Insa skirt: size matters!

Sometimes these things happen. You sew something up and it doesn’t fit. Guess what, this rarely ever happens to me, but it’s happened three times in the last couple weeks. One item was the Insa skirt from the Farbenmix book which I’d intended for my daughter Sophie.

No matter. I not only know scores of little girls who’d likely enjoy a frilly skirt, I also have a smaller-scale model in-house who’s happy to pose so I can get pictures before I send it to its new home:

As I took pictures Nels reached for my scissors and began to snip at a stray thread on the skirt. This is something he’s seen me fuss over a million times. I’m touched he knows it’s part of the sewing process.

On to the pattern. As I discovered, it does run small; this is easy enough to forstall, but I was lazy and just sewed the same size I’d been sewing from the book. If you’d like to make sure you don’t make my mistake, simply measure the waistband and yoke circumference, take your sewing tape, and put it around your child’s hips at that same measurement. This circumference should have enough room from waist to mid-thigh your child can move comfortably. Remember, as it’s an elastic waist it’s easy to make a slightly large skirt fit just fine at the waist. Anyway, a too-large skirt is obviously a more desirable result than a too-small one as your child will grow into it in about five minutes.

The skirt’s lines are lovely. There is an easy and fabric showy feature on the underskirt that allows you to add volume to the skirt and show off more of the underlayer. This is accomplished by vertical lengths of 1/4″ elastic on the underside of the underskirt, midway through each gore. The elastic is cut to length and triple-stitched: a more “bubbly” effect is obtained the shorter the elastic strips you use, as I did:
Elastic For Fullness

The skirt is, like all the patterns in the book, made for using many different fabrics, scraps, and embellishments. You can add a contrast waistband (as I did) or use the upper edge of the yoke for the elastic facing. It’s the perfect skirt for twirling and lots of movement, and also to show off trims and topstitching:
Topstitched, Twin Needle

And finally, I added my own label at the center back yoke, on the inside of the skirt. Who knows where it may end up and maybe they’ll come look me up and find my sewing and be inspired.
Tag, Right Side

you really would totally love to live here

So my kids got to sleep in and then eat a hot homemade breakfast and then play in the sunshine and then take a huge nap on the couch (Nels) then go swimming then get burgers and a shake and then home again and their friend came over and they spent HOURS outside digging a huge mud hole in my back yard (an executive decision I made today: yes, you can have this section of the yard to dig in, what the hell, we can always repair it later) then came back in for Legos before heading outside for bike riding. And for dinner I made Indian Butter Chicken (with substitutions, and it was still fabulous) on top of basmati rice and sprinkled with ground cashews, served next to petite peas and fried zucchini. Oh and I asked Nels how he liked the food (because it was new cuisine and all spicey and cumin-y and stuff) and he said, “It’s delightful!”, except he said “deerightful”. And right now I’m sewing on a couple lovely dresses for my daughter and Nels is teaching himself chess and Sophie is drawing a new kind of mermaid-creature and Ralph is out putting away the chicks, who are now “hardened” i.e. they spend their days outside in a tractor (to keep them safe from neighborhood cats, as the birds are just a wee bit small to defend for themselves) and we met yet another awesome neighbor and Ralph took her a half dozen of our eggs. And it was sunny today and I think it’ll be sunny tomorrow too.

I like my life.

buscamos algo una bicicleta

Today’s agenda yields only sunlight, open fresh air, and life to be lived.  We have a project: last night while friends were over one of the children took Nels’ bike out and left it around the block on the sidewalk. Today after a reconnaissance mission and a phone call to the friend we haven’t yet found it.  We ride about the neighborhood a while and Sophie finds other friends she’d rather hang with (as it turns out, setting off some rockets in a parking lot).  Nels and I head downtown to have lunch at Los Arcos (the family-operated HQX Mexican restaurant) and he and I split pollo asada con frijoles refritos y arroz Mexicana, chips and salsa, and two Roy Rogers (I love the sweet-sweet-sweet coupled with the fire of the hot sauce).  After we finish we head to the police station.  I figure it’s a long shot but we may as well give it a go.

But my guess is a good one as I discover a bike was brought in this morning.  There is a tiny and satisfying little flutter as no fewer than three officers assist with the retrieval, including the use of a police radio as we head to the little bike impound.  When Nels identifies his (purple, floral, girls’) bike the policeman – a very large, intimidating middle aged fellow made even larger and more intimidating by his uniform and gear – gives a laugh and literally claps his hands in delight.  I’m happy too.  He tells me usually the bikes that come in never get claimed, gesturing to the sad little pile lying fallow a few feet away.  Later my husband will suggest that maybe people assume theft and don’t bother to make inquiries, but I don’t know.  I’m thinking most Americans have so much “stuff” that one particular item isn’t worth the trouble; better to let your kids lose it then nag when they complain about it, eventually deciding the kid needs a “proper bike” and splurging on the cheap and shiny new Walmart version for a birthday, Christmas.

I thank the officer in charge and jog behind my son as he pedals over to my own bike.  Nels is pleased he won’t have to mount a flyer campaign around the neighborhood (which was his first idea).  “Now I can ride with you!” he says happily, all sunshine under his orange helmet (he pronounces “with” like “wiff”, swoon).  He is happy to graduate to riding with me – as in on his own bike, not behind me – but I can feel the ghosts of his little arms, his little grip about my waist, already fleeting.  Today he is already an accomplished and competent rider, although Hell No if he thinks I’m cool with him pedaling around town by himself (nothing against your skills Nels, but rather the ginormous gas guzzlers that blast through town, their owners texting behind tinted windows. Mama’s gotta have some paranoia), and Hell Yes I know he’s going to be trying this over the next few weeks.

In our various errands and dealings today about six grownups think Nels is a girl and identify him as “she”.  I have no idea why this would be; his hair isn’t even the shoulder-length it’s been in times past.  To be honest, I think it’s in part because when my son and I are together (without the distractions of his father and sister) he displays a fair bit of circumspect behavior, adroit physical coordination, calm presence, eye contact, and a sweet-husky voice (my friend Karen referred to him as an “angel” today – too far!); all of this often (not always!) reads as “well-behaved” and in general, sadly, girls are usually expected to perform this service.  Of course any socialized behavior my son demonstrates is not to be laid at the feet of my direct tutelage and may immediately be followed by something rather shocking or unwelcome, like him climbing into a backhoe and attempting to operate it.  I think being Nels’ parent has created within me a watchfulness and calm and alacrity, a Boot Camp that prepares me for Shit Immediately and Totally Hitting the Fan at Any Moment.  And I actually enjoy this very much.

After we pick up the bike we make our way home in no great hurry, first cruising through the plots at the community garden. My son suggests we re-up our membership as we have since its inception three seasons ago.  We make our way home and a few minutes later my daughter, according to that psychic connection we seem to have, busts through the door, her eyes bright and cheeks flushed.  It’s almost time to get your friends I tell her (we have a sleepover scheduled tonight).  She devours the half hamburguesa y papas fritas I’d brought home and we’re back on bikes (Ralph home now), the family splitting in twain to receive our two diminutive guests. Back at our house with the four kids and they are biking, jump-roping, chasing cats and chickens, fighting and wrestling and climbing trees.  Inside and hands are washed and dinner laid out (my children have designated Fridays as hot dog night – we also have cole slaw, potato chips, carrot sticks, celery sticks, and orange juice) then the kids are back outside and Ralph cleans the house and we run a bath and get the kiddo movie ready and make beds and spread blankets.

Full house.

“completely rid me of my perishing thirst”

A day like today, even with a lack-of-sleep hangover and no car and a mild feeling of cabin fever and all that, the sun was shining and my son heckled me mercilessly to accompany him out on the bikes and so we did. And I’m not complaining about my day when I get to bike in the sun.

I had a skit running through my mind all morning and I’ve been laughing and laughing about it:

(I actually love it when something silly plays over and over in my head), AND THEN when Sophie and I biked to get our groceries, outside the shop there was a rather scruffy looking middle-aged fellow drinking a huge silver can of beer, so I was just super-pleased to see that. Before we went inside we browsed the posted flyers and the man shuffled over and offered to pay for a ride on the red quarter airplane (a mildly dilapitated kiddie ride). I thanked him but Sophie wasn’t interested.  So then he asked if when I was a kid I’d gone on the same airplane kiddie ride and I said Yes and smiled and he cackled and actually slapped at his thigh and took another pull on the beer. So that whole business was great because usually most all the time I love talking to strangers.  I always have.

While Nels visited with his Gram it was good to have a handful of minutes with my daughter, even if all we did was pick up groceries and go to the new local pizza eatery (a nice enough place with very sweet owners, huddled in a rather depressing stretch of highway and dilapidated neighborhood buildings and sidewalks).  When my daughter and I are alone sometimes we barely even talk to each other, but we do touch a lot and I hold her and she puts her hand on mine and her head on my shoulder.  When we got home today the schoolkids were walking along the sidewalk and she caught up with some friends, her smile wide and her freckles popping and her legs pedaling furiously.  She brought Little P over and helped train him in drawing dragons (Sophie is super-accomplished on this account) and then the kids played Legos for hours.  Nels came in and out, digging a hole in the sideyard to explore under the house, his lean little body wrapped in his father’s hoodie to keep spiders away.  After this adventure concluded he planted new seeds and took a bag of fertilizer out to apply in the garden (he tells me his pea shoots are already coming up) and chased the chickens.  Ralph and Nels are the gardeners in the family; I guess come summer I’ll see just what they’ve been up to but I hope pumpkins are involved at least.

We moved the chicks out to the garage as part of the “hardening” process.  I kind of miss their peeping and scratching and the occasional and inexplicable MASSIVE POULTRY THROWDOW bash-about.  I’m also looking forward to putting them out in the back – when they’re ready – for the two-flock action (think: West Side Story fruity and deadly dance-fighting).

Spring, it’s good times.

a maiden voyage

Oh good Lord. If more days were like this they’d make up for a baker’s dozen of bad ones. It wasn’t just that my head cold lifted and the sun came out, and I got to watch the kids swim in really awesome lessons at the Y, or that we spent most of the day outside and ran into all sorts of friends and neighbors, and had a wonderful late lunch at our little Chinese American diner including an illustrative discussion with the proprietess (who loves Nels, and this is reciprocated) and some old-timer schooling me on the “class of people” living in Grays Harbor (ugh!) – all of which were wonderful, wonderful parts of my day.

But no, early in the afternoon kind of as an afterthought I hauled out Nels’ “new” bike ($9 at Thrift City, $5 for tune-up and new seat from our bike shop) and asked him if he wanted to learn to ride. And he said yes. And what the hell happened if he didn’t get on the bike and just start pedaling, steering and balancing, perfectly. Yes, his very first time ever on his own two-wheeled bike. I thought Sophie learned fast but this was amazing. Also: no training wheels BTW, as the bike guy told us years ago to not bother, so we never have. I will point out instead of $10 training wheels they’ve been riding on the back of my longtail bike which had a considerably larger price tag.

Nels rode well and with joy and competence from the get-go. He asked for help at first (barely steadying him as he got started). He crashed several times. But he even crashed awesomely – quickly and efficiently and when necessary, swiftly disentangling himself from the bike so not to go down with it (yes, there was blood and bruise and he got right back to things every time). On Karr Avenue he hit a truck, sort of but not really, because he used his handbrake and feet to avert a bone-rattling crash then sprang off the bike elegantly as it slid under the vehicle while he gently placed his hand on the door as if soothing a riled-up stallion.

And of course I really do mean it about the longtail experience being hugely instrumental to his abilities, because he also displayed an incredible awareness of traffic, space cushions, lane position, and braking distance – besides the balance and steering bit. Trust me, I’ve ridden bikes with many children and a lot of them are never trained properly and it kind of makes my hair stand on end to bike with them as they jet across streets without looking and ride into oncoming traffic and weave back and forth wtihout shoulder-checking and crash into the rest of the bike party. My kids have learned to ride a bike by sitting on the back of mine for a couple years. Kind of an incredible bonus to cargo biking.

But, and I want to be very accurate here: while there was a part of me that was amazed (although I shouldn’t be) at just how effortless, natural, and inspiring my kids’ process of learning is (when it’s not forced, coerced, or prompted), the thing that most stuck with me was the joy inherent in the entire business. Nels radiated concentration, ability, success, and happiness; a vitality thrummed through his veins, not something my camera caught (I did grab a bit of video) or that’s even easy to explain. His eyes flashed at me when he felt he was getting into a tricky bit of terrain. His voice rung out assertive yet gracious enough when he asked me for help. He hurt himself a couple times, enough to bring tears. I held him and pet him and he was back on the bike with no regrets nor fears. I felt so fortunate, just amazingly happy, to be with someone learning something new in such a way, all the joy and ability and in-the-moment presence of this child. It’s not something I often see in adults.

It felt like we biked all day.

It’s dark by the time we stop at my mother’s; she’s not at home. Sophie wants to stay the night. She suggests she write a note to my mom. A few minutes later she hands it to me: “Hello Gram, My mother drooped [sic] me of [sic] to stay the night. I hope that’s OK, Love Sophie”. I laughed and laughed because I meant a note we left to ask my mother to get back to us, as opposed to a note that we tape on the window after the assumptive act of abandoning the child (which is, in fact, what we did; and yes, my mother upon her return did agree to the scheme). Sophie and her bike stayed at my mom’s and Ralph made reconnaissance with our daughter’s suitcase.

It was a really fucking great day.

First Family Bike Ride, Sort Of
Photo courtesy of Little P, a neighborhood boy who accompanies us on bike trips when his family lets him.

recipe for better: cooking with beef, garlic, and wine

Today started out ass, I’ll just say it.  My head cold kept me up until very late and nearly debilitated come morning, at which point I was roused by the knock of a government official at my door.  Later my husband and I had a very tense and wasteful argument revolving around a bag of potato chips (yes, really).  Outside the wind kicked up to buffet us between bouts of sour, pissing rain.

The upswing was a while coming but once it did it kept improving.  The sun came out.  I rested, began to feel better, and went to bellydancing class.  Ralph and the kids took a long swimming date.  While out I grabbed groceries for Julia Child’s recipe for boeuf bourgingnon (the laborious, steady, soothing preparations would cheer any cook up).  In making the dish my prized stoneware roaster finally succumbed to the hairline crack it had threatened, so Sophie and I went out and bought a new enameled cast iron pot for the kitchen (this cheered me up immensely) and a Space Police Lego set and strawberry bubble tea for Sophie (this cheered her up immensely). I love my one-on-one time with the kids.  They are seriously fucking awesome.  This is when I find how much they have learned and discovered, their hopes and plans and passions and dreams.  Sophie sat next to me on the bench seat and leaned her head on my shoulder and we were fine, fine, fine.

Upon our return we invited my mother over for dinner (which included the beouf along with butter noodles and cucumber salad – delicious!) after which Ralph let our chicks out for a run in the living room.  They have gained immense stature and are lovely from the neck down with their beautiful, proud new feathers (and yet their heads are unappealing, vulture-y, and scrappy-yet-fluffy). In their aimless and semi-alarmed bobbing about they terrified my mom’s terrier so much he moved behind my legs.  He is a dear old pup.  He’s going blind and becoming fearful.  My mom is considering either springing the hefty expense of having one of his eyes operated on (to restore sight, if not depth perception) OR having him put down.  I find it hilarious she hasn’t decided which.  Of course I’m going to pressure her to do the former.

Because my children had spent much of the day playing with their father they seemed almost wild to me by days’ end, small unknown forces who kept their own counsel.  Only a few hours away from my care and my son looked taller, older, absorbed in his play.  His plans and schemes all his own.  It’s funny because in only the space of half a day I can miss them, not at all a pining feeling, more like an awareness of their absence.

goddamnit, learn how to use the pickle-fork!; or, “socialization” isn’t always so awesome

How then will a child learn social manners? Can we trust the child to develop and mature in her own time, the way we trusted her to learn to walk and to talk? Why are we in a rush to have children behave like adults before they are adults? – from “How Children Learn Manners”, c. Naomi Aldort at

Recently at a Yahoo group I’m a member of the discussion turned to children and our efforts to teach them “manners”. A group member posted an anecdote that was instantly familiar:

I think our responses to our children often frame how people view them. I went out for a meal with some friends and relatives. We had our 2 children, ages 3 and 6. Another woman had hers, ages 8 and 4.

Our children played with their food, put vinegar on their pizza, got down from their places and went round talking to other members of the group, blew bubbles in their drinks and played with the balloons. None of their behaviour was loud or wild and they were certainly keeping themselves from being bored. I was relaxed with it. No-one from other tables even seemed to notice.

The other mum was feeling much more agitated and insisted on eating “correctly”, not leaving the table, and saying please and thank you. She was quite loud and vocal in telling them off for misbehaving. She obviously wanted people to know that she was trying to discipline her children and teach them right from wrong. Unfortunately all I could see happening was her drawing attention to her kids’ behaviour and framing it as bad. Consequently people were tutting and rolling their eyes and her children became more and more irritable and squirmy.

We were seated quite far apart and I’m not sure she noticed what was going on with mine but I certainly did with hers. I didn’t feel judgmental but it really brought home to me that often people see our children through our reaction to them; yet often we respond to our children out of fear of how others will respond to them.

This brief story resonated strongly with me. Recently I was in a similar setting when several friends and our children met at a restaurant to eat together.  I was struck by a difference between two families, an experience similar to the example above.  One family did not restrict their children: the kids crawled on the floor, got up from the table, climbed around and laughed and played.  The other family required their children to sit still, keep voices low, speak in a “mannered” tone, engage in adult table manners, and refrain from play.  The children were all about the same ages, five to eight.

From my end of the table, the family engaged in a high degree of “socializing” efforts looked miserable.  The parents were tense and busy, scarcely having time to enjoy the delicious food.  Their children’s eyes were downcast and muted and there was an air of strain about the group.  In contrast, the children who were running around had a fine time, one which was incidentally non-disruptive.  They did not once break anything, get in anyone’s way, or fight.  Their parents kept an eye on them in a relaxed fashion but ate their meal and took part in adult conversation.  The free children enjoyed themselves immensely.  People often tend to think of children as “loud” but I observed the active children’s voices, raised in laughter and imaginative play, had no more actual volume than a neighboring male diner on a cell phone.

The differences between families and experiences was quite striking.  I know which parental model I want to model myself on, even if I don’t always live up to my standards.

Of course, it’s not just a matter of personal resources and know-how in raising children without the fearful cling to tight constraints.  It is brave of my friends who allow their child the freedom to, you know, be childlike, because since becoming a parent I’ve found many in my peer group (middle-class white Americans) discourage children’s expression, bodily autonomy, authenticity, interests, and activity.  In fact children who aren’t behaving according to the soul of adult decorum often get glared at, spoken to rudely, or – even more commonly – silently resented.

The internet age assists us in painting things in black and white.  People resent different parenting styles (or their interpretations of them, often erroneous) and quickly want to blame a host of society’s ills on these perceptions of difference and wrongness.  People direct their fears, angers, and frustrations in snarky or mean-spirited internet comments or incensed letters to the newspaper editor about “kids today” and their horrid parents.  What a loss, since if and when we choose to open discussion with those around us we stand to learn so much from one another.  Rarely in public have I seen one adult say to another openly, “I’m uncomfortable with how much your children are climbing around! ” or, “Your parenting techniques are challenging me! We really do things differently!” and then – important! – allowing the other adult an opportunity to respond (your particular language and conversational ice breaker may vary). The few times I have seen an adult brave and open enough to initiate this conversation a wonderful conversation often ensues.  These dialogues have the power to instruct, inspire, empower, challenge, and unite us in community and commonality of goals and needs.  Most parents love their children very much and want to do what’s right for their family and the larger society as well.

Sadly, these conversations are often avoided.  In a seemingly “civil” society where such things are often not discussed instead I feel the “vibe” (yes, this is a real thing), see the glares, hear the passive-aggressive comments.  I do not always run across this unpleasantness when we go out in the world, but it is a constant drumbeat nevertheless – displayed not that long ago when my son spontaneously engaged in some athleticism on top of our family car.  Conversely, when my kids are “good” I am treated to the compliments and erroneous assumptions I’m raising my kids “right” – i.e. with authoritarian discipline.  When my kid are “good” and their behavior commented on (as it often is) I find it funny.  I can honestly say we are not an autocratic household and we move further from authoritarian discipline every day.  My children are not punished nor badgered by coercive techniques disguised as “loving discipline”.  Yet they are turning out well-behaved enough, considerate, direct, and they function well in society.  And despite our “radical” parenting they are very normal; in fact they are more likely to be cited as standing out for their directness and competence than anything else.  And perhaps most importantly for many parents who are afraid to lift restrictions, they are not the chandelier-swinging, sociopathic Lord of the Flies monkey-children so many believe – and want to believe – is the inevitable result of what is sneered at as “permissiveness” or “unparenting”.

I am glad to have seen the errors of my previous ways.  When my children were younger I worried very much about “manners”.  I prompted them (“Say ‘please’,” or “Say ‘thank you’!”) and I felt embarassed when they did something socially-deemed as rude or naughty – like yell, or grab a toy from another child, or…  hell, that’s about it.  I mean how much trouble can a two-year old get up to? Fer crying out loud.

It was a false construct and a rather tribally-defined one.  If everyone else is fretting over their toddler’s need to learn to share, then it’s easy to follow suit.  It’s also easy to exert your will on a small child (at first). In a way my dependence on focussing my children’s behavior on “manners” was an attempt at control (of course!), an addiction to the ego-boost when said child was praised, genuine worry for their future happiness and function in society (understandable), and, sadly, the deep-down buried resentments from my own upbringing – at home and in society at large.  Children are treated as second-class citizens, I see this clearly now. Whatever we consider our spiritual and intellectual leanings regarding peace and force, in our homes so many of us really do behave as if Might Equals Right, and in public other adults – childfree and parents alike – support this concept.

At some point a couple years ago I discovered Naomi Aldort’s article, “How Children Learn Manners” (from which my introductory excerpt hails) and it was one of those brief but life-changing episodes.  In this essay Aldort gently but with rapier-sharp awareness deconstructs what we’re really teaching children when we enforce social niceties both in response to social pressure and in lieu of pursuing authenticity. I can imagine some responses of many who are used to treating children more or less as they were raised (that is, using punishments, lectures in favor of example, and coercion).  Aldort’s writings may bring feelings of amazement, cynicism, beleaguered perceptions of nit-picking (“OK, now I’m not even supposed to tell my kids to say please? What, is parenting totally hands-off?”), irritation, and of course, deep-down fear and resentment.  Yet I am fortunate that when I read this article I saw the wisdom in every point she made, even if at the time I had no idea how I could apply such concepts into practice.

As I alluded to earlier, I was also informed by my own memories of childhood.  I remember resenting the concept one should “make nice” rather than be truthful, that there was a hierarchy of needs that put me – as a child – dead last except where it was convenient for the adults in the room, and that really, some people count less than others.  I remember being shocked and angry that adults would speak to children using words and a tone of voice that most adults would find infuriating or humiliating.  This sense of injustice and injury serves me well now as I have children of my own.  I can learn to do things a new way and watch as joy, authenticity, and yes, consensual living, flows through our home. And I can breathe a teeny sigh of relief to see such changes do not bring end-times chaos, knife-fights, or arson.

It’s no surprise, of course, that the family I mentioned above – with the free-range children – is one I want to spend more time with.  In our culture, it is hard to find an oasis of awareness and respect afforded to all human beings in the room and in the family.  I am comforted to know most families love their children very much, even if their strategies are poor ones.  Surrounding myself with mentors who know another way has become a new organizing principle of my life.

oh good lord have i told you how much i love to sew?

(Quilt-age, being pressed)

Today as I made the bed I wondered why the heck I beat myself up that I don’t always catalog and take pictures of my many, many homemade creations. For instance since I last blogged about sewing I’ve made a ten-yard skirt and choli for bellydancing, a hairband, three pair of boxers, sewed up the Patterns By Figgy’s Beach Bum hoodie, finished a quilt top, and knit a hat.  And I’ve taken a picture or two, that’s it.

Taking photographs of my craft is another part of “after project clean-up” that I’m not always too thrilled with.  It isn’t just that I’ve got food to cook and people and pets to care for and laundry and scrubbing the toilet, etc, etc.  It’s that creations are springing out of my fingertips and I don’t want to slow down.  In fact my mind is like a runaway train and my body follows: I sew, sew, sew almost maniacally at times, threading and rethreading machines and slicing through the virgin beauty of smooth yardage.  It’s pure joy and industry.  There is no rhyme or reason to my methods: some projects are rather slap-dash and some are painstaking and detailed.  I unceremoniously pull shirts over the top of my kids’ heads, I give some of the work away to those who need or want.  I sew in a label with my name.  I re-fold and store yardage; smaller scraps I painstakingly cut into 3″ squares (I’m saving up these squares to make my kids a couple quilts, maybe upon their emancipation from my home) and the miniscule bits of fabric remaining are given to a local shop who sells them in wee bags to scrap quilters; the profits go to the local senior center.

Today I finished the Farbenmix Brooklyn shrug from a $1 100% cotton shirt I found at Thrift World.  It took about a half hour.
Brooklyn Shrug

I also used the same shirt for a hairband for myself.  And I still have quite a bit of the stripe left!

One of the three pair of boxers I made Nels, all made from scrap and donated yardage:
Nels Poses

And finally: a visit to Olympia last night allowed me to buy some Fabric Porn (click on picture to know more):
Fabric Porn

The two fabrics that held a special place in my heart were the lemon and the Japanese-inspired waterscape. Today I look at the selvedge and sure enough: both of them are from Alexander Henry. I’d love to work for them. As in: they just give me a bunch of fabric and I say, “Thanks!” and sew with it. That kind of work. I won’t hold my breath.


Today I had my first visit to a physician I hope will become my primary care provider, Dr. Cheryl Plaza from the Northwest Center for Natural Medicine.  This meant a drive to Olympia and back, about forty five minutes each way.  I took Nels and let Sophie stay home.  By prearrangement she woke to a clean, quiet, and ordered house, a note on the table (instructing her as to the yogurt in the fridge, to feed and water our baby chicks, and that her carseat was on the porch), and spent the late morning and afternoon with my mother.  I let the two of them make their own arrangements together.

Nels was exasperated at having to travel to Olympia.  He didn’t want to go.  Perhaps because of his resentfulness at being taken on this errand, he did not respect the hour appointment I had.  Interestingly, the doctor was someone who did respect children, which made it easier for everyone involved.  Another employee, working up at the front desk, was of a more typical ilk – irritable.  She talked sharply to my son for ringing the doorbell (“Don’t do that!”), then called him “that child” to someone else in the waiting room.  Funny how so many people treat children poorly and it’s assumed to be okay to do so (I noticed this employee was not categorically rude to adults).

Fort, Hidden Away

While in the car we passed a man holding a cardboard sign.  My son said, “Mom, did you not see that man? You should have given him something.” I said, “His sign said he was asking for work.  I didn’t have that to give.”  Nels spotted, a block further, a young woman holding a sign that said, “ANYTHING”.  When we came abreast I rolled my window down and asked if she wanted anything to eat.  She came forward and I handed her a new bag of dried apples, the easiest thing I had on-hand.  She had brilliant, troubled blue eyes but wouldn’t make eye contact.  She said “Thanks,” quietly, then stepped back to her curb.

“Is that what you wanted me to do?” I asked my son.  “Yes,” he said.

I love that my children see people who need help. I really do love this.

My mother and Sophie met us back in Hoquiam at the hair salon at 3:30.  Sophie had been carsick because she had been reading an encyclopedia during their entire drive back from the beach.  She was very pale in this greenish way she gets when she’s ill.  But she was such a pleased, happy, engaged child.  Later at dinner when I became upset she followed me into my bedroom and put her arms around me and stayed with me.  I find it categorically true that the better I take care of my children – by giving them freedom and unconditional love, a consensual way of life – the better they take care of me and eachother.  Clearly I need to stop assuming Nels will and can accompany me on trips, just because it feels more convenient for me to take him than to let him decide what to do.

I’m learning every day.

on which it somehow did not take a turn for the Awkward

It’s a common enough belief among people that when you have kids you give them little talks to fill them in on your particular family values. Yet I tend to believe as Mahatma Gandhi once said: “My life is my message.” Children pick up family values from the life lived in the family – and yes, this is for good or ill (kids also pick up values outside the family; you cannot force your children into your own worldviews). The need to be conscious about my life-as-lived is is why, in general, I don’t tend to give my kids lectures about this or that. But every now and then I initiate a direct conversation – I just try to avoid any ‘splaining about the whole business. When I choose these discussions I’ve often found asking my children how they feel and what they believe works better than telling them what they should feel or believe.

So here’s word for word what happened in the truck the other day as Sophie and I drove to pick up groceries.

Me: “Sophie, what age do you think it would be okay for you to have sex?”

Sophie: “After I get a boyfriend.”

Me: “When is that?”

Sophie: “Maybe… thirteen or fifteen.” She thinks another beat then says, “Maybe I’d wait a little longer.”

Me: “Oh so you mean, you’d start dating as a teenager, but wait to have sex?”

Sophie: “Yeah.”

Me: “You know, that’s what I did. I mean I had boyfriends and girlfriends for a while before I started having sex with any of them.”

Sophie: “Girlfriends? You’re kidding!” She looks at me in surprise.

Me: “Yes, I mean a few. I kissed them and had sex with some of them and all that. But you know, first I dated for a while before that kind of thing.”

Sophie: “Oh!” The light in her eyes and voice is just priceless. Something “fits” for her, although I’m not sure what it is.

We pull into the parking lot. My daughter unbuckles her seatbelt, leans over and puts her arms around me, strokes my hair. “Thanks for always telling us the truth, Mama,” she says softly, and kisses me so gently.

So really, there’s that.