"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the days are long, the years are short

It feels like the days creepy crawl by as I wait to introduce this new baby to the rest of our family.

Then all of the school year end stuff flies by me, children come home proclaiming that they are a grade school year older and I marvel at where the time is going.

I'm in a time warp.  Slow it down, speed it up.  Let's have this baby.  But keep everyone else where they are right at this moment.

I can't make up my mind, it would seem.

My dad calls it "being in the thick of things". And boy howdy, aren't we?!  So, here's the thick of things, just as I'd like to hold them, right as they are now.

Annie moved from the primary classes in our church to the young women's program.  She was really nervous at first but Celia has paved the way for her.  It's good watching two girls grow together in a similar environment.

Celia's theater class had a Shakespeare night and my heart nearly burst out of my chest.  I was a theater gal myself and to see my usually reserved girl belt out that monologue just made me want to climb on that stage with her.

I know she's glad I didn't.

Just the theater lighting always makes my heart skip a beat.  That sounds crazy, I know but once you've caught the bug, little things like that just bring back the adrenaline rush.

Newel was with me and he leaned over to say that it was the most he thought he'd heard her talk in a year :)

Dad's just get a little different view, I guess, because I got to rehearse those lines over dinner making for weeks before the performance.

And then, at the last minute, she got pulled from one group and added to another and given an entirely new manuscript to learn in just days before the plays.  She pulled it off beautifully and my heart soared even more for a girl able to be counted on by a teacher to do hard things.

I do love catching my children in their school environment.  Janie was celebrating with friends on the way out to the only field trip their class took this year.  Needless to say, she was one happy girl that day.

The rules of track contradicted the rules of our family. How dare they! Twelve means old enough for young womanhood and old enough for the that first step .... getting your ears pierced.  But track team didn't allow earrings so patiently she waited.

We made a special day of it as soon as the season closed.  Annie says she wasn't nervous but I think I detect a little last minute reserve in those eyes.

I'm never on time for anything ... ever.  Some of my kids have learned to roll with my errant ways.  Other's, not so much.

One night held too many places and not enough time.  I dropped Janie early at the school for her musical presentation, ran another to their destination and raced back to be in time for the show start time.

She accused me of being late and missing her speaking part.

But see?  This picture proves, though I stood in the doorway, I didn't miss the best-est part :)

Then with not an unfilled auditorium chair in sight, and much to the dismay of the principal who thinks pregnant women should not sit on the floor (if only he knew I lived on the floor :) ... I slipped up in front of the chairs where the little kids sit to watch just so she'd know I was there.

The smile says it all.

Yeah, Grant's musical medley a few nights later was a repeat performance of my tardiness.

Again, the principal threw up his hands in frustrations at my kid-row floor sitting but it helps my children find me right where I'm most comfortable.

And I want them to know, though I'm rarely on time, I am front and center for them no matter what :)

Seminary awards where Celia was one of the Stake President's Award of Excellence recipients.

And there we go.  The hand holding to see some grades through to completion.  The work to get some through honors and AP exams. The projects. The reports. The teacher thank yous for an irreplaceable job.

Now we head into the thick of summer.

Monday, May 21, 2012

solar sunday

Before I say anything, I'm fully aware that viewing a solar eclipse through a really black x-ray is not considered the safest method.  I googled it. I get it.  But it's what we did for the only eclipse I can remember back in the late 80's and it worked just fine then. I used the same method yesterday, and it worked just as well leaving none of us squinting, seeing spots or wiping watery sunburned eyes. Plus, we had cloud coverage which was a double shield of minor disappointment.

Pulling out this beauty from my childhood scrapbook, turned it all into a grand nostalgic party. Eating ice cream on the driveway, remembrance of doing the same so many years ago as a kid just their age, and relating a tale of a girl with a sewing pin in her foot whose father thought he could remove it with a little homemade surgery before giving in to the professionals down at the hospital.

Good times.

Times that I can still feel in the sole of my foot every time it rains ... thank you, Dad.

But life is made of childhood memories, and I hope twenty years from now in the lives of these kids, they'll look back and remember our very own solar Sunday.

Friday, May 18, 2012

getting the max out of a skirt

The Maxi skirts are everywhere this season and I could kiss the perpetuator of this fashion ... most especially for this year.

I'm not a super fashionable mom.  But I am a fashion comfortable mom.  And .... largely pregnant through the summer with a doctor begging me to wear compression hosiery is NOT comfortable.

I have no love for maternity fashion.  It feels impossible to find anything flattering for a girl masquerading as a watermelon.  I struggle to invest money in clothing I know I won't want to even glance at after nine months.  A "trendy" maternity store, boutique, whatever ... can make you look cute but the price will rival the doctor bill for your unborn baby.

And yet ... when I feel so very un-cute, retail therapy can make all the difference in the world because I'd bet every mother-to-be gets tired of wearing her husbands shirts with sweat pants and just wants to feel new.

Enter the maxi skirt.

I think they look so fun and summery and comfortable on every female form ... pregnant or not.

I've seen the striped ones in the stores.  My sister made some too, and they are adorable on her. However, I've never been able to rock stripes in knit even on my bestest of days.

But the floral ... I'll take one of each please!

Celia and I were at the stores, window shopping skirts, and thought we'd like some more original patterns at quite possibly a lower cost.  So, we swung into the fabric store where we got lost for hours.  Cuz I have an addiction to fabric and a plan for each and every piece I encounter :)

We found an entire row of "silkies" on sale for the summer season at 50% off and had a hard time limiting our choices.  We chose a soft "rayon type" fabric which had a cotton blend to avoid all the wrinkly-ness of a pure rayon. The feel of the fabric in your hand is the same. Also, we were looking for a weightier fabric that wasn't sheerly see through so our flow-y skirts could be unrevealing-ly summer cool.  We snagged 2 yards of each at about 6$ a yard which seemed a fair-ish price.

Waistband.  Elastic is great but on a maternal tummy it either slides up or down.  I bought T-shirt fabric to make a "band" around the waist but then got to thinking that I could probably do the same with the t-shirts I have awaiting donation.

I pulled out one of my old fitted tees, which is now really fitted resulting in my band making not in need of much adjustment.

I measured eight inches from the bottom and cut it off, discarding the top.  

In the ones we made for Celia and her slender teenage form, I took the 8" t-shirt bottom part and slid it up around her waist to make it tight enough for her comfort by taking out an inch or two as needed from the side seam.

Easily done ... just turn inside out, measure an inch (or two or whatever you need to feel snugly comfortable on your waistline) in from the existing seam, sew a straight line down parallel to the existing seam, trim 5/8" along new seam.

Warning: if you try your waistband on in the kitchen in front of your assistant, she may mock you.

Wrong sides together, fold your new band horizontally in half to a 4" band and iron.

On the ironed end of the fold, I top stitched to help it stay flat and unbunched.  

This is a knit so you'll need to pull a bit as you sew.  Stretchy stuff needs a little help.  5/8" in from my fold at the top, I just ran a stitch all the way around.  Band done.

A band is also easily made from knit fabric.  Just cut and make a similar "tube" and fit it to your waist.

For my two yards of fabric, I lay it out on the floor with my assistant running all over it.  

Rough (or selvage) edges go together on one side, fold on the other.  This fabric is 60" wide. Folding long ways gives me a front and a back at 30" wide each.

This is where I stopped and measured around my hips making sure to keep the measuring tape low and getting an accurate measure around my "largest" part.

So ... let's say I am 39" cumulatively around my low hip measurement.  I added one extra inch for a seam allowance which had me wanting a skirt with a 40" waist circumference when I sewed front to back.

This sounds complicated but it's not.

That's a front piece measuring 20" and a back piece measuring 20" at the waist for me. Yours will be your entire measurement divided by half.

I also wanted my cutting symmetrical so ... I folded my fabric length wise in half again ... that's folded into fourths. 

And to get a single cut that would be just right on both sides, I measured from the fold 10" (that's half of the 20" I need for each piece).  I marked it and then cut the length of the fabric in one fail swoop in an A-line shape.  

This can be done by pinning graduating pins, drawing with a piece of chalk, eyeballing it.  So you can see what I mean, I painter's taped my line ... and trimmed from waistline to bottom ... A-line.

When I unfold, I have two identical pieces each measuring the same at the top waistline.

Wrong sides together, pin the side seams and sew them.

Since I gave myself that extra inch in the waist for a seam allowance, I sewed my seam 1/2" in from each cut edge.

I also have a serger, so I finished my edges off to avoid fabric unravelling.  You don't have to. You can sew on the outside edge of your stitch, a zig zag stitch to keep any fraying at bay.

Or just leave it if you don't care or don't see a potential problem.

Iron each side seam flat.

And attach the waist band.  If you fit it to your waist, it's probably smaller than the waist of your colorful fabric which was measured to your hips.  That's good.  It's stretchy.  

With wrong sides together, slip the waistband over the skirt top pinning the cut edges together.  I stretch the band to fit side seams to side seams, then pin front and back middles, and then stretch to be able to fit another pin between each of those pins so everything lines up.

As I sew the two together, I stretch between pins to get rid of any puckers.  See that one starting in the picture above as I help the fabric through?  Well ... just stretch a little more, they will even out.

Iron my waistband flat and upward.

Try on the skirt, trim off the excess fabric at the bottom to your preferred length leaving 1/2" for a hemline.

Hem the skirt by rolling and ironing 1/4" once and then twice.

And then top stitch the ironed fold hemline.


This is really easy.  I promise.  I'm just known for using too many words to explain a very simple process.

Make one and you'll crank out another.

Here's the part where you get to see WAY too much of me ... but, demonstrating versatility, every female form has a preference.  High waisted, low waisted, this waist band can go up or fold down.  I like mine to go up and over that really not so pretty belly button :)

Celia's teenage-ness likes it folded down over her hips for a lower waisted feel.

Up over bump or folded down underneath.

Either way, paired with a knit top, it works great and feels comfortable.

If only my modeling skills were are as great and comfortable as hers.

That's really all it is.  An old t-shirt and two yards of fabric.

This is adaptable for any size, I'm finding. When I'm back to being just one person again, I'll probably take some inch-age out of the waistline of mine and continue getting use out of them.  They are just that much of an asset to my closet.

Now, I'm off to crank some out for the little-er girls of our family who are not content to be left behind.  Happy sewing! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

mother's day hindsights

This is a retrospective post, I'm afraid.

All weekend, I was busy Mother's Day'in it up and never really wanted to miss a moment by sitting at a computer typing my thoughts ... though they still bounced around my head.

And then, as luck would have it my abdomen started cramping late Sunday night turning Monday into a day unable to retain any food or water. By Monday night, full blown contractions woke my distressed body out of a restless sleep and I paced the floor trying any combination of things to stop false labor. It took some doing.

I met with my doctor Tuesday and everything is okay enough ... with a warning not to do it again. 32 weeks isn't time enough.

So .... here's the thoughts I wanted to write, even if they are late because I lacked the capacity to record them and regardless of the laundry pile calling my name today.

I was curious about the origins of Mother's Day so I googled it.

Long before the establishment of our current, more commercialized "Mother's Day", Julia Ward Howe (also author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic) rallied for a day of peace where all mother's of the fighting Civil War soldiers would bond together in remembrance that each brother, father, uncle, or nephew on the battlefield was also a beloved son of a heart heavy mother.

It was late.  I couldn't sleep.  And these origins touched me especially as my southern family heritage finds brothers against brothers and fathers fighting sons on almost every field of battle in that same war.

Laying awake, my thoughts drifted to the onslaught of "mommy wars" today.  It seems to be ever present in the media... at least lately.  Who's child rearing choices are socially reasonable.  Career moms vs. stay at home moms. Over-done fertility efforts.  Family numbers exceeding "acceptable" standards.

Why, I can hardly sit in conversation with a bunch of women for one minute before the debates begin around me.

Did one fail because her births were induced?  Is one strange because she wanted a midwife?  Don't give a pacifier.  Do let your baby cry it out.  Don't give a bottle.  Do wear a sling.  Cloth diapers, nursing, baby cereal, potty training .... every mother has a solid opinion.  Just ask her ... or don't, if you're not ready for an earful.

It's enough to make even the best-est of mothers feel inadequate about her most vigilant efforts!

I'm reminded of my cute neighbor who sterilized everything with her first child.  Listened only to Bach and Beethoven.  Read nightly to her infant.  And then with twins in the second go round, found herself solo on a cross country airplane journey frantically quieting dual three month old mouths with dumdum suckers.

Correct me if I'm wrong (cuz if you got one, I'd LOVE a copy!) but I'm pretty sure that last and final push didn't spit out an instruction manual to go with that brand new baby.  Each parent and child is individually different, needing individual attentions and yet, the motherhood profession is increasingly judged and judgmental one to another.

We're all just trying to make it ... and the best way we know how.

Which brings me back to Julia Ward and her day.

Wouldn't it be amazing for mother's everywhere to applaud purposeful efforts?  What if mothers went forward remember that their children ... and all children ... are still on a battlefield day after day and beyond that ... the same battlefield ... though a different kind of battle.

Mothers watch their children fight so many skirmishes daily.  Self esteem. Entitlement, Peer pressures. Decision making. Righting wrong turns. Gratitude. Courtesy. Forgiveness. Good choices. Compassion.

The battles are endless.

Julia wanted women everywhere to recognize the oneness of motherhood. We're in this together.

And wouldn't it be a different world if far and wide our mothering efforts were thought of like joint military tactics preparing for a surprise attack rather than reasons for attacking one another.

In a battle, generals teach soldiers to react instantly to any given situation.

As the mother and "general" of these people I have stewardship over, am I teaching my children to prepare for ambush?

Is it ingrained to forgive?

Is it second nature to deflect negativity?

Will the decisions be firm ... and righteously made?

Do they know how to carefully backtrack from easily triggered buried mines of waiting mistakes?

Do they drop to their knees in prayer without second thought when something hard flies in their direction?

Are they grateful for protection?

Are they willing to forgive?

I love her idea that the battle actually unifies us all.  I loved her simplified view of mothers joining hands in remembering the day to day battles of our children.  And I felt deeply her implication that every individual of a mothering heart, every soul who had ever guided the hand of a child and nurtured or loved or cared should think on those feelings and renew them.

Now, don't get me wrong, I was the first one in line to celebrate and be celebrated come Mother's day.  It was nice.

But I felt greater pause to think.

To renew.

To make more deliberate efforts in how I wanted to be and become, as the mother of my children. To help them succeed on this battlefield now.

Happy Mother's Day and happy continuance in giving your best mothering efforts to the families you love.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Really, by Mother's Day, it's no wonder the kids look at me with a "Yeah, we're done celebrating you" look.

This past weekend marked 17 years with the love of my life. 17 years. I used to think that would sound like a really long time when I got to it. Doesn't feel so long ago.

I spent every minute of the weekend playing, "Right about now".

Friday night the 4th, as I was heading somewhere I couldn't help thinking to myself, "And right about now, we were excitedly going to get a marriage license."

And Saturday night, the 5th ... "Right about now, we'd finally stolen a moment alone watching the Cinco De Mayo fireworks over Atlanta after dinner at that restaurant with both of our families".

And Sunday morning, the 6th .... "Right about now, I was freaking out because my dress got left in the car overnight and the wrinkled wreckage was making me late."

And so the whole weekend went on in my head.

I was driving Annie to and from some activity and she randomly flipped open the glove box of the car.  Surprisingly, there neatly on top sat our engagement picture smiling out at me.

Annie took it out and gave it a good look as we drove along.

"I love this picture of you both," she said. "You look so fresh and clean."

I knew what she meant but couldn't help laugh outright.  As opposed to what? How used and worn we look now?

I smiled at her.  "That was the best day ever," I said and mused aloud, "I wonder why Dad keeps it in there?"

"I know," she wisely replied with a serious nod of her head, "It's like his roadside preparedness kit in the trunk, Mom. If his car breaks down, or he's had a hard day, he just pulls it out and looks at it and feels calm all over again."

I liked her romanticism.

Later that evening, spending some time with Newel and playing a little reminisce, I brought up the picture and Annie's thoughts in its' regard. I'd let her get into my head and I added my own sentiments to its' significance in the glove box of the car.

"That was the best day ever." I said again and told him what a nice surprise it'd been to find it on such a special weekend. "I like that you keep it close by," I gushed.

"Yeah," he said blankly, "I keep it in there to show whoever is cutting my hair exactly what I want just so they don't jack it up."

Ever the romantic, what's not to love?

Happy Anniversary, Newel. This life wouldn't be nearly as fun ... or funny without you. Here's to all of the best days ever that I get to spend with you.