Feb 24, 2014

Baby Knits

The hardest, and perhaps the most frustrating aspect of learning something new is the inevitability that eventually you're going to take the leap and put a lot of effort into a thing, and when it's complete it won't be perfect.  I'm not sure it's true for everybody, but I know that no matter how much I read about it, watch it, and practice it- ultimately I've just got to try it.  The flip side is that you learn from every mistake you make, and that's how you get better.

That baby blanket is the first blanket I've ever tried to knit, and it's definitely got its flaws.  If I make another, there are a few things I'd do differently.  I decided not to take pictures of the mistakes or to list them all here, though.  Instead I'd just like to enjoy it, because it is beautiful.  I quite like it.  I am so excited to wrap my little baby up in it, and hopefully watch my toddler drag it around the house after it's been well loved.  I don't think any of the imperfections will matter then.  

I made that little hat before the blanket, and I'm excited about that, too.  It came out a little big, which I think will work out well.  If I'm lucky it will fit the baby a few months after it's born, just as the weather is getting cold.  I'm going to make another one or two in newborn size since they are so quick and fun to knit up.  Besides, they will look adorable in pictures.

Feb 20, 2014

Pallet Couch Part 1

Our living room furniture has not been working for us for quite some time now.  We had a couch that was given to us for free by a neighbor when we first got married.  It was in relatively good condition at the time, but over the past few years our cat shredded the front, and the back corner got a nice scorch mark from the time we misjudged just how hot those wall heaters actually get.  We have a couch cover on it, but I'm endlessly putting it back into place and trying to get the abundance of animal hair off it- I swear that fake suede stuff is designed to cling to everything that ever touches it.  What's worse though is that it's not comfortable.  The seat cushions have lost all integrity and the back cushions are overstuffed and lumpy.

We also have my dad's old recliner, but it was well beaten and no longer comfortable either.  Given the small and awkward shape of our living room, combined with the needs of our large family, we really wanted a nice sectional sofa to put in the corner.  As it turns out those are expensive.  I'm also relatively picky about the look, the comfort, and the type of fabric it's made out of.  There were some promising options on ikea.com, but they would run me at least $1000 (plus tax!) and I would have to drive at least 2 hours to get to a store and sit on it to see if I liked it.  If I did like it I would have to figure out how to get it home.  That would involve some borrowing and/or renting of a truck (trucks?) or a trailer, and a pretty hefty gas bill.  

With a baby coming in August we really can't afford all that- and I'm not sure I would want to.  I'm willing to pay good money for something we love that is going to last, but I'm not willing to drop that kind of cash on a compromise.  I suppose it's lucky we like making things for ourselves anyway.  I toyed with the idea of taking apart our existing couch and trying to rebuild it, but that would be a complicated adventure and still rather expensive once you consider the amount of additional lumber we would have to buy, the added foam, and all that fabric.  (It bums me out how expensive fabric is.)

Pallets, however, are free- that idea was very alluring to me.  There are awesome pallet projects all over pinterest- this is a fad I can really get behind.  Not only do I actually really like the style (and the price tag), but do you have any idea how much of the world's lumber is tied up in shipping pallets?  Me neither, I forget the number, but it's a lot!  Ask Chris, or google it.

Anyway, with the idea of using typical twin mattresses and sheets as fabric I made a few sketches, took some measurements of our current set up, and did a little math.  It was clear this would be far more cost effective and not too much work.  I'll share the final number and breakdown once it's all completely finished, but right now we're on target to stay under $600.

Here's a picture of our first layout to get an idea of how much cutting we would need to do.  We wanted the height of the seat and the back to be relatively similar to our current couch.  That second pallet extending toward us in the foreground is completely unnecessary, which we remembered once we layed the mattresses down.  (Mister was kind enough to photobomb for us.)

We needed to trim a little off the edges to fit the dimensions of the mattresses.  That part was simple.  On the bottom, we trimmed the edge the would face the inside and lie under the mattress- mostly because it would look better, but also to make things easier during "assembly," which will be a whole different post.

Instead of trimming the pallet on the back the same as the one on the bottom, we decided to split the difference and trim the two outer back pallets evenly so it would look more balanced.  Does that make sense?

This is after they've been trimmed.  See how the left and right pallets on the back are each missing a small chunk?  We thought that looked better than just one of them missing a big chunk.

The tricky part about working with pallets is they're not perfect.  They're not all the same size and they're not all constructed at exact 90 degree angles.  We had to be very careful to measure multiple times before each cut.  Even so, you can plainly see a gap between the left and center pallets in the back.  Structurally it shouldn't be a problem, as we'll be adding supports when we put it all together anyway.  Aesthetically we'll call it character.

We also wanted to remove some height from the back.  You could easily skip this step if you didn't mind the way it looked, but the proportions bother me.  Besides this couch is going to be in front of a window, and our living room is dark enough without giant pallets blocking half our light.  This presented challenge number 2- how do you make a cut flush against a board when all you have is a little skill saw* that has guards and guides and what-not sticking out in every direction?  Chris did the best he could, and then had to clumsily struggle through the last little nub with a tiny hand-me-down jig saw that was only slightly more efficient than a butter knife.

He did a good job though, you'd never know he lacked the appropriate tools when looking at the final product.  I'm really looking forward to sprawling out on these nice wide mattresses with a bunch of fluffy cushions and pillows.  Not one person in our family is a sit-up-straight-with-your-knees-together-and-feet-on-the-floor type of person- not while relaxing in our living room.  We lay down, we drape ourselves across the furniture.  You'll typically have a dog and a cat and a seven-year-old pushed up on you at all times.  Guests aren't exempt either- the cat won't come near you but the dog and the seven-year-old definitely will.  We're really excited about the extra space.  The added bonus is: two guest beds right in the living room!  I'm sure it will be quite comfortable, so long as you don't mind Dear getting up and staring at you awkwardly at 6am, followed by Mister around 7.  Oh and the cat running laps on your head from about 11pm to 4am.  See?  SUPER comfortable!

Next up: sanding and painting!  And sewing cushions, and some minor assembly... It'll probably be at least a week or two until we're finished.

*I need to work on my vocabulary- I have no idea what my saw is called.  Is it a skill saw?  You can see it in some of the pictures, maybe you know better than me.

Feb 19, 2014

15 Weeks

Look who's making an appearance now that I'm eating again!
Chris was kind enough to model for me while I set up my camera.

The baby... is doing well!  I had a check up yesterday and got to hear the heart beat again.  He/she is about the size of an orange, moving (though I can't feel it yet), and theoretically beginning to look more like a baby and less like an alien as his/her features start lining themselves up.

I'm feeling... like the nausea is slowly but surely fading away.  I'm eating more, and have stopped losing and started gaining weight.  I still get fatigued easily, but I think that's pretty much par for the course throughout pregnancy.  I'm going to try taking a walk every day to see if that helps.

Cliche (or not!) Pregnancy Symptoms? Insomnia, mood swings, food (and smell) aversions, peeing every 4.7 seconds.

I'm enjoying... knitting for the baby, getting out with (and without) the kids a little more.

I'm looking forward to... feeling the baby move!  Apparently it could happen soon or it could take another 4-6 weeks, it all depends.

And we made our first baby purchase!  $75 on craigslist.

We're going to refinish it and replace the hardware, but I haven't decided on a finish yet.  Part of me wants to go with a classic white, but I kind of fell in love with a blue dresser I saw on Ikea's website.  Before we work on it we're going to finish the project you can see in the background.  I'll share more about that one, soon!

Feb 17, 2014

Mood Swings, Anybody?

Man... pregnancy hormones are no joke.  It's always a little silly in movies and sitcoms when women rage and cry for seemingly no reason aside from their ever growing baby bump- it's weird when it happens to you.  Although I do my best to avoid flying of the handle, I let the tears flow freely- because why not?  So, I present to you:

Please, try not to be jealous of my natural photogenic abilities or my amazing paper crown.

1. "Well Earl walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care..." - line from the song "Goodbye Earl" covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

2. Every episode of My First Home on Netflix when they got their keys at the end- and I don't even like that show.  That was a waste of an afternoon.

3. Episode #423 of Shark Tank, when you find out Kevin O'leary has a heart.

4. Pets that need homes. I need to stop reading the ads.

5. Being really tired.

6. Not being able to sleep, (even though I'm really tired.)

7. We happened to witness a fender-bender and it reminded me of the time my dog got hit by a car on the highway.  He was TOTALLY FINE (still is) but I saw it happen and I can still picture it.

8.The "You don't have to be a bad guy" speech in the new Lego movie- if you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend it.

9. Ok so this one isn't ridiculous but it still made me sob- Read this, and then search #honoringmaura on instagram.  That one kept me going for about an hour.

10. Chris took my move in a board game- twice!  It was horrible, he's obviously a terrible husband.  It was Terra Mystica in case you're wondering, and it's a fun game.  Our friends brought it over, but they left after my melt down- ha!  Who could blame them.

Feb 9, 2014

Valentine's Cards

Last year we discovered picmonkey.com right around Valentine's Day, and had a blast designing cards with it.  Now I have Photoshop CC and even though I'd say it's better than Picmonkey 99% of the time- it's not better for kids' Valentines.  It's just so much fun to go through the website and play with all of the funny effects and overlays.  The kids think it's hilarious, and I love seeing what they come up with.

Last year they went with themes.  Slim had a vampire theme, Mister had a Hulk theme, and Dear went with generic superhero.  This year I'm going to call their style random classic.  Slim actually chose a self portrait she drew, but with the other two we had a photo shoot in the rain.  They had umbrellas and I stood under the porch.  Mister loved his umbrella but had NO interest in actually holding it above his head and shielding himself from the rain- which was fine really.  We had a good time.

I get wallet sized prints of our pictures at Costco.  You can print them pretty much anywhere that is convenient for you once you save them to your computer as a jpeg, including at home.  I use Costco because they're decent pictures and they're affordable- probably more so than using my dinosaur printer, since I have to print so many and it uses a lot of ink.

Dear actually wanted her beautiful mug in her pictures, (who'd have thought, right?)  So I didn't include hers here, but I am sharing the other two, because I think they're awesome.

Unedited so far- she only wants to add her name and "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Feb 6, 2014

Lazy Days

Today we got some much needed rain.  I wasn't feeling great, and didn't even bother to change out of my pajamas.  I might be uncomfortable, and I'm definitely getting bored, but I'm trying to enjoy these days of lazing about while the kids are in school and Chris is making dinner every night.  This is probably the most leisure time I'm going to have for years.  

It's a little easier to enjoy when it's raining out.  I can open the windows and enjoy the smells and sounds- and I know I probably wouldn't be outside anyway.  So today was a day of reading and knitting.  I'm working on this baby blanket, and making good progress.  I'm excited to see it finished, and more excited to use it!  

Tonight we'll be tuning into the opening ceremony.**  We're not big Olympics fans- am I allowed to say that?  Is it blasphemy?  Well anyway, we have an antennae, and the kids are old enough to be interested, so I'm sure we'll watch a little here and there.  Happy Olympics everybody.

**Update: Whoops!  Shows how much I pay attention- the opening ceremony is tomorrow, Friday night.

Feb 4, 2014

Coca-Cola and Attitude

My 7 year old has an annoying habit- I think it's fairly normal for his age.  I can remember his sisters doing it, too.

Whenever we give another kid a complement in his presence, Mister gets indignant.

What about me?  I didn't do a good job?

We're trying to teach him that when we say something nice to someone else, it's not about him.  We're not insulting him.  We're just acknowledging someone else's accomplishments, and that's ok.  I think he understands, it's just his knee-jerk response right now.  I don't imagine it's an attitude that'll last forever.

I can't help but think of that when I hear stories like this response to Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad.

I don't believe that celebrating another culture in any way diminishes my own.  I don't think there's anything wrong with acknowledging the fact that there are people in this country that speak other languages.  It's true.  Should we pretend they're not there?  Should those people not be allowed to buy Coca-Cola products?  What about the LGBT community?  They already have to fight for basic human rights, now they can't have soda either?

I think it's a waste of time and so not the point to treat this ad like an insult to "American Culture."  It's simply indicative of the fact that our country is more than a homogeneous mass of people that all think the same, look the same, feel the same, and talk the same.  We are more than that, and we are better than that.  And Coke wants to make money off of ALL of us.  Don't worry straight conservative Caucasians, Coca-Cola still wants to sell to you, too.  They just don't want to sell only to you.

If you'd like to read a really beautiful response to the commercial, I highly recommend you head over to Five Kids Is A Lot of Kids and read Beth Woolsey's post Why Our Response to Coke's "America the Beautiful" Matters.


Feb 3, 2014

After a brief radio silence...

I'm back, and I'm pregnant!

I was sick for about a week before I took the test, but I thought it was just from stress.  As it turns out,  it was "morning sickness", and I was destined to be queasy all-day-every-day for the next two months.  And exhausted. And fine, maybe a little emotional... emotional might be a nice way of putting it.

I've been sleeping a lot, and spending most of my waking hours watching TV, reading, knitting, and trying to be nice to everybody.  Chris has been working double time, and the kids have been pretty good- only sometimes taking advantage of the additional freedom they've had when I'm not paying attention.  (There's probably some Christmas candy still hidden in bedrooms, Mister may or may not have worn dirty clothes to school on multiple occasions, and Slim has done all of her reading log/ dialectical journal assignments for the last month on Harry Potter, despite the fact that she finished those books over a year ago.)

Christmas plans were thrown off a little, but we still managed to finish most of what we wanted to make.  I think the project I liked the most may have been this little apron I sewed to go in my nephew J's scientist kit.  Aprons are one of the first things I taught myself how to make, and they were so easy I've made a ton of them.  Typically I make ties to go around the neck and the back, but I was feeling pretty lazy this time around (read: nauseous and tired), so I dug through all of my sewing stuff looking for a short cut.  I found this awesome patterned elastic, and it worked out so well I don't think I'll ever make a kid's apron without it again.  I wish I had thought of this before I spent an entire summer of childcare tying and untying aprons for children all day long.  They can take this baby on and off all by themselves.  I also just happen to think the elastic is adorable.

Right now, I think maybe, possibly, if I'm lucky, I'm beginning to get over the nausea face of the pregnancy.  I'm starting to have more energy during the day, and though I'm still struggling, I'm starting to find more foods that appeal to me, and feel more satisfied when I eat.  I'm just about 13 weeks along now, so I'm really hoping this was a first trimester problem that will fade.

We are so excited and grateful to be having a baby.  I know that pregnancy is hard because growing a human being is hard, and most of the time I don't really mind it.  There's some really awesome stuff, too- hearing the heartbeat was amazing.  I'm happy to be healthy, and we're looking forward to many fun experiences ahead, and trying not to worry about the hard stuff just yet- I can't even think about labor right now.  Don't laugh at me!  I'll read about it when I'm not so queasy all the time.

I've taken a couple of pictures of my belly, but to get a good one I need to enlist Chris to take it for me.  Here I am at 12 weeks, but really that belly is all pre-pregnancy burritos and baked goods- not so much baby yet.  I'm a little bloated, but I've actually lost weight since I've had a tough time eating.  Don't worry, I'm sure I'll gain plenty real soon.