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One Whole Year.

July 16, 2014

On Friday the babies turned 1.

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Yep. A whole year. A whole year that we survived.

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I kind of can’t believe it’s been an entire year already. Also, it’s been the longest year of our lives.

photo-35 It’s been more challenging than I ever would have thought possible. It’s been more rewarding than I ever would have believed.

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I learned how to nurse two babies at the same time, to build supply for two….even in the woods.

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I was brave enough to stop nursing one of them when it became clear that it was hurting her more than helping her. Now I tell people who are nosy enough to ask that I’m doing an experiment – bottle feeding one, and nursing the other. It amuses me.

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I learned that for however much I might have stressed about sleep when the older two were small, really babies can adapt to anything – even a sibling throwing a crib party six inches from their head.

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I learned about what it feels like to bring babies home from the NICU.

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I learned about how much love and maturity my older two are capable of.

kidsI learned that sometimes accepting help is really really necessary.

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I learned that weekly coffee dates with friends is REALLY necessary to survival….and that friends who will tolerate your refluxy babies spitting up on them with grace and humour are about the best thing ever.

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I learned (kind of?) how to balance the needs of big kids and babies….though I have to relearn that one a LOT.

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I learned where just about every clinic office is at the Children’s hospital, and I learned EXACTLY how good they are there.

photo-36I learned that we are tough – that we can get things done and have fun together….even in the midst of the hard.

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I discovered a whole new layer of love for my husband.

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It’s been a year. There will be so many details I forget…which baby it was in the NICU that would. not. take. a bottle; which baby loved baths; which baby hated them. But I will never forget what it’s felt like to watch my family stretch and grow and rise, sometimes clumsily, to the challenge of raising these two babies.

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Happy birthday girls. We love you SO much.

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Bathing Suit for Anika

July 14, 2014

When I started making this, I kind of thought it was akin to something like making bagels. You know, one of those things that CAN be done at home, with home equipment, but really…why? You can BUY them so easily. They are everywhere and probably far more work than is necessary, you know?

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I was encouraged by my friend Cindy over at Siestas and Sewing….but I still didn’t do anything about it. Then I picked up this pattern from Amy at Peekaboo Pattern Shop, and thought well heck. Why not. Frankly I need the mental exercise more than she specifically NEEDS clothes anyway.

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I learned a lot making this. I learned that I really should probably try to find a better repair shop for my serger – I guess my serger just isn’t a very good one, because I’ve had it in to be tuned up and fixed about three times and it STILL isn’t working. (Usually it will work for a project or so when I get it home and then goes totally off the rails again. Wheee.)

In the absence of my serger I used my regular sewing machine, which was fine…but meh. I like more polished seams. I feel like the inside of the bathing suit could look better…but I also know I am the only one that will bug.

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And I really love the result. The top is perfect, and (as you can tell from these pictures) it does not budge on her no matter how she moves and plays in the water.

The bottoms I’d like to redraft a little. They are originally designed to be quite high waisted, and I knew that Anika was *not* going to go for that. I ended up chopping about four inches off the top before I sewed the waistband.

I feel like the front of the bottoms is a little wide – the elastic rolls and they bunch a little, and I think I could improve on the fit a bit for my particular brand of kid. But the butt on this pattern is AWESOME. Like the top, it doesn’t move. NO wedgies, no matter how many times she was in and out of the pool.

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I think….dare I say it? I think I might actually try this again sometime. It was quick and far easier than I expected. And the result is really satisfying.

So there are your words of wisdom for today. Step outside the box a bit. Live on the edge. Try something new. Make a bagel.

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Sam is 4.

July 9, 2014

May we talk about the boy-child for a minute? Because he is four. FOUR. FOUR YEARS OLD. He is not little anymore. He tells me this all the time. He is four.

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I could probably go on forever about the wonderful frustrating world of Sam – he’s delightful; truly he is. He’s fun and compassionate and silly and all of the things that make this age fantastic. Also? He’s a royal pain in the butt who digs his heels in and throws tantrums about things periodically. He’s rigid as anything about transitions – HAAATES Not Knowing what is going on. Even when it is good stuff – surprises are not a good thing for this guy, at least not right now.

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But he gets over it and he moves on and he is just so. much. fun.

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So several months ago Sam decided he wanted to have an In Summer birthday party from the movie Frozen – featuring Olaf and Sven heavily, but also “all the guys.” Right-o.

I actually thought this was a really fun idea for a June birthday. We came up with this as an invitation:

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And then got to work on the ideas. First we needed a “Olaf 4 shirt”. Do you know how hard it is to find a PLAIN muscle tee out there for kids? Man, EVERYTHING has stuff on it. (To be fair I suppose I wanted stuff on his shirt too – I just wanted the stuff I was going to put there!)

With the babies it is FAR more work to try to go to 46 different stores to find what I’m looking for….so pretty much after I exhausted the usual suspects I decided to make my own.

I picked up the pattern for the Maui Muscle Tee from Peekaboo Pattern Shop and was able to go from no shirt to finished shirt in less than an hour. Seriously, easiest pattern ever. I was even texting my sister during most of the time I was making it. Dead simple.

A little messing around with Picmonkey, a free Olaf graphic, some iron on transfers and fabric paint, and voila – a 4 Olaf shirt.

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And because I’m me and can’t leave well enough alone, here’s the back:

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Next up – find some things for all these crazy kids to do. (Sam was adamant that he wanted “all the kids he knows in the whole world” to come to his party. And their families. We cut him off at 12 but yeesh. I may be in trouble when this kid is in full-time school and meeting even more people.)

We figured we would basically turn them loose in the backyard and let them run and dig in the sandpit and play on the play structure.

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My friend Lisa drew and AWESOME picture of Sven, which we hung on the fence:

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and my brother’s girlfriend drew a wonderful Olaf for “Pin the nose on Olaf.”

We buried about two dozen little frogs and lizards in the sandpit for them to find.

I also got playmobil minifigures and froze them in Ikea bowls of water – we gave each kid a block of ice and told them to figure out how to get the guy out.

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It was fun watching them work on it. They tried things like putting them in the wading pool to start them melting…

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and then used rocks to chip at them some more until they were free.

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PRO TIP – if you are going to do this (really fun activity that totally kills a solid 20 minutes), first make sure you assemble the minifigures. Most of them come with accessories, which I didn’t include in the freezing (I was worried about them getting lost) – I just put the accessories into the kids’ party bags so they would have them afterwards. Also, these little suckers float – so start by half filling the bowl with water and let that freeze. When it’s frozen, pour water over the top and let it finish freezing. I added some blue food colouring to the water to make it look a little more “frozen-y” – but you don’t have to!

We were planning a snowball fight, but since we did NOT luck out with the weather (it was overcast and pretty cool), we ended up not hauling out the water balloon “snowballs”. Of course we DID fill them ahead of time, and they are currently residing in my laundry room sink.

I’m looking forward to a date in the not too distant future where I nail the kids from the upper deck while they play in the backyard. Ahem.

So lets talk about the cake. Birthday is ALL ABOUT THE CAKE for Sammo. I don’t know if it’s because most of the time when he is at OTHER kids’ birthday parties he isn’t allowed to have the cake because of his allergies? I am not sure. But regardless, cake to share with his friends is completely where it’s at for him.

He had a vision for this cake. He wanted it to feature Sven and Olaf, but also Kristoff and Anna and Elsa could be there too. He wanted the lake. And snow. And for it to be “two circles.” I made the mistake of showing the boy pinterest. You see where this is going right??

Cake.

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Now can I tell you something? I do not like baking very much. It’s messy. I am always sticky at the end of it. There is always a huge mess to clean up. It’s just…I’d rather do fabric, is the thing.

But the boy wanted a cake. I cobbled this together from about five different websites and ideas. I made a big sheet of blue hard candy to use as the “lake” but then decided that I had this great big piece that would look super cool stuck to the back….so I went with it.

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I used a buttercream icing (blue) to ice the cake, and then – because I don’t really like fondant and it’s a hassle to make – I learned about marshmallow fondant which is AWESOME and EASY and also? Tastes like marshmallows. So that worked really well for the snow. I was able to put sections of blue candy on top of the cake for the ice lake and then cut a hole in the fondant before laying it on top so it looked like snow around the lake. It worked pretty well I think!

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And Sam….well. Sam really LIKED the cake, but he thought I did it wrong. Apparently the “two circles” were not supposed to be the same size. Yup. Oh well.

The best part of the day was that Sam had a blast. He was with his friends; he was running around; he was HAPPY. SO happy. And it was a really fun and joyful thing to be able to focus on him a bit.

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Happy birthday not-so-little guy. Love you to bits.

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Buffles

June 11, 2014

Buffles – a word my brother-in-law invented to describe butt ruffles on baby clothes. Obviously.

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I’m knee-deep in 4th birthday party planning, Olaf style, over here but wanted to share some pictures from a couple of rompers I made for the twins a couple of weeks ago.

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Amy of Peekaboo Pattern Shop fame put  out a call for photography – she wanted some of the pictures of her older patterns updated. I decided I needed a challenge/kick in the butt so I signed up to do the romper.

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This is a totally fun pattern and a really quick and easy sew. I love them on the girls. I think I didn’t get the sizing exactly right – based on their chest measurement the girls still fit into a newborn size, but they needed additional length. I added the length and it was fine but I actually think I should have just made the size up. The chest piece is pretty tiny, and while it might have been a bit big on them I don’t think it would have been that noticeable given that the back of the romper is open.

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I’ll definitely make these again – I’m a big fan of quick and easy outfits for them, and these work for sure.

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Amy’s patterns are great – quick and straightforward, even if you are a complete beginner sewer. One of my favourite things about her is that she’s fearless – she’s not afraid to tackle any kind of pattern it seems. (She has patterns for everything from party dresses to underwear to bathing suits listed in her shop. It’s pretty impressive). Definitely recommend checking them out!

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Plus. Dude. Buffles.

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Dance Recital 2014!

June 2, 2014

Can you believe Miss Anika has been doing the dance recital thing for five years now??? Because I can’t.

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How is that even possible? I’m sure she’s only 2.

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Okay maybe not.

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I don’t actually have the right words to talk about how amazing dance was for her this year. I saw her grow in all of the ways I hoped she would. I saw her figure out that if she worked hard – practiced hard at home, not just in classes – that she could get better. Lots better.

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I saw her figure out that she needed to focus on what the teacher was saying in class…..and that she’d be able to do things she didn’t think she would be able to do at first.

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I saw her learn to encourage her friends, and kids she didn’t know as well. I saw her bringing prayer requests to us about her dance friends, or her dance teachers when we would pray with her at night. I just really saw her grow up this year.

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There were challenges for sure. Some of the girls in her jazz class are doing some competitive stuff now, and that’s great for them. Anika isn’t one of them yet, and while both of us are JUST FINE with that, I know she wants to be thought of as “good”, and she worried that somehow not being in that group marked her as “not as good”. She worked through some things and eventually came to understand that being chosen to do competitive at 7 isn’t actually the only measure of whether or not you are “good”….and that there is a lot to learn still, and that’s okay.

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She struggled a little with the “uniform” this year. There are specific body suits and tights the girls are meant to wear, but as the girls get older they tend to start wearing their own dance clothes, and less of the “uniform”. I just couldn’t get my head around some of the outfits – booty shorts and sports bras are FINE in the studio for the older girls….but I had trouble with the idea of letting her wear that kind of thing now. (I know! I am uptight. Sorrynotsorry.)

We made some compromises (you can wear your dance studio shorts OVER the body suit, etc. and I will give you some more latitude with dance camp….but not for classes). With the help of an older student who helped in her jazz class Anika decided to embrace the uniform as part of the discipline…and it was great.

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Tap was especially interesting. She did a combo class a few years ago, and she’s done some tap at dance camp….but this was the first year she’s really taken it. She really didn’t like it for the first couple of months – she was bored; the things they were doing she’d already done; she just wasn’t enjoying it. But then I started noticing some changes….she’d come and tell me things like she wasn’t sure if her shuffles were making “the right noise”, and could we work on them? She started zeroing in on the technique bits and suddenly it was really fun. By the time the show rolled around it was one of her favourite classes – and she loved the number they did in the show.

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The show itself was the usual blur of exhausting glittery chaotic fun. This school REALLY knows how to put on a good show, and I love that even the youngest dancers are included in that. The teachers, volunteers, and behind the scenes folks are excellent….and it’s so telling to me that the older kids are so kind and helpful too. They go out of their way to be helpful, to hold doors, to smile at the younger kids; to compliment them on their costumes. Anyone Anika has ever had as a teacher for dance camp has made sure to say hi to her – sometimes crossing a room to come and say hello. I LOVE that.

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After Friday night’s show I asked her how she thought she did. She said that she thought ballet didn’t go very well because one of the dancers got confused and it messed things up a little bit – but she said that sometimes it’s confusing to go on the big stage so it was okay. She said that she thought jazz was medium. I thought jazz looked great so I asked her why medium….she said “I think I need more expression. In my face but also in my body. Sometimes when we do strong arms it can be a little too much like a robot.” Aaaand that right there was officially more thought than I have probably ever put into dance anything.  OKAY THEN. Glad you are the dancer kid.

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For me, watching her dance onstage this year, it was so different. She had so much more presence. She smiled. She connected with the audience. It is SO neat to see that evolving.

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It’s so much work. In a family where there are four kids, two of whom are babies that are kind of needy, dance sometimes feels like a “thing” that is over the top. But you know what? It’s SO easy to see that it’s worth it. Not because she’s some kind of child prodigy dancer girl. But because it’s shaping her into a person I really really like. It’s teaching her things that are crossing the boundaries of dance and into other activities and school. It’s teaching her confidence. It’s teaching her discipline. It’s teaching her about friendship. It’s SO worth it.

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Most! Disjointed! Post! Ever!

May 19, 2014

Okay sidenote. Did anyone ever watch that badly dubbed Most! Extreme! Elimination! Challenge! that was on around 2003 or so? That’s totally the voice running in my head when I typed the title. (Why yes, I am hearing voices now. Sleep deprivation. Gotta love it.)

******

This is a note I just sent to my beloved at work:

You know how Talia likes to give kisses now?And she’s decide it’s funny to give stuffed toys (or her blanket kisses too). Big smiles; she knows what she is doing.

Today she thought it was super funny to put things up to my mouth for ME to kiss. Which is super cool from a developmental perspective but also? the thing she wanted me to kiss? A balled up pair of your socks. Awesome.
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*****
Yes. So. We are good here. I wish this post was that giant catch up post that would fill you in on all the comings and goings and ups and downs and craziness of life with four kids but the fact of the matter is that every time I think about trying to update this thing properly it makes me want to curl up into a little ball and cry because it’s HARD. It’s hard to keep up with everything and truthfully most days I’m *really* just treading water and I’m barely doing that very well. So instead I’m going to not beat myself up about it and just post some STUFF. Maybe it will be easier to just go from there?
Babies are good; really good. Lucy…man she’s funny.
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She is FINALLY starting to catch up in amazing ways. We have her reflux basically eliminated (turns out the biggest problem for her was fortifying her formula. She just couldn’t handle the calorie density. Put her on a normal 20cal/ounce amount? She’s eating like a horse. Who knew??).
And girlfriend LOVES food. Loves being in her highchair; loves spoons; love love love. Super proud and loves it. Worked out how to pick up little puff things and eat them (lack of teeth notwithstanding). She really is doing amazingly well with all of it. And I *think* she’s catching Talia (though I haven’t had her weighed in awhile).
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(This amuses me to no end – occasionally she forgets that her soother is in her mouth, so when you give her a cracker – FAVOURITE EVER – she sits there and cries because she can’t work out how to get it IN to her mouth. Clearly gifted. Oy.)
She actually cracked her first tooth just yesterday – GO LUCY!
She can sit now, though she is more prone to tipping – for a long time her hips were so narrow compared to her head that staying upright was not really an option.
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(I swear, I let my mom and sister watch the girls via facetime for TWO SECONDS….and Lucy tipped. And what do they do?? Take a picture of it. Amazing. Note Shannon laughing in the camera in camera view.)
But she’s a lot more balanced and strong now. She seems to love playing with cars and trucks – I can’t decide if this is directly related to her mad crazy love of her brother (seriously, he just has to walk in the room and she laughs) or if it’s just a Lucy thing but she does.
Talia is great too – super strong; desperate to crawl although THANK GOODNESS she hasn’t figured that out yet. (Look, I know ok? Growing developing babies good! But I LOVE the phase where you can park them on a blanket with a bunch of toys and a cracker and they STAY THERE. I do not need mobility too quickly. I’m okay with that.)
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Talia is the proud owner of three teeth – two she’s had for awhile and one she just managed to get through there. You can imagine how much joy this brings me, since she’s the baby who still nurses. GAH. Also, OW.
Talia kind of likes food but she’s really ambivalent about the spoon. She just doesn’t like it and doesn’t especially want it in her mouth THANKS ANYWAY MOM. So she doesn’t eat as much and she doesn’t always nurse as much so – shocker – she’s been slipping down the charts a bit growth-wise. We have a weight check next week and she seems to be doing a bit better so hopefully she’s on track. She seems fine to me – I can’t quite bring myself to get worked up about it.
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The bigs are good too – Anika is working like mad to get ready for her recital in another two weeks, so that’s awesome. She’s worked really hard this year and I’m so proud of her. Can’t wait to see her do her thing! She also got 100% on a french test the other day and that was an amazing confidence booster. I’ve talked before about Anika & academics/confidence and this was just an awesome jump for her. Super proud.
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Sam is crazy and silly and all of the wonderful things that are Sam. He’s also stubborn and frustrating but that comes with the territory I guess. He’s almost four and has Big Plans for an “In Summer” birthday party (from the movie Frozen – he wants it to feature Olaf and Sven heavily). I figure we’ll rent a snow cone machine and get some water balloons for a “snowball fight” and call it good. He made a list of people to invite that basically consists of 32 people and one dog. Alrighty then!
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I’ve been trying to use Tuesdays (when I have Lisa here with the babies) to do things with Sam and spend time with him. We’ve actually had some good fun. Most recently we went to the BMX park and oh my goodness he had a blast with that. LOVED it. Definitely going to need to go back there soon. Really really fun.
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I am a TOTAL convert to these strider bikes now. I was seriously wondering after last year (recall this post). But it clicked for him this year and now I literally cannot keep up with the kid. I would have to strap on the sneakers and jog with him in order to even sort of keep pace. It is AMAZING. He would probably be riding a trike if not for this, and he’d be going like two sidewalk squares per hour and driving the rest of us nuts trying to go for a walk, and now he can almost match Anika on her bike. It’s really amazing.
(I know a lot of these pictures are pretty dull if you already follow me on Instagram or Facebook so I apologize – I’ll try to get more creative soon!)
Mr. B and I are okay too. Lots of ups and downs – him with work and me with just finding some sort of balance (hah). We are trying to figure out which things need to change and which don’t. There’s a lot that’s really good about where we’re at; it’s just that there’s lots that’s challenging still too. For me it’s about carving out any space for myself – most mom-types know that whatever *we* want to do generally comes last, after everyone elses’ needs and desires are met. The problem is that things are so busy right now that the time for me never seems to come. I’ve been working on a washi dress for what seems like months – and a year ago this would have taken me maybe two days to do. So that’s really frustrating; it’s pretty hard to feel good about what I’m making when the progress is so wretchedly slow. I get so inspired and excited when I come up with new projects I want to do….the trouble is just that it takes me so long to finish anything I kind of just give up. There hasn’t been any time to even get a haircut since last August. (How alarming is that?! AM PRETTY).
Oh well. I keep trying to remember it’s just a season; it’s going to get easier. The things I love that I am passionate about will eventually have some time and space again….and I just need to keep plugging to get there.
And it’s not that I’m wishing away the girls’ babyhood – I’m really not. They are wonderful and silly and fun and make us all really happy….and the four of them together just floor me. So fun. (Also: THERE ARE FOUR OF THEM. WHO LET THAT HAPPEN?!)
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Sam the Designer

February 27, 2014

So as I mentioned sometime….somewhere….in some post or other, I’m trying to do a bit more sewing. Because I miss it and it makes me less crazy which is a WIN for everyone.

Actually, it’s especially a win for Sam as it turns out because what the boy wanted more than ANYTHING was a Mater shirt (from Cars). Sam LOVES Mater. He pretends to BE Mater on a regular basis. (I have to be Holly). Much Mater love.

But weirdly Mater doesn’t grace many shirts. He has a few Lightening McQueen ones….but it’s not the same.

So Sam and I set about making a Mater shirt. I happened to have some orange and grey jersey that I thought would go together nicely to make one of the Hipster Henley shirts from Blank Slate Patterns. I own the pattern but hadn’t made it before so thought I’d give it a go.

When I showed the fabric I had to Sam though, he said (and I quote) “Welll….I like ALL the colours but I really like blue and green. I want my Mater shirt to be blue and green.”

I had a conversation with Brandon about this. The thing is, I’ve always tried to give Anika a lot of freedom with colours and fabrics and patterns for what we make her – because I want her to have an open mind about fashion and what looks good; I don’t want her to be too restricted by any one style or what everyone else is wearing. I want her to know there are options and that she doesn’t have to be hemmed in to what she sees in a store. (Yeah, I will let you know how THAT works out….but that’s the goal).

So by that logic, shouldn’t I extend the same freedoms to Sam? Especially when he SO RARELY CARES AT ALL what he is wearing? And when I sew so much less for him?

But on the other hand I already OWNED the other fabric, and MATER ON A SHIRT. He totally wouldn’t care if I sewed the darn thing out of kleenex because MATER.

After much back and forth I decided to take Sam to find some blue and green t-shirts at Walmart that we could cut up and make into a shirt for him. *I* found a cool marine blue t-shirt and a neat green and white striped shirt (blue body, striped sleeves…fun right??). Sam found the same marine blue t-shirt and a kelly green shirt. It needed to be ALL green apparently.

Fine. We brought the shirts home and I said “Sam, do you want the body blue and the sleeves green or the sleeves blue and the body green?”

Sam blinked at me like I was crazy and said “Oh no. No. I want one sleeve blue and one sleeve green. I want the front green and the back blue. That would be SO funny.”

CLOWN SHIRT. RIGHTO THEN.

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Now, here’s where I give a super shout out to Melissa and Blank Slate Patterns. Because a project that under normal circumstances would take me about two afternoons took me….well. A lot of days. Lets just say that most days I was really happy if I managed to complete a single step. I just can’t string minutes together right now the way I want to. I know it’s a season; I will get there….but it was a little frustrating. The way that Melissa lays her patterns out though are wonderful. I was able to do a step and then just wander back the next day and pick it up with the next step. There was no “Wait….what was I doing??” going on. It was easy to drop in and out and I appreciate that A LOT right now. (The former technical writer in me approves mightily).

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The pattern on its own is great fun. I decided to embrace Sam’s vision and run with it – we did a green front and a blue back; one sleeve each colour with alternate colour cuffs. The button band was blue, which is fun on the green shirt. And even though they aren’t necessarily colours *I* (or a drunk clown) would have put together they actually came together more nicely than I thought they would. Bonus

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For Mater we decided to just to an iron on transfer on some white jersey left over from another project and stitch it on the front. (I toyed with fabric paint but given the three minutes at a time sewing approach it didn’t seem so practical. Besides, Sam appreciates authenticity more than craftsmanship anyway.)

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I used some fusible webbing to attach Mater to the shirt, and then used the lattice stretch stitch on my sewing machine in brown to stitch it on – we were going for a “muddy tire tracks” look.

The shirt fits him beautifully (it’s a slim cut but it’s really true to size so it works nicely).

And he LOVES it.

Oh, and yes. He styled the photo shoot himself with the hat. Of course. And every last picture I have of him is blurry but you know, the truth is that SAM is usually blurry these days so I figure it’s an accurate representation of the boy at three!!!

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