Greek Goddess.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The last full week of kindergarten was Greek Week, which involved an introduction to ancient Greece, Greek mythology, and gods and goddesses.  On Friday, the kids were encouraged to dress as their favorite god or goddess.  With little time to throw together a costume and little knowledge of goddess-wear, I turned to two of my favorite resources:  Pinterest and Target.

Big Sister had not yet decided on a favorite goddess, so I went with something generic.  I had two specific instructions:  (1) must be a one-shoulder style dress, and (2) must have some blue in it.  I found a white knit dress at Target, which I used as a starting point:

I removed the straps and the bow in front and replaced them with braids made from blue jersey fabric.  I followed the awesome instructions from Make It and Love It's braided headband tutorial to make five-strand braids for the straps.  You can't see it here, but I attached one strap on each side of the bodice back, to help ensure that the dress would stay up.  Because the straps turned out so well, I went ahead and made a matching headband.  I used a three-strand braid for the top trim and hand-stitched it carefully to the bodice.

Before I knew it, we had a goddess dress:

Big Sister never did choose a favorite goddess, but it was fun to hear her classmates debate whether Hera or Aphrodite was best.  I, however, did choose a favorite goddess -- Anthena, Goddess of Sewing!


Friday, May 25, 2012

So it's not exactly the PGA Tour, but we recently had our first family golf outing.  Mini golf, at a course that I played when I was a kid.  It's got brightly colored statues, interesting obstacles, hills, and all the twists and turns you could hope for. 

Mr. Great gave some lessons and attempted to show the kids how to hold a club.

But they quickly developed their own techniques, insisting on swings that resembled sweeping (future Olympic curlers?).

Little Brother quickly discovered that it was more fun to put himself through the obstacles than the ball.

And we all learned how, thanks to Little Brother's ball-grabbing skills, to keep our scores very low.

Truth be told, mini golf was more difficult than the kids expected, and there was a fair amount of frustration.  We didn't even make it to the 18th hole.  But we enjoyed being together, being outside on a pretty afternoon, and trying something new.

Freckle Lens.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I recently got a new camera lens (the Olympus Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 for micro four-thirds cameras).  I've only played with it briefly, and only on one sunny Saturday morning.  But I'm loving it.  Best of all, I'm loving how clearly I can capture the tiny freckles appearing on Little Brother's face.

Seriously, what's not to love?


From here on out, I will call this the Freckle Lens.

Big Sister doesn't have as many freckles.  But the Freckle Lens still treats her very well.

KCWC: Lottirina Dress.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I recently participated, again (see herehere, and here), in Elsie Marley's week-long kids clothing week challenge, where participants sew kids' clothes for at least an hour each day.  It's satisfying to look up at the end of the week and see some cute finished garments.  But for a sewstress like me, it can be a painful reminder of how slowly I work.  Of course, choosing patterns (two!) that don't contain a word of English surely is not helping my efficiency.

My first project this time around was a dress for Big Sister.  Knowing that I was working with pattern totally in a German and that I was not completely confident about seam allowances, I used some gift fabric that wasn't anybody's favorite.  What a surprise when it turned out crazy cute!

 I started with the Sommertop Lotti pattern, which I'm assuming means Lotti summer top, from the schnittreif shop full of awesome patterns. 

Before I continue, I should explain that this was my first experience buying from DaWanda, which appears to be a German site similar to Etsy.  I fell in love with the look of the Lotti top and was determined to sew it, so I guessed my way through DaWanda and ordered the pattern.  I soon learned that I was wrong in my foolish thinking that paying by "bank transfer" meant I'd be able to send funds via PayPal.  That was not the case, and my bank wanted to charge me $40 to transfer funds internationally.  As I was trying to straighten this out and find a way to change my payment method (apparently the better choice is to buy DaWanda vouchers with PayPal and use those to make purchases), Anja, the sweet pattern designer and owner of schnittreif came to my rescue.  She sent me the pattern for free, as an Easter gift, asking absolutely nothing in return.  I swear, the blogging and crafting community is filled with people who are kind and generous beyond belief.  Thank you, Anja!

Okay, so back to the Lotti, which you've already gathered is a shirt pattern, not a dress.  I knew from the beginning that I wanted to turn it into a dress.  So I shortened the top (I shortened a lot; it's generous in length) and added a waistband and skirt based on the Mamu Design Sabrina dress pattern.  So, Lotti top + Sabrina bottom = Lottirina.

I love the Lotti, and I love this Lottirina combination.  It's great for summertime, especially in this hot climate of ours.

I think you can see here how the shoulder pieces connect, so that it's only a partial sleeve.  Super easy, went together perfectly.  I wasn't so sure about the elastic in the neck, but trust me when I tell you to trust Anja.  She's got it exactly right, and I know because I tried a different size of elastic, and then no elastic before finally getting it right.  Use 1/4-inch elastic, and enough to tighten up the neckline just a bit.

I sewed a 122/128 for my girl who probably wears about a 7.  The top could stand to be a bit roomier, but I take full responsibility for that because I was practically sleep-sewing, which means that I went a little crazy with the seam allowances.  At least this fabric has lycra in it, so it's plenty stretchy.  Next time I'll be a bit more careful.  Hopefully.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Today Mr. Great and I celebrate ten years of marriage.  A decade ago, loved ones surrounded us as we declared our commitment to each other.  "Together we are stronger," we said as part of our vows.

Our wedding photos were taken with FILM (that's how long ago it was).
This is the one and only digital image I can find.

We've been to several weddings recently, so I've been thinking about what it means to be married.  I've learned a lot in the years since our day in the park.  I've learned about myself, the man I married, and about marriage.  If we wrote our vows today, knowing what we've learned, I think the words would be different.  But one thing would not change:  Together we are stronger.

So, ten years in, what do I know?  I know that marriage is hard.  It's really, really hard.  It's hard to nurture and care for, and easy to neglect.  It takes work.  It takes perseverance and patience.  It takes a lot of love and a steadfast desire to see it through.  Most of all, it takes friendship.

Marriage isn't rainbows and canoe rides in the moonlight.  It isn't bouquets, fancy cakes, and expensive dresses.  What is it?  I think it's the intersection of our lives in a chaotic collection of actions, moments, and opportunities.  It's being your best and your worst, and loving someone who's doing the same.  It's how we talk to each other, the little things we do each day, the way we approach life as a team.  Together we are stronger.

I don't claim to have it all figured out.  I'm certainly no expert on marriage, and I readily admit that there's work to be done on ours.  But I have learned some things along the way that seem to have helped us get here.  Here's what I hope to remember as we approach the next ten years.

Laugh.  It's true that laughter is good medicine.  Never underestimate the power of a tears-down-your-cheek, nearly-wet-your-pants belly laugh.  Or even a silly pun or joke.  Laughter is good for us individually, and laughing together can treat all sorts of marital ailments.

Accept/Respect/Forgive.  Marriage brings to light all of our individual weaknesses and requires us to accept those weaknesses in ourselves and our partners.  Don't dwell on it; instead choose to see it for what it is and get over it.  Recognize that we are fundamentally different people who react and process differently, especially in times of great joy or difficulty.

Know when to talk and when to shut up and listen.  This sounds so easy, but in reality it's a skill that takes a lifetime to develop.  Figure out how to satisfy both partners' needs to talk and be heard.  Watch out for interruptions.  Give undivided attention.

Watch the How.  How we say things matters as much as, and sometimes more than, what we say.  So be careful about tone, timing, and presentation.  It won't matter if you're right, if you say it wrong.

Be positive.  Encourage your partner, build him up, be a welcome relief from life's outside stress and challenges.  Be a source of light, and radiate positive energy.  Not always, of course; that's unrealistic.  It's equally important to recognize when not to blow sunshine up your partner's butt and instead join him in the darkness. 

Express love and thanks.  We all express love differently, and we seek different forms of expression from others.  Use words, actions, touching, and romantic gestures.  Mix it up.  Try to recognize how your partner is most comfortable expressing love and be aware of those expressions.  Look for expressions in the seemingly mundane.  When your partner washes dishes, gives you a moment of peace and quiet, works long hours -- these can all be expressions of love, so say thank you.

Play.  Get outside, go for a walk or hike, get dirty.  Dance.  Sing the most ridiculous song you can think of.  Forget that you're a grown-up and do something silly.  

Have pride and confidence.  Believe in your self.  Make decisions, take positions, stand up for what you believe in (while knowing when to let go, of course).  Care about your appearance and make an effort to be healthy and attractive.

Touch.  Physical connection is important.  Hugs, kisses, holding hands, brushing up against each other, and more.  It's good for us.

Fight fair.  Fights happen.  Serious and scary fights happen.  Sometimes we go to bed angry, and sometimes we wake up angry.  Sometimes we don't sleep at all.  But during those tumultuous times, always keep the fight fair.  No name calling, no underhanded attacks, never in front of the kids.  Be careful when talking about patterns ("always" and "never" are usually trouble).  Don't keep score.

Wait it out.  There will be slumps.  There will be times that you or your partner is exhausted, preoccupied, sick, stressed.  It will feel like you have nothing left and can't even find energy for a kiss.  Trust that it will pass.

Trust.  Believe that your partner has your best interests at heart.  Trust him to try, to care, to have good instincts and motives. 

The piece of paper really does matter.  I used to believe that a marriage certificate was a formality that didn't amount to anything.  But there are moments -- fleeting, but powerful -- where that piece of paper seems like the most compelling reason to stick it out and stay.  That paper can help us get over the hump and back to the other, more rosy side of marriage.

Children challenge us.  Having children intensifies the challenges of marriage.  There are more demands on us individually, less time, less energy.  The balance of power shifts, and priorities change.  It creates the perfect conditions under which a marriage can be neglected.  Be mindful of this.  Enjoy watching your partner grow in his role as a parent, and be reminded of the qualities you fell in love with.

Friendship is paramount.  At the end of the day, friendship and the trust, respect, and basic connection that goes with it are the key.  Enjoying each other's company, fundamentally liking each other, looking forward to conversation, wanting to be together through it all -- these are the foundation for a lasting marriage.

Together we are stronger.  This is more true today than when we recited it ten years ago.  Combine our talents, our strengths, and our love for each other, and you get one incredible partnership.  As we grow together and experience life together, we grow stronger.

Our having made it ten years does not mean we're a big success story.  Sure, we've outlasted plenty of other good people.  But who knows why; it could be dumb luck.  Whatever it is, I am incredibly thankful that I get to spend each day with my best friend, whose company I enjoy, who I genuinely like as a person, who I admire and respect, and who makes life a whole lot more fun.  

 Photo courtesy of Blue Lily Photography.

At our wedding, a dear friend read the lyrics to John Lennon's song, Grow Old With Me.  As our crow's feet take hold and gray hairs multiply, I'm reminded that we're living the dream.  We're growing old together.  And, indeed, the best is yet to come.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I love my city.  And events like Honx!TX remind me just how cool this place is.  Where else can you take your family to a free show featuring, up close and intimate, community street bands from around the country?  With no amplification, no stages, plenty of fun costumes, and several bands playing at once just steps from each other, this unusual festival is a band geek's dream.

I'm not sure the term "community street band" captures the essence of these groups.  Imagine musicians of all ages, playing instruments they may well have played in high school band, playing a diverse set of toe-tapping tunes rooted in traditions from around the world, and (mostly) doing it really well.  Imagine taking traditional marching bands, giving them complete musical freedom and creative costumes, making them much more organic and original, and setting them free amongst a bunch of curious onlookers.  Trombones, clarinets, snares, washboards, sousaphones, saxophones, cymbals.  Belly dancers, hula-hoopers, wacky conductors, jugglers, babies.  All of this among the crowd, almost as if it was a musical flash mob.  It's a community celebration of music, and of people who come together to play music.  I was ready to dig out my old piccolo and sign up.

My already tired little ones were a little overwhelmed by it, to be honest.  They didn't know quite what to think.

But they later debated which bands were their favorites and why, so I know they enjoyed themselves.

After our fun afternoon at Honk!TX, I'm modifying my retirement plans.  When I retire, I will travel, sew, go to field school with my old archaeologist friends, and play piccolo in a community street band. 

If I start practicing now, maybe I'll be ready in 25 years.  Minor Mishap, go ahead and send me your audition schedule for 2037, okay?

Daisy Days.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A few months ago, I had never heard of Daisy Girl Scouts.  When I attended an informational meeting, ready to sign Big Sister up for a fun after-school activity, I learned that a very small group of moms would have to start a troop from scratch if we wanted to give our girls the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouts.  So now Big Sister and I are learning about Daisy Scouts together.  She's learning about becoming a "girl of courage, confidence, and character, who makes the world a better place."  I'm learning about being a mama of time management, patience, and flexibility as I squeeze two new roles -- Badge Work Coordinator and Assistant Troop Leader -- into my already busy life.  There have been some ups and downs for the adults involved, but the girls love it.  And that makes every bit of the challenge worth it.

In April, the girls received their uniforms, which they got to wear to school on the day of their investiture ceremony.  They were so proud and excited.  This is Big Sister, before she left for school that morning.

The investiture ceremony took place after school, and it stopped raining just long enough for the girls to receive their Daisy Scout pins and become official Girl Scouts.  Big Sister was first to be pinned.

There were refreshments, including a beautiful cake donated by Two Saints Bakery.

Oma even came for the special day!

Not long after that, Big Sister and I joined thousands of other Girl Scouts at the state Capitol to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts.  We learned a lot, sang a lot, and ate birthday cupcakes.  Best of all, Big Sister was one of more than 3,000 Girl Scouts who linked arms across acres of the Capitol grounds in a giant friendship circle, singing Make New Friends and waiting for their hand squeeze and turn to make a wish. 

That's what it's all about -- making new friends, coming together to achieve something big and growing in the process, and doing our part to make the world a better place.