Thursday, August 10, 2017

Things Lost

I am in summer survival mode around here. That means: 1) I'm ready for the kids to go back to school and 2) I can't possibly keep up with them, so please don't look at the state of the house.

There is no camp for anybody this week. No visitors and no trips planned. Fritz has started teaching, so he's not around much. August is always teaching season for him. I won't lie: I'm always overwhelmed by handling both the end of the summer and the start of school year all by myself. You'd almost think it was planned: things like evening classes that Fritz has to teach only happen two or three times per year and every year it just happens to happen on Meet The Teachers Night. Where hundreds of nervous elementary aged kids run around on a playground under the auspice of getting to know their teachers and classmates. Riiiight. They should call it Lose Your Preschooler Night.

During summer survival mode, I adopt a policy of if-its-not-broke-don't-fix-it. I let the kids do what they want, assuming that it's safe and not hurting anyone. If the play seems rather pointless (like filling up endless cups with water and flowers), so what? It is makes a mess, we'll deal with that later. You want to make a salad with mint and carrots? Sure, why not? Just do it yourself. As long as they are happily playing, they get to play. I do not micromanage. In fact, I rather ignore them. When they start crying or fighting or going over the tip-top, I intervene. In order words: if they play well, they get to continue playing. And as soon as they stop playing well, they have to clean up the mess they made. Or I take them to the grocery store. Or I separate them. Whatever it may be. What I certainly DO NOT DO is put them on a schedule of any kind. It sounds counter-intuitive. But I find they will play quite well for hours on end as long as I don't intervene. Having a schedule (like: at 11am we are going to the pool and at 3pm we are meeting friends at the playground) is EXACTLY the way to make my life more miserable.

I think it interrupts their rhythm and their imaginations and they simply forget how to play if I am always pushing an agenda.

At the moment, we are badly in need of a trip to the grocery store, but they are wheeling themselves down the driveway in a toddler trailer. They are perfectly happily playing. So, we won't go to the grocery store until they are unhappy. And I will have some time to post.

In the spring, I had a job interview in which I was explaining this to an interviewer. For most of our professional life we are taught and expected to be planners. We think about what we are going to do when and why and we prioritize and write and down and then execute it as close to what we envisioned as possible. But being a stay at home parent doesn't work like that. At least, not comfortably: it's not about planning, it's about strategy. If planning works like a ladder: one step after the next, then strategy works like a tree. Every time the tree branches, you survey your options and choose the best route. You're still climbing, but it's more improvisation. And when the branch you are sitting on is strong and stable, you sit on it and rest a bit.

The thing is, this strategic type of thinking, which many people used to learn from parenting? It's a lost art, because there are so few of us who take the time to learn it anymore. We're busy with work and schools and camps and, generally: schedules. And if you notice the way so many of our kids are: sensory processing issues, ADHD, video games, massive amounts of screen time, easily bored, etc.  Well, you see the fallout from losing our strategic parenting skills.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sheesham Table

One project this summer was to refinish our dining room table, which took on a very sorry state in the last few years. Any type of heat clouded the finish. The shaving cream that Grandma let the kids play with on the table revealed unfinished wood. Oops.

We purchased the table while living in Germany. I loved the size: 1 meter by 2 meters is the PERFECT sized table top, as far as I am concerned. It was made of solid wood - that was Fritz's request. He wanted something that could be refinished. It came to us finished in a really dark stain. It matched the dark stained chairs in the photo above. Oh wait... maybe I have a more detailed before of the stained wood table. Here it is:

In the photo above, the dark stain is already coming off. Note the area beneath the plate and colander.

Anyway, we didn't have a lot of money for the table way-back-when, so the table we bought came from a German-Ikea-knock-off store. It was about $400. The wood was... Sheesham. Sheesham, it turns out, is also known as Indian rosewood. It's basically an imported hardwood that is sold at a semi-affordable price. It's super heavy and sturdy. But it traditionally has problems as far as the Western Furniture market is concerned. Sheesham is super vibrant: there are huge variations in the color of the wood. It has light areas and dark areas and areas of grey and blue and reddish brown and yellowish brown. And it has big knots. Therefore, on the Western markets, Sheesham is typically sold covered in very dark stain. Or in lime-washed finish. And often it also has a distressed finish. Sometimes, it's sold as "Reclaimed Wood," despite the fact that it's actually brand new wood.

But, if you sand away all that distressed/dark stain and you get something like this:

It is sort of wild, right? I'm not sure I would have purchased this table if it looked like this originally. Maybe the furniture companies are right to cover it in dark stain. But then, sometimes I wonder why we are so eager to make something naturally vibrant conform to our staid (and boring?) expectations.

The surface is now super smooth and LOUD. It's really... I don't know, a conversation piece? An accent piece? I'm trying to enjoy the something different aspect. Also, it only cost about $50 (and the time) to refinish.

Next up, perhaps? The chairs. I started refinishing them a mere 5 years ago: I think it's time to finish that project, right? Unfortunately, I don't thinking the difference will be quite so striking: the wood isn't Sheesham.

Monday, August 7, 2017


It's raining here in Colorado. It rains so seldom, that it's refreshing and invigorating when it does rain (for me). In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm twice as likely to post on a rainy day as compared on a sunny day.

The kids are running in and out of the house, setting up rain traps. And I am not one bit worried about tracking their time in the sun, or slathering them with sunscreen, or pushing hats. It's a relief. The floor is pretty wet. OH WELL.

This last week, I had quite a few orders for Schultüten. It was SO NICE. I feel really lucky to have some awesome customers who have pushed me in some new directions. If I could consistently be that level of busy with my Etsy store, it would be perfect. As it is, the Schultüten are such a niche market; it will only last for a bit (this month, maybe?), and then I'll be back to looking for work as an architect. This is fine, as long as I find a job in architecture. I really like architecture more than sewing, but the sewing could be fine, if it was consistent. But it's not.

Anyway. I DO enjoy the chance to create something. I'm getting a little more brave as the time goes by. Some of my favorites:

I'm always looking for ways to use my fabric scraps. So, my new strategy is to sew pictures onto the front of the cone. The raw edges fray, but I think it still creates a neat aesthetic. The rainbow is sort of quilted-looking:

And these flowers are more of a sketched-outline:

These stars were kind of cool, too.

I like the tension these designs create between finished and unfinished. Somehow, lately, I feel the need to say that beauty and function can exist even in a rough form. Honestly, I think there's something psychological here: like, I'm exhausted of always trying to be perfect and finished.