Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Me making stuff

Lately, I've been neglected this blog as I bury a fair amount of time into making clown costumes. I don't know why.  Somehow I really LOVE making clown costumes. For me, there's something so satisfying about the process of making – well, the process of making just about anything. The clown costumes are such a good excuse to be a little more cheery and bright and silly than I feel like I get to be in everyday life. I've exceeded the number of clown costumes my children could ever reasonably use, so they are for sale here. The costumes are getting more gorgeous and well-made with each rendition. For some reason, their extravagance alone motivates me to continue making them.

When I first started making clown costumes, I mentioned that my goal is to teach myself how to sew well enough to sew clothes for me. Five years ago, I was disassembling pants and then copying the pattern and re-sewing new ones. It was a struggle. With the clown costumes, I had to re-work the store-bought pattern to get the size and proportions and silhouette that I wanted. I'm feeling a lot more confident after all the clown-costume-making than I was after the pant-making. Now I'm starting to think about designing a shirt. A shirt for me.  I've reached the point where I feel confident enough with my pattern-making and sewing skills to try. Although, it's a pretty simple design. I've also been collecting old sheets to cut up and use on my trial run(s).

The other thing I would really like to design is a Christmas Tree Skirt. I don't know why we don't have one! No: I DO know why. Every year, I wrap a table cloth woven by Fritz's grandmother around the bottom of the tree. I tell myself that it's sentimental and therefore ideal. And it sort of is ideal. Ideal-ish. Except, it's a off-white table cloth (with brownish flecks), and I would like a red tree skirt. And it fits well enough, but not great. Also it's a table cloth! I never use table clothes on tables (at least, not with kids), so it's nice to have an excuse to use it. See? Ideal-ish.

Anyway. I haven't really dreamed up the perfect tree skirt yet. I'm never moved enough by the tree skirts that I see in the stores to buy one. But maybe if I start putting some brain power into thinking about tree skirts NOW, I'll come up with something to make before Christmas...

Except: while I'm buying making stuff, so are the kids. The messes and disorganization are beginning to pile up, so I might need to set aside my own projects for a bit.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What Counts

I really like(d) Volkswagens, so I'm feeling betrayed by the recent revelation that their diesels have been cheating emission standards for the last 6 years in the US.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, my whole family is something of VW affectionados. My brother, who normally rides a bike, but drives a Golf TDI the rest of the time, called me to rant about how he thought he was making an environmentally responsible car choice, but now is embarrassed to be driving a VW.

I took this photo Wednesday morning at the zoo in Denver. Apparently, not everyone feels the same. Or not everyone has heard the news. Or maybe some people feel along the lines of It's The Thought That Counts:

Anyway. I think this changes my mind about ever wanting a CrossBlue. But, you know, there is something I find remarkable about this whole debacle (beyond the fact that it happened in the first place): the fact that Volkswagen has been relatively forthcoming. I mean, how many times does a company actually admit guilt and say that they are sorry? Recently, the Huffington Post has been running exposés on companies who have done some pretty crappy things to consumers with their toxic chemicals. (Interesting series, if, like me, you often feel that regular news articles are a little shallow.) There was Dupont's Teflon which resulted in cancer and birth defects and deaths and extensive pollution. Johnson and Johnson's Risperdal causing children to grow breasts. And the difference here is that neither of these companies have remotely stepped forward the way that Volkswagen has. It's been a much larger, longer game of obscuring the facts and running the clock with these other guys.

For what it's worth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Not so Prime

We use Amazon Prime. We started using it when Trixie was a baby.  Spending lots of time in the car running errands with three kids was horrible. It was just so much easier to buy on Amazon. We signed up for Prime, because our frequency of ordering made the free two-day shipping was worth it to us. I confess, we've become a little addicted. It's so easy to get just exactly what we want, and not more and not less. (Unless you count the excessive number of cardboard boxes around the house.)

For two-ish years, Amazon Prime deliveries were done by UPS. But in the last two months, it appears that UPS has been booted and replaced by USPS. At least, that seems to be the case here in Denver. I'm hard pressed to find anything in the news about this switch – or at least anything that correlates date-wise with my experience. Even if I wasn't an Amazon Prime user, I would notice just the based on the sudden absence of UPS trucks driving around my block. I suspect I'm not the only Amazon Prime user in my neighborhood.

Now...I'm happy to see that USPS has more business. I don't have anything against our national postal service. Except they're not as reliable as UPS. My two day packages are not arriving in two days. That's irritating, especially since Amazon Prime has raised their rates since I became a member.

Maybe it's splitting hairs to complain – but it seems to strange – am I really the only one who has noticed this? Doesn't UPS losing a huge contract / USPS gaining a huge contract (presumably) seem like it would be worthy of mention in the news??

Also, I want two day shipping to be real, not theoretical.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Crafty Segue

I am so happy to announce that between school starting and kids get older, I'm spending a lot less time carrying people around.

I mean: THANK GOODNESS! Huge relief. The youngest is actually almost adept enough at the balance bike that I might soon be able to run while she bikes. Isn't that fabulous?? I thought I was going to do that with Noah, but then I got pregnant with Mattias and then Trixie came along. And, well, you know. Some plans are get suspended with babies and little kids. (As they probably should be!) 

But guess what? My life is now a little bit like I-have-only-one-child (with her brothers in school all day). MARVELOUS! And well earned, I'd say. Here's Trixie painting some Caran d'Ache. Do you know these? They are water-soluble crayons. You can probably buy a cheaper version for the bathtub made by Crayola and then use them on paper like Caran d'Ache. They're fun! Although...Noah never thought they were much fun, when he was my (true) only child; he had about a 5 second attention span for such things.

Unless arts and crafts involved painting on rocks or something. One day after school, Noah painted these rocks with watercolors. That's about as artsy as he gets with a paint brush; it lasted for all of about 3 minutes.

Using rocks to build, however, is a different story. In this, he can be both creative and persistent. One morning before school, Noah and Mattias flipped a doormat upside down, lined it with rocks, turned on the hose, added some lego "canoes" and made these rapids on the deck steps. Everyone got very messy and muddy and wet and had to be dragged away to change clothes before school.

This stadium was a much neater project, although I'm not really sure how much I want to encourage him in pursing building anything vaguely architectural. I guess, at least, stadiums are a rather profitable end of the construction industry.

Although he might need to build stadiums for a client with deeper pockets than these lego figures.

Monday, September 14, 2015


I recently inherited a few pieces of furniture from my grandmother's estate. Sometime in the 1960s, she had begun to collect old pieces of furniture and refinish them. She was generally not so particular about the style. She just wanted things that spoke to her; things that were old enough to call Antiques.

I remember occasionally shopping in antique stores with her as a child. She never bought anything. I thought it was odd. We'd circle the store again and again. She point out things she liked and clasp her hand over her heart or tsk and frown. It was only as an adult that I learned she never bought her Antiques at antique stores. She only visited antique stores for inspiration.

Instead she would buy at estate sales and auctions. She found them deeply depressing and maybe even shameful. She never took me to an estate sale or an auction. "A person's whole life, just sitting there on front lawn!" she once told me in exasperation. And yet, in these lawns, she would find a small, neglected, beat up table or a chair. Reasonably priced. She would see something she liked in it. She'd bring it home, refinish it, and add it to her Antiques.

After she passed away, there was never the slightest consideration that her own household would become an estate sale or auction. Instead, my aunt, uncle, and father carefully divided everything among her descendants. When my father asked me what I would like, it felt wrong to ask for anything. Antiques have never really been my thing. They don't really "match" whatever style I think I have.* I knew how important they were to her. But were they important to me? Was being important to her enough to ask for something?

I never really thought much about the specifics of her refinishing process, other than to recognize it was long and painstaking. I know she frequently asked my grandfather or my great uncle to help her recut bits that were broken or damaged. I know that her primary objective was to make the wood beautiful again. Beyond that, I don't really know exactly what she did to the wood, but she did have a gift for making it beautiful.

As soon as the Antiques arrived at our house, they surprised me by seeming perfectly at home.

I surprised myself by feeling particularly mesmerized by them.

It was like she had rubbed her soul all over the wood. Then my kids rubbed their dirt and grime and toys souls all over the wood. And the deal was sealed.

Even with her soul-rubbed wood furniture gracing my house, there's still sadness in the thought that I never learned from her the specifics of the refinishing that she knew so well. Practically, I find myself wishing she was still around so I could get some advice on my three-year-neglected chair project.  It almost feels like I might be able to pick up where I left off now that 2 out of 3 kids are in school all day. But I also realize that my dining room chairs won't be "refinished" by me alone, so best to just dive in and not spend too much time overthinking it.

* I think we now have more inherited, hand-me-down furniture than self-purchased furniture, so it's hard to say there is any stylistic oversight at all. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Urban Sounds

When I was in college, helicopters used to fly over our dormitories to land at the med center across the street. A lot of people complained about the noise, but one friend used to say how much he loved it.

"The helicopters remind me that I'm living in a city, even if there are hedges all around campus."

In Germany, it was the church bells – the proliferation of church bells at noon! – that told us we were in an urban area. This summer, on vacation in Germany, my kids were startled by the ringing almost everyday. "What's that!?" they'd ask with alarm as the bells tolled noon.

In Colorado, the light rail is expanding. The transit authority has been testing new rails near our house. They need to complete a large number of testing hours (1000?) before the tracks are deemed safe for people transport. The test trains ding-ding-ding! as they approach the stop. That sounds like an urban noise, too. I hope it stays.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Personality Test

I took this free Briggs Myer type assessment a few months ago after I saw it referenced on Design Mom. I can't really stop thinking about it since I took it. I feel that it illuminated – in glow-y screen font – some aspects of my personality that I have really buried deep to get through the last 3 years. (Or maybe I'm just in my cycle of career-obsessed-thinking.) If you believe the online test then I'm an INTJ, aka "The Mastermind/Visionary". What I take away from the test and its analysis, is that careers are pretty important to INTJ. And my career is nonexistent. (I've pasted my test-analysis in all its glorious detail below.)

It also claims I take my role as a parent and a significant other quite seriously. If that's accurate, it's probably the reason why I've been able to set aside my own career ambitions for the last 8 years. But man, do I feel tension! From the outside, it might look like: what's the tension? She's an SAHM! There is no tension! She gets to do one thing, all the time! Even as I've become more and more convinced that I did the right thing for my family over the last few years, it's become more and more difficult to continue to have much enthusiasm for the daily grind. (Maybe that's a reflection of the part about INTJs being "adaptable, and are easily bored by repetition and routine.") My mind is just elsewhere. It's been elsewhere for longer than I care to admit.

I'm not saying this so that anyone apologizes or feels bad for me. I'm saying it because I think sometimes I look at people from the outside and everything appears peachy-keen and consequently, I hold myself to impossible standards of always being perfectly fulfilled and optimistic and happy by exactly the way things are. I think that the minute I'm not feeling picture-perfect I should change. At points in my life, I've been addicted to the adrenaline rush of change instead of committed to seeing an uncomfortable situation through. In the long run, I'm not convinced that changes always make things better; sometimes, they just introduce a different set of problems from the ones I already have.  I generally still subscribe to the theory that there IS time for everything, just not AT the same time. I think some periods of my life will be more about other people, and some will be about me. I feel that to do my best as mother of young children, I need to really BE with my children. I think dividing my energy between young children and a career would be more frustrating for me than choosing to focus on just one.

Fritz and I have always been committed to idea that one parent would be working and one would be at home with children. The very first time we had that conversation, years before Noah was born, I was making more money than he was; he was a relatively unhappy postdoc. It wasn't clear to either of us who would be at home. But sometimes, I wonder if it wouldn't have been easier if the tables were flipped. What I do hope, very much, is that someday the tables can be flipped. I don't know if that's really possible. I do know that Fritz's job in academia has a very specific trajectory, and if he can get tenure, the pressure might allow some realignment of responsibilities. And there's always the fact that the kids just keep getting older and more independent.

I just have to stick it out.

I DO have some figuring out to do about me, however. I grow more leary of returning to architecture each day. I still love a lot about architecture, but the prospect of doing it on someone else's terms, after spending the last 8 years dedicated to doing what is best for Fritz and the kids... well, not so interesting. The visionary, work-obsessed side of me (revealed by the test) does exist. It's hard to imagine sitting in front of a computer drafting as the right kind of change. I can see myself working independently, choosing which clients I want to work with or dabbling in architecture, except: you can't really be that kind of architect without a lot of independent wealth or fame. The pragmatist in me thinks I will eventually walk away from architecture; it's just a matter of when I finally get sick of coughing up the money to renew my license every year.

As a side note, there's actually a personality type dubbed "The Architect" (INTP), but I'm not it. After scrounging around on the internet, I found a few other similar tests that were willing to consider I might be "The Inspector/Logistician" (ISTJ), "The Protector/Nuturer" (ISFJ), or "The Counselor/Advocate" (INFJ). But I am not The Architect.  The idea that my results are somewhat ambiguous was a bit of  relief. Maybe we can push our personalities a bit based on where we are and who we need to be at any particular point in our lives. So, anyway, for now, I'll push a bit more in the direction go INFJ or ISFJ, because they both seem much better suited to stay-at-home-parenthood.