Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes my kids are angels and sometimes they are not (I could use a more descriptive word here, but I am trying to think happy thoughts).  Lately I have been thinking about my perception of people, places, things and situations.  I am the beholder and I see what I most want to see.

Last week I spent some quiet time in a dressing room all by myself.  Dressing rooms are not my favorite place to be.  I find it discouraging that out of stack of twenty items only one or two (or maybe none) look good on my person.  In the midst of trying on pants I began to tear up.  Why? Because I found pants that actually fit . . . and because I suddenly felt middle-aged . . . because I had on “mom” pants.  A little wave of despair swept over me.  And then I stopped.  And I changed what I was seeing.  Instead of seeing how thin I wasn’t I saw how amazing my body is. Not by Hollywood standards, by any means.  But this amazing body of mine just created a life, and then gave birth to it a few short months ago.  That is a miracle.  And the phenomenal change that took place inside me has every right to show itself on the outside of me, as well. As I looked in the mirror, I no longer cared about the label on my jeans or how not trendy the cut was.  Instead I thought about my daughter and the journey we have already been on together.  I focused on how I felt being a mother, instead of dreading looking like one. (Please tell me you know what I’m trying to say here.)  I began to see what I wanted to see.

This morning, as I was dressing for church and lamenting my incredibly shrinking wardrobe (I won’t be fitting into my warm weather skirts for at least another year – must do more sit-ups – perhaps if I did any sit-ups that would help).  All I could see was what I didn’t have, what wouldn’t go together.  Then I mentally smacked myself around a little and thought about Haiti, and about all the people in this world who are getting ready for church this morning and do not even have a choice about what to wear because they have so little.  I shut my whining mouth and looked at all my beautiful shoes and skirts and tops that still fit (even if they are almost all black – and it’s summer), and I began to count my blessings.

I often complain about my kitchen.  It seems microscopic to the one I had in my old house (oh, how I miss my skylights).  But the other day I got a picture from my cousin who is in El Salvador of a woman cooking in her “kitchen”.  I wanted to cry for shame.  This woman had a dirt floor corner of her teeny house with a shelf and a very old, ugly stove.  That was the whole of her kitchen.  Sean, who spent some time in El Salvador several years ago, was surprised to see the stove.  “She’s lucky,” he said, “most people just have a hot plate that they cook on.” 

I am constantly amazed at my perceptions of my children.  When I make a conscious effort to see the good, I think they are amazing, brilliant, caring, loving, independent, righteous, wonderful little people.  When my eye takes on a darker caste I see fighting and hear angry words and can’t seem to comprehend why they cannot follow simple instructions (really, how hard is it to brush your teeth?). 

There is beauty to be found in everyone if we are willing to open up our eyes and look for it.  Every situation offers some good, some growth, something silver – even if it is only that the situation will pass.  As you can see, I struggle with this.  It is easier for me to be pessimistic than to exert the energy required to “find the good”.  But happiness will never come from focusing on the bad.  That is a one-way ticket to misery.  I see what I want to see.  And I’m trying to change what I want to see.  What do you see?

Friday, June 25, 2010


At what point, exactly, in my post-partum continuum, do I no longer have an excuse for senseless crying and inexplicable frustration?  Just asking.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strawberry Skirt

I finished this one before we left for Great Wolf Lodge.  It went together pretty fast.  I used french seams on all the layers.  The rick-rack on the bottom seriously stiffened up the skirt.  I was going for something a little more floaty, but the rick-rack was like adding a crinoline.  Sean and Anna liked it though, so it stayed.  I modified the Gypsy Skirt pattern from Making Children’s Clothes by: Emma Hardy.  I think next time I will add more width to the bottom tier to give it a little more fullness.  Lesson learned: always section off the skirt for gathering at 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16.

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And I would just like to say that I have been much more impressed with the quality and ideas found in foreign books than American books.  Most of the contemporary American sewing books I have read are all about doing things fast and easy – and it shows.  I would not be caught dead in most of those patterns.  They remind me of those funky costume patterns you could find in books about the dark ages at the library (like the make-your-own-wizard-tunic kind of thing – generally shapeless and uncomfortable).Strawberry Skirt 003

I think the trims really took it from looking homemade to looking handmade.

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I did not involve Annaliese at all in the design process on this one (it was taking a serious toll on my nerves).  Sean said to just tell her it was a secret if she asked any questions about what I was doing.  When she thought it was for her she complained about the stripes, but the secret thing did the trick and she left me to work in peace (she was still by my side, but no longer bossing me).  In the end she LOVED it.  She has worn it like crazy over the past week.  That is so incredibly gratifying – especially when she did not like my fabric choices in the beginning.

Strawberry Skirt 031(Her shirts are starting to get a little short.  Grrr.  More ruffles, perhaps?  Hmmm.) 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Something Happened On The Way To The Lodge

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At mile marker 57 on the Washington side of I-5, we hit a small snag.  This silly little part of van decided to “go out”.  Any guesses?  Perhaps I should set up the scenario a little better for you all. 

We planned a school’s out trip to Great Wolf Lodge all the way back in January.  We went last year with my brother’s family and had a great time so we decided to make it a tradition to mark the beginning of summer.  We stuffed all of our over-packed bags into our lovely white Dodge and pulled out of our driveway at 10:00 in the morning.  My brother left about a half-hour before us and we were trying to catch up so that we would arrive at the lodge at around the same time.  All was going well until lunch time.  Sean was not pulling over fast enough to fill our bellies, so the car decided to give him a hand.  The transmission dropped out – just like that – no hints, no clues – just there one moment, gone the next.  At mile 57.  At that point my brother was at mile 77.  We were almost caught up.

But what can you do?  We pulled into a truck stop, called a tow truck, got some lunch, arranged a rental car, and took some pictures for posterity’s sake.  We taught our children a valuable lesson about balance in marriage by pointing out that mommy is absolutely amazing in extraordinary, stressful situations – dad is a wreck; on the other hand mommy is a mess when it comes to day-to-day stress – dad is the picture of calm.

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Because we are a family of six (why does that number seem so much smaller than five all of a sudden?), we could not all fit in the cab of the tow truck.  So we got the experience of a lifetime (I hope).  We all buckled up and rode on top of the tow truck for the half-hour it took to get us to a Dodge dealer in Longview (going backwards here, people, away from our desired destination).

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The freakiest/weirdest moment on top of the tow truck (and I so wish I had a picture of it) was when I was looking out Sean’s window and a very large curvy woman lying on a mattress came riding by filling up all our windows (she was on the side of a Sealy mattress semi-truck).  Very bizarre.

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I thought the above picture was funny because here is Sean zooming down the freeway at sixty miles an hour with a computer on his lap, cell phone in hand and nothing touching the steering wheel.  It was almost surreal.  We all pretended we were on the Apollo 13 mission – the main engine was out and we were rapidly losing oxygen (thank goodness we could roll down the windows without starting the car).

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We wound up with a twelve passenger van for the remainder of our trip.  It was ridiculously huge and not very comfortable.  All the rental mini-vans in Longview were being used on Wednesday.  Sean did not like driving it, but the kids loved it.  Djeryd informed us that if we had a twelve passenger van he would be alright with us having more kids.  Ha! (Isn’t that the cutest little stair-step of people you ever saw?)

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Our trip felt rushed this year because we lost nearly three hours with the whole van thing.  We only stay for one night, so three hours is a big deal.  We still managed to pack in lots of swimming and fun with the cousins and a little MagiQuest.  And since we don’t have a television, a highly anticipated part of every vacation is squeezing in access to Disney channel (call me crazy, but I think Phineas and Pherb is really funny).

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Sean and my brother even squeezed in a half hour, or so, to talk computers (I know, you’re getting excited too!).

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Right before we left the kids watched the story time show in the lobby we missed the night before.  Sean’s dad rescued us at the car rental place in Longview and got us all home at a decent hour.  Despite the drama (and perhaps a little because of it) it was a really fun trip, and I can’t wait for next year.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I have been thinking about this post for a long time.  The following are some of my favorite corners of my home right now.  They are special places that lift my spirit every time I see them – even if they are messy (which is very unusual – I mean anything messy lifting my spirit).  So here they are:

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This little corner is in our dining room.  I call it our Family Home Evening corner because if there is anything family night related, it gets taped up in that corner. It is full of beautiful pictures reminding us to be better, a gratitude list that we all take turns filling out, Articles of Faith line the area near the ceiling, and the little shelf holds coloring books and flannel board stories (which we have yet to pull out – I have plans).  This corner brings me peace.

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This corner makes me smile.  This is just a small space in my closet (the baby is still in our room) that holds all of Alyxandria’s clothing of the moment (she is growing crazy-fast).  I love all the pink hangers in a row, the stacks of hats and onesies and bloomers.  I love the little black patent leather shoe poking out of all the pink.  I love being blessed with another girl to wear all these cute little outfits.  How can I not smile?

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And this corner is my passion lately.  I cannot seem to get enough time in this corner of my life lately.  I eat, breathe and dream sewing right now.  I love the colors and I love the possibilities.  I love the expression.

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Another thing I love about this corner is that I can share it with my children – every last one of them.  Lately the kids have come home from school, found me in the studio, grabbed a project and jumped in.  Even though they make messes faster than I can clean them up, I absolutely LOVE having them with me in this space.  I am grateful everyday for this room and all of the happiness that happens in it and comes out of it.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

My baby girl has taken to sleeping all through the very long night recently.  What a blessing.  I feel like I have energy coming out my ears.  It is so nice.  And what, you might ask, is the reason for this marvelous development?

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Oh, that blessed thumb!  We have a picture of Alyx in the womb with that little sucker stuffed in her mouth, so we had high hopes when she was born.  It took a couple of months for her little hand to get to her mouth consistently, but she’s practically a pro   now.  She still seems to have to shove the entire fist in her mouth before she can find her thumb, but hey, I’m not complaining. 


Djeryd was my only other thumb-sucker.  He took to it for about two years.  The annoying part of that story is that he didn’t start sucking his thumb until he was four-years-old.  I’m grateful he grew out of that one.  (Man, he’s a cute kid!)

Friday, June 11, 2010

King For An Hour

About a month ago I picked up a gift coupon book at Safeway (I think it’s Hallmark brand).  It has all these great little coupons you can give your kids.  I got it because I have a hard time thinking of fun, sweet things to do for my kids.  The coupons are full of ideas like “good for eating breakfast in bed”, “good for staying up an hour past bedtime”, stuff like that.  Well, the first one Erik got was called “Royal Treatment” and upon redemption we all had to submit to his every request and call him “Your Majesty” or “Your Royal Highness”.  He cashed it in last night.  It was so funny.  He was in heaven.  I would have gotten more pictures, but Alyx chose that hour to totally lose it (which has only happened about three times in her very young life – so it was a little alarming).

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Lucky him, we had strawberry shortcake for dessert and when he asked for seconds we could not refuse (I don’t know that he has EVER had seconds on dessert in his life! – at least not with my permission).  It was funny to listen to everyone change their voices and manner of speech to sound “royal”.  I think it was a very good coupon for Erik.  Being the middle child he rarely gets special treatment of any kind.  He is such a sweet, wonderful little boy and it was nice to have a chance to show him how much we love him.

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P.S. I whipped out those cute jammie bottoms yesterday morning.  Anna was getting way too demanding about her sewing projects so I thought it was time to take a break and let her know that Mommy has more kids than just her.  She was surprisingly agreeable when I explained the situation to her.  And now she is being very nice about compromises on a new skirt (the pants I so desperately want to make have been nixed by her for now – I will try again in the fall).

P.P.S. I know the pictures are not great, but my baby was seriously screaming her head off.  This is, apparently, the best I can do under that kind of pressure.  ;>

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Skirt Addendum

I have had many comments, both in person and on the blog, about that green stripe.  Let me just say I was all for the green stripe – I just didn’t like that particular fabric in that particular shade of green.  I found a couple of other green fabrics that I liked much better and felt were more versatile with my current fabric stash.  Alas . . . I should have just picked up a half yard of the stuff I liked as well, and maybe then I would not be so bitter.  ;>

My First Crazy Skirt

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All right, everyone, here it is.  Ta-da!  This is the “18 mos.” skirt I started last post.  It is very large and actually fits Annaliese (4-years-old) perfectly.  I love it!  (Thankfully the finished measurements are included in my new little book, so I could make the dress in just the right size for Anna’s measurements regardless of what was supposed to be the right size for her age.)

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The top-stitching is one of my favorite elements.

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Anna picked out all the fabrics, after she agreed to the pattern I picked out.  I think she did an amazing job coordinating them.  I think there is some serious artistic potential in that girl.

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Admittedly, the only part I do not like is that green stripe at the bottom.  I tried to talk Anna into a fabric that was a little lighter and a touch yellower.  She would not budge. Grrrr.  I did not buy very much of it (because I secretly hate it) and my original intention was to make a ruffle with it.  Consequently I cut it on the straight grain and not the bias grain.  Valuable lesson learned, although binding tape can be made on the straight grain, it should not be made on the straight grain.  The binding does not lie properly.  I also wish I would have chosen a more decorative stitch for attaching it – like a flower stitch.  I may go back and fix it, but probably not.  Chalk it all up to experience and move on to my new projects.

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The bottom line is that it is adorable.  Just don’t look too close at that stupid green trim (look really close at everything else).  I love the ruffles, the contrast stitching, all the colorful fabrics.  It was such a fun skirt to make.  The pattern was very easy and went together quickly.  I want to make about five more, but I’m moving on to try my hand at pants this week.  I have been dreaming about these for a week-and-a-half, and should go together much quicker because I can see every last design detail in my head right this second.  I am so excited!

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Actually, I guess the real bottom line is that Anna loves it – totally completely loves it.  I have not been able to get it off her and into the wash.  As far as lessons learned go, aside from the bias tape lesson, I learned the power of basting.  I always viewed it as an obnoxious, time-consuming, extra step, but it is not.  Let me tell you, things go together so much smoother with just a little extra basting – definitely a sewer’s friend.  Couture houses baste constantly.  Now I know why.

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This is the only shot I could get of Anna in that skirt as she was being less than cooperative yesterday.  Love that swing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First Crazy Dress

I happened upon an amazing children’s clothing book at Barnes and Noble the other night.  I think it has consumed almost every waking moment since I brought it home and it has revolutionized my approach to children’s clothing.  I will blab about it more later, but right now I wanted to show you a before and after of a dress I have been working on for Anna.  I have been combing through couture sewing books exploring different techniques.  I selected a simple A-line dress to experiment with.  As you can see I used french seaming or bias binding on all of my interior seams (that little tiny hem you see there took me hours, between the hemming of the ruffle, attaching it to the dress, applying the binding – the yellow ruffle alone went through the machine six times before it was even attached to the dress!).

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The problem was it was boring – at least as far as Anna was concerned.

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Enter amazing new book and endless brainstorms.  I spent the entire next day in my studio making ruffles and trims and just playing.  So fun.

In the end Anna still did not like it because of the sleeves (she complained about the style from day one – and when Anna doesn’t like something that is the end of the discussion.  Period.).  So I gave it to one of my nieces who healed my wounded pride by saying she loved it.  (By the way, that peachy-green thing sticking out is a swim suit, not part of the dress.)  And can I just also add that there is a ton of hand-sewing done on that dress – hours and hours, people – look at that sleeve – I won’t go into all the details but that sleeve alone accrued about 3 hours of hand-stitching.

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I think it turned out beautifully.  I learned some very valuable lessons.  The first and most important being if Anna doesn’t like what I propose to her at the beginning she won’t like it in the end, no matter how many ruffles are on it – so change the plans while they’re still on paper.  The second thing I learned is HAVE FUN!  Once I let go of making an article of children’s clothing look classic or timeless I had a lot more fun designing it.  The third thing I learned is the seam ripper is my friend.  Not only does it allow me the freedom to try something out and then remove it or tweak it if it does not work, but it allows me to get my seam or my embellishment or my whatever as perfect as I want.  The fourth thing I learned is to take my time – don’t finish a project just to finish it.  If I need a break for a day or two or three I take it so that every time I sit down to work I love what I’m doing and I can put all of my creative energies into making something amazing and wonderful.

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Here’s what’s on the drawing board (actually I finished most of it today – just a few more ribbons and ruffles to add).  I can’t wait to show it to you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I have been dying to blog lately, but life has been nuts.  I would love to post pictures about my latest projects and my adorable family, but all that is just a little over my head right now.  I am trying to do too many things in too short a time and trying to enjoy it all (seriously, like I am trying to establish a love affair with a never-ending laundry pile – so far the relationship is rather strained).  Summer is fast approaching and the calendar is filling faster than I can schedule.  Two of our kids are giving us a run for our money at the moment.  Yesterday I committed one of my cardinal sins (it is one of my very worst habits – yes, habit, meaning I repeat it constantly): I actually told my daughter cleaning my house was more important to me at that moment than playing a game with her.  Yes, I tried to make up for it, but I still can’t believe the words actually came out of my mouth and into her ears. 

Last night, when all was quiet and peaceful, I was writing in my journal about how much I love my children and love being with them.  Then, this morning, directly after reading half of Elder Ballard’s talk about the power of righteous mothers, I yelled at my son for stuffing all of his beautifully folded laundry into his drawers in total chaos – unfolding many of them in the process.  I’m sure there was a nicer way to handle that one.  I sent my kids out the door this morning with one giant sigh because the negativity of the twenty minutes I spent with my kids this morning was a little overwhelming.  I watched them walk across the field in the rain and almost called them back to drive them to school.  I didn’t.  Instead I went in my room and mourned the morning.  Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but two little boys returning home because today is late start (I forgot, like usual).  Yea!  A chance to redeem myself.  A chance to hold my tongue, to say “yes”, to hug them and kiss them again, to say “sorry”, to drive them to school so they won’t get soaked, to listen to them play with one another, to reflect on how much I love being their mother.

I think one of the wonderful things about life and about repentance, about the gospel of Jesus Christ, is second chances.  I know I can always try again.  I can always say “sorry” and start over.  I can always improve.  The potential to be so much more than I am at this moment is always available to me.

Now, I realize in the time I have blogged about the real parts of my life I could have posted some lovely pictures of my baby or a dress I just finished.  But I didn’t.  Instead I shared a piece of me, a deep-down-chocolate-layer piece of me.  Thanks for reading, and still coming back.
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