Blue Lily.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I recently posted a cute photo of Mr. Great and me on my 10th anniversary post.  Did anyone notice the credit to Blue Lily Photography there?  We were lucky enough to catch Wendy and Tyler as they came our way on their worldwide tour.  I have so much respect for these two, with kids just slightly older than mine, who have taken their incredible talents on the road and are seeing the world together as a family.  I'm sure the nomadic lifestyle is not easy (just read this blog post), but what an amazing experience for them.  And what an amazing opportunity for those of us who would otherwise not be able to work with them.

We recenlty had Tyler take some photos of our family.  One thing the Blue Lilies do very well is capturing the real.  Even when portraits are posed, Blue Lily photographs somehow manage to have an unexpected spontaneous, playful quality to them.  After our session, I was a little concerned that we posed too much and that our natural family interactions and personalities wouldn't come through.  But I've learned my lesson -- Never Doubt the Blue Lilies.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Mr. Great's grandmother passed away last week.  I will never forget how Granny smiled with her whole face, how she freely and earnestly said "I love you," how she taught us about pomegranate seeds and told stories of bird-watching and Holland tulips, and how she brushed Big Sister's hair until Big Sister nearly fell asleep.  I will always treasure the Raggedy Ann doll she made for Big Sister, then a baby, and the memories of Granny's visit to our house for Little Brother's Christmas birthday.  I am honored to have known Granny, and so thankful that she got to know my children.

Sunday night we gathered with family, and the funeral was Monday.  Mr. Great spoke on behalf of the grandkids, a hard job that he was honored to have.  I'm proud of him for the heartfelt speech he gave.  Although I had a hand in putting together the words, I could never have spoken them without falling apart.  I'm sharing the words here, as a reminder to myself and our family of what Granny meant to us, but also as a reminder to anyone reading of what is important in life.

Many of you knew my grandmother as Fay, but to us she was Granny.   Last night, we grandkids gathered around a table to share our memories of Granny.   I am here to share some of our thoughts.

We loved our Granny.  We loved how she was always so happy to see us, greeted us with a big smile, and gave us a tight, tight hug.  We loved how she made us feel warm and safe, kept us well fed, and let us know that each of us is important and special.  We always wanted to make her proud and never let her down. 

We learned a lot from Granny.  Not only from what she said, but how she lived and who she was. 

Granny was selfless, one of the most caring people you will ever meet.  To many of us, selflessness means self-sacrifice.  But to Granny, caring for others never meant a loss; rather, it was Granny's gain to see how, by putting us before herself, we became stronger and happier.  She certainly took great care of her family.   She was the bedrock; she stuck with us through good times and bad.  She taught us that families see each other through life's challenges and that we hold each other up when we feel like falling down.  She was accepting, even with all of our flaws, and she didn't judge even when she disagreed.  She helped us when we needed it, and showed us the healing power of a big Granny squeeze.  She lifted us up in celebration of our achievements, special moments, and even holidays.  With so many kids and grandkids, there was always a graduation, a special award, a merit badge, or a playoff game.  And in recent years, weddings and births, even great-grandkids.  She kept a welcoming home that we loved to visit.  There was never a shortage of great homecooking, fried pies in the refrigerator, or Snicker bars in the freezer.  And, there was never a shortage of cheerful laughter and love.  One the warmest sounds you could ever hear was Christmas Eve at Granny and Pa's.  And, almost all of us grandkids remember visiting the farm and exploring country life with Granny by our side.

Granny taught us the importance of living with faith.  She held a deep commitment to God and church, praying every day and thanking God for the blessings bestowed on her, and on all of us.  She was musically gifted, making her a valuable part of the church's music ministry.  She was a fixture in the church choir.  We could see her every Sunday behind the minister, singing with a smile or playing handbells.  Granny's contribution to the church did not end with music.  She also served as a leader in Sunday School classes, she would take attendance at the church door, she managed several church office functions, and she would lend a helping hand at church fundraisers and pancake suppers.  And, of course, the church could rely on Granny's tithe every month, even when the piggy bank was light.  This was her way of demonstrating that our relationship with God is important and must be made a priority.  

The importance of faith in Granny's life extended to faith in self as well.  She was steadfast and tough.  She never whined or complained.  She showed us that, although we may not have all the things that we want, the Lord has given us the things that we need and the tools to make it through a hard time.  This from a woman whose mother used cardboard from paper tablets to replace the soles on her shoes.  Rooted in her humble upbringing, Granny reminded us to stand tall and proud, and to stand up for ourselves and the ones that we love.  She had a fighting spirit that was balanced beautifully by her tenderness and affection.  Granny's message of faith in self extended to personal growth and a continuing desire to learn about the world.  I remember her stories of her choir trip to Holland, and the excitement in her voice as she described the country's magnificent churches, windmills, and elaborate flower gardens.  I remember the joy she expressed when showing me how something as small and odd as a pomegranate could produce a delicious jar of jelly.  And, I remember reading with Granny, especially about the birds of Texas, and watching some of those birds through her binoculars out on the farm.  By being around Granny, we could see that life is rich and is to be explored.  God has given us a special place.

Granny taught all of us many things about ourselves and about life.  I leave you with some lessons that she taught me, which I carry with me every day:

1.  The most important things in life are not things.

2.  Small things can make a big difference.  A tight hug can go a long way.

3.  Do your part to make the world a better place.

4.  Have pride and be tough.  Always stand up for yourself and your family.

5.  The sun will always rise tomorrow.  God is watching over us.

Granny embodies the best in all of us.  I wish we could all be a little more like Granny.  But I'm glad to know that a little of Granny lives on in each of us.  Granny, we LOVE YOU TIGHT.

A Bike Experiment.

Friday, June 8, 2012

So here's a question:  Who more quickly and easily learns to ride a standard two-wheel bike, a kid who starts with training wheels or a kid who starts with a balance bike? 

When we bought Big Sister a bike, she insisted on training wheels.  I was intrigued by the theory that balance bikes provide a more natural way to learn bike-riding, so we bought the little guy one of those.  Now we've got an experiment going.  What to focus on first -- basic balance or pedal power?  Of course, this doesn't take into account personalities and risk-taking, which seem pretty key.  But it's still an interesting study. 

Big Sister recently expressed interest in learning to ride without training wheels.  So Mr. Great removed them, we covered every bit of her body and prepared her for the inevitable falls, and we went to the track for two-wheel biking practice.

Although this picture is cute, it was a disaster.  She was timid, frustrated, scared.  She did not want to try.  I guess she wasn't ready.  We finally put the training wheels back on, and away she pedalled.  I do not know how to wean her from training wheels -- will she one day realize that she doesn't need them and figure out the balance-pedal combination on her own?  I'm afraid that, given the precious little time this family has for biking, we may be waiting many years for that to happen.  And, as you can see, Big Sister is already outgrowing that cute little bike, so we don't really have years.  If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears.

Little Brother, meanwhile, was racing around the track without any pedals at all.  He hasn't quite got the hang of lifting his feet up and gliding, but he's definitely learning balance and how to right himself when he starts tipping.  And he moves amazingly fast. 

I don't know who will master two-wheel biking faster, but I do look forward to fun family bike rides.  We'll get there eventually, right?

Spikey the Praying Mantis.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I never would have predicted this, but it seems Big Sister has a real soft spot for praying mantises.  In preschool, she found a small one on the playground and fell in love.  Her teacher, who referred to it as her "spirit animal," sent it home with us in a plastic container.  Big Sister, normally a bit squeamish, couldn't get enough of holding it and letting it crawl on her.  Imagine her excitement when she learned that her kindergarten class would study praying mantises and hatch eggs.

She had to wait most of the year, as the praying mantis unit was near the end.  And then she had to wait for the eggs (in a golf-ball-sized pod) to hatch.  But finally there were hundreds of tiny praying mantises to observe.  And feed!  She loved feeding them flightless fruit flies.

Knowing Big Sister's fascination with the species, the kindergarten teacher stayed late one day to help Big Sister make a habitat so she could take home some bugs.  Big Sister was thrilled to have these new pets, even if only for a short time.  When it came time to release the last one to the garden (after a church spring fling, which explains the kitty face), it was hard to let go.  Big Sister had become quite attached to Spikey.

She loved that Spikey seemed perfectly content to hang out on her arms rather than heading straight for the garden.

After an extraordinarily long time handling her little friend, and even showing the neighbors, Big Sister finally placed Spikey in his new home, the strawberry plants.  Now everytime we eat a juicy, ripe strawberry, we know we have Spikey to thank for managing the pests.

KCWC: Whitney Dress.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I'm finally getting around to posting the last thing I sewed during this last Kids Clothing Week Challenge.  I'd bought the Farbenmix Whitney racerback dress pattern a while ago, before racerback dress patterns became easier to find (Lil Blue Boo recently released a pattern, and crafterhours has a free pattern and tutorial).  I knew when I saw this pretty floral border print that it should be a racerback dress.  And now it is!

As with many Farbenmix patterns, the Whitney is available only in German (my fascination with other-language patterns continues), though there is a step-by-step guide with helpful photos.  It's a very easy-to-sew pattern that goes together ridiculously fast, especially if you don't first sew the binding to the wrong side, like I did.

I made this one in size 122 for my girl who's generally a 6X-7, and I'm thinking I could have sized down.  The neck and arms seem a bit low to me.  But that could be because I sewed this on the cross-grain to accommodate the border print.  That could result in a little big of stretching and drooping. 

Regardless, this is a dress that will be worn a lot this summer.  It's comfy, great for running around and twirling a lasso of truth like Wonder Woman.

The very best part of this dress is the back.  I want one for myself!

But, let's face it, nothing will ever look as cute on me as on my happy little girl.

KCWC: Rad Shorts.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I showed you the Lottirina dress I made during the Kids Clothing Week Challenge.  But that's not all I sewed (although the KCWC never fails to make me feel like the least productive sewing mama on the planet).  I also put together a pair of Sew Sweet Patterns Rad Shorts for Little Brother.  They use bias tape down the side seams and around the legs instead of a hem.  Totally, well, rad.

I've used Sew Sweet Patterns before (remember the fun Twirly Dress?) -- they've got many cute patterns and are alway developing more.  And although I knew Dana at made has a free tutorial for very similar Racer Shorts, I bought the Rad Shorts pattern because I like supporting independent pattern designers and what they do.  Especially nice ones like those at Sew Sweet.  My late-night sewing brain also appreciates having a complete pattern to work with rather than having to create, adapt, resize, or modify another.

These shorts went together surprisingly quickly and easily (using store-bought bias binding helped, though I would have preferred all cotton binding).  I made a 4T for Little Brother, knowing they could be a bit roomy to begin with, but wanting them to fit through the summer.  I think the sizing is accurate.  They fit just as I'd hoped.

I did make a couple of simple modifications to the pattern that I'd recommend.
(1).  On the side seams, the pattern shows the front side seam encased with bias binding placed over an unfinished back side seam.  I didn't like that edge being unfinished, so I serged it.  Next time, I'd do that from the beginning.  Also, a handy tip -- although pinning those side seams together will work, I found it much easier to use wash-away Wonder Tape, which is a fabulously useful sewing notion.  I'm always finding new uses for that stuff.
(2).  Before I sewed the waist casing, I became convinced that the front waist was too high for my round-tummy kid.  So I took an inch or so off the front of the waist.  I'm glad I did.  There would certainly have been too much fabric if I hadn't, and I probably could have taken off even a bit more.

Rad shorts for a rad boy.  A rad boy who likes to drum for the plants in the garden.

Grow, strawberries, grow!