Archive for March, 2009

Still tapping Super-Human reserves…

Oh, where do I start?  I’ve been so busy making.  And making and making and making.  This urge to sew has consumed me, almost entirely, leaving me no choice but to Make my way out.  So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, embracing the mysterious, almost-primal force that is this baby’s gift to me.

Flannel baby wipes.  We use cloth diapers, very happily, and it follows to also use cloth wipes.  (In my humble opinion, there is nothing nicer for a sweet little butt than warm flannel wipes soaking in this.)  We did the same for Isadora, of course, but those wipes are now in the cleaning rag bin, necessitating a fresh batch for the sweet butt soon to emerge.  This project loomed over me for some time, hulking in its importance and urgency, but requiring that I get reacquainted with my serger.  For those of you not familiar with sergers, I’ll just say that they are big, scary, fancy sewing machines with two needles and four big cones of thread to do specialized sewing tricks.  They are finicky, unpredictable, mysterious in their operations, at least in my experience.  And temperamental.  But, much like a wild horse that has been broken, gaining a mastery over her will open up previously-unimagined horizons and will take you there with deftness and great speed.  So I sat down, communed with my own serger, rethreaded her, did a mysterious chant with crossed fingers and a hearty dose of optimism and fired her up.  Success!  Wipes are done.  And then I promptly broke my needle, so the serger has retired to the corral to be rethreaded at a later date.

Most definitely NOT urgent was this project that I just had to whip out to satisfy the Instant-Gratification Genie that sometimes pops up and demands results.  Isadora and I found this pillow on a thrifting adventure and it shouted, “Book Bag!” so I had no choice but to fufill the request.  It sat on my cutting table amidst the other, more legitimate pre-baby projects and I just couldn’t take the whining from it any longer, so it jumped to the front of the line with glee.

Whew.  “Good riddance,” muttered the other queued projects in my studio, as it left on the shoulders of Isadora, off to be filled with random, colorful things.

Oh!  Remember this, from the other day?

Here’s what was inside:

It’s a Mei Tai, a pouch-like baby carrier that is greatly esteemed in our house.  It ties around the waist and over the shoulders and can comfortably hold a baby or toddler leaving your hands free to do anything you wish.  We love our own mei tai and I’ve assumed a sort of missionary status in promoting them to others.  This was made from an Ikea pillow cover that I’d been saving just for this purpose.  The blooms are felted wool circles and the straps are made from a roll of upholstery fabric I was bequeathed recently.

Let’s now venture over to the rocking chair.  I had great intentions of sewing a new cover for the cushion that came with the chair, so I threw it in the washer to get all the dusties out and make it ready to go for that time in the future when I’d tackle the project.  I had not planned on that time coming so urgently, but it emerged from the washer and drier in shambles and fluffed to about 10 times its pre-washed size.  All of the cushy stuffing that had laid so nicely was now fluffed and balled up and freaking out, creating a big, big problem.  Rocking is an important part of my day.  I foresee it to be an important coping strategy while in early labor.  Damn.  With a new sense of urgency and panic, I hit the fabric store to figure out a plan for making a new cushion.  I returned with some foam and quilt batting and used a beautiful thrifted coverlet for the new covering, stapling it all to the underside of the base.  It’s lovely and looks great in the kitchen, but this Princess can detect a pea under there, or at least the hard, unyielding wooden base.  It will definitely need more robust cushioning, but at a later date, please.  For now, this will suffice; I’m running out of steam.

Back to the subject of sweet little baby butts…

Our little baby’s butt will need some salve to keep it so sweet and soft and protected, so clearly a balm-making session was in order.  We are big, big fans of LuSa Organic’s Booty Balm and used it judiciously on Isadora’s own sweet butt.  Of course we still are big, big fans of the Booty Balm, but I’ve since gained a chest full of herbs and oils and know-how.  Mix that with this stubborn dictum to Make it Myself and a prevailing Nesting wind and the outcome is a lovely salve of my own hand, sure to keep the most stubborn of rashes at bay.  Should you have your own baby butt to protect, do run out now to LuSa’s beautiful website and check out the other delights.  We’ll be replenishing our Wipe Juice just as soon as it runs out.

And that shall conclude our tour for today.  Not because it encompasses all that I have recently made, but because it is all I have the energy to report on right now.  And likely all you have the energy to read about right now.  Tomorrow, I’ll unveil my crowning achievement, the most ambitious, off-the-cuff, no-pattern sewing project I’ve ever tackled (and conquered) to date.  Ooh – aren’t you excited???

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The Full Egg Moon

Two short weeks from today we await the arrival of April’s full moon.  Many cultures have assigned meaningful names to each month’s full moon, some of which have remained in use today, like September’s Harvest Moon.  April’s moon has many names, among them Pink Moon, named for the wild ground phlox, or “pink” that blooms in profusion, the Sprouting Grass Moon, or the Fish Moon, honoring the upstream migration of fish to spawn.  Most meaningful to our family tribe, however, is the designation Full Egg Moon.  This is the full moon we suspect may deliver our baby.

Besides coinciding with the obstetrical calendar’s estimation of a due date, we have other reasons for this sneaking suspicion.  Isadora arrived with the Harvest Moon, a full week late but perfectly developed and modestly sized.   Long ago, when we had daily, regular contact with the moon in its phases, the rhythms of life were intimately tied to the gentle syncopation of the heavens.  Womens’ cycles were said to be in sync with those of the moon, resulting in widespread fertility occurring at the same time the full moon illuminated the night sky.  A possible explanation for the full moon’s reputation for crazy-making?  Perhaps.

I first became aware of the possible influence a full moon had over birth around this time in my last pregnancy.  I was feverishly reading and rereading birth stories to prepare for the natural, drug-free birth I was planning and noticed that a few of these accounts knowingly acknowledged the full moon.  As my own due date came and went, I happened to check on the date of the next full moon.  A full week after my due date?  Surely I wouldn’t have to wait that long!  Sure enough.  From the tub in the Birth Center I snuck glimpses of that moon, drawing from it a sustaining strength and a reverence for the magical quality it possessed.  From that point on, we both nourished that reverence and cultivated a constant awareness of the phases of the moon.  Comments about the current phase became as commonplace between us as comments about the weather.  We’ve been known to call each other to point out the extraordinary beauty of a particular night’s moon if we’re apart.  And with this new awareness came a subtle synchronizing of my own cycle with that of the moon.

How fitting, then, if this baby chooses the Egg Moon for a birthday, riding the luminous glow of the full moon from the heavens into our world.  Yet I can’t quite fathom how this belly can get any BIGGER, and, moon aside, wouldn’t be very surprised if the time came sooner rather than later.   Two more weeks does seem like a lo-o-o-ng time.  Either way, we’ll soon have our answer.  And our baby.

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Banishing Insomnia

These are dried apricots.  Arent they beautiful?

These are dried apricots. Aren't they beautiful?

I’ve been having some trouble getting to sleep in the past few weeks.  All signs point to the crazy-hormonal-overload that’s preparing my body and mind to hold my brand-new baby, a baby that’s likely to be nocturnal if my new sleep patterns are any indication.  It would be lovely to give in to the new tide and relinquish my desire to fall asleep at a reasonable time, but there’s that matter of the First Child, as she’s soon to be known, the one who’s not operating in a nocturnal time zone.  Also of concern is the possibility of going into labor at the tail end of an exhausting day, before first recharging with some sleep.  So I’m fighting it, and trying instead to find ways to regain control of the wheel, at least while I have the option of a full night’s sleep, punctuated of course by a handful of bathroom breaks.  In my aresenal you’ll find herbal tea – an aromatic chamomile and lavender blend spiked with Scullcap tincture, but this is only useful if I remember to drink it earlier in the evening, lest I add more bathroom breaks to the already-full nighttime schedule.  There’s also light exercise, which sounds like a great idea but again really requires some forethought.  At the end of the day, the mere act of climbing the stairs is utterly exhausting.  A warm bath is also reputed to be good for this type of thing, but our tub is less than hygienic right now and cleaning it requires a bending-over maneuver that is physically out of the question, thanks to This Belly.

At the heart of the problem, I’ve learned, is the challenge of quieting my mind.  It’s as if my pregnant body has transformed my creative reception from AM frequencies to HD, with so many more channels and a remarkably improved sound quality.  (I don’t have an HD radio, and you already know we’ve turned off our TV, but the analogy seems reasonable nonetheless)  My mind is reeling, constantly, with ideas and creativity and to-do lists that rise up and spill over the banks of my consciousness.  Through the course of this pregnancy, I’ve come to know this little one as my Renaissance Baby, as I’ve entered in a period of prolific Making that I never would have fathomed possible before.  And it’s wonderful.  A gift.  Timely.  And useful for this phase of making-a-home.  But really, really hard to shut off when needed.  So I’ve found that the very best weapon in my arsenal is a blank book by the bed to download some of the data from this overactive mind before turning off the lights.  Naturally, it’s a book of lists.  On the first night, I filled four pages with project ambitions, some needing completion before Baby’s arrival and some more lofty in scope.  And I slept.  Step 1 accomplished.  Step 2, I quickly realized, was completing as many of the tasks as my very limited energy supply would permit during the waking hours, so that I could cross them off the list at night during the next download. This creates quite an opportunity for Show and Tell, doesn’t it?  Here are some of the more photogenic graduates of The List.

Kitchen Table gets a new outfit.  Thrifted placemats lose their tassel edge trim and gain a fresh red and white polka-dot edge.  I made the bias tape edging with my handy Clover Bias Tape Maker, which I adore, from fabric formerly constructed as a blouse, also thrifted.  The napkins were cut from a vintage tablecloth I had stashed away for just that purpose, and are a collection of eight.  Eight napkin edges are a lot to press and sew, I learned, when in the midst of crazy-fast-get-it-done-now sewing.  So boring.

No doubt this project will facilitate the new-baby bonding period fast approaching, just like the kitchen pantry I was compelled to rearrange and scrub on a whim last week will be duly noted and appreciated by Baby.  Clearly, the intensity and diligence and explosive creativity is there in this frenzy, but rationality and practicality are most definitely not.  The funny part is that I can see this irrationality clearly, as I’m plowing ahead, calling Andrew to tell him that I will not indeed be making supper because this particular project must get done and I can’t possibly stop now.  I can see clearly that supper is pretty important too, and that in no way will the quality of baby’s life be affected by a better organized pantry, but I’m completely powerless to stop.  I laugh as I ask Andrew to pick up something on his way home to bail me out, but my hands are tied.  He has a good sense of humor, so it all works out.

A reorganized pantry begets a new rug for the pugs’ food and water dishes, of course.  Clever me, as I pulled out the most boring of the rag balls inherited last summer and saved myself the trouble of cutting my own.  There was not quite enough to make it to the end of my row, so I spliced in some leftover red from our bathroom rug, giving it a surprise burst of color and a Red Herring persona.

So this one is a tad more baby-related.  These are sachets for Baby’s dresser drawers.  Never mind that the clothing to go into the drawers is in a mixed-up heap on the spare bed, most of it with spit-up stains 3 1/2 year old, waiting to be sorted, spot-cleaned, rewashed, then put into the drawers.  Never mind that.  It’s all on the list, but first things first.  Sachets.  Filled with lavender.  Sewn from a pack of fabric squares I thought I liked but then decided I really only thought of as acquaintances and besides – what was I going to make from a bunch of matchy-matchy 5″ squares of fabric anyways?!?  Sachets.

Then there is This.  It’s a gift for a friend who just had a baby, and it’s at this moment sitting in a box by the front door waiting to be shipped out.  I’m afraid I can’t show you what’s inside until it arrives safe and sound, lest I spoil the surprise.  I can tell you, however, that the polka-dot drawstring is left over from the placemat project, so it could be argued that it was necessary to complete that project, seemingly random in its urgency, in order to complete this project, of critical urgency.  Aha!

And now, I hope to cross off one more thing in today’s To Do agenda:  Blog.

Maybe a good night’s sleep is just around the corner.  Please?

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The word of the day is Fecund.

fe·cund adj.

1. Capable of producing offspring or vegetation; fruitful.
2. Marked by intellectual productivity. See Synonyms at fertile.

Yesterday’s air was ripe with Spring Metaphor.  The return of the light, Birth, Rebirth, the unabashed celebration of Life… all were the themes dominating the airwaves, hitting us with an all-the-instruments-playing-simultaneously-in-harmony symphonic intensity.  The sun was gloriously generous, blanketing our corner of the world in skin-baring warmth.  A tree full of blackbirds composed their own raucous, but beautiful symphony as we exited the car and made our way to a Lambing Open House at a nearby farm. And there I was, in my heavily-laden, pregnant splendor, joining the chorus of Spring delegates as Fertility Incarnate.

Of all the places to find yourself while carrying an almost-full-term baby in your very priminent, very bulging belly, a lambing barn is certainly one of the more thought-provoking.  Andrew joked that I was among my own kind as we communed with the ewes yet to give birth.  I cooed and sighed and murmured knowingly to them, my empathy tempered with a sincere gratitude that I carried only one baby, versus the twins or triplets that many of the ewes bore.  “That’s exactly how I feel,” said I, as we watched them slowly, carefully amble to a new resting spot.

Pendulous, swollen udders caught our eyes, so full of milk they seemed on the verge of bursting.  The lambs attacked them with such vigor we first laughed at their enthusiasm, then winced as they tugged and bit the nipples aggressively, with empathy for the Momma.  It was an empathy that was likely unwarranted, as the ewes seemed not to mind the brutal force.  “Breast is best!” might have been the slogan of this little one, mingling perfect nourishment with unabashed tail-wagging pleasure.

The mothers on the Other Side, having already given birth, eyed my belly knowingly and offered up gentle words of encouragement for the arduous task ahead of me.

In addition to the sheep, the farm offered an impressive assortment of other spring mascots:  chicks, calves, bunnies, piglets, and turkeys.

It was the perfect way to spend the day, attuning ourselves a bit more with Nature’s rhythms.

Should you find yourself in the area looking for a similar slice of life, the farm is hosting the event for both of the remaining Saturdays in March.

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Swapped: one mobile

I finally completed the mobile for Elsie Marley‘s Mobile Swap.  It was really tough going as I just couldn’t settle on a design.   A surprising turn of events for me, considering the creative tidal wave I’ve been swimming in lately.   But now it’s done and on its way to a new home.  Amen.

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Spring arrives slowly on feathered wings.

Every year I find myself surprised by the tremendous impact that the return of the birds has on my frosty, adapted-for-winter psyche.  In years past, I’ve found the realization sudden – walking out the door to be bombarded with the joyful chorus of bird song that seemed to have appeared overnight.  This year, the protective layers of ice first began their thaw as we saw the Lovely Ladies return to their post of canvassing the yard.  Our Ladies despise the snow and will have nothing to do with it, cocooning themselves in the coop while we cocoon ourselves in the house.  We lead these separate lives all winter long, commingling only for brief periods each day to exchange food and water for eggs that have hopefully not frozen.  As we adapt to winter’s daily grind, we slowly come to forget how much these Ladies add to our sense of home until, one balmy day, they make their exit from the coop and take to the yard again.

And then!  We start shedding the layers we’ve huddled under for months. We open the doors, venture out for longer and longer, shake out the rugs and the darkness of winter and beg spring to take a more permanent hold.  We feel our heels sink into the yielding, saturated earth and have no trouble making the imaginative leap to the garden work just around the corner.  We don our puddle jumpers and find the sand toys revealed in the thaw and rediscover the simple joys of water and mud and splashing.  And in an encouraging moment that banishes all fear of a perpetual winter, we are greeted with the return of the cranes, flying overhead and returning to their summer home.

Most people I talk to lament the drudgery of this winter, filing it away in the Very Long category, declaring their patience with it utterly gone.  I can’t say that I agree – I’ve had a rather consuming diversion to the tedium of the season and a constant source of supplemental heat.  The mandate to turn inward and tend to the hearth has allowed me to prepare our home for our family’s expansion without the pull of outside obligations.  Being pregnant in the winter is far, far superior to carrying in the dog days of summer.  File that away if you find yourself mindfully contemplating a gestation of your own.

Here in Wisconsin, we’re wise enough to take these Spring Teasers as they come, drinking every last drop of the day, knowing full well that the night will likely returns us to frosty mornings and flurries dusting the landscape.  Slowly, though, the winter’s strength is waning and the promise of spring is gaining momentum in the whispered cooing of chickens.

And now I’m off to answer the door.  It looks like we have a visitor…

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Join us for tea, won’t you?

It could be said that I have a weakness for teapots.

As I tour the house with the camera in hand to collect these photos (they are all ours, not a collection of random flickr photos), even I’m surprised by how many I’ve amassed over the years.  Can you blame me though?  Don’t they indeed make the perfect vessel for plants (especially neglected orchids) and wooden spoons?  Given these indisputable facts, would you join my husband in resigned head-shaking and smirks as I unveil the latest thrifted additions to the teapot family, writing it off as one of my hopeless quirks?  I think you know better.  I think you, too, would instead join me in unabashed homage to their fantastic design, the infinite variations within this simple design, and the warm coziness they bring to the house.  At the very, very least, you’d become so accustomed to greeting the new acquisitions I present in my thrifting Show and Tell that you’d soon become resigned to their presence, maybe even appreciative.

These two are the latest additions to the decor family, planted and hung in the post-curtain frenzy of Sunday evening.  They reside in our stairwell, soaking up the Southwestern sun and fostering a new generation of Grandma’s geraniums.  My tool-wielding husband kindly mounted the primitive who-knows-what-this-was-used-for antique wooden base from which these two tea planters hang.

Rather clever, isn’t it, that there’s plenty of room to hang MORE teapots in this grouping?  Yes, I thought so too.  I’ve added them to my shopping list.

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We awoke on the shores of the Caribbean.

I hadn’t meant to be gone for so long.  Working feverishly on these curtains and the countless other projects on my dashboard, preparing for our homebirth, visiting friends, entertaining family, vehicle repair, and lots and lots of rest had all drained the blog well to a point of drought last week.

But here I am, and more importantly, here are the *much anticipated* curtains.  I am perfectly content with how they’ve manifested.

Yesterday was a day of crossing off The List.  It was precipitated, of course, by the completion of The Curtains, which created a momentum of project tackling that left bystanders in the wake wide-eyed and awestruck by its sheer force.  Pictures were hung, plants were potted, lamps were assembled.  The rag rug received some attention, after sulking for weeks in the shadow of The Curtains.

And my baby sighed a hearty sigh from the depths of my womb as the last curtain was hung, for now there was one less barrier to its grand emergence into our world.  I was not in the least prepared to begin this birthing process until they were completed and was unwaveringly clear about this.  Really.  Irrational?  Yes.  Impractical?  Mostly.  We can’t have sunlight streaming into our baby’s eyeballs while we take to a round-the-clock cat napping schedule.  But urgent?  You bet. Their role is inestimable in setting the mood for this journey of birthing, as is their potency in delivering regular doses of calm and peace and gentle You-Can-Do-It.  All of these things I infused directly into the finely woven threads of their fabric, stirred into the dye pots, sewed into the seams.  They are in fact a crucial part of my drug-free, at home, natural birth plan.

I’m struck by the serendipitous deja vu of these room preparations.  One year ago at this time, we were preparing for an actual visit to the Caribbean, our first real vacation in years.  We looked with anticipation to the rejuvenation and restoration and reconnection we were seeking from the land of azure seas.  And we found it.

This year, exactly one year later perhaps, the Caribbean comes to us.  Our bed sits contentedly afloat in this peaceful sea, where the horizon of our walls is infinite and the soothing waves of the curtains lull us into a place of groundedness.  And very, very literally, the birthing tub that is scheduled to arrive in a few weeks will complete the idyll.  Patience, Little One in my belly.  I very respectfully decline to begin the birthing process until said tub is in place.  I think you’ll agree.

And now, as I’m finally snapping out of my slightly-obsessed curtain reverie, I see that the practical nuts-and-bolts of daily life, baby preparation (like laundering baby’s clothing and diapers) and other creative obligations are waiting.  I’m a day late in mailing my mobile for Elsie Marley’s Mobile Swap, for one, with my idea not yet fully conceived.

So it’s off, once again, to the real world.  I’ve armed myself with The List, this week focusing on the less sensational of the To Dos.  I promise teapots, feathered harbingers of spring, and who knows what other crafty endeavors.  Stay tuned.

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