Thursday, August 23, 2012

Progress(?) on my Fab Little Quilt

I am still slowly making progress with my curvy doll quilt, and I am finding it an enjoyable challenge. In our last episode, you may remember that I was playing around with these fabrics, destined to become something for my kitchen:

Well, the general consensus on the Fab Quilt Swap Flikr page was that it was too busy and crazy. But while I was playing, a weird, whimsical idea popped into my head.
The curves looked a little like hills to me. And then a little like clouds, and possibly even a little like a sun. So why not make a little curvy, patchwork landscape? With my usual enthusiasm, I cut out a bunch of 8" squares:

As you can see, I had a few friends assisting me with my fabric photo shoot (how many days left until school starts, again?):

I have cut and pieced the "hills", although once I finished they looked like a bit of a mess. Since it was very late at night, I decided to stop and not start unpicking or trimming or doing anything more right that moment. Instead I just posted a grumpy photo of them on Flikr and let the comments fly.

Since this photo I have trimmed down some of the blocks, and it really does make all the difference. I am excited to keep working on this, but first there's this little thing called school approaching next week. Thankfully, I don't have to get myself ready this year (yay Canadian maternity leave!), but having two sets of school supplies to buy and label and four kids' worth of hand me downs to sort through is keeping me quite busy enough.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Camping We Will Go

Last week we decided to go camping for three days. Due to the upheaval and the new baby this summer, we haven't had much of a holiday. We wanted to do a little something, though, so the boys could feel like we'd been on a "real" holiday over the summer.  We went to Ottawa area, as we had friends we wanted to visit. It was kind of a last minute thing, but we hoped they could fit us in anyway.

 After all the sorting and packing we finally got on our way mid-afternoon on Sunday. Although it is not a super far drive to the Rideau River Provincial park, it is sort of a strange drive. The park is on the south west of Ottawa, and we were driving to Ottawa from the south east. While the main highway route drive into Ottawa and then back out again, there are a lot of side roads that cut across directly to the campsite. We thought we would be clever and take one of these, but it wasn't as clear of a road as we initially thought, and so we had to turn around and go back to the highway. This, combined with a sudden torrential downpour, meant that at supper time we were doing this:
instead of camping. That ended up being a good thing, as we could have been setting up the tent during the downpour otherwise.

The downpour and almost getting lost was a harbinger of other small, non-major disasters - no plugs for the air mattresses (last packed away during our hurried, flu induced early departure from Family Camp last summer), no matches, no ropes to cover our picnic table with a tarp, and very hungry mosquitos attacking my feet before I could get bug repellent on myself. I was pretty proud of Dave and I, because while we could have started arguing and blaming one another and generally being grumpy, instead we just made the best of our situation. The kids didn't know any better, and this trip was for them, after all. As you can see, Owen was happy to be there. We went to sleep (on the ground) and hoped for a better day.
After a quick trip next morning into the nearest town for coffee, bagels and matches, we were good to go.
Since we had missed out on the evening hot dog roast, we had hot dogs for breakfast, and then set out to explore. One of the major treasures we found at this park were pine (fir?) cones:
Lots and lots of fir cones.
After a morning well spent, it looked like rain was coming our way. So we headed into Ottawa to the Children's museum - a small part of the Museum of Civilization. Since it was now lunch time, and the museum was across the river in Hull, Quebec, we had some poutine and a smoked meat sandwich at a little chip resteraunt, and then headed off to the museum. We had been reading Red Racham's treasure, a Tintin book that mostly happens on board a ship, so the kids were most fascinated by the boat part of the exhibit. Hello, Captain Haddock.

That night we had a swim and met some new neighboring campers who had kids the same age as Andrew and Aaron. Their friends were staying the next day, so Andrew and Aaron got to spend a good portion of time playing with their neighbors around their campsite (which was a much cooler set up than ours) and on the beach.

In between, Dave had fun teaching them how to build proper fires and roasting and burning things like fir cones, corn, marshmallows and (sigh) a pop can. The boys had a blast,
and I had a little rest. I napped with Owen while Emma coloured, and then coloured with Emma while Owen napped. Here, Emma is miffed that I'm trying to make her look at the camera while she is so clearly busy.

Dave meanwhile got to prepare his favorite camping / traveling meal. We call it "the Irish Meal" - not because it is intrinsically Irish (although it does contain potatoes) but because we made it a lot a hostels when we were staying in Ireland, as potatoes were cheap and the cheese was excellent.
The boys played at the beach all afternoon with their new friends
while Emma played in the sand and the water
and I hung out with Owen (and washed up after lunch)
Owen did really well on this trip, enjoying watching the world go by, and miraculously not getting a single mosquito bite. I think it must be because he was next to me, and I'm a mosquito magnet.
He got to have lots of Mom and Dad time while the other kids were playing, so that made it all good for him, too.
After our busy afternoon, we all piled into the car and went to visit my sister-in-law and my neice (who is the next youngest cousin at 18). She introduced us to her cool musician friends and Andrew was introduced to Angry Birds on the iPad. We got to talk to my brother on the cell phone, which was great, too.

The next day Andrew and Aaron had a final play with their friends, we packed up the van and headed out to visit our friends Brian and Jean. They have 6 kids, and Brian recently finished his PhD in religious studies, so we have a lot in common. It was lovely to see them settled in Ottawa, to enjoy food from Brian's garden and to watch Jean so effortlessly manage her 6 children (ages 6 - 14).

After a lovely, long visit we all climbed back into the van and headed back to Montreal, glad to see our city, our house, and our soft cozy beds.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What a Stay At Home Mom Does All Day

Before I was a Mom, I used to think being a stay-at-home mom was lame. Because, seriously, why were they so frumpy and frantic all the time? What did they actually do all day? Sometimes, despite years of doing this, I still wonder the same thing - what did I actually do today? The house looks the same (messy) as when I started. The children are no smarter or better behaved than they were yesterday, so what exactly occupied my day and made me feel so frumpy and frantic today?

So, here is what I actually did today:

Changed diapers x 12
Breastfed baby x 8
Scooped baby up before he got sat on / stepped on / poked in the eye x 8
Confiscated a stick / toy / pillow / object being used dangerously x 10
Cleaned up broken glass 
Emptied and filled the dishwasher x 2
Got snacks x3
Filled sippy cups x6
Cleaned up spills x 4
Opened bananas x 4
Asked children to get food off my bed and go back to the kitchen while I fed the baby x 5
Swept the floor x3
Made breakfast
Cleaned up after breakfast
Made tea x 3
Made coffee
Got all the kids in the van to go to the park
Watched Emma go down the slide x 5
Listened to Andrew complain about his sore ankle (it was actually sore today) x 50
Listened to Andrew tell me the plot of some tv show or computer game x 5
Listened to Andrew describe a story he was drawing in his book
Explained to Aaron that if he insists on breaking the ends off the pencils, he won't have a pencil next time he looks for one in my bag
Explained to Aaron that if he makes everyone mad, he will then have no one to play with x 100
Made a quick, early exit from the park when a certain monkey boy started causing mischeif
Prepared lunch
Ate lunch on a blanket in the yard
Cleaned up after lunch
Washed pots (left from last night)
Put on stories for quiet time
Asked children to stop messing around with the speakers during stories
Took photos for future blog posts
Pulled fabric for Fab Mini Quilt
Put children in a time out x 15
Broke up fights x 25
Asked someone to be kind and stop calling their siblings names x 25
Got out playdoh when tempers flared
Sent children back to the kitchen with playdoh when they wanted to bring it on my bed while I fed the baby.
Taught Emma how to use a rolling pin
Picked playdoh out of Lego guy legs and metal truck tires
Cleaned playdoh off floor and table
Tidied trains or Legos x 5
Checked Flikr or Google Reader x3
Put the baby down for a nap x 8
Actually got the baby to sleep without interruption x 2
Cleaned Emma's face x 6
Changed Emma's clothes x 3
Helped upstairs neighbour find rocks for repotting a plant
Rescued pot and rocks from Aaron
Stopped Emma from collecting more rocks
Shooed cat out of sandbox
Cleaned sand off the trampoline x2
Read Tintin while supper was made (yay barbeque season!)
Ate supper
Helped baby back to sleep x 3
Put toddler to bed
Helped toddler back to sleep x 2
Made sure boys' teeth were brushed
Chased monkey boy back to bed x 4
Cleaned up dishes.
Ate a snack.
Wrote blog post.
Messed around with fabric for Fab Quilt swap
Brushed teeth
Went to bed.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Playing with curves

I wanted to get a start on my Fab Little Quilt idea - I always start right away and end up working until the last minute. I know that life, especially back to school stuff, will get in the middle of me finishing this quiltie quickly, so I wanted to check that my idea was even realistic as soon as possible.

I am not sewing precise, straight curves. Instead I've opted to stack all my fabrics for the block on top of each other and cut the curves freehand. This allows me a little more freedom to sew with children on my lap / climbing up my chair / pushing the reverse button without going completely crazy because I'm trying to be extra precise.

 These are not the fabrics for my final Fab Little Quilt - these are from my kitchen decorating stash, and I think these blocks are going to become a tea cozy or a table runner. We'll see how many I feel like making.

I also like the movement and energy brought to the blocks by the wonkiness of the finished curves. These blocks are a little addicting to sew together, I must say. Every time I walk through my house and see my little design wall, I want to stop and sew another row onto a block. There goes my run of keeping up with the dishes and sweeping.Ah well, I'm sure the dirt will still be there when I get back.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some Sewing and Some Planning

I have been getting little snatches of sewing in here and there. Enough to get this done:

Its not a full quilt top yet, but at least the blocks are finished. I still need to figure out a border - I'm wonderng wether to do something more traditional or break out a little bit and be more "modern". My last two or three quilts have all had variation on the make-the-leftovers-into-rectangles border. I'm not sure I want to do the same thing again. So I'm thinking about what else I could do that would match with this quilt. I'll get back to you with some options later. The other thing that is on is the Fab Little Quilt Swap 2. We got our partner information, and I am thinking of a few initial options, with the assistance of my little helper:
My partner had  pretty broad requirements and lots of variety in her mosaic, so I'm thinking of a few different ideas. One is based on a block in the newish book by the Fat Quarterly gang: Shape Workshop for quilters:
The other would contain little improv scrap blocks with a border of 1" squares for added spiffiness.  On the side, you can also see a bit of an idea for free pieced echinacia or black eyed susans, which are everywhere in Montreal right now. But the composition is not terribly exciting, so I'm leaning away from that one.
We shall see. Whatever I choose, I want to work primarily from my scrap basket, which is full of fun, bright prints right now (and about to overflow).

I'm having a little trouble just picking up and sewing in little bits and pieces these days, as every time I turn around, my sewing machine has been occupied. I didn't realize they were the 99% . . . 

Friday, August 3, 2012

On Having my Hands Full

So, yes, I am a mother to four children. Considering I have no family nearby, that is quite a handful. I know it is, because people tell me what a handful it must be all the time. And indeed they are right. But I often get frustrated with the modern expectations and limitations on parenting that make this the case.

Here's the thing - when I was a kid, the role of my mother was to make sure she provided three meals a day, to make sure I went to school, and to make sure she knew where I was. That was about it - anything else was optional. When I was Andrew's age, I had free reign of our street and the park a block away from our house. When I was 9, I used to bike 6 blocks (past a major intersection) with my friend and spend every afternoon at the pool. The adult supervision was the lifeguard. I used to walk 5 blocks to school by myself, often arriving late because I was daydreaming on the way to school. The adult supervision was called the crossing guard. My friend Rita and I used to bike around our neighbourhood, the back lane, the parks, and our back yards. The adult supervision was the neighbors. Now, this would be called Free Range Parenting. I got lots of it.

Now, our role as parents is to ensure our children are receiving three highly nutritional meals containing fresh, organic local food, provide them with a schedule of stimulating and educational activities, drive them to and from said activities, keep them within arms reach at all times, and monitor their independent play in case there is a situation that needs adult intervention. We need to ensure they are getting adequate time in nature ( to avoid nature deficiency), adequate time being read to and doing art (to prevent motor skill or reading delays), adequate time playing with age appropriate peers (to avoid lagging in social skills and emotional intelligence), and adequate time in sports  and arts activities (to avoid having to learn anything new after they are 10). We must talk about all their feelings and play all their games and give them choices for everything. We must always be positive without praising, set limits without punishing, think of logical consequences for illogical kid behavior and get them to be quiet without yelling over the din.

When you have one child, no matter how difficult and precocious that child is, you can just about manage all that. With two, I have discovered, it might be possible. With four? No. Nope, can't do it, sorry. I can not play Lego and have a tea party and change a diaper simultaneously. I can't think of a logical consequence for jabbing your brother with a pencil while holding a screaming, hungry baby, keeping said brother (who is now spitting mad) away from the pencil jabber and reading Goodnight Gorilla. Trust me, I've tried. I can't give my kids three hours of play at the park when I have a small baby who can't breathe in the heat and a sink full of dishes and a centimeter of sand on every surface of the house. And there are certainly no handy neighbors or lifeguards or crossing guards to keep watch while they play unsupervised up and down the (busy) street.

So I have been thinking a lot about what parenting is all about for me. What can I reasonably expect of myself? What will provide the important stuff to my children without killing me in the process? What is a manageable job description at this point? And here is what I have come up with.

Right now it is my job to make sure everyone is fed and reasonably clean. I need to make sure they are safe and that they get some time outdoors and some exercise every day. I need to provide them with an environment that is clean and organized enough for them to feel calm, and that contains lots of opportunities to play and create. I need to spend a few moments each day listening to and talking with each child individually. I need to give them some structure to their day, as well as some simple rules and consequences so that they know what to expect, they know what I expect of them, and they know what will happen when those expectations are not met. I need to teach them how to take care of themselves and clean up after themselves and support one another. And they need me to be calm and stable and not lose my temper. They need me to have grace with them, and ask for forgiveness when I've been wrong.

And that's it. I've decided to have confidence that they will work out what to play and how the rules go and who is in charge when. They will work out what to make and what to build and how the story goes. And eventually, they will tell me what activities they want to be involved in, and we will follow their interests when that happens. And along the way I will guide them when they need help. I will suggest how they could decide who gets which Playmobil weapons, or how they could take turns being in charge of the story, or how they could ask for something in a way that doesn't cause someone to feel put out. I will give them strategies for dealing with that bully at school, or making friends with the kid they find interesting, or organizing themselves better for school. And they will work out the details after that. If they need my help, I will be here for them. And if they don't, I will let them be.

Right now, I think that is how this parenting thing is going to work. I am throwing out all the theorists and how to books and  5 steps to this or that. I am embracing the work I need to do as a parent, and allowing my children to do the work they need to do as growing, imperfect, illogical, incredible individuals and as part of this rich, chaotic community we call home.