Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rambling Thoughts

Just another journal entry today.

I finished the olive green dress. Well, mostly finished. I did mainly French seams but the few I did standard need to be finished. I also need to add a second dart, the hook and eye, and a bit of trim. I know, the same stuff I have been needing to add for the last week and a half. I think I will make today a sewing day and get that sorted out. Maybe.

I also have two sweaters I am altering using a method I saw on pinterest. They are both excessively large on me, but warm and woolly and free. The concept is to sew along the existing seams, trim, then seal the seam by running a zig-zag stitch that just scootches off the edge. Basically it is mimicking a serged seam. Let's see if this fake-it version works. If not, I have been meaning to whip up some bias tape and will seal the seams with that and hope for the best.

I am being gifted a few yards of material from my Mother-in-Law which should arrive end of next week or so. I only know it is tricot and "t-shirt like." What weave, what weight, and what yardage is unknown but I am excited all the same. She said it was to make dresses, but she also greatly underestimates how big I am. Which, I guess, is actually rather sweet. It sure beats being thought of as a ginormous zeppelin. But when it comes to amount of material she might not be gifting enough for an entire dress. It will be enough for a blouse or skirt, of that I have no doubt. I have several patterns in mind and can't wait to see what I get to create.

The great wardrobe challenge is exactly that- a great challenge. For those not in the loop yet: My goal is to start wearing as few items as possible. Not quite a capsule wardrobe, but rather a minimal clothing allotment. I want to get over the societal pressures of having new clothes for every occasion, a huge walk in closet stuffed to the brim, and impulse buying. So for this, I need to have as few items as possible, with great function and scope, and stylish for the season/era in which I live but not absolute trendy. I decided to mimic the wardrobe levels of yesteryear but not the actual fashion style. I have been reviewing "typical wardrobes" of the 1930s and 1940s to do this, thinking that the depression and war years would give me simplest yet realistic base numbers.

So far, I have discovered the two summer dress method of the 30s isn't sufficient. I think the key difference is I don't wear the undergarments of the era- so the slip that would naturally add the absorbent layer is missing meaning they need to be washed more frequently. And since I don't hand wash like my ancestors, this was expected to not be a problem as I can toss it in every day if I wanted. Only that in itself has been the very problem. My seams are breaking down, I already blew out one zipper on one of the dresses and had to replace it, and the fabric print is significantly faded. The cheaper quality lining material is full of pills and thinning. Washing even only couple times a week has wrecked havoc on the dresses. I haven't decided how I want to correct this problem yet, but as summer is on its way out I have plenty of time to study and review before the next year's trial.

Speaking of which, already my summer dresses just aren't heavy enough and we have barely entered fall. And I live in the desert. I am having to layer cardigans, which is no problem, but also leggings. At this point I might as well wear pants and call it a day. It would be less bulk and my skirts wouldn't stick and ride up. The online advice says to add boots that touch or cross the hemline, but I don't wear shoes around the house all day long. Still doing a lot of thinking about this, though I need to think fast or I am going to be awfully cold soon.

It's pretty much status quo on the homeschool front. Winter is my goal to purchase the following year's text books so I can spend spring writing up the weekly schedules. I may need to re-evaluate my choices because at this point we have way more time than money. I really wanted to avoid modular learning and instead use a foundational course. It may end up that I have to make some hard choices and adjust my plans. I know, I know. First world problems, eh?

I am a few weeks behind posting my lessons plans- so getting caught up is on the agenda for today. We are starting week 8 on Monday. I can't believe the quarter is nearly finished. The "every other ish day or so" method of recording is working out well. I am also thinking of tweaking when we do math- so far it is four days a week, which I am happy with. The book covers 130 days, which is set to the public school format of 180 days minus 50 for testing/non-learning days (parties and fieldtrips). To make this work, the "every five days" assessments fall on top of a normal lesson, plus sometimes on top of a special hands-on lab, making it a significant math day. As in a good solid hour significant kind of math day, not even counting the follow-up work at the end of the day. It's a bit much for a kindergartner. I am going to see if I can re-balance and use my 50 blank days for the assessments, making some weeks 5 and some weeks 4 lessons. It won't reflect in my lesson plans this semester as I am going to just pencil it in. If it works out next quarter then I will make the change permanent for the second half of the year.

High School:
The teen is looking at a spring start to community college this year instead of fall next year. We discovered with 24 transfer credits she can skip her High School Proficiency exams, the SAT and/or ACT, and only be required to take the expected math and language arts placement exams because she will be entering her four year as a transfer student and not a high school student. No weird explanations, no packets, no justifications for my GPA assignment. High school "won't count" since she is already a college student so the worry about extra accountability for homeschooling is no longer an issue.

This is mainly possible because we know where she is going to University. It was an easy decision: in-state because paying twice as much or more for non-resident fees is stupid, and not the one close to home because she wants to "go away" to college. So that left an option of one, UNLV (University of Las Vegas). Additionally our local community college has a direct transfer program to UNLV and academic advisers on campus. She can, and is, ensuring that she not only has 24 transferable units but those 24 will satisfy her actual degree and streamlining the whole transfer process through their special intake system. As for acceptance- they have an 85% rate. I am thinking with her projected GPA and following their special intake policies, it's a safe gamble to put all our eggs into this one basket.

With all this in mind, we are focusing hard on her completing what she needs to get proper placement in math/language arts levels and completing the courses she won't need for her degree (she is an engineering major) but does need for having a balanced and well-rounded education. Because life. Once she starts the community college, she will be keeping up her foreign language, programming, and literature courses at home. It won't be for credit, but it will be for her balanced knowledge.

Looking at this process, I am re-evaluating what the little ones will do once they get to high school. The idea was to send them, possibly, to a public four year. But now I am thinking I may keep them home until 16 and then follow the "off to college" route their eldest sister is doing. As for social development, it isn't going to increase suddenly because they hit puberty. All stages of life need social interaction. While they will miss things like the prom (unless they are the dates of a public school child) and year books, they won't miss out on friends, peer clubs, and group activities. And I am not worried about age. There are so many high-school-on-college-campus programs they will be with plenty of their same age group. They will also have the added bonus of the age groups above their own, thereby strengthening their ability to mix in society.

The Great Ugly:
There have been some positive developments on that which is sucking the energy out of me right now. Hopefully we will have turned the corner by the end of the month, and it is looking like this is what is going to happen if everything continues at its current pace. There are still so many questions left unanswered, the main one being where on earth we are going to live. So far, Vermont isn't an option (hooray) but one of the other diamond states is. Staying local has now pushed its way to the most likely option and for that I am thankful. We have built up such a wonderful base of friends that I hate to leave them so soon. In the end I know that it is what it is. When you put your trust in God there is no fear, no regret, and from what I have experienced, no being idle. This stone is certainly not destined to gather any moss.

And bonus- if we stay local we may still move rentals. This means NO MORE NASTY OLIVE GREEN CARPET. Oh, happy day! Now of course, saying that, I probably just guaranteed us one more year in this house. Le sigh.

The Novel:
It isn't writer's block. It's a secondary character who keeps trying to push into primary position. Since she wants everything to be about her, I am thinking of letting it be about her. I am toying with the idea of splicing the former main character's story into her own. It will be a complete rework, but if I am to the point of not even writing anymore because I am annoyed with how it is going, then what is the point of going that direction? Best to scrap it and start again.

So here I go. Starting again. So much for finishing it this year. My goal is to write a book I am happy with not write a book to meet an arbitrary deadline. Since it will make me happy to do this, this is what I do.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Putting Things Off

Sometimes it is worth putting things off.

Five years ago, perhaps even longer, I thought I was a great sewest and could make anything and everything. Then I met a Burda pattern and I had no idea how on earth to add seam allowance properly. I tried. Of sorts. Then I realized I had cut a piece wrong and I had no material left and I took the whole stack of pattern pieces still pinned to their badly cut fabric pieces and folded up the lot neatly and set it aside in my "to be completed later pile." I really meant to just toss it out, but something told me to hang on to it. That something was probably an unwillingness to admit I screwed up royally.

My current wardrobe consists of four dresses. That's it. Four dresses. Two sleeveless cotton summer dresses for everyday, one woolly three quarter length sleeved one for autumn, and one sleeveless lightweight rayon for my best dress. As it is still a million degrees out during the day, I really only have three to wear. And considering I only wear my best to church, I really only have two dresses.

Two dresses. No skirts, no pants, no shorts. Just two dresses. So when the zipper on one of them broke this morning I pretty much freaked out.

It was when I was rooting around for a replacement zipper that I stumbled over the pieces of that dress from five years ago. I couldn't even remember what it was supposed to look like, or to what size I had cut it. But the fabric is a lovely woven material that hangs and flows beautifully. Its a very nice olive with a subtle plaid pattern, so even though it is sleeveless it can carry into autumn with a cardigan pulled over. And isn't it funny I was just watching the new Miss Fisher series on Netflix last night and was just thinking as I fell asleep how gorgeous that olive dress she was wearing in the final scene was and how I wish I had one. So as I sat staring at this lovely olive oddly cut dress of unknown design, replacement zipper in one hand for my desperate attempt at salvaging a dress, I thought "what the hell."

Now is the time I deal with the mess I made. No more putting it off.

I looked up Burda 7628 to see what it was supposed to look like. At least that can help me make heads and tails of what I had hacked out of the fabric. Again, I had no idea what size this dress was but as I am about the same size as I had been when I first attempted the pattern, I figured just going for it was the best I could do.

I had to reconfigure a few pieces and alter the neckline, but now that I am five years better read, five years more experienced, and five years more patient, I managed to pull it together pretty decently. I am so glad I didn't toss it out. My new know-how as lead me to fix something I thought wasn't fixable. And I got a new dress at a time when I really need one. This is a wonderful, unexpected personal victory.

I still have the arm holes to face, the zipper to put in, and the hem to sew. I am also adding a second dart and a bit of detail in the center front to fix where it is a bit wonkey. Adding a smart bow or fabric flower is way easier than actually fixing the wonkey.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

I Chose This Life. I Get It.

If there are two phrases I could erase from ever hearing again, they would be "well, you are the one who chose to do X" and "you made your bed now lie in it."

It is absolutely frustrating when I am at a particularly low moment, having a particularly bad day, and a friend who is particularly concerned asks me what's wrong. And there it is. I am placed in the worst situation at the worst possible moment. I can flat out lie and say "nothing" which we both know is a lie and makes the whole moment awkward and the friendship strained. Or I can tell the truth, release my emotion-du-jour, and feel relief for all of two nanoseconds before I am shoved back down in it along with the added burden of being told I deserve it.

Let me give you an example.

I firmly believe in self-soothing. I want my kid to be strong and brave and independent. However, at 3 am when they are anything but those things I am not going to bail on my kid and let them wallow in their negative feelings until they literally pass out exhausted from crying. So I do get up and walk down the hall and settle, and re-tuck, and reassure. And as my kids get older, they do grow into strong and brave and independent people. I just feel they don't need to be taking on the fear and terror when they are only two, in the dark, all alone. What the hell am I a mother for if not there for them? But if I complain about how tired I am that day because X child woke up at Y time and I got Z hours of sleep and am cranky, I get told that it's my own fault because I cave in to them and mollycoddle them. Thanks, friend. Because the one thing I need to hear when I am tired and cranky and opening my heart to you is how you think I am a shitty parent and how I deserve to be miserable. Got some salt you want to rub in as well?

Right now I have a million things going on in my life. A million deep, dark, horrible things that frankly I am not going to discuss in a public forum. It doesn't even matter what they are anyway, because what my deep, dark, horrible is may not be what yours is, or hers is, or your cousin-twice-removed's is. You can dream up whatever you want to help you sympathize. I'm cool with that. Not even my closest friends know what the full deep, dark, and horrible is. And not because I can't go to them at all, but because right now I don't need to hear "you chose to do X so shut up and take it." Sure, a few know a bit of it because you can't really hide deep, dark, and horrible. Especially from friends. And more than a few of my friends aren't religious so when I pull out the "Deep, dark, horrible but I am good. I got God." I get the whole "what the hell is wrong with you no fairytale made up person is helping you" attack on top of the "you chose to do X so shut up and take it." Got some lemon to go with that salt?

And that is what I want to focus on right now. Because the cracks are starting and a few are seeing into the deep, dark, horrible and I don't know how to tell them I am going to be ok without hearing the fact that I need to be lying on this bed I made. I don't need someone else telling me my life is pretty shitty right now. Yeah, I got that, dude. Fully aware. Thank you Captain Obvious.

But I got God.

This is just one of the many, many crosses I get to bear in my time here on earth. And really, no matter how deep, dark, and horrible it gets I know for a fact that things will work out in the end. I just have to suck it up and make it to the end. The sucking up is hard. It is supposed to be hard. I mean, it's a life size million pound freaking cross and not a motorized wheelbarrow full of suck I got here. What I don't need is my support group sitting on that cross making it even harder to drag along. However, telling them to get off the cross has a completely different connotation. Kinda can't say that in this context.

I did choose this life I am in. I did make this bed. And I am dealing with the deep, dark, horrible because that is what I do. I wait patiently for things to turn around, because I know they will. This isn't rock bottom for me. God won't let me hit rock bottom. But for the love of sugar and cupcakes, can you please remember me, remember this, and not tell the next friend who vents on you about something you would have done differently to just suck it up and take it since they deserve it? I don't give a frack if it is their own fault. They know it is their own fault. They just want to be able to lighten the load a bit. Don't get on their cross. Let them chip off a splinter. Every little helps.

Please. Thank you.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

6:30 am

It all started when I received a text message at 8:30 at night informing me that my teen needed to show up at school at 6:30 the following morning for a not-mandatory-but-good-luck-passing-if-you-skip-it lab class. Let me repeat that: Six Effing Thirty. A. M.

Keep in mind this is the same program that claims all their kids are super duper bright and super duper awesome and have to do super duper better than everyone else in every class. So why have the super duper early start is beyond me. Let's think about that: let's have our kids show up at 6:30 am, work them until 3:30 pm, and then slap them with 4-6 hours of homework each night. Oh, and still insist they do extra curricular on campus activities, 120 volunteer hours, and write a 5000 word essay not for any class or anything just for funsies. Add in 6 AP exams, the SAT, the ACT, 4 proficiency exams, and a handful of "end of term" exams on top of finals. Because why stop with homework when you can finish the job with required exams? Oh and since they carry weird hours outside of bus times, they will need a car and a job to support that car. It seems the school's way of celebrating kids who can learn more, faster, and a better is to sleep deprive until they break.

I think they have mixed up "illegal torture practices" with "educational betterment." Again.

So there we were, the first night of the first day of week three, and yet again I was writing strongly worded emails. Because I simply have nothing better to do with my life than tell school administrators "um, no, try again." I hadn't even addressed the newest "oh by the way we are going to add a science fair requirement and here is your 24 hour notice for a mandatory parental meeting please reschedule your entire life around our whim and while we are at it we are going to pair the words "tonight" with "7 am" so you don't actually have the correct time" or the "ooops forgot to mention there is a parent-teacher conference tonight sorry we can't give you your kid's schedule or include start and stop times I am sure you can just figure it out good luck" text messages. I told the teen I was done. Sorry kid, I love you but not this much. Maybe if you cleaned your room regularly I might have had another fuck or two to give, but I am all tapped out.

So I told the teen she needed to figure out what she wanted to do, because it wasn't going to be that program anymore. It was then we discovered that because of that program she wasn't told that she actually had enough units to graduate a year early. Not only was that program extra work on top of normal school work, it was adding a whole year of extra schooling. Because, why?

She thought about it. Talked about it. Discussed it with professionals in the educational field. Interviewed me, her dear old mom, that also graduated high school at sixteen to get my take on the host of problems being young and in college. She thought some more. Talked some more. Debated with others some more. Then she looked at me in the face and said the one thing I never ever ever ever in a million years ever thought would ever come out of her mouth:

"Mom? Can you homeschool me?"

When I came to, I said yes. And then spent the better part of last week writing an entire curriculum that would ensure she was able to pass her state exams, prepare her for college, and catch her up on the requirements for the engineering program she wants to do when she does get to college- all in thirty-two weeks. Because she is super duper bright and super duper awesome and she just needs to stop the useless busy work and focus on the educational requirements at hand. Plus have time for sleep.

I got smug smiles from other parents with "oh so your kid couldn't hack it" comments. Uh, no. I couldn't hack it. Let's get that straight. I couldn't hack the dropping everything for my kid's special snowflake high school education, mmmkay? It's freaking high school. It's a piece of paper she needs to get into college which will give her a slightly better piece of paper making the former one obsolete. That program really isn't worth that much of my time and effort. And it isn't worth the cost to her health.

And, how did it fly at the school when I yanked her out?

I had read horror stories on blogs, but I was not at all prepared for the reaction I got. They were nice. They were helpful. Hell, they were even supportive of her leaving to homeschool and graduating a year early and even offered suggestions on how I could support her education so she can be successful. Wow.

And what about her high school social experience? She has friends who are already signing up for guest passes for her to attend games and dances. Even the prom. We have all the forms ready to go if she decides she does want to do mock trail or French club after all. She won't walk across a stage and get handed a diploma. At least, not in high school. But she will in college and she is satisfied with that.

So here we are. Monday is her first day at St. Gertrude's. She is excited. I am excited. And that is really what it is all about, isn't it? Our kids being excited and on fire for learning?