Thursday, October 27, 2011

Five Minute Fairy: A Halloween Mini-Tutorial

There must be an unspoken rule in my house that every Halloween someone must be a fairy or some other winged creature. My two-year old decided it's her turn this year, and I didn't want to just stick her in the fairy remnants of years past. But I have a newborn. And a five year who wants to be a leopard. And a pile of laundry you don't want to see.

I also have five minutes and a glue gun. :)

Following is a mini-tutorial on how to turn a plain t-shirt into a simple fairy costume.Forgive the lack of pictures. I wasn't planning to turn the project into a tutorial until I was looking at the finished product and thought some other laundry-menaced mama might appreciate this idea. If I have time and tulle later I'll go back and do a nicely photographed version.

Also, the bright idea behind it all is not mine. My friends used this idea at the onesie-decorating contest they had at my baby shower. They know I'm ripping them off for a good cause.

What You'll Need: 
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • At least 1 yard of tulle in a color of your choice.
    •  If you don't like cutting the huge length of tulle from a bolt, the little rolls of tulle work well.
    • I layered two colors of tulle but use a single color or a dozen colors if you fancy.
  •  Plain t-shirt or onesie in the color of your choice.
  • Scrap end of ribbon 
  • Optional: additional ribbon for embellishment
  • Optional: episode of Dora the Explorer to keep the future fairy away from the glue gun
What You'll Do: 
  •  Cut your tulle
    • The width and length will be determined by the size of your fairy. The t-shirt base was 24 months on mine and I cut strips approximately 9x19".
    • I cut the tulle into 10 layers, five of each color I had chosen. Use more or less if desired. I recommend a less full set of wings for very small fairies so that the shirt doesn't get too bulky when they are on their backs.
  • Layer the tulle in the color arrangement of your choice. 
  • Pinch the middle as if making a bow. Secure with glue gun.
    • Tip: Use a metal spoon to the fabric against the glue if you are worried about gluing your fingers. 
  • Wrap the scrap end of ribbon around the middle. Glue the ends of the ribbon so that they are overlapping one another. I also glued the ribbon to the tulle so that everything would be nice and secure.
  • Center the wings on the back of the t-shirt and glue in place.
  • Fluff tulle for maximum fairy effect.
 And you're done!

You can move on to other pressing Halloween issues such as your leftover candy damage control plan. Or, if you have another five minutes, you can fancy it up a bit more.

  • Cut three lengths of coordinating ribbon the length of the front of the t-shirt from neckline to hem. 
  • Trim edges so that they are even
  • Glue in place.
 Yes, it is puckered. I had to pull off one of the ribbons and re-align it. 
My inner perfectionist is fuming but my toddler so will not care.

Pair the shirt with a pettiskirt, tutu, or even a pair of jeans if you're feeling that laid back vibe. If you feel giddy with all the time you now have, try your hand at making a tutu. Here's a great tutorial from Cut Out And Keep

Yes, you can also sew it and it will probably look much more elegant. But the five-minute version will still make for a pretty fairy and this way you won't cry nearly so much when she gets chocolate all over it at the Harvest Party.

Happy Harvest!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sunday Stitches: Corduroy and Tulle

Sundays are a big deal. We know this. But I want my family to see it. To celebrate it. I've been mulling over ways I can emphasize the special, wonderful First Day of the week and my thoughts (of course) came to sewing. I decided to sew each of my girls a special Sunday Dress of their own.

With three girls five and younger, my first thought for Sunday dressing is practical, not pretty. Can it survive the snack in Sunday school and our pizza-and-play after church family tradition? Can I change a diaper in under two minutes? Most of their church clothes as dual use-- worn with sparkly shoes on Sunday and with scuffed sneakers on Monday. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But my new sewing goal, over the next few weeks, will be to make each of the girls something different. Something a little more special. A little fancier. Clothes for my girls to wear when they worship, clothes to remind them that they are unique and lovely daughters of a King. Twirling optional.

I know we're not scoring fashion points with our Father on Sunday morning.
The idea of "dressing up" for church is a bit stuffy for our jeans-and-t-shirt culture, but I'd like to offer in its place the idea of dressing deliberately. To use our clothes as a visible sign of the invisible reality that we are meeting our God. Our Hope, our Redeemer, our King! We should select clothes that emphasize not the stuffiness of starched shirts and itchy lace but the specialness of something Not Ordinary. This isn't a dress my daughter will wear to dig in her dirt pile or go to Wal-mart. It's a dress with a purpose, and that purpose is to worship her Creator in her own tiny two-year old way. When I sew with that in mind, the domestic act becomes deliberate worship. One tiny way I can help my young ladies learn to rejoice in Sunday, and one way I can refresh my heart to rejoice with them.

With that in mind, I started sewing. I thought I'd make Ember a skirt out of some deep purple corduroy I'd found on sale. And throw in a tulle ruffle for fun. I love the idea of the folksy corduroy against the frilly tulle. What followed was, perhaps, a comedy of errors. Sorry I don't have more pictures to prove what a crazy process this was. You'll have to take my word for it.

I cut what should have been a basic two-tiered ruffle skirt, the second tiering lined with cotton that ended in peek-a-boo gathered tulle. And yes, I blame baby brain for the fact that I cut the fabric wrong and ended up with something more like a strapless dress. I thought I'd throw straps or cap sleeves on it and whip out a cute shrug.

Cue the inspiration. Owly Baby offers a super-sweet baby shrug pattern that I thought I'd up-size for Ember. After a minor (cough) pattern cutting error I ditched the idea of a matching corduroy shrug and decided to use some black cotton knit from my stash. Then decided again that rather than a shrug I'd use the pattern as the upper part of the bodice and cover both cozy and cute all at once. The knit bodice was slightly smaller than the corduroy so I did a little snipping. Okay, more than a little. After extracting Ember from the results, I decided to try it on River. The dress must have wanted to be hers all along. After a few tweaks, some hemming and neckline finishing, and chasing her down for a final fitting, we had a finished garment! Though I did break a needle trying to sew on the bow.

This was the rare still moment...

...followed by bouncing, which means the dress must be comfortable enough for her. 

And the grin! We have a winner! 

Pardon the poor quality. By now the baby was crying so photo time was over.

I wouldn't exactly call this next part a tutorial....more like design notes. A guide for someone to follow should they like this look and want one for their little girl.

The corduroy part was constructed from simple rectangles. The top corduroy panel on this dress is 4" x 23" and the gathered panel is 12"x38". Those are the finished measurements. For your pattern pieces you'll want to add extra for seam allowances and hems.

The bodice, as I mentioned, is based off Owly Baby's shrug. All awesomeness goes to her...I just tweaked it for my own use. I used her sleeves, and I used the back piece of her shrug to cut my front and back bodice. I cut my pieces just a bit larger than her template so that it would fit my corduroy panel.

Once I'd completed the bodice, I simply attached it to the skirt then finished my neckline and sleeve hems. The bow was from one of the girls' rejected hairbands and was quite stubborn. I broke an embroidery needle and a machine needle before reaching for the hot glue gun. Maybe I got enough stitches in before the needle broke so that it will hold if the glue washes out in the wash.

You can learn how to make your own bow here via Sutton Grace's free tutorial.

Another great ideas for embellishment would be a fabric flower. Hop on over to Tip Nut for a list of over thirty different kinds. Have fun :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Point of No Return

You think of martyrs as wild-eyed men with goatskin and beards or ecstatic saints, white-robed amidst flame. You think of them as shuddering in the Arctic winter of a Russian gulag or staring down gunmetal with prayers on their tongues.

You don't really think of them sitting on their couch with their family, holding a son, beside a wife.The picture of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing execution for refusing to convert to Islam, resembles more math teacher than religious dissident. He's wearing a white dress shirt. His hairline is receding. He faces the camera with a small smile, his hand resting on the arm of one of his two young sons. He's calm.

From this picture, you wouldn't guess what the man is up against. He's been arrested before, for protesting that his son was forced to read the Koran at school. His wife's been arrested, a pressure move designed to force him to recant. She was released after international justice movements intervened on her behalf but Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy.

The fact that regimes around the world violently oppress Christianity is not news.

The fact that Christians around the world face death for their faith is not news.

The fact that they do so with grace and courage is the real story.

According to the article, when pressured to repent, Nadarkhani replied

"Repent means to return. What should I return to?

Those words struck me like the sounding of a bell, one that has reverberated through millenia of faith and persecution. Peter said it first-- to whom shall we go, You have the words of eternal life and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

That phrase has been repeated before first century Christians in the arena, reformers at the stake, believers in a Communist interrogation cell, and countless others whose names we will only know in heaven. They are heroes not because they are brave but because they are desperate. To whom shall we go?  
Behind is a wasteland, a scorched and sin-blasted landscape of godlessness, peopled by wretches who stagger in helpless oblivion towards the pit of final wrath. Behind is emptiness, the starless night of a dead soul that all the money, comfort, pleasure, and fleeting joy of earth cannot lighten. Behind is the crushing stone of guilt upon the chest, cracking every bone of good intention and self-made merit until the very heart is pressed flat. Behind is life without Christ. Without grace. Without hope. Dead in our trespasses and sins. Walking decay.
Nadarkhani, like so many other Christians put to the same test, looks over his shoulder and sees all this. He sees who he was before and the answer to the question is simple.

"What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ
"To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,"
"I cannot,"

He's at a point of no return. There is only Christ. While there is hope that an appeal may overturn the death sentence, it is unlikely that the pastor will be released without a long jail sentence “or worse,” according to the article. As his brothers and sisters, fellow members of Christ's body, we should uplift him in prayer not only for the sparing of his life but for the protection of his family should he be taken from them and imprisoned. But let's not just rattle off a prayer of concern, admire the man's faith, and go back to the Starbucks latte that's getting cold. Let's think a minute, because that question is always for you. And me.

What should we return to? 
No one is standing outside my porch with a machete to cut off my hands because I refused to vote for a dictator. When I go to church on Sunday morning, I won't be concerned that soldiers will appear to lock the doors and burn the building down with my babies inside beside me. I can read my Bible. I can invite the grocery store clerk to church without facing arrest. But American Christians, in our life of complete freedom and considerable ease, face a different challenge to our faith. Because our culture is so comfortable, we can forget the underlying chasm. We can turn again to stumbling, grasping at any shiny thing within our reach, angry at God because He took our job, our health, our 401K. We blame Him for our lost dreams, our failed marriages, our angry children. And the Father of Lies is quick to sidle up to our souls and whisper-- repent. Return. Go back. You tried it. He failed you. Give up.

When life is hard and faith is harder, look over your shoulder. Ask for eyes to see, like Pastor Nadarkhani, what lies behind us. Look with eyes of faith to what lies before us. Then answer the Deceiver--

I cannot. 
This animation of the song All I Have In Christ pays tribute to those who have had to answer the question at gunpoint. It  inspires those of us who have to answer it within in our own souls every day. I'm posting in in honor of Pastor Nadarkhani and his family. Pray for him when you watch it. Pray for me, that I'll live out my faith in freedom with the same courage, and I'll pray the same for you. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Birth Songs

to my daughters

I. Fire
Though we named you for fire, you came to us as snow. In silence and midnight you changed everything in sight; we did not even know you were a part of me until suddenly we opened our eyes and saw a world transformed by your existence. We did not know anything about carrying or birthing babies but our love for you made us brave. We walked the journey toward the beginning of your life determined to birth you in the gentlest, kindest way possible. Only we were novices; we were young. When voices older and-- we thought-- wiser told us to hasten your coming with drugs we listened because we thought we could not trust our own voices. Your birth was not gentle, nor was it kind; the drugs made my rushes unnaturally strong and we chose medicine to relieve the pain so that I could birth you without surgery. I could not feel you move through me toward life but I pushed with the memory of my muscles and you moved. In blood, and chaos, in joy and triumph, you came into the world. Your Daddy says I cried out in joy-- my baby, my baby-- as you passed into the midwife's hands and that the cry, the exultation, was louder than any other groan or sigh I made in your birth.
Ember Rose. Flower of fire, firstborn daughter, burning of my heart.

II. Water
We waited for you, as desert people wait for rain. We danced you down; we prayed. As they search the horizon for any cloud, as they lift their faces for any coolness in the wind, we searched for any sign of your coming. And come you did, rushing in to fill and swell my womb. We had another journey before us, and this time we promised you we would trust our wisdom. We told the midwives that we would not bring you into the world early unless it was to save your life. We prepared to wait, as we did with your sister, we thought your birth would come slow. But you came as a strong current, as a tide rushing to shore. Before we even got out of the driveway, I birthed you into your Daddy's hands. He caught you and gave you to me wrapped in a bath towel. The paramedics had come and again we followed voices not our own and went to the hospital, which was not necessary because you were strong and beautiful and healthy. We spent two days waiting to go home with you but you never left my arms. You slept beside me even in the hospital bed, happy with my breast and our love.
River Lynn. Rain child, ripple of joy, water to my soul.

III. Song
You swept over us suddenly. You rushed in like a north wind, rattling shutters and overturning trash cans and changing me, again. Like a blast of air in my face you stole the breath right out of my lungs. And then turned it into song, into hope as you grew and grew strong inside me. We chose wise women to catch you and knew they would leave room for our voices besides their own. Your birthing began as a little breeze that slipped in through my bedroom window and woke me with the first of my rushes. Your eldest sister waited with me, in the darkness before dawn, until we knew you were coming. Birthing you was unlike any other experience of my life. I walked with your Daddy outside the house and lifted my face to the sun when the rushes came. I knelt in water and moaned, and sang, and even wailed, in those last moments, when your birth was a roaring wind in my ears and body. Then you were here. The midwives gave you to me in my own house, and I closed my eyes to rest in my own room. The house was hushed and holy as your Daddy and I slept with you nestled to my breast. Piper Haven. Little sand piper, little bird girl. Song and wind, music to my world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: The Blackberry Bush

The Blackberry Bush
, by David Housholder, is not what you'd expect to pick up on the shelves of most Christian bookstores. In fact you may not even find a copy in most traditional Christian fiction venues, which is regrettable because the novel sets out to do something important-- make you think about faith, about its delicately woven threads, rough and silken alike, that bind generations together in a work of grace. In Housholder's novel, these threads bind lives together, through brokenness and triumph, to tell a story of God's presence in even the darkest aspects of fallen humanity. That's a lot of big ideas to cram into a relatively short novel.

But then, you get the idea that Housholder is no stranger to big ideas. His bio describes him as An avid philosophical-spiritual influencer and surfer, who currently leads an indie-warehouse California beach church, where he dreams and works for a better world. This is a guy who wants to peel back the skin of things, who isn't afraid of messy or complicated faith. You can see all of those influences in The Blackberry Bush, though at times they seem convoluted or contrived.

The novel's narrative seems clear enough as we are taken through the lives and struggles of two young people whose family history is powerfully-- and tragically-- linked.

Two babies—Kati and Josh—are born on opposite sides of the world at the very moment the Berlin Wall falls. You’d think such a potent freedom metaphor would become the soundtrack for their lives, but nothing could be further from the truth. Despite his flawless image, Josh, an artistic and gifted California skateboarder, struggles to find his true role in the world, and his growing aggression eventually breaks him.

Kati, a German with a penchant for classic Swiss watches and attic treasure-hunting, is crushed with disappointment for never being “enough” for anyone—most especially her mother. Craving liberation, Kati and Josh seem destined to claim their birthright of freedom together. After all, don’t the “chance” encounters transform your life…or are they really chance?

For all its compelling ideas, both fictional and philosophical, and for its compelling characters, The Blackberry Bush stumbles in its execution. Too many plot elements are over-compressed so that key events of the story lack the weight the reader knows they are meant to carry. I especially found this true for Josh in one scene which he is shown committing an act of betrayal without any preceding scenes to develop his motivation for such sudden aggression. Show don't tell could be a rule this author takes more closely to heart. As compelling and vibrant as his characters are, I kept wanting more of see in greater detail their lives and struggles, to go through those struggles with them and experience their sorrow and joy.

But the author's heart clearly is more for the ideas behind his narrative than the fictional narrative itself. He frequently interjects theological musing-- even to the detriment of the narrative-- as if desperately trying to get us to see the tapestry of ideas that he sees and is trying to communicate to us. This is a trap of many "theological novels". What gets more attention-- the Big Ideas or the characters and situations in which those ideas are played out? Housholder does an admirable job of attempting balance, and of addressing issues relevant to today's culture, but his success is mixed. At times I felt I was reading an elongated sermon illustration rather than a novel. Aspects of his attempts to identify with modern culture felt forced, as did the suddenly optimistic ending, though this could have been a product of the overall compression of the narrative.

Taken as a whole, The Blackberry Bush is worth reading. Housholder's heavy emphasis on the impact of family on the shaping of a young person's life will generate plenty of discussion, as will his ideas on the soft relentlessness of grace. I will be interested to see what ideas he chooses to explore in his next novel, and applaud his willingness to challenge the Christian fiction art form.

The Blackberry Bush may be purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information on David Housholder, check out his blog at Robinwood Church

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Labor Pops

The temperature is hovering in the 90s and I have popsicles on the brain. This summer I've been adventurous and experimented with making my own. Since tonight is the last night of my birth class, I thought I'd post this simple recipe for Labor Pops. Popsicles are a great way to keep up energy during labor so why not get the most bang for your pop by throwing in a few labor-specific ingredients?

Baby M isn't due until August so I have not tested these and can't tell you whether or not they work but in my mind anything that comes as a popsicle can't be all bad.

This recipe is not my own. I found it at Hakima Midwifery. The original blog post also included a recipe for lactation cookies....check it out to boost your milk supply and satisfy your sweet tooth.

You'll need:

1-2 oz dried red raspberry leaf tea
1 quart water
Quart size jar with lid
Honey and lemon to taste
2-3 1 mg calcium tablets
Ice tray

To make the labor pops, steep 1-2 ounces of red raspberry leaf in a quart of water for at least 20 minutes up to four hours. Strain and sweeten with lots of honey and lemon; these will add much needed calories and lemon can help ease nausea (as well as the red raspberry leaf tea). Crush the calcium tablets and add to the tea. Calcium is a muscle relaxant and can help with some aches and pains during labor. Pour the mixture into the ice tray. When labor commences, eat throughout labor.

Addendum: The blog article shows them on sticks like regular popsicles but you could use a popsicle mold or just pour them into an ice cube tray and suck on the ice cubes.

Stay cool, all you mamas in waiting!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Don't Forget Your Moan

She was angry. Or hurting. Or tired. Or tense. Or all of the three at once-- after all, an almost-two woman is still a woman. I was tired, heavy with the baby in my belly and the weariness of the day, and out of ideas. The bedroom was dark but for the low light of the night lamp. This was supposed to be a peaceful time. We had nursed. We had snuggled. We'd sung Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Hush Little Baby. We'd nursed some more. I'd rubbed feet, kissed her forehead, smoothed her hair. Still she fretted. “Mama, mama, I'm crying. I'm crying.”

After forty-five minutes I felt we'd established that point already but she insisted on saying it over and over again. Her face scrunched and flushed, her movements restless and petulant.At last I sat up at the edge of her mattress and pulled her into my lap, her head resting over my heart.

“Mama, I'm crying. Crying. Mama. Mama.”

For five years I'd soothed little ones. Why wasn't it working this night? I'd done everything and yet nothing changed.

I listened to her whimper, to her moan, and my mouth opened. I moaned with her, a soft low rumble in my throat and chest. She stopped, but only for a moment before returning to her troubles. I moaned again, following her. And again. For a few minutes, all I did was hold her and share in whatever troubles she was trying to voice. I didn't try to comfort her, or get her to stop, or convince her she was okay. I just moaned with her. After only a few minutes, she quieted. Another few more and she was asleep on my chest.

In preparation for labor, I was taught how to “moan, groan, and sigh.” That the raw and fierce energy of birthing could not be ignored, or diminished by outside distractions-- at some point you had to wade out into it and surrender. You opened your mouth and you moaned. You let it wash over you.

Mothers need to remember how to do that. So much of the advice given new parents seems to focus on how to manage babies-- how to make sure they are pooping and sleeping enough and not crying or clinging too much. And yes, we need to know how to care for our little ones in the best and most kind manner possible. In my five years of mothering, my breasts and my baby sling and my bed had proven powerful tools for nurturing and soothing. But sometimes they aren't enough. Sometimes nothing is enough. Sometimes you simply have to enter into your child's tears and stand with them. Moan with them.

When my oldest entered the world, to a chaotic delivery and a rookie mama, she cried. A lot.

I remember one night, after my first few days of sleep deprivation, when after a particularly painful-- and unproductive-- nursing attempt, I ran from my baby. I set her down by her father and fled to the bathroom corner in tears. She wouldn't sleep. She couldn't eat because the induction had delayed my milk supply. She wailed no matter what I did. My husband followed me into the bathroom, holding my newborn girl, and held her out to me. Take your baby, he said, quietly.

I remember looking at her and thinking distinctly that new babies rather resemble some alien life form, foreign and potentially hostile.

Take your baby.

I took my baby.

I started to learn how to mama moan. How to stay present, even when all the right things have been done and all the right things have failed and the sheer force of a baby's wailing seems strong enough to rip sheet metal. I learned how to look at my baby's cry not as an adversary to be conquered but an experience to be entered. Like labor, you have to wade out and hold on.

I am pregnant again, with my third child, and I expect to moan and groan and sigh plenty during the birthing. I expect joy, and ecstasy, and pain, and surrender, and strength. I also by now expect those emotions to last long past the delivery; in fact I am convinced they are bound around every mother's heart. The anguish and triumph and just plain hard work of birthing a baby is just a preparation for the years of mothering that baby.

Love your little one. Do all you can to comfort them and soothe away the thorny places in life. And when that comfort seems thin, when the thorny places poke through anyway, don't forget your moan.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

For Love of Occasion

Domesticity mystifies me.

A complete understanding of what it means is still hiding, drifting in the fog of what society wants me to believe my grandmother's life was like, obscured by fears of Martha Stewart and church lady living rooms. What are womanly arts and what do they have to do with a properly basted turkey? What is delight in ones home and how does it get properly sorted out from the starch-and-scratchy chair sneering I saw from many ladies with beautiful, if somehow hostile, homes? What is it about me that goes all giddy when I look at my freshly made bed, covered in a quilt my great-grandmother sewed by hand fifty years ago? Or when I lay down at the end of a day to see the hushed light of my hanging lamp warm the purple and lavender of my walls? Why does this speak to my soul? The quilt is just old cotton, second-hand even when it was sewn. The lamp and the walls are just wire and plaster, paint and light. What causes such distinct and domestic satisfaction in a well-planned room?

I don't have an answer.
But I think my four year old does.

She hasn't had enough years to absorb, through whatever terrible osmosis, all of the domestic shame we as women build up in today's culture. She doesn't know that she should be liberated, or that her mommy is living a dreary and repressed life of household servitude. She doesn't know that her joys should be more sophisticated than homely pursuits, that instead of homemade jam and homemade twirl skirts she should covet five hundred dollar shoes and three hundred dollar handbags. Because she is naive, she is wise.

I watch her order her little domestic sphere, from the precise placement of beloved animals to the "decorating" of her room with scarves and ribbons and scraps of paper, I see her joy. She loves to plan, to select just the perfect treasure for the perfect spot. I watch her turn ordinary things into special occasions and I reclaim my own, still timid, love for everyday excellence. When did we as women believe that to orchestrate our homes is less worthy than orchestrating our careers? When did we stop being excited about the tiny, special things that surround us-- the breakfast plate with flowers, the lace edging of a napkin, the pleasing arrangement of a room so that it breathes peace and harmony to those who enter? I do not have to justify loving those things because they are part of who I am as a female reflection of God.

A week ago, I sat in a rocking chair outside a vintage-inspired general store, eating mint ice cream and staring at pansies. The color scheme was perfect, each petal a blend of pearly whites, blushing mauve, and deeper purple. As I looked at the other flowers-- tangerine orange against crimson red, bright yellow and white-- I realized that God is intentional about his colors. I have never seen a flower and thought oh, that doesn't match. He chose well and He chose deliberately, even though flowers are common, ordinary little things. He gave them beauty anyway. We have a love of occasion-- of detail, beauty, planned and executed well-- because He has filled a world with those domestic touches. When we fill our homes with the same, we are mimicking Him.

If you are anything like me, you're trying to understand this and all you keep thinking is the image of the 1950s Woman. You're not sure if you've ever met her or if you've just heard about her but images of plastic pearls and disturbingly red lipstick come to mind, along with mohair sweaters and a polka-dot apron tied at the waist. Her blue eyes gleam with manic energy as she tells you all she does to get her home to a waxy, gleaming, artificial beauty common to fake fruit. Every ounce of her is consumed with the tyranny of details, having the couch cushions turned just the right way, making sure the curtains are ironed once a week. Enter and admire but don't touch the good china. She obsessively pursues perfection and defines herself by the cleanliness of her carpet or the trendiness of her wall decor.

This is not the woman who understands God's domesticity.
Nor is it a woman who understands the true pleasure or love of keeping a home, of those touches that elevate the most basic elements of existence-- shelter and food and clothing-- into something special. My great grandmother, when she was sewing by hand dozens and dozens of patchwork quilts made from discarded dresses, knew the secret. My grandmother, who could make a coconut cream pie that will be served in heaven at the Lamb's supper, knew the secret. Even my daughter, when she runs to give me a handful of wildflowers-- aka weeds-- to place at the lunch table, knows the secret.

I am listening to them. I am learning. I am delighted and unashamed by it.

Image taken from a house tour featured on Parlour

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You Might Be A Terrorist If....

According to a Department of Homeland Security list, you might be a domestic terrorist if...
you exhibit the following:
* Expressions of libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
* Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership, holding a CCW permit)
* Survivalist literature (fictional books such as "Patriots" and "One Second After" are mentioned by name)
* Self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
* Fear of economic collapse (buying gold and barter items)
* Religious views concerning the book of Revelation (apocalypse, anti-Christ)
* Expressed fears of Big Brother or big government
* Homeschooling
* Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties
* Belief in a New World Order conspiracy

According to Those Who Know, "People engaged in the above activities or mind-set may be considered "extremists" or "militia groups" that exist in our communities and are "hiding in plain sight, ready to attack."

Quick, hide your Ron Paul bumper stickers and Left Behind series. Also please refrain from declaring your constitutional rights, religious views, distrust of government and for heaven's sake enroll your children in public school.

Nothing like a healthy dose of paranoia to wake you up in the morning.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Designer Interview: Jocole Designs

Tonight I'm happy to bring you an interview with a very talented designer-- and mom-- who is using her gifts to raise her family and make the sewing world more interesting at the same time. You've heard me reference her a few times in the Easter dress posts, so it's about time I introduced you to the lady I've been blathering on about and also time I clue you in as to why I think she's so cool.

Who she is: Jodi Jean, aka Jocole

Where you can find her
: her website, Etsy store, blog, and Facebook page

What she has to say:

Q) Tell us a little more about you and how you got started designing

A)I’ve been designing clothing since for as long as I can remember … if you go back through my notes from high school you’ll find sketches in all the margins and I have a plethora of notebooks just filled with sketches waiting to become a reality. I pursued designing in college at Brigham Young University – Idaho where I majored in fashion design. After college I worked as a patternmaker for a bathing suit manufacturer and then a modest prom dress manufacturer. Now I’m married and staying at home and taking care of my three crazy crazy kids. My pattern collection stemmed from my need to be creative while staying at home.

Q. What is your design philosophy or aesthetic? What are you hoping people will "get" when they see your work?

A) My design philosophy definitely involves easy to wear pieces that can be dressed up or worn everyday, I adore versatility. I hope people see my patterns and want to make things with them and use them over and over.

Q) What inspires you? Design? Fabric? Your adorable kids?

A) My kids definitely inspire the pattern collection – I sew for them and the clothing that I would like to see them wear.

Q) Give us a peek into your creative process. What goes into producing a new JoCole design?

A) All my patterns start with a sketch which is then hand-drafted into a full size pattern. A sample is sewn and I fit it and make changes/tweak if necessary – I make sure to take detailed pictures of each step during the sewing process to add to the sewing instructions. Back to pattern making to draft the pattern into all the different sizes. I then trace the multi-sized pattern onto my pattern grid paper. The grids are then scanned and then I use a graphics editor program to draw the crisp clean digital lines over my hand-drawn lines which are then erased. The image files are then turned into a pdf pattern. Picture editing of the step by step and model photos. I then type up the detailed sewing instructions and add LOTS and LOTS of pictures which is then turned into a pdf file. The pattern pdf and instruction pdfs are merged into one file and sent to my pattern testers who test how well the instructions are written and how well the different sizes fit. I use people who are seasoned seamstresses and novices who are just learning so I know that anyone will be able to use my patterns.

Q) And how do you do that with kids, I'd like to know....

A) Let me tell you this is probably just as hard as you would imagine. My kids are LITTLE … my son just turned 4, my daughter is 2.5 and I have a baby girl who just turned 1 (oh and I’m pregnant again with another girl, due to arrive in the beginning of July). Their playroom is right next to my studio so they play in there or in the backyard and interrupt me constantly. If I’m on the computer we’re in the living room and they are playing while I’m editing photos or typing. It’s always a little bit chaotic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way … I LOVE being able to work and be home with them. I don’t mind stopping the sewing to read a book.

Q) Your Etsy store offers everything from practical playclothes to pretty dresses-- you even remember the boys! Was this wide range of designs intentional or just a happy creative accident?

A) I definitely try to have a wide range of clothing. There are a couple boy things because I have a son and I like to make him things … but there should be more boy things but I have girls on my brain and he is outnumbered.

Q) The pattern design competition on Etsy is getting fierce. What do you think your patterns offer that sets you apart from other designers?

A) It is definitely getting fierce, when I started there was just a handful of us. I try to look and see what patterns they are offering and do something different while staying true to my design aesthetic. There are enough knot-dress patterns out there I promise you won’t see one in my shop.

Q) My personal favorite (so far) of your designs is the Circle Flounce Dress. It is simple yet lovely and surprisingly easy to make. What led you to create that specific design?

A) That is one of my favorite designs too. It actually stemmed from my daughter needing a dress but I didn’t want to fiddle with ruffles and I HATE buttonholes so it uses snap instead. I LOVE that the simple bodice can be easily fancied up with lace, ric rak or other trim and you could easily ditch the circle skirt pattern and just add a ruffle skirt.

Q) What do we have to look forward to from you for spring and summer? My girls do love a summer dress (hint hint)

A) I definitely have some new patterns up my sleeve … a pair of knit ruffle pants, a knit tank with ruffles along the neckline, adjustable suspenders and even a skirt pattern for all you lovely ladies will be coming … and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I also just launched a ready to buy custom handmade women’s clothing collection that I am absolutely in LOVE with. Cute and comfortable … you’ll look super stylish but feel like you’re still wearing your pajamas (shhhhh … I promise I won’t tell anyone)

Q) I am sure I'm not the only mama who never touched a sewing machine before she had children. What advice would you give to newbie craftistas? Which of your patterns you would recommend as a "first project" piece?

A) Practice, practice and more practice. Don’t be afraid to try new things … that’s how you learn and get better. I would actually recommend the Circle Flounce Dress, it’s the one I always recommend. Then branch out into knits (I promise you they are not as scary as everyone says … I actually prefer to sew with knits) … and I would recommend the Peasant Knit Tee and the Basic Knit Leggings … super easy but my go-to patterns for my girls.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chiffon Party Dress Mini-Tutorial

My apologies for the slight delay while I spent the majority of the last week coughing like a dying steam train. The plague has passed, so I can get down to the good stuff.
Last week, we did the great Easter dress reveal and I promised a mini-tutorial.

Before we get started, let me say that I take zero credit for the pattern design of this dress. Zilch. Nada. This tiny tutorial was made with permission of the designer, in this case the talented Jocole over on Etsy. What I'll show you here is a quick way to fancy up her design for a party or other special occasion. Be warned: I am a sewing novice and this is my first how-to. Throw those tomatoes gently.

What You'll Need
  • Pattern for a circle dress or skirt, depending on what you want to make. I used the Circle Flounce Dress by Jocole but feel free to use what you wish. For those brave enough to try a bit of drafting, Ikat Bag has a free circular skirt tutorial and Google will happily fetch you any number of free dress patterns for the bodice.
  • Lightweight fabric for bodice and skirt lining, in the amount called for by pattern. I used cotton for the entire lining of the practice dress and the bodice of the Easter dresses. For the skirt lining on the Easter dresses I chose taffeta to give a little extra sheen and rustle.
  • Stretch chiffon, also called nylon tricot for skirt and/or bodice overlays, in the amount called for by pattern. Check your required yardage for your pattern's skirt and that is the amount you will need for each layer of the stretch chiffon. This fabric is different from regular chiffon and can be a bit tricky to find at local sewing stores. I found only one store in my area that carried it at all and their color selection was next to none. Most of the chiffon for my dresses came from DreamSpunKids. The array of colors she offers is amazing and the prices are reasonable.
  • Lace or ribbon for straps and sash (optional). I purchased dyed-to-match lace from DreamSpunKids to coordinate exactly with my chiffon.
  • The usual notions: thread, needle, etc. I did substitute buttons for the snaps called for in the Circle Flounce pattern, just because I hate snaps.

Step One
  • Lay out and cut fabric for bodice, skirt, lining, and overlays. At this point you will decide whether you want to overlay the bodice and the skirt or only the skirt. For the practice dress, I used a single layer of hot pink chiffon for the bodice and the skirt--

For the Easter dresses, I chose an embroidered cotton bodice and two to three layers of chiffon for the skirts.

Multiple layers of chiffon make the skirt assembly a bit trickier but it is worth it for that lovely swish when you're done.

Step Two
  • Assemble the bodice according to pattern
  • If you have chosen to use a chiffon overlay, I suggest sewing the front and back sides of the chiffon together before sewing it over the lining. According to my trial-and-error this was less likely to cause pulling or distortion during the attachment.
Step Three
  • Assemble the skirt and overlays.
  • Sew each layer of the skirt-- lining and chiffon overlays-- individually then baste the layers together at the top for ease in attaching the bodice. You will want to hem your lining but you don't have to hem the chiffon as it will not fray. I chose not to hem the chiffon for my dresses.
Step Four
  • Attach skirt to bodice.
  • If you haven't already attached the straps, do so now. Attach sash if you have decided to use one. I made mine removable using simple belt loops you can learn to do at this Whimsy Couture tutorial.
  • Try on your princess and watch her twirl!

There you have it. A few simple steps on how to transform a cute basic dress into something perfect for a summer party or church event. Thanks for tuning in!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great Easter Dress Saga Part Two

I'm sure you are all lined up with popcorn and lawn chairs to hear the second chapter of the Easter Dress saga, or at least that's how I picture you in my mind so I won't make you wait. When we left off, I was chopping cute dresses into skirts and searching for The Perfect Pattern

After a rather disastrous second sample dress which will not appear here because it is in the garbage, I found the Circle Flounce Dress by Etsy designer Jocole. I loved everything about this pattern, from its sweet and simple design to the sweet and simple construction. Having never made a circle skirt before, I was a tad nervous making the sample but her clear directions and easy to assemble pattern pieces made the process painless. She'll actually be featured here soon so you'll get to learn all about this creative and talented designer. But for now, it's onto sample making!

I did manage to source stretch chiffon (aka nylon tricot for the less romantic of you) at a local fabric store but the colors were very limited. I chose some hot pink chiffon and your basic pink broadcloth for the sample fabric. A few hours later, I had this done...

If it looks wrinkly and unfinished that's because it is. This was strictly a test copy.

I decided to overlay the bodice as well as the skirt with the chiffon, and it came out very nice. The fit on my daughter was perfect though it was a bit short for Easter. There wasn't anything inappropriate about the length for regular church wear but on Easter I wanted something a bit more formal.

Flush with success, I started to cut my chiffon.
And I cut. And I cut. And I cut. Don't let this fabric fool you. When it arrived in the mail and sat on my cutting table, batting its eyelashes at me, I couldn't think of anything but how beautiful it was, how frothy, how perfect for a little girl on Easter. It couldn't have been any more perfect if it were made out of Peeps. Only when I started the tedious process of cutting six overskirts (three for each dress) of very slippery, stretchy, fang-toothed fabric did I realize the truth. Chiffon is like a carnivorous bubble bath. Sure, it looks sweet and ethereal but sink your hands into it and you're in for a fight. I wish I'd thought to take pictures of my scrap pile but you'll just have to take my word that I finally wrangled it into submisison. I did come up a bit short, which caused a few panicked trips to the fabric store but other than that both the fabric and I survived. Relatively intact.

I discarded the overlaid bodice for a simple white embroidered cotton, which turned out to be a lovely accompaniment to the pink. My favorite part of the project was the subtle changes in color as I layered the chiffon. I ended up with something completely unique to my particular dress. Though I thought I would lose my sanity before I sewed one more layer, the end result was lovely.

I used dyed-to-match lace in a candy pink for the straps and the sash, which gave the pastel theme a bit of a kick.

The girls began twirling as soon as I tried it on them the first time. Spontaneous twirl is always a good sign for a dress. Everything held up well for Easter Sunday....

Little One models the front view

Loved One shows off her sash

And looks generally cute

The dresses even survived some hard-core Easter egg hunting, which of course was the point. It's not fun to look fabulous on Easter if you can't score some candy in the process.

We came. We sewed. We conquered. Five practice dresses and eight yards of chiffon later, it was worth every stitch. Even the ones I had to rip out.

Tomorrow I'll post a quick and dirty guide to stealing this dress design for your own purposes. Keep the popcorn and lawn chairs handy.

Celebration, Culture, and Christians.

After our Good Friday service, a friend of mine raised the familiar question of paganism regarding our church Easter egg hunt. Not ours particularly-- we aren't giving away miniature fertility goddess statues with each egg-- but the entire concept of egg hunts. Her sincere concern to do the right thing on this issue turned my mind back to the ongoing holiday debate. It's the same issue some Christians raise for most major holidays, from Easter to Halloween to Christmas. (Though it is interesting how most of them don't suggest renaming the days of the week to strip them of their pagan origins.).

I'm not here to trace the origins of each holiday from their inception through centuries of cultural evolution to their present form. Fascinating as it would be, I have two kids. I'm simply here to offer what I see as the most biblical and logical approach to the matter.

What we have here is a question of "guilty by association". Is it ungodly to do something that was at one time (or still is) associated with pagan or secular culture?

Paul address this conflict in 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 when he discusses eating meat offered to idols. This common cultural practice offended some Christians who had only recently come out of idol worship and protested the pagan association. Paul points out that "an idol is nothing at all in the world." He encourages Christians to eat or abstain based on their individual strength of conscience, and he admonishes the more mature Christians to be considerate of the weak. If you celebrate a holiday and your brother or sister in Christ does not, don't try to convert them to your position. Respect them and then joyfully celebrate to the fullest liberty of your conscience.

Celebrating cultural traditions falls under this umbrella.
Christians do not live in a cultural vacuum. This was as true two thousand years ago as it is today. Religious celebrations were to ancient people what national holidays are to us. Rather than isolate believers completely from their cultural context, church leaders often chose to adopt a redemptive version of the original pagan tradition. Symbols and traditions were redefined within the new belief system and over the centuries, these new meanings became a cultural tradition in and of themselves with their own rich Christian history. When we celebrate Christmas or Easter we are participating in that redeemed history not the pagan counterpart.

Also, symbols are heavily dependent on cultural context and they evolve in meaning as the culture evolves. Chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs hold no religious resonance of any kind for modern American. The symbols have evolved to represent a generic celebration of spring and renewal, mostly secular in nature. You cannot judge a modern symbol by its ancient meaning. Look at several other symbolic associations-- pants on women, long hair on men, tattoos, ear piercings....all of which at one point had a definite negative and in some cases pagan significance but now are a normal part of culture.

If you are a Christian whose desire is to remove yourself as much as possible from any secular context, your desire is admirable but misguided. We are inescapably human.
Our cultures, whether two thousand years ago or in 2011, are woven through us in such a way that it will be impossible on earth to erase any possible association with secular practice or belief. Our job then is not to sever ourselves from the cultural tapestry but to change the thread with which we are weaving. We aren't ever going to make earth heavenly. But we can "dye the thread" so that in our interactions with human culture we show that we are truly citizens of an eternal culture.

Some day, the entire earth will be redeemed so that every symbol, every tradition, ever hope and dream and aspiration and celebration of man will revolve around our God. Until then, we best reflect His light to culture when we are participating with redemptive intent rather than isolating ourselves to a holy hermit cave. When we engage culture, when we celebrate with the pagans, so to speak, they ask us why our joy is different than their empty placation. We then have a chance to tell them the true meaning, to paint the tapestry in true colors, and open their eyes to the truth.

So if you want to celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies, go ahead. If you want to abstain, do so without guilt. However you celebrate, do so with a heart tuned to the wonderful realities behind the celebration and your joy will be full.

Have two cents to throw at my direction? Please comment. Dialogue. Rant, even. All thoughts are welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Great Easter Dress Saga Part One

Easter has come and gone and my sewing machine is lounging in my dining room with its poor little gears on ice. The Easter sewing process was long. At times brutal. It involved chiffon. Enough to make a machine (and a mama) lose her mind! But all the testing and re-testing and re-sewing and panicked last minute trips to fabric store paid off. You'll see later.

I had a fairly clear vision with the project. I had fallen in love with the selection of stretch chiffon offered at DreamSpunKids so I knew it had to be layers of ethereal colors paired with a very classic construction. I chose a vintage-inspired color palette of pink, peach, and white with touches of dyed-to-match lace. But I was not about to cut into my pile of beautiful-- and delicate-- fabric without some serious practice.

My first dress option was the Party Dress by The Cottage Home. Check out the free tutorial and pattern on her blog if you feel inclined to try one. Loved One and I were going to a bridal shower for a friend at church so I thought it'd be the perfect time to get my feet wet on the design using nice, dependable cotton. I found some surprisingly cute fabric at Wal-mart no less.

The light in my dining room gives it a yellow tinge but the green is really light and spring-y. Think lime sherbet.

The tutorial was easy enough to follow, though I still don't understand how to turn a lining.. I am 100% sure it is my lack of sewing skill and not her tutorial but I skipped that step and decided to do straps instead. I also decided to make a more narrow belt as Loved One gets obsessive compulsive if a bow is too big.

This was the first time I'd ever covered my own buttons. I know now the true meaning of the phrase “cute as a button” and may need professional help to keep me from buying hundreds of buttons just to cover them. It's that easy and that satisfying.

One, two three...awwwww

Though it took literally until the midnight hour, I thought the results were super cute. Especially the buttons.

Front view

Back view with a badly tied bow. It was midnight, people.

Loved One was in bed so I didn't get a chance to fit her until the morning of the shower. Which is when we hit trouble.

The dress, though I'd used the size 4 pattern pieces, was too big for my tastes. It seemed like it could fit a size 5 or even 6. Again, I'm a sewing dunce sometimes so the problem could be with me but I suspect the pattern pieces were a bit large. This was perhaps an intentional design choice but I wanted something more fitted. Because I had neither the time nor the patience to redo and reattach an entire bodice, the dress became....a skirt.

I'm rather happy this happened because it is a beautiful skirt, one I may make again in other colors. Loved One seemed pleased and we made it to the shower without a single melt-down about the bow.

A beautiful bow and no tears. Happiness.

Front view with extra baby doll cuddling.

We had fun at the shower and I left very glad I'd tested before I cut my chiffon. What happened after I did cut it? Come back tomorrow and I'll show you as well as offer some tips for making one of your own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Screaming Sanctification

For the most part, I approach the secular parenting dialogue with a grain or two of salt. The answers to my questions on parenting aren't going to be found in the glistening pages of the newest family magazine or in a Google search result. As far as my own two cents goes, I doubt the women beaming at me from the pages of said magazine would much care to hear what I think about raising children. I do, however, have a good bit of curiosity for the current thought trends and that curiosity was piqued by a recent study.

Are you ready for it?

"Want to be happy? Have two daughters Having two daughters is the key to a happy and harmonious family life, according to a study."

No, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not going to be able to pass this one up. I read about the study a week or so ago and it's been gnawing at the back of my mind while I wash dishes and vacuum. Indulge me while I spend my two cents.

This study, as you can read in this online article, informs us that if we want to spend our childrearing years in parental bliss, two girls is the way to go. Two girl households scored "high in every category" such was being easy to handle, getting along well, and generally not making too much of a fuss. The rankings went down from there, with families of four girls being blackmarked as the worst possible combination. According to this study, if you have more than two children-- especially if you have the dreaded Four Girl Household-- you might as well buy a suite at a mental health clinic along with that minivan.

The study goes on to describe the benefits and disadvantages of each combination of children with the tone one might describe the benefits of different auto insurance plans or vacation packages.

What struck me was how accurately-- and tragically-- this sums up our culture's attitude towards children. Without a biblical rationale for reproduction, society is left to hammer out its own reasons for embarking on the immense undertaking of parenting. God, in His grace, has built into most humans, especially human women, the desire to be parents-- to nurture, to foster life, to pass on something of our traditions to a new generation. That's part of what it means to be human. But as with many things in this Me Generation, parenting has become more and more about self-gratification. Much like climbing Mount Everest or going on a walking tour of Europe, raising children is added to the list of Things To Do Before You Die. People view parenting in terms of what it can do for their emotions, their self-image, not to mention that gaping hole in their soul where God is meant to be. Baby stores get this. The thousand dollar cherry stained cribs, the three hundred dollar bedding sets, the eight hundred dollar stroller's all made to feed into the idea of parenting as a means of personal happiness

This study just manages to quantify an idea already out there-- that parenting is about you, the parent, and you should take every step to plan your parental journey with your happiness and ease in mind. When you factor in that the average childbearing age is steadily on the rise, the stakes are even higher. You'd better create the perfect family because this is your one shot. You've searched for satisfaction in relationships, in corporate you have this one chance to really find something that makes you happy and you'd better not screw it up by having children willy nilly.

Let me clarify a few things. I'm not saying God wants you to be miserable, nor that He wants every Christian parent to have children ad nauseum. His plan for each set of parents is unique, right down to the number, gender, and spacing of their children. I'm not saying that some family dynamics present more obvious challenges than others. I'm certainly not saying that parents shouldn't be happy because of course they should. Parenting is indeed bliss. But it's real bliss, the kind in which you are exhausted and possibly spit-up covered at three in the morning for the third night in a row but you are at peace to the very marrow of your bones because you know you are doing something eternal. This kind of bliss opens your arms and your heart to your whiny preschooler and your clingy toddler even though you are trying to cook spaghetti because this is something vital.

And that's the crux of this matter.
Without eternity in view, without any knowledge of God's commands or His plans for family, self-fulfillment mixed with a few noble humanist aspirations is really all there is to parenting. Without that compass, parents are as lost as any other member of secular society. When your viewpoint is eternal, you realize you are raising children as God's instrument in their sanctification just as they are His instruments in yours.
That's right. The screaming fights over toys, the juice spilled in that hard-to-reach part of the backseat, the days when just getting everyone dressed involves thirty minutes of tears, arguing, and discipline. That's for you.

There are things that God wants to teach you that you can't learn without kids. And there is an entire world of things He wants to teach them about Himself through you. Whether you have one child, two girls, two boys, or ten girls, or any combination thereof, God has in mind both your heart and theirs. Those afternoons of "screaming sanctification" are His way of refining your heart just as much as those sweet almost-asleep cuddles.

Studies like this one can't understand that fact.
It's like trying to get a colorblind man to tell you the difference between peach, mandarin, and mango fabric. Asking a deaf man to delineate the differences between Beethoven and Bach. You can't trust the results.

I am pregnant with a third child so I've skipped out on my parenting nirvana already. Something tells me I won't miss it so much.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Babe is Kickin!

You would think that since this is my third pregnancy, I wouldn't get giddy when the baby kicks. It's not like this is first kick either. I've felt Baby M groovin' around since I was barely three months along. From tiny little carbon-bubble flutters to the more definitive bumps, elbows, and whooshes (are they surfing or what?) each new stage of movement has been expected and yet wondrous.

I suppose it is what the kicks represent in my mind. Not just life. Specific life. My child's life. See, God has a persistent habit of disregarding my schedule for childbearing. After two children, I should know this. I should celebrate the freedom of being tucked into His plan as snugly as the baby is nestled in my womb. Instead, I freaked out. I wasn't ready. I wasn't skinny enough. I was still nursing. We had kindergarten tuition ahead of us. And to be honest, I wasn't completely sure I wanted another child. My two little ponies sometimes stretch me beyond the comfortable, pretty, tame parts of my sanctification. Add a third one and who could say I wouldn't be pulled apart? How can you unconditionally, passionately, and completely love so many little hearts without losing yours?

The baby felt more like a force than a child, something elemental and transformative and sudden. A hurricane. A tornado. A flash flood. A planet ascending over the horizon of my body, changing the shape of my skin, of my soul. I realized, after weeks of pregnancy, that I was thinking of the life inside me in terms of cause and effect. My mind was continually clicking through the ways the baby would stretch the fabric of our family as I tried to plan in advance how I'd keep us from tearing.
One almost-spring morning, the shortcoming in this thought pattern become glaringly obvious.

I am carrying a child. Not an event. Not a cause. Not a force of nature. A baby. A life that God trusted to my hands and to my heart, which meant that He knew I could care for it with love and care, mistakes and grace. I wrote an apology to Baby M right then and there. I accepted-- no, I embraced-- mothering them before I even heard their heartbeat.

Since that time, as my belly has grown and the tiny kicks, pokes, and flutters have strengthened, each one is an affirmation. Each one is a secret-- a conversation, if you will, that only me and my baby can hear. No one else feels this life. My pregnant friends will share their own private wonders with their babies but this kick, this elbow, this tap is from my baby. God is weaving them together for my family, for my arms, and ultimately for His glory.

With each kick I am reminded how I am so humbled by something so tiny, so comforted by something unseen, so in debt to grace for placing this unique human life in our home so that we may be stewards and shepherds for such a brief yet vital time in their eternal journey. Perhaps it is that knowledge that makes the kicks all the sweeter. I am but a vessel, not simply to bear a child for nine months but to bear Heaven's love and wisdom during their time in our home. All too soon they will be given back to God, to do with what He chooses for their joy and His kingdom. To have them so close, such a part of me, for these few months more is a blessing and a gift.

Keep kicking, baby. Whatever you're trying to say me, I'm listening.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Zucchini + Cheese = Bliss

It's 6:30. I'm pregnant and starving. I have dishes, laundry, the dining room and the living room to tidy up before we hit evening meltdown hour. Once upon a time this would have meant one of three things-- processed carbs, fast food, or zap-and-eat.
Not tonight, thanks to Kalyn's Kitchen.

Her recipe for broiled cheesy zucchini is my new go-to food for healthy, quick, crave-worthy munching. I've had this craving for zucchini lately so I finally bought one (rather timidly) at the grocery this morning and wasn't entirely sure what to do with it. Her user-friendly recipe took me less than ten minutes and even a zucchini novice such as myself couldn't mess it up. Loved One, who seems to be more picky by the day, turned her nose up but Little One devoured it. Seriously, I thought I'd have to fight her off with my fork if I wanted to get any myself.

One other thing I appreciated about the recipe was how easy it was to switch out ingredients for whatever I found in the fridge while still getting a good result.

Since I am depressingly low on seasoning I brushed the zucchini rounds with a bit of fat-free Italian dressing before adding the cheese, which I also switched to Italian. It would be even healthier with fat-free cheese, but even with the full-fat cheese, one whole broiled zucchini only cost me 150 calories. Whoo-hoo!

This will be appearing at my house weekly until my next weird pregnancy craving takes over.

Check the recipe out here and make some for yourself!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Garden Full of Dresses

Yes, it's been quiet.
Too quiet.

But spring is here and I can't shut up any longer. The daffodils are blooming, my belly is blooming, and the little girls in my house are blooming. Winter hibernation is over and so here I am, posting again.

Since my gardening aspirations have been thwarted by my growing baby bump (I so do not want to be pulling weeds at eight months in July heat), I have decided to turn my sewing and knitting in a floral direction. Bold blossom prints; delicate petal-colored layers of chiffon; lacy shrugs and sweaters. All celebrating the season and all without a single weed to pull! Once I dig out the trusty camera, hopefully there will be pictures, but for now, here's what is in the works:

The Great Easter Dress Project is underway, with the first stage being practice dresses. Loved One and I are attending a wedding shower this Saturday (her first) and it's a perfect time to test my dress design on sturdy cottons. I found a juicy green and blue flower print at Wal-Mart of all places so that's on the sewing table for tonight. The two designs in the running for Easter are.... drumroll...

The Party Dress by Cottage Mama and The Twirly Dress by Sew Sweet Patterns

I think it's going to come down to whether or not I want a circle skirt or a gathered skirt. Loved One and Little One will each get a test dress so I can pick the best design and hopefully get any tweaks out of the way before I cut into the heavenly chiffon I found at DreamSpunKids. I haven't even got the courage to cut the practice chiffon yet, much less the real thing.

On the knitting needles are a few different versions of a tiny shrug to keep their shoulders warm. The Shizknit offers a cute (and free!) bolero that I'm in the process of tweaking for a lighter, more airy look. I also have cast on the Leafy Shrug by Stitchy Mama, though between the provisional cast on, the double pointed needles, and the eight row repeat lace I am unsure whether or not the late-night knitting is addling my brain.

Once I unearth the camera, there will be actual pictures of progress towards Easter cuteness and the mishaps along the way.

Happy Spring!