Monday, November 13, 2017

Who am I?

I started writing here almost eleven years ago, come January.  In that span of time I have gotten married, had two kids, acquired two auto-immune diseases, majorly switched our diet 5 times, struggled with depression and anxiety, and moved across the country--to name a few things. 

I have successfully survived the infancy and toddlerhood of my two children, with all the exhaustion and mental focus that takes, to find myself here and now.  Who am I?  What do I even like to do any more?  What are my interests/passions?  I feel like one of the moms in a Maria Semple novel (author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Today Will Be Different.)--where the mom finally "wakes up" after being on autopilot for so long and realizes she doesn't even recognize her life anymore.  And unfortunately for me, I have no conceivable way of getting to Antartica, ala Bernadette, to "find myself."  (Although, ironically, that was a dream of mine--to study penguins in Antartica.  You can thank Madeline L'Engle for that.)

For a mental exercise, I made up a Venn diagram of roles/titles I used to identify with, those that still pertain, and those with which I currently identify.  The latter category is quite spare. 

Another reason for feeling adrift is that I have yet to make real connections here.  It has been a year and a half, and while I feel like I have a good grasp of the area and what it offers,  I haven't yet found my local tribe: people with similar interests, passions, and ways of thinking.  There are factors that work against me: being a stay-at-home mom, having autoimmune conditions that make it difficult to socialize, and my homebody/introvert nature.  Yet, I still feel like I should be able to make those connections, if only I knew where to look. 

I am experiencing a mid-life crisis.  I am faced with the big questions: where do I go from here?, and how do I make it happen?  What are my interests?  Where are my kindred spirits and how do I find them?  When I heard people talk about mid-life crises, I did not expect these to be the questions.  I also did not expect to experience one, especially at the relatively young age of 38. 

Can anyone out there relate?  Have you experienced this?  And most importantly, have you found your answers?  I could use some assistance.

Friday, November 10, 2017

October 2017 Happenings: Visits from family!

Is it just our family, or is October just always a bit crazy?  I guess it is the unofficial start of the holiday season.  I don't get much of a breather from October to December.

Enna started the festivities with a preschool outing to a local pumpkin patch/working farm.  The preschool kids met the farmer and all the animals: sheep, goats, llama, geese, ducks, and chickens. They took a walk through the vegetable plot, and then walked through a corn maze.  Afterwards, they got to pick out a small pumpkin to keep.  It was fun, and the weather was gorgeous.

My sister, N, came for a visit.  I haven't seen her for about two years, which seems tragically long.  I miss not being closer to my sisters.  It is one of the downsides of moving to Washington.  While she was here, we kept her so busy, we had no time for pictures.  The kids were excited for her visit, even though Finn kept calling her by my other sister's name.  (They sound not at all similar.)  She read numerous books, played a LOT of games, and she and I went on a bike ride and a couple of hikes.  (One of which was in the dark and the rain, which made me feel hardcore, but didn't phase N.)  Although I didn't take her on a particularly hilly bike ride, I thought she would show some sort of effort on the inclines.  No.  Not at all.  I was huffing and puffing, and she looked like she was riding a beach cruiser (which she wasn't).  I came back home sweaty and winded, and I don't think she even broke a sweat.  I guess that is the result of hiking the Himalayas all summer.

Stolen shamelessly from her Facebook page.  Here is my awesome sister in her native habitat: Really Tall Mountains.
After N's visit, the grandparents came.  One of my father-in-law's hobbies is photography, so it is nice to hand over the photography duties and get some fun shots.  Soon after their arrival, Finn's school had their "Trick or Treat Street."  The school gets spookified and the teachers, staff, and high school students dress up and pass out candy.  It is put on by the PTSA, and is so much fun.  They also have teal pumpkins spread throughout which is nice since that means that Enna will get things that she can actually keep: glow in the dark bracelets, rings, pencils, allergy-free candy.

Next on the agenda, we visited a pumpkin patch.  We chose to stay more local than last year (which was fun and awesome but so so crowded and an hour away.)  I also wanted to go to a different patch than the one we went to for Enna's preschool.  This one was small, but nice.  The patch had a small hay maze to explore and some pumpkins strewn inorganically out on the field.  The kids were a bit disappointed that there weren't pumpkins their own size and body weight to choose.  They had to resign themselves to the largest pumpkins they could find--still ones that they couldn't lift on their own.  The day was stunningly beautiful.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and I loved the contrast between the blue sky and the yellow, orange and red trees and pumpkins.

Between the pumpkin patch and Halloween, Enna got quite sick: a high fever for a couple of days.  She sat out the primary program that Sunday, and didn't feel well enough to carve her pumpkin.  (This will come up later.)  Luckily by the time Halloween came around, she felt better and could go trick or treating.  And of course, the day after Halloween, Finn came down with the same thing.

For Halloween, we went downtown to trick or treat.  I love this for a multitude of reasons.  1) It is from 4-6, so it is still light outside.  2) We can still be back in time for only a slightly later dinner and bedtime.  3) It is mostly younger kids and parents, so I don't have to worry about super scary costumes giving my kids nightmares for weeks.  4) The same goes for house decorations.  5) The kids get a bunch of candy and enjoy a solid Halloween experience.  6)  The ice cream shop gives out free scoops of ice cream.  (That is gluten-free and nut-free).  7) Because it is light outside and draws a lot of people, it is really fun to see all the different costumes.

You would think that that would be the end of the October/Halloween post, wouldn't you?  But no.  Despite it being November 10th, we just know carved Enna's pumpkin.  And we just now lit both kids' pumpkins.  Finn's had been hanging out in the garage and had started to mold.  (Do, I need to tell you the tears that were involved when he discovered this?)  I mean, good thing I waited until now to type this up, or else I would have said there was no carving and lighting of Jack-o-lanterns.  Tragedy.

I hope your October also included beautiful weather and fun outings.  Do you find this time of year incredibly busy?  Does this stress you out?  (I had to have some "recovery" days after all of this.  IE stay in bed all day and not shower.)  Are you energized by all the activities and excitement.  (If so, can you bottle that and send it to me?)   

I have so many more pictures of October.  The downtown trick or treating ones are especially fun.  You can see them all here

Sunday, September 24, 2017

First Day of School: 2nd Grade and Preschool

For the first time ever, I have both kids in school!  I won't lie, I am really enjoying the kid-free hours I have in the afternoons, four days a week.  However, as much as I was looking forward to the kid-free time, I surprised myself by really missed my little buddy, Enna, when I dropped her off at preschool that first day.  Parenthood: it is such the conflict of emotions!

I really need to prioritize how I spend those precious, kid-free hours.  I have mistakenly scheduled appointments during that time and have been subsequently annoyed that I spent those hours at doctor's offices or the like instead of doing something I enjoy and is rejuvenating.  I want to reserve those times for bike riding and sewing projects.

Finn is enjoying school so far.  We have had a few snags: The teacher (who isn't new) sent the kids home with a number of homework tasks: math worksheet, 15 minutes of reading, a written reading response, spelling word practice, and math facts review.  All together, it added up to about an hour's worth of homework which seemed a bit excessive for second grade.  The teacher has since tweaked the requirements so that they are a bit more reasonable.  But I am interested, if you have a similarly aged child, how much homework do they have a night?

We also had an incident with our bus driver.  Last year, the normal and excellent bus driver retired.  There was a substitute driver who finished out the last few months of the school year who was also excellent.  This year, we have a different bus driver with a completely different temperament.  After the first day there were complaints of yelling and mocking from the bus driver.  The bus driver was also routinely late.  I was willing to chalk it up to a new route and a new year.  However, the other week, I picked Finn up from the bus stop.  We were walking across the street when the bus pulls up to us, stops, and the door opens.  From her seat, the bus driver starts telling me (yelling since I was not close and she was in the bus) how "naughty" Finn was on the bus.  Completely non-plussed by this unexpected complaint, I asked her 1) if she had the right kid and 2) how he was being naughty.  She said yes, it was the right kid and that he wasn't staying in his seat and talking too loudly, etc.  

So there are many things wrong here.  1) If there was a problem, and I needed to be aware of it, she should have asked me to come up to her seat to talk it over, or called me later. 2) She publicly shamed my child by telling everyone in earshot about his misbehavior.  And as she was yelling from the bus, this was a lot of people.  3) She had the wrong child.  After discussing the situation extensively with Finn, it turns out he was the middle child of three on a bench.  He could not easily get out of his seat.  Also, it turns out he was being harassed the whole time by fourth grader (one who was sitting next to him and by the aisle) about the status of his teeth.  (A whole other story about how awful and mean kids are.)  I am pretty confident that there was another child who was causing trouble and the bus driver misidentified the kid.  Not completely surprising as the children all wear the same colors (it is a uniformed school), but also annoying because she has not taken the initiative to learn the children's names, a task that even the temporary substitute from last year managed.  And now, my son, has some anxiety about riding the bus this year.  Yay.  I called and complained, and I hope things go more smoothly from here on out.

(This is my first time dealing with a situation like this, and WHOA.......It hit a lot of my feeling buttons!)  

I should also mention that I have already received quite a bit of positive feedback from Finn from his second grade teacher.  She has written a few times about how she enjoys having him in class and that he is just so good!  This makes my mama heart sing.  (And it makes me want to shove this praise in the bus driver's face.  "You have the wrong boy!  My son is not the type to misbehave on the bus!")

Enna has had a much smoother time starting preschool.  She absolutely LOVES going to preschool and is distraught and despairing on those days when she doesn't get to go.  Mondays are the worst when Finn gets to go to school, but she does not.  I get to hear about the unfairness of it all every. single. week.  (o.k.  So it has only been a week and a half of her actually going to preschool, but I sense a definite trend here.)  I love that she enjoys it so much.  The teachers are great and make it a point of sharing what the kids are learning and playing.  They have also made a point of talking to me individually about Enna and what she did and worked on that day.  Also, as Enna has a nut allergy, the preschool has made the all the classes nut-free.  I love that they are so accommodating.  

And that is the new school year!  Perhaps a bit more of a rocky start than I wanted, but still, very good.  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

August Camping: Mt. Rainier and the Solar Eclipse!

Our second and last camping trip for the summer was Mt. Rainier.  Because of our *late* (April) scheduling, We were camping Sunday-Tuesday.  I also just picked a random week in August.  It turns out that it was the week of the  Eclipse!  While we were not in the path of complete totality, we were at about 95%.

Mr. F. had purchased safe glasses months before (of course).  So, all we needed to do was find a place where we could get a clear view of the sun.  We also worried about whether or not the sun would be above the tree line at the time of the eclipse (around 9ish), but that ended up being less of a problem.  Just outside the park, there was a large turnoff area for construction vehicles, etc.  It also gave us a great view of the sun.  So, we parked there, pulled out the folding table and chairs, and got to work making breakfast (pancakes) while we checked periodically the eclipse's progress.  Over time, we were joined by ten other cars.  (Although they didn't bust out any gear other than eclipse viewers.)  It was great fun, and the kids loved it.

I also lucked out on our campsite.  When I made reservations, I had limited choices.  Most of the better campsites (outer loop, etc) were already taken.  I made the best guess based on the camp map. We were talking to friends before our trip however, and they mentioned that the campgrounds in the park were small and right on top of each other.  I prepared myself for a less-than-awesome campground.  So, imagine my delight when it turns out that our campsite was amazing!  The campsite that was closest to us was shut down because of fallen branches, etc.  The campsite on the other side was over a small hill and farther removed.  We also had a small stream to play in.  The downside: no real flat spot to pitch our tent.  So, we slept at an incline.  However, the kids declared our campsite to be "the best campsite we've ever had!" The other sites were just like my friends described though: small, very close together, and limited privacy (ie not a lot of foliage).

While there we went on a few smallish hikes.  First we went to Silver Falls (about a 2 mile loop with the falls in the middle).  This was mistakenly done before dinner on our first day.  You would think that we were asking the kids to go on a death march with how they were acting.  (Specifically the youngest.)  It was not flat, like I expected, but had some good rolling climbs and descents.  It was a really gorgeous hike if your ears weren't bleeding from all the whining.   The next day, we went on a guided tour of the Grove of the Patriarchs.  This was another lovely, short hike.  However, the kids were traumatized by the previous day's hike.  We had to assure them repeatedly that it was much, much shorter.  Which begs the question: at what age does hiking with kids become enjoyable?  I would love to go on some longer hikes, but I don't think I have the temperament currently for it (if it means I have to listen to whining the whole time.)

We also drove up to both Paradise and Sunrise to see the views of Mt. Rainier and enjoy the wildflowers.  For this trip, I was trying to stay really hydrated per doctor's orders.  So I was drinking a fair bit.  Mr. F. kept joking that I had a goal to pee on every peak since, yup, I had to go to the loo at each of these stops.  Goal accomplished!

On our way home, we stopped outside the park at Crystal Mountain to ride the gondola.  Although it was a clear day, Mt. Rainier was slightly obscured by smoke.  (There was a forest fire in one section of the Cascades.)  Also, there was a massive amount of ladybugs at the top of Crystal Mountain which struck me as odd.  What are they eating up there?

What we ate:

Lunch: Greek salad (made with rice vs orzo), vegetables with hummus, fruit
Dinner: Hotdogs with homemade buns, broccoli, s'mores (tried out some fancy marshmallows!)
Breakfast: pancakes, hot cocoa.
Lunch: Chicken taco salad (with precooked chicken meat), fruit, vegetables and hummus
Dinner: Black beans and rice (pre-made and frozen), cauliflower and pudgie pies!*
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, hash browns, hot cocoa
Lunch: sandwiches with lunch meat, vegetables and hummus, fruit

*I bought a pie iron!  I queried my Facebook friends to see if it was worth it.  The resounding answer (from those who have one) was yes.  We made pudgie pies with peanut butter, marshmallows, and chocolate.  (Finn added strawberry jam to his concoction as well.)  I quite enjoyed it.  Much less messy than s'mores.  It would be good to make grilled cheese, etc., but Mr. F and I are limiting our dairy so....*sad face*

More pictures of our trip here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sewing: Kid Hiking Pants

I like having the right clothes for the right activity.  With all the camping we have done in the past couple of years, I decided that hiking pants are really the way to go: quick drying, wind resistant, dirt resistant, cool for hot days and easy to layer for cold days.  I made sure to pick myself up another pair earlier this year so that I have enough pants to cover me for our camping trips when they went on sale.

I have often been challenged on packing the right kind of clothes for the kids on our camping trips.  It would be so much simpler if they had hiking pants too.  Kid hiking pants aren't the easiest to find.  They are also hard to fit my skinny kids and tend to be pricey.  Cue this summer's sewing project: hiking pants for kids.

Luckily, there is a well-written, thorough tutorial on how to do this on Oliver & S using a pattern that I already had in the correct sizes.  When I read this post initially (when it was first posted), I liked the idea but blew it off as too time-consuming.  ( LOL!  Excuse me while I laugh at my expense).  This summer, however, I decided that it would be a great time to tackle this project.  What cinched the deal was making a trip across the water to Seattle and spending the day with a friend visiting a number of the fabric shops.  One of the stores we stopped by was Seattle Fabrics, a store which specializes in outdoor fabrics.  I found some Supplex there (a type of breathable nylon fabric) that would be perfect for hiking pants, so I bit the bullet and bought the fabric.  Now that the fabric was already purchased, I felt compelled to actually make the pants.

My initially reaction was correct.  The pants were time consuming.  There is a reason that I succeeded in making only two shirts for myself this summer.  The rest was spent making my kids hiking pants.  I got midway through the first pair and started second guessing myself.  "Will my kids even wear these pants that I am spending so much time on?"  Luckily, my kids are young enough that they don't fuss too much when I suggest certain clothing for a particular outing.  Hopefully, this mean I get some good use out of them.  Also, I made them a size longer than they are currently.  I am crossing my fingers they last a couple of years.  Added length though creates it's own problem. I knew from experience that folding up pant hems doesn't work very well--they just come unfolded.  Having an elastic cuff works, but I wasn't sure I wanted the elastic to be a permanent feature.  I decided to put a drawstring in the pant hem.  I made a buttonhole in the cuff so that I could thread a piece of twill tape through.  I then added a toggle.  I could then cinch or un-cinch the pants hems as needed.  When the kids are tall enough, I can remove the drawstring altogether if I like.  That is the only difference I made to the linked tutorial.

In the end?  I am happy that I made them.  I get the biggest high out of seeing my kids in mama-made clothes.  Especially ones that are so professional looking as these pants.  (The complement is for the excellent pattern and tutorial and not my sewing ability!)  I was also proud of myself for finishing them before our last camping trip of the summer.  (To be blogged about next!)  I am throwing in a picture of the pants in the wild for you to see.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cappuccino Tunic x 2

I did some selfish sewing for myself this summer, though not enough.  (Seriously, I had a lot of plans, but then, like every summer, my energy tanked.)  

Supposedly, according to a previous post, I started the muslin (i.e. test garment) of the Cappuccino Tunic in April, but finished it in July.  (And then wrote about it in August.)  That sounds about right.  I hear about people whipping up clothes in mere hours, but that is not my life.  I seem to average about one garment a season at this stage of my life.  I am trying to learn acceptance.  *me taking a meditative pose.*  Ohmmm.

The muslin of this top gave me some problems, to put it mildly.  (And then I have to hysterically laugh at the fact that this is a beginning pattern, and Oh my gosh! will I ever get a handle on this sewing thing already!) Initially, I made the wrong size.  I mixed up the sizing chart with the finished measurements chart--a complete rookie mistake.  Do you know what happens when you do that?  You get a very snug shirt.  Indecently snug.  I am amazed that I was even able to even get it on.  The next 2-3 muslins where then made to get a decent fit.  Notice I say decent, not perfect.  I still have some foldage over the bust that I think shouldn't really be there, but it is So. Much. Better.

The Adjustment List:

  • 3/4" whole broad-back adjustment
  • back darts (3/4" and 3 1/2" long) to accommodate the extra fabric due to the above adj.
  • a 3/8" folded horizontal wedge taken from upper bust and sleeve*
  • 1/2" sloping shoulder adjustment
  • 3/8" upper rounded back adjustment*

* indicates a "new to me" adjustment

By the time I finished with all of these, I felt like I had created a frankenpattern.  However, I feel like most of these are adjustments are ones I will routinely make again.  The horizontal wedge adjustment was a huge breakthrough for me since I have noticed these folds over the bust in other tops and I had no idea what caused it.  I think that I have a shorter upper bust (shoulders to bust) than the average person which causes folds in the fabric there.  Now I know how to fix that.  Yay!  Also, The upper rounded back adjustment fixes a funky back fold that I get right by the shoulders.  I had no idea how to fix it before and now I do!

I am writing about my adjustments for transparency.  I used to think that a person sewed a straight pattern and it either fitted them or it didn't.  Not every sewist will talk about the fitting adjustments they made to obtain that final, picture-perfect garment.  And as a new sewist, it can be so frustrating when you make a garment, and it doesn't look the way you have seen it on other people.  

For Fabric, the pattern calls for something rather drapey.  The models are wearing either silk or rayon.  I was looking for something with more of a homespun vibe, but still needed something with some drape.  I went with a yarn-dyed chambray--which is normally found in a "denim" hue but doesn't need to be.  I was glad to find it in this magenta.  It has cross threads of a dark blue.  The second shirt was a lightweight linen (3 oz).  This was unbelievably shifty.  I have no idea if I was able to cut it on grain or not.  So difficult.  However, I think it turned out o.k.  Both fabrics were found at  It is fun to see in the pictures how the different fabrics affect fit.

I want to try this top again in a stable knit like an interlock or ponte, and if it works, make a dress version in that fabric.  I think that would be cute.  We will see.

This is my, "the kids are playing near the camera, and I am afraid they are going to knock it over" face.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Happy Fourth

This year's Fourth of July was sunny and bright!  We kept it super low key since we were recovering (still) from our camping trip, and all of us were either succumbing to or getting over a nasty chest cold.  (Guess who still has it?  Winner winner, chicken dinner!)  We started festivities by washing our cars (using cheap and willing child labor, including the neighbor child) and then ended the day with some mild fireworks.  (No big and loud sounds for this crowd.)  Sandwiched in-between was a dinner consisting of hot dogs, potato chips, raw veggies with hummus, fruit salad, and berry shortcake for dessert.

The local fireworks was the day before on the third, and didn't start until 9:20--the time it actually gets dark here.  Which is even later (obviously given different latitudes) than in Maryland.  It made me wonder what time they start the festivities in places like Alaska.  Do they just give up on the idea of it being completely dark?  Of course, we had our neighbor's fireworks to listen to on the following days.  It was......not awesome.  The Fourth of July really is not one of my favorite holidays.  I am really quite a curmudgeon. I am o.k. with that.  (*waves fists at all the young hooligans*)

Photo dump time:

even more photo pleasure can be found on Flickr.


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