuse a pattern I've sewn before, and there are many good ones, I always enjoy the challenge of trying something new.  Only once was it a complete dud.  That's a pretty good success rate, I'd say.  I won't list all of the new patterns I sewed in 2013, but here are some of my favorites, in addition to those I sewed for myself (listed above):  Fishsticks Designs Watered with Love layette set for Create H.O.P.E. DesignsGo To leggingsHeidi & Finn PlayDay dressMADE tee (free) and muscle tee (free), Kitschy Coo Skater dressCali Faye Wednesday dress, Titchy Threads Fancy Pants leggings, and Lil Blue Boo Sienna 2.0 dress.  

Since it's already February and I've yet to complete a sewing project in 2014, I expect that this year will not be quite so productive.  But that's okay.  We'll call it a quality-over-quantity year.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Now that the holiday craziness is behind us and we've had our fill of black-eyed peas for a while, I'm looking forward and thinking about what's ahead.  Nobody knows what's coming, of course.  So while I'm glad for a fresh start, I also wonder if I should be bracing myself for the unpredictable.  What I do know is that whatever is headed our way will be met by a bunch of Supers who are ready to take on the world.

Whatever it is, good or bad, this family will take it on together.  Together We Are Stronger.

We will learn, and we will grow.  We will meet the challenges of the year head-on.

We will do what we have to do, even when it's hard, even when it pushes us and tests our limits.

We will smile and laugh.  We will balance life's necessary responsibilities with unnecessary silliness.

We will be serious when we need to be, and focus and determined.  We will work hard.  We will prove ourselves again and again, without giving up and without losing sight of what's most important.

We will look for and find everyday heroes, those who help and inspire others, those who remind us of our own strength.  And we will do our best to help and support others in need.

When the unexpected happens and we struggle to make sense of it all, we will find healing in the power of love and compassion.

We will find comfort in exercising our minds and bodies, in staying healthy, in our creative outlets.

When we need a boost, we will remember our red tights and masks (maybe even put them on?).  Hopefully then we'll feel like superheroes and be reminded that we are tough, and we are winners.

Whatever it is that 2014 has in store, we're as ready as we'll ever be to tackle it.  As long as we've got each other, we'll be alright.  So, 2014, bring it on!

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