Thursday, January 31, 2008

Loopy dispatch

I'm sitting in my downtown Chicago office, watching it snow like a sonofagun outside. In a couple of hours I have my first class meeting for the semester--it's a class called "Gender and the Artist in American Fiction," one I've taught every few years since 1996 (eek! All of a sudden that seems like a long time). I haven't been able to get pictures to load from my home laptop, so I am happy to have an excuse to take a break from work to get some pictures and ideas tapped out.

I've finally got a picture--not a full-length one, though--of one of the dresses I made for Astrid over the winter break. How's this for twisted: the pattern (McCall's M5510) is very obviously for a nightgown and/or pajamas. The envelope back and instructions, however, include this legalistic jewel: "NOTE: The garments in this pack are not intended for Sleep Apparel." I understand, I think, why they say this--these are loose-fitting designs, and if they weren't made in flame-retardant fabrics (which I wouldn't use....sorry), they might be dangerous if there was a fire during the night. But come on! Are they trying to convince purchasers that these clothes are pajama costumes--in other words, outfits that kids might dress up in before they go to bed, but then change into "real" PJs before they get into bed?

Happily for me, I had no intention of sewing this design for nighttime wear (ooops....I mean "Sleep Apparel"). I was looking for a dress without buttons, snaps, or facings, and I wanted something with a nice ruffle at the sleeves. So far I've made it in the peachy Japanese-inspired tree print shown in the photo, a pair of coordinating chocolate-and-blue prints, and some cool "rainbowy" home dec fabric I found at IKEA. (If you're looking at the IKEA page, the two fabrics I used are the second from the left [big rainbows] and the one on the far right [the small multicolored emblems])The IKEA dresses are sleeveless; Astrid has one, as does her neighbor-friend Lily (or, as Astrid calls her, "Lily the Lion"--she had a lion costume for Halloween when they were both 3, I think). The dresses are good for twirling (*so* important!) and it's easy to make the bodice in a different fabric (like I did with the brown/blue and IKEA versions). What I can't show here, but what I'm most happy about, is the closure for all of the dresses: after cutting a small ponytail elastic (the kind Goody makes in a zillion different colors) in half, I turned each half into a loop and sewed it about two inches to the left of the center back (close to the neck and right above the skirt/bodice seamline). Then, two inches to the right of the center back, I sewed big vintage buttons. This arrangement gathers the fullness of the back of the dress so that it doesn't slip off Astrid's shoulders (as it appears to be doing in the McCalls envelope picture).

Gee, Astrid looks happy--no, ecstatic --in her dress, doesn't she? (Actually, maybe she's just receiving instructions from her mothership. Do I look like someone who knows what's going on in her daughter's mind? Perish the thought.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Singing our complaints

Yesterday, while we were cutting up pretty paper for collages, I told Astrid about the "Complaint Choirs" that started in Finland a year or so ago, and have now popped up in the UK and, interestingly, in Singapore. (I heard about these choirs on NPR....most of my significant learning about the world happens while I'm driving home from work....).

Astrid was very taken by the idea that people could get together and sing beautifully about everyday stuff that bugs them. She didn't want to try singing herself, but she did help me make a list of annoyances that I could sing about *for* her. Among them: lentil soup, chicken soup, bullies, girls who are interested only in Barbie dolls and princesses (hmmmm.....methinks the young lady doth protest too much.....), and getting ready for school on Monday mornings. Then we came up with a complaint song for each member of our family. Mine included traffic, listening to children fuss, meetings, paying bills, and having headaches....Terry's also included fussy (and arguing) children, but focused more on dirty dishes, toys on the floor, Republicans, and overflowing laundry baskets. Astrid took special delight in coming up with her brother's likely complaints: "Homework, and Weekly Essays, and Spelling, and Current Events, and cleaning his room, and taking showers, and getting up for school, and having to leave school right in the middle of Activity Time." I also liked her song for Elliot, because it captured something about Astrid's brother worship.....where his father and I know that his complaints about homework and chores are minor, manageable, and predictable, Astrid sees Elliot as someone who nobly struggles against challenges that are *almost* (but not quite) too much for him. In her eyes, because Elliot is so amazingly powerful, the challenges he faces must also be incalculably difficult.

(It's interesting that she doesn't think the same thing about the difficulties that Terry and I face. Actually, I guess her attitude provides a good reality check for us....if even a not-quite-five-year-old knows that we can handle life, I guess we can.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Worrying about Naught(iness)

Miraculously, Astrid did OK this morning, and, more baffling, even after she came home from a long day at school. I probably won't be able to get the pictures uploaded (I'm *really* trying for serenity, but my patience is waning), but I took many pictures of a castle she and I made out of blocks this evening. Actually, not just a castle (which was built partly out of nylon juggling scarves!), but also a princess's sewing workshop, a crown-shaped waiting area for people who want to meet and/or work with the princess, and a large play area for the children of the princess's co-workers.

During the latter stages of the building session, I turned on Antiques Roadshow (the season premiere!), and Astrid told me that "it's a good show for Mommies and little girls to watch together." I couldn't agree more, of course....I wonder if she'll say the same thing next week....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

How do we turn fussing into something nicer?

It's the *last* day of the kids' winter break (unless Astrid's cold gets worse, in which case we'll have her home again), and we're having to take things a minute at a time. The house is messy, Elliot's and Astrid's hair is sticking up, and I have a bad cold. Terry pulled a muscle in his chest last week (doing a jigsaw puzzle....not sure how that's possible, but I was there). These details should suggest the crumbly feeling we've all got right now.

If I were feeling better, I'd be gathering my little fussers around me and we'd be getting our hands dirty and our minds distracted from whatever blucky energy seems to be hanging around our house. As it is, I'll feel proud and accomplished if I take a shower and get Astrid to the 4 p.m. birthday party she's supposed to go to this afternoon. (OK: what's up with 4 p.m. birthday parties for 5 year olds? Is my child the only one who will be fried and antisocial by that hour?)

Last night Astrid didn't fall asleep until midnight. What's going to happen tonight? Or, more terrifying to contemplate, what kind of Monday morning awaits us? I shudder to think about this, so I won't think about it anymore. OK.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The haircut is the high point of the day

It's the second day of the year, and I'm feeling sort of glum (the old unstructured time-plus-cabin fever thing). The slowness of my computer hasn't been helping any, of course. After getting frustrated at how many times the internet connection timed out, I decided to take Astrid was a haircut. She looks amazing....of course, I can't include a picture right now....

Once we were home, I decided to uninstall about six MS Vista "security updates" that were installed right about the time my machine became so sluggish and uncooperative. I don't know why I didn't think of it before, and I'm not sure that it actually made a difference (I wasn't able to upload a picture when I tried a few minutes ago....) Still, I sort of felt like I was sticking it to the bad, bad spirits behind Microsoft's products. (Am I ready for Linux yet? I'm getting closer....)