New Project

Yesterday, Katie said: “Mommy, when we move, if there’s an extra room, can we set it up just for sewing?”

I smiled.  “That’s my dream home, Katie.”

Not likely to happen any time soon, but we can have fun imagining it.

I have been avoiding teaching my daughters how to sew.  As always, it’s the learning curve.  I didn’t want to have to be patient for hours/days/weeks while they learned a new skill.  To force myself to do it, I gave Katie a quilt kit for Christmas.  The quilt is sized for a doll, and is meant to be hand sewn.  Smart cookie that she is, she did the first 3″ line of stitching joining two patches and then asked to switch to the machine.  We had that quilt completed in a few hours.

She was not very diligent about maintaining a 1/4″ seam, but it was just a doll quilt.

Jenny saw this and decided she wanted to make a quilt for the new baby.  We opted for red/white/blue, since we don’t know the baby’s gender and because I had a bunch of red/white/blue fabric on hand.  We finished cutting those squares yesterday and designing the layout.  I did have to go back and trim up all the squares to make them the same size.  Katie had helped, but cut 5″ x 5″ squares instead of 4″ x 4″.  And I have a plastic quilt block pattern which is 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ to have a 4″ x 4″ end product, but I did not realize that it was like that.  I cut a bunch of 4″ wide fabric strips, and the girls used the pattern to cut them into “squares” but they were 4″ x 4 1/2″ instead.

This was MY learning curve, and I don’t seem to mind those so much.

We then started sewing the patches into strips, making sure we got the design right.  Jenny picked up very quickly on the need to pay attention to which block came next.  After I did two strips, she decided she wanted to do the sewing.  So, I showed her how and (after Katie’s sewing performance), stressed the need to keep the edge of the fabric aligned with the edge of the foot.  I even made her rip out one seam and do it again.  She did great.  After walking her through a few strips where I aligned the fabric and showed her exactly where to stitch, I let her do it by herself while I watched, and she demonstrated that she thoroughly understood what she was doing.  She finished all the remaining strips with minimal assistance.

I did have to re-thread the bobbin at one point.  And re-thread the needle after the thread broke.

And there was one point where Katie was showing her how to use the iron, and I was across the room cautioning, “You MUST be careful with the iron.  It will burn you.  I have a scar on my leg from being burnt by an iron 35 years ago.  Pay close attention!”  My words were immediately followed byOuch!” and Katie ordering her sister to put her hand under cold running water.  It’s a pretty ugly burn, but she took it like a trooper.

After the doll quilt was finished last weekend, Katie decided that she wanted to make a quilt for her bed.  I am unhappy about the store-bought quilts they have.  They just have not held up in the wash and with normal childhood wear and tear (jumping on beds, being used as a tent, etc).  But finding the time…

But since Katie did such a great job on the doll quilt, I decided to go ahead and jump in with not just her quilt but three coordinating quilts for the three girls.  We went to the fabric store last week and bought enough to get started with a vague idea of a pattern.  This past week, we finalized our design, and yesterday we began to cut the shapes: each block is 9 pieces, but there are 2 different sized squares and a rectangle.  One square is large (10″ x 10″ when done) and we found three fabrics with the same pattern but different colors: light blue, lavender and pink.  Each quilt will have that large square be a different color, but the other colors will be in the block as well.  Each quilt will be unique, but they will all go together well.

We’re using the Puss-in-the-Corner

I also got some great coupons in the mail this week (50% off!!), so we’ll go back to the store after Mass today and see if they have enough of this gorgeous lavender paisley fabric that we want to use as a backing for all three quilts.  Katie can’t wait to start piecing her blocks together.

I don’t regret not doing this sooner.  I think the timing is perfect.  I’m pleased at how well both girls are sewing and their comprehension of the way the pattern goes together.  I’m enjoying how they are working well as a team and helping each other.  And since Katie’s doll quilt was also my first quilt, I’m enjoying learning this with them.  I wasn’t worried that it would be difficult (I tend to be undaunted with sewing projects even if I do spend quite a bit of time ripping seams and trying again).  But I was concerned that the project would be tedious and frustrating if their involvement required too much effort from me.  Instead, I am finding that the monotony of measuring, cutting and stitching is very pleasant when you have nice companions.

The Other, Other Orange Vegetable

Just tell them it’s pumpkin, and they’ll love it:

Holiday Left-Over Sweet Potato Cake

I served it warm and with a generous sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.

And it contains beer.  I accidentally put in 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup…just took a bit longer to bake.  Happily, we have beer on tap around here.  My husband loves it when I use the kegerator.

How They Took the News

Just in case you missed it, I am having a baby.  It’s OK if you did miss it.  I am not offended.

In the comments of my January 2nd post, Elizabeth M asked if Billy knew I was pregnant when he predicted a new sibling this year.  Yes, we had told them, and it was a moment worth remembering.

When you have babies every couple of years with regularity, you start to expect babies every couple of years with regularity.  The baby I lost right before Bill deployed to Afghanistan, though unplanned, was not unexpected.  Mary was well over a year old at that point.  Since Bill’s return two years ago, I’ve had two other miscarriages.  At some point, I began to expect loss instead of joy.

I sheltered my children from these losses as best I could.  This was a natural extension of sheltering myself from these losses.  I am a big fan of repressing pain and sorrow.  You’ll not convince me that depression and crying are good for the soul.  My children knew of two of these losses.  One, immediately after the worst was over, and at that time, we mentioned the one from 2009. They were so devastated, I did not tell them about the last one.

And I definitely did not tell them I was pregnant with this baby for quite some time.  I wasn’t sure how long to wait, but often things just work themselves out with time.

The first hurdle, in my mind, was getting past the 6 – 8 week mark.  Twice, the first indication that something was wrong was when I began to spot.  Somewhere around week 7, I began the process of getting a referral to the midwife group I wanted to use.  This should have taken, at most, a week.  It took more than four (because government-run health care is that good).  The next challenge was confirming a heartbeat.  With my second loss, I went to the midwives at around 10 weeks, but the baby was only 8 1/2 weeks in size with no heartbeat.  It was another 2 weeks before my body expelled the baby.  Even though I was over 11 weeks by the time I got an appointment with this child, I knew that there was still a possibility that the baby had already died.

The midwives have an ultrasound machine, but the woman who does their scans is only in on Tuesdays.  I knew that, but the first appointment they had with the midwives was on a Friday and they had this funny thing about scheduling first appointments with the ultrasound lady.  They didn’t seem to care that that’s all I cared about.  What’s the point of doing that whole history thing and drawing blood and having a physical exam if you’re not going to have a baby in the end?

So I went in on that Friday late afternoon, last appointment of the week, and gave blood and recited my medical history (having written my medical history prior to the appointment) and had my eyes, nose, ears and glands checked.  I had a breast exam, and then she felt my uterus and said the size matched my dates, so everything looked good.

Then she got the little sonogram machine that lets you hear the heartbeat.  She warned me it was still early (I knew), but she said let’s try to hear one.  She tried and she tried and she tried.  And I might have been fine if she had stopped after a minute and said, “Well, these babies don’t like to come out for these things, and it’s still too early, so we’ll bring you in for an ultrasound on Tuesday and see the baby then.”  

But, no, that’s not how it went.  “There it was!” she said, but then she lost it.  I didn’t hear it.  She desperately wanted to give me that thread of hope, but the more she searched, the harder it became to maintain my composure.  She left me for a minute to get a newer machine, and it gave me time to dab at my eyes, take a deep breath, and turn off my brain.  “Don’t think about anything!” I ordered myself.  She came back and after another agonizing minute or two said, “Can you hear that, in the background, that ticking?”  There was a ticking, like the second hand on a clock, faintly, which sounded most like some sort of static interference.  “That’s the heartbeat,” she insisted.  Riiiiight.

She was convinced, and my logical, intelligent brain reminded me that she is an expert and has heard thousands of heartbeats on these machines, so she knows what she’s talking about.  My illogical, emotional side, though, decided that I would not tell the children, not yet.

Friday afternoon until Tuesday morning is a long time to wait for something important, but I managed to push my worries aside by simply not thinking about the baby as best I could.  That Tuesday morning, I left Fritz in charge so I could go to a “doctor’s appointment.”  On the drive there, I could feel my pulse and respiration increase as my anxiety fought to surface.

All was well.  The ultrasound lady showed me the healthy heartbeat, and she pushed my abdomen to try to get the baby to turn toward the wand.  We watched an arm lift a hand to the face.  And I fell in love, again.  I fell in love with this baby.  I fell in love with my husband who helped create this new life.  And I fell in love with God who gave me another precious gift.

I think I called my husband on the way home.

I know I called my sister, who had been praying so hard for me for weeks.

I called my kids and Katie answered.  I had her check in the fridge for lettuce and tomatoes for our Taco Tuesday dinner.  I told her I would stop quickly at the store, but that I had some good news to share when I got home.  I thought about telling the kids and wondered what they would think.  It’s not a topic they nag me about – like going to Disney World.

By the time I got home, all the kids were eager to know what I had to tell them.  As I gestured for them to calm down, one asked, “Where were you, Mommy?”

“She had an ultrasound,” said my nosy 13 year old son who is in the habit of studying my Google calendar.  If only he were as interested in charts of Latin verb conjugations.

“What’s an ultrasound?” someone asked.

“It’s when they look to see if there’s a baby growing inside you,” explained my suddenly too-smart-to-tolerate 13 year old son.  Apparently, he did not get the memo about how homeschooling shelters children from real life.

“And do you?” asked the children.

“Yes, I do,” I answered.

And they cheered.  They cheered.

They could not have given me a better gift than this joy at knowing we are adding another member to the family.

I remember when I came home from the hospital with Billy.  Fritz enjoyed a rigid bedtime routine: bath, pajamas, brush teeth, story book, prayer, kiss goodnight.  After the disruption of mommy being away for a few days, I wanted to get back into it.  He needed me; he had missed me so much.  I sat him on my lap in his bedroom to read his book while Bill paced with the baby in the living room.  In our tiny condo, he could not prevent us from hearing the baby cry and fuss to be nursed.  Fritz was worried that I would leave him to go to the baby, and upset at the baby’s presence in our home.  The book was all about loving a child all his life no matter what.  I started to sob, and all I could think was that I had ruined our perfect family.  “What have I done?” I wailed to myself.

What have I done?  I have multiplied the love.

Epiphany Gift

Bill bought me a new camera lens for the feast of the Epiphany.  This one is for portraits, and intentionally blurs backgrounds/foregrounds/sidegrounds.  This is great for the messy housekeeper who doesn’t really want you to notice the fingerprints on the wall behind the person in the photo.  Or the dirty laundry nearby.  Or the cluttered kitchen counter.  The gingerbread houses were photographed with that lens.  Here are some family shots taken over several days where I practiced with the lens.  I have to admit that I really love it.

Communication Fail

Before dinner:

“Do you have your letter to the Bishop?”


After dinner: 

“Do you have your letter to the Bishop?”


In the driveway:

“Do you have your letter to the Bishop?”


Two minutes down the road:

“Did you sign the letter to the Bishop?”

“No – do you have the letter?”

“Wha-?  Didn’t you get the letter off my desk?”

Noises, not grunting, more like anxious squawking.  A time for calm.

“I’ll bring it when I pick you up.  You can sign it and give it to your teacher then.”

He quiets.

Apparently, I have not mastered Communicating with Your Teenager.  Did I need to ask a fourth time?

Eye contact…need to make more eye contact.

Lessons in Pop Culture

Fritz has a backpack for hiking that is 1″ too big in the waist.  He’s got 5 months until Philmont to grow into it.  At dinner the other evening, Bill mentioned his father’s idea of feeding Twinkies to Fritz to put some weight on his skinny body. 

“What’s a Twinkie?” asked Katie.  Most of the kids had blank looks as well.  Bill cast accusing eyes on me, as though I had deprived my children of some vital life experience.  What can I say?  Twinkies seem to be lunch box food.  We don’t do lunch boxes.

When polled, NONE of my children could identify a Twinkie, not even my older boys.  So, we headed to the grocery store just to buy a package to have for dessert.  A box of 10 was over $3 – one other reason I rarely buy stuff like this.

Now they all know what a Twinkie is.  And three of the kids don’t like them.