Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nightmare before Christmas before Labor Day

So yes, yes, Matt and I made up (It's kind of the best part, right?...ahem), and he and the girls are off having lunch at China Buffet right now--it's a place into which I will not step, but I did ask Matt to steal me home an eggroll, so do with that what you will. We've cleaned out the car, and put laundry on the line, and built some rickety shelves in the playroom (because that's just exactly where you want your shelves to be rickety), and I've done a rough draft of this semester's syllabus, updating all the grammar assignments from my concise and readable Longman to the newly required Wadsworth (the university gets a cut from this one, I think), and the girls have painted, and we've all cleaned more than I, personally, feel like cleaning (Our house doesn't look like this person's house or anything, but my parents' house kind of does), and I finally finished sewing (and resewing) my most awesomest Nightmare before Christmas mini T-shirt quilt.

I really, really, really, really love it. It's not one of the T-shirt quilts I'm going to keep, though, so it's currently living here on etsy for a while, until it goes off to live in its new forever-home.

I bought the rest of the bolt of this skulls netting on clearance at Joann's a few months ago, and although this is its debut, I basically plan to sew skulls netting every single place in which a person could possibly sew netting. Shower curtain liner? That's not too weird.

And the lovebirds, from that Nightmare before Christmas T-shirt I bought at a garage sale the day of The Pretentious Wedding:

There's nothing more beautiful than the love of the undead--it's unending, you see.

You know, photographing for etsy is a real art--some product photos on that site look like museum gallery photos, and some, on the other hand, are blurry and gross. I think product photos are very important--they're the only way your web shoppers are going to know what your product looks like, and your artistic style. The best photographers make me not only want to buy their stuff, but also to basically be just like them and be as cool and awesome and tidy and bright as they make their stuff look.

When I photo for etsy or for my craft fair photo album, I make a few standard photos. I take basic front and back photos of my product in an attractive location that allows me to get a straight-on shot. This is desperately hard for quilts, so often I have to fudge there, but smaller stuff is easier. I take a couple of detail shots, to show off the quality of my sewing or soldering, and to give a clear idea of the condition and/or unique characteristics of my vintage or recycled materials. And I always try to include one shot that has personality, with my kids doing something cute with the product, or the product hanging out in a weird location, or even a quirky angle to the product--something that makes my product stand out and reflects my overall artistic style. You can take photos of whatever you want to show off, though. Some people take a photo of their packaging, if it's really cool. Some people include a photo of the whole product line, maybe to encourage customers to buy more than one.

You also want to crop nicely, because etsy photos, in particular, thumbnail as square. So, if you don't crop to a square, or at least don't center your product in your shot, your product might not actually appear in its own thumbnail. You also want to crop things like this--

--to, you know, take the pajama-clad legs wearing her husband's socks out of the frame. Or you might want to take a look at this photo----then go and get the lint brush out and then take another:

Nice, huh?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fourth Street Festival is Crowded

Even though it's a little too high-falutin' for my tastes and I can't afford to buy anything, I look forward to the Fourth Street Festival for most of the year. It's a genuine large, important craft fair right here in humble old Bloomington, Indiana. It has its flaws--there's not enough walking space in front of the booths, so it's mighty crowded, for one thing--but a craft fair is a craft fair is a craft fair, and this one is very high quality.

I have to go back tomorrow, though, because my visit there was spoiled today. First, the people at the booth with the amazingly complicated set-in wood puzzles--Noah's ark, for instance, and it's a real wooden ark but also a puzzle consisting of all the pairs of animals die-cut into the wood--that cost a billion dollars not only refused my nice request to take a photo of one beautiful puzzle, but also acted like I was a spy committing industrial espionage. Okay, okay, I know this does happen sometimes, or people claim it does, but seriously, is a mom with a toddler in a mei tai on her back and an amateur camera set to auto-focus who wants to take one photograph of one cool puzzle really and truly going to then go and have that puzzle made for a buck in India to sell at Wal-mart and undersell these craft fair people? Um, seriously, no. And even if I did, it's not like die-cutting a puzzle is really a trade secret the discovery of which will throw these craftsmen out of business--the puzzle was super-cool, but even I know how to die-cut, and someone whos's going to pay $500 for that Noah's Ark doesn't even go to Wal-mart. Admittedly, I'm a rank amateur at craft fairs, but I like to be nice to people, especially if they ask for things nicely. Maybe it's the southern in me, but even if I have to decline someone's request, like if they want to bargain, and even if I think their request is rude, like if they tell me they make quilts that are better than mine so how much should they charge at a craft fair (happened!), I still turn what I say into a little conversation, not just a "Sorry, no," and a turn away. Fine, I admit it, I felt snubbed and it totally bothered me--how old am I?

Matt and I also got into this insane fight because he doesn't listen to me. When I said, "I'll be right here. I'm going to walk up and then down," I meant that I'd be right here in the craft fair, walking up the aisle we were on and then back down. Is that really that hard to interpret? Well, Matt interpreted, "I'll be right here in front of this one random pottery booth, walking up and down right in front of it for the twenty minutes you'll be gone." Seriously? So I walk up the aisle and then back down, and it only takes about five minutes because I'm still mad about that industrial espionage of die-cut puzzles thing, so I figure I can catch Matt coming back from the car, where he'd gone to get Syd's water bottle. I rush back and do see Matt coming back, but as I'm waiting to cross Kirkwood he grabs Willow's hand and disappears down a back alley. Seriously. I rush around and try to cut him off, but he's just gone. So I go back to the end of the aisle, the "back down" part, and it's also, incidentally, where we all came in. Where do you meet someone if you lose them someplace big and crowded? Why, you meet them where you came in, of course! Merely common sense. And after several minutes, I do see Matt coming through the crowd, carrying Willow, peering into booths looking for me. Except, six booths from the end of the aisle, too far for me to shout and hear him and apparently too far for him to see me standing right there in the middle of the road, he ducks between two booths and totally disappears. Again. I run around to try to catch him, but he's gone. Syd and I still wait for another half an hour, until she's bawling in her mei tai, and then we head to the other place you go if you lose someone someplace big and crowded. Can you guess? Of course--we go to the car. We wait at the car for at least another half an hour. We miss the kick-off for the IU game we're supposed to be attending. And, yeah, when Matt finally comes to the car he starts to yell, then I start to yell, then he yells "Don't you yell at me!" and yells something else and gives me a little push just like a man who has lost his mind and I walk home. And that's why my day sucked.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Good and the Bad and the Good

We had a happy, happy afternoon at the pool-- --and then the woman depicted by chance in this photograph--
--stole the girls' blue rubber duckie. Two minutes before closing time, her little swim diaper-clad toddler ran over and grabbed up the duckie, which Willow had been happily sharing with the entire pool for two hours, from right in front of us, then ran back over and showed his mom, who nodded and kept packing up. Of course I sent Matt marching right over, but he was utterly defeated when the woman, hardly looking at him or the kid or the toy, told him her kid had brought that duck to the pool every day for four weeks and maybe we should look around more for OUR duck--I think Matt should have just grabbed the duck and ran, but he reminds me that poolsides are slippery.

Seriously, what do you do when some random person brazenly steals something from you right out in public? If we'd been kids, it'd been easy--"Give me back my duck!" Bam!--but as adults we were utterly stymied when polite conversation did not allow us to achieve our goal. Seriously, this woman just would not give back that duck. So Matt had to march back with failure in his eyes, and we had to carry our hysterical child from the pool.

Don't worry--Willow feels better now, except that I keep bringing it up again to help her process. You know--"You've been sharing so well now for over four years, and only once has someone stole what you were sharing with them," etc. It's too bad, because Will really is a very generous child. Parents often compliment me, as if I had anything to do with it, and she's always giving her little buddies presents from her own toy supply. I hate it when this happens--you lovingly raise up your child with the utmost thoughtfulness and care, cultivating precious qualities in them and building up their characters, and then some idiot comes along and makes their best attempt at ruining all your work in about one minute with one ugly act or one ugly remark. You know--telling them, "Stay with your mommy, or a bad person will come and take you away," or hitting their dog right in front of them, or stealing the toy they'd brought to the pool to share for a while.

One of our family friends was with us at the pool that day, and she's a social worker, and when I asked her for her professional opinion about the situation, she thought for a minute, lips pursed, then said, "That woman has problems."

I have something that would have cheered the girls right up, of course, but I wouldn't give it to them because I am mean. The gifties inside have to wait, but my Christmas in July Stashbuster Swap angel package arrived!

You know I got bailed on by my official partner, who apparently received the ornaments I made without a word and then disappeared, but the swap organizer found two, count them TWO, people to make swap presents for me and get nothing in return--Craftster calls them swap angels. And my first swap angel package was AWESOME!
These are the veggies that my angel crocheted for me. She made a carrot, corn, peas, a tomato, and a baby eggplant/beet. I'm so excited to put these in the girls' Christmas stockings--I've made them pretty flush on felt food, but I'd really been wanting some crocheted food, as well. Now if I can only find somebody to crochet them a matching set of eggplant top knitted hats...Because the girls also love the ocean, my angel also crocheted them some ocean life, a sea turtle and a dolphin. The sea turtle's shell is like a little jacket that you can take off and put back on again. A jacket, y'all--how much fun is that? A lot.The sweetest thing, though, is that she made me and the girls matching jewelry--the black beads are all magnets, so that you can wrap the same piece around your neck a couple of times for a necklace, or around your wrist several times for a bracelet. Of course, the first thing I did was to wrap mine and the girls' all around my own wrist for one giant, super-bracelet.
I'm really happy with my swap package; this turned out to be a great swap, after all. Just a couple more lovingly handcrafted items, now, and the girls' Christmas stockings will be full before November!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Librariness

Today I took Sydney to the dentist (she loooooves her dentists, who are so supportive of my hippie-granolaness that the free samples they give the girls are of Tom's of Maine toothpaste), bought a case of beer at Kroger's (for beer bread--really!), bicycled both here and yon, trimmed the overgrown ivy on the tree in the side yard (up to a six-foot-level only, on account of arm reach limitations, so the tree sort of looks like Sideshow Bob now), re-hemmed a vintage dress I wore when I was Sydney's age but that Sydney, given much more free reign and scope for creativity and independent activity than I was at her age, cut up the lacy sleeves on (I'm thinking of hand-stitching on white beads now to mimic the sleeve embellishments of old), and watched two episodes of The O.C (Why, oh why, did I ever think that show wouldn't be AWESOME? I'd be happy to mother that poor little abandoned urchin--I hope the rich lady comes around), but the most, most, most important thing is that it's LIBRARY DAY! I have my second cup (okay, third) of coffee for the day and a slice of beer bread, fresh from the oven, spread with locally made cherry raspberry jam, and Matt and the girls are...actually, I have no idea what Matt and the girls are off doing, but they're not home, so here are the highlights from Library Day:

  • Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt The book is actually pretty much a downer, with Selina and her family, Mennonites during the Civil War, having to flee to northern Canada, leaving behind dearly beloved granny, who gives Selina a quilt top as a farewell gift. In Canada at the house of relatives, Selina misses granny something terrible, but is comforted when she sees that the quilt on her strange bed contains many of the same fabrics as granny's quilts back home--the making and giving and using of quilts, they bring us together, y'all. The awesome thing about this book, though, is that the border to each illustration is an actual quilted border--I read the book through quickly, then pored over it again to steal some ideas for my own quilted borders.
  • Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale The illustrations for this book are off the hook. The story is a German folk tale, but the illustrations are all close-ups of sections of this ginormous awesome quilt that a very gifted artist made to retell the story. Seriously, off the hook. Willow warmed my heart when we were looking at this book together by saying, "Momma, let's us make this quilt today." God, the child has no concept of reality.
  • Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! It may surprise you to know that I am a lousy gardener. Lousy. I have no patience, no tendency to follow rules, no strategy for labelling what I've planted, no regular system of watering, and when it first starts to get really hot outside, I'm done. Our yard looks like crap. But I can change, I tell you, I can change. With lasagna gardening, I can change.
  • I have been so excited for this book that I asked the public library to order for me, and it finally came! I heart Built by Wendy, and I plan to read this book with my very first pattern in hand, a Built by Wendy shirt pattern, no less--how can success not be the result?
  • ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer This book might be a little hip and industrial for my tastes (how many loaves of beer bread would it take to make their beer can room divider?), but I always love the possibilities inherent in ReadyMade's designs, and their recycling methodology can't be beat.

What's your favorite recycling methodology?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In Which I Mend My Family's Clothes

I need to wait for batting to go on sale at Joann's this weekend before I can finish my quilted T-shirt wall hangings (Isn't that always the way?), so this week I've been taking up the huge piles of mending that I've been steadily putting aside for months, waiting for a time when mending didn't actually sound like something that sucked. So instead of telling you that I did sooooo many awesome things today, I get to tell you that I sewed a hook back onto my bra strap, put a zipper into a too-small jumper I made for Sydney last year so that she can wear it throughout the winter-- --although she'd rather wear it like this--
--reinforced all the seams in my Ren Faire dress, threw out two pairs of ripped pants that I looked at again and thought, "What's the point?", made bias tape and hemmed my most favorite pair of jeans ever--
--and printed and cut out with an exacto knife some of the stencils I'm going to paint over weird stains in my family's clothes. So far I've been able to use stash for my repairs--vintage zipper, polka dot fabric gifted from a previous craft fair attendee, etc.--but tomorrow I'm going to get to wend my way over to Hobby Lobby for fusible webbing so I can embroider over holes Syd has been cutting into her T-shirts.

My goal (except with, um, the bra, and I guess the Ren Faire dress, because it's already so awesome) is to leave each of the mended clothes with more personality, make each better looking, than it looked when I originally acquired it. Mending my family's tattered clothes involves more than what the mom of one of Willow's schoolmates must have thought today when, upon hearing what I'd been up to while Will was at school, she exclaimed, pity on her face, "You must be so frugal!" Well, yeah, I do like to save my family's money for take-out pizza and weekend trips to Chicago, but that's not why I ironed the word "STELLA" over the permanent marker stain in Willow's green shirt and then hand-sewed star beads all over it--I did that because sure, it's not as easy as just throwing the shirt out and buying her a new one at Target, but she's not easy, and raising her isn't easy, but I do raise her lovingly, with thoughtfulness and care, as well as mess and fun, and if that love and care and fun (and mess?) can be reflected in external ways, what she wears and plays with and lives in, then so much the better for the world to look at my happy, bright, energetic kiddos in their hand-embellished T-shirts and think, "Somebody loves those little girls."

Hmmm... but what does the world think when it sees my partner in his hand-stenciled Darth Vader T-shirt?

Monday, August 25, 2008

On-line Project Findings

Searching for online stencils of horses (the pony panties, they are a-comin'!), I managed to come across--amazing how full of detours online research can be!--lots of interesting how-tos and patterns for cool projects. Wanna see?

HomeStudio gave this tutorial (look for the link to the pdf) for making Scrabble tile pendants with the pretty papers on them to the Make and Takes blog. I've been wondering how this was done.

Making Paper, from Kids Gardening, is just the kind of thing that my girlies could turn into the super-messy creative project that they like the best. I've been wanting to learn how to make the little recycled-paper notecards with the flower seeds in them--yay!


From the file of things I didn't know I really wanted until I saw them, but now I want them soooo badly: this pattern for a paper cut-and-fold chess set from...um...Hattori? The site's in Japanese, but it looks like a place for super-elaborate (such as the model of a wood burning stove?) origami. Okay, but one of the links from Hattori is maybe to a bondage/gay sex site, so, you know, feel free to just look at the chess set pattern.

I haven't yet made the Bitty Booties from HellomynameisHeather (look for the link from Free Patterns), but FINALLY Matt's cousins have some babies amongst them, so--hello, Christmas!

Pony panties, again--I pulled tons of stencils from Spray Paint Stencils for freezer paper stencils--dinosaurs, vegetables, a unicorn that I ruthlessly cut the horn off to transform into a pony for Willow, Godzilla, and the Death Star. I found some other Star Wars stencils from Grrl to cover a couple of bleach stains on Matt's shirts.

What's on your on-line project list?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chock Full of Happiness

Yay, Sunday--

Finally getting an entire summer's worth of hair buzzed off, alternately at the hands of husband and two-year-old:Blueberry-oatmeal muffins and a SECOND cup of coffee made for me by Matt and the girls, with only a minimal amount of yelling during and a fair amount of clean-up afterwards:Lots and lots of children's artsy projects at home while Matt played a softball double-header in the mugginess across town. Tempera paint in gallon jugs, we hail you:Prior to the bath...Several hours of crafting, for the first time in a few days. I can tell when I've really needed the crafting time, because instead of watching streaming Netflix on the computer while I work, I just... work. Silently. Breathing...Resulting in no fewer than TWELVE quilt tops, soon to be quilted into wall hangings, destined, hopefully, for future lives with some strange folk: Did you get a chance to breathe calmly this Sunday?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ex Libris Juliae

Either to reflect my status as pretty much a PhD dropout at this point, or to more readily inspire my creative work, which is lately mostly focused on handicraft, I reorganized my bookshelves this evening. I moved, from their ready-reference position over my desk, my collection of foreign language dictionaries, grammars, and canonical book lists, and replaced them with my collection of mostly kitschy, mostly thrifted, handiwork books. My personal handiwork reference collection to date:

What does your kitschy library consist of?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Author/Illustrator

This afternoon, after biking back and forth from Montessori (uphill big-time on the way there, and then uphill again (?) on the way back) with a varying amount of children in the trailer, then vegging for just a little bit in front of the Numb3rs DVD set we checked out of the library while the girls did...whatever they did, I have no idea--I decided to actually, you know, parent for a couple of hours, so we dug out the markers and the crayons and the cardstock, sat down at our newly un-oceaned table (Don't worry--there's a whole new ocean set up on a big piece of plywood in the basement playroom), and made books. Little pamphlet-type books are a very simple prospect:
  1. Fold a piece of cardstock in half to form a cover.
  2. Use the size of your cardstock to determine the size of the typing paper you'll be using for the inside pages.
  3. Fold each of the typing paper pages in half and nest them inside each other. For very little kiddos, three to five pieces of paper, equalling six to ten book pages, is plenty.
  4. Put the cover over the inside pages, and staple or sew them together.
  5. Give to a child, or take pencil in hand yourself, and say, "Here's a blank book. Tell me a story."

After the kitty's friends show up, they go to the park, the jungle, and the beach, eat about five different snacks, write letters to their mamas, and chase butterflies. The end.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

May the Force Snuggle You Up and Keep You Cozy Warm

It seems like I've been doing nothing but this all day-- but there's also been a lot of time spent on this--
--and this--
--and, fortunately, a little time, just enough, spent on this:
Fangeek quilts make me so awesomely happy. I made this one just for fun for my etsy shop, but Matt eyed it so longingly that I think I may have a holiday gift idea for the hardest person to give a present to EVER.

What do you want on your fangeek quilt?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Library Findings

More trips to the library=more happiness.

The past two weeks, after a morning spent at the public library (storytime, craft project, gossiping with my BFF mom friend, picnic lunch), Matt has come by to pick the girls up and take Willow to school, and I've had a leisurely 45 or so minutes to thoughtfully choose materials for the girls, check them out, and then bike home to meet Matt on his way out again after putting Syd down for a little nap. It won't always happen like that, because there's too much pleasure for the girls in gleefully throwing everything they can reach into our library basket, but it's nice for now.

My most favorite choices this week:
  • It's your typical "find the animal" type of picture book, except that the illustrations are made from stitched and embellished fabric--usually felt, but other materials for emphasis. It's absolutely terrific, with sequin eyes on the parrotfish and bead suckers on the octopus and embroidered lines on the clams. I'm absolutely inspired now to make the felt board I've been promising the girls for their basement playroom, and to furnish it with plenty of felt sea life.
  • Aliki claims that this book is an amalgamation of several actual aquariums, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium directly inspires at least half of it. The girls recognized the outside walkway with the tidepool and the view of the bay, the cylindrical anchovies habitat in which they "swim and swim and swim in a circle circle circle," quoth Willow, the giant kelp forest, and the touch tanks. It was pretty fun to read the girls this book and they both keep interrupting--"I was there!" "I there!"
  • How to Talk to Children About Art There are all kinds of interesting questions and discussions to bring up here, inspired by artwork from various periods, dealing with what's depicted, the physical environment of its creation, authorial intention as well as viewer response, and metaphors and symbols. A little advanced for my lot, but still.
  • 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity (Perigee Book) These are more guerilla than crafty, asking you to do things like hang your own work of art someplace where people will think it's supposed to be, like a motel room or museum bathroom or apartment foyer, but the projects are inspirational and deal tenderly with one's memories. I totally should, for instance, photocopy all my college best friend's letters and mail them back to him, annotated.

Also, some non-library Web findings, because I love to waste myself some time--I mean, gather ideas from the work of others:

  • Okay, is it weird that I still haven't picked up my to learn to embroidery, and yet I am THIS CLOSE to ordering two more of these embroidery sets, EVEN THOUGH I just spent 30 bucks on , also unused? But they're so awesome!!! Willow, I think because her little preschool girlfriend loves ponies like she loves dinosaurs, really wants ponies on her panties (??), and I'm torn between putting freezer paper stencil ponies on, or buying this Unicorn Believer embroidery pattern set and embroidering them without the horns. Which do you think is more awesome? Also awesome--realistic organs. I REALLY need to embroider the ovaries and uterus onto something. Anything.
  • I am currently all about SewLiberated, the crafty blog of a Montessori preschool teacher, of all things. She recently left her position in Mexico, and I've been such a freak looking at her photos, going "Look, honey! They have the pink tower in Mexico, too!" Willow is pretty over it, but she gets to go to Montessori every day--I only get to peer in through the two-way mirror (Is that the right word? Wouldn't a two-way mirror be a window? Is it a one-way mirror? Or is that just a mirror?)

What have you found this week?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Scheduled

Where am I going to be on the weekends in the fall, when I sneak away from my evening freshman comp classes and masquerade as a non-teacher real person (Didn't you always sort of feel that your teachers weren't really real people--I mean, how could someone who got THAT into English GRAMMAR really be a real person?)? Here's where:


Saturday, August 23, 4:00-6:30: Cloth Diapering Workshop, Barefoot Herbs Barefoot Kids, Bloomington, IN. This is the funnest of workshops, because there's something about a big group of pregnant people and people with newborns that is just awesome fun. I give everyone a page of lecture notes, printed front and back in tiny print, and then I tell them every single thing there is to know about cloth diapers. I demo with dolls (the part where I hold the Cabbage Patch Doll upside down and shake her to show how well fitted diapers stay put just KILLS, I tell you), I show off my old ratty four-year-old diapers, I describe, in detail, the two different kinds of poop using a peanut butter metaphor--good times, people. Good times.



Do the joyful dance of vending at my first big craft fair along with me! Strange Folk is located just outside St. Louis, Missouri, one of my family's favorite places to play, and thus fits into my craft fair criteria of being indie, about a four-hour drive or close to family members, and including awesome stuff for the family to do around town and at the venue while I vend. I'm super-excited, but also weirdly jealous that although I'll be doing exactly what I've been wanting to do for a while, I'll have to miss out on the St. Louis Zoo and the St. Louis Science Center. Thank goodness The Container Store, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Torrid will still be open when I'm done for the day.

Saturday, October 11, 9-1: A Fair of the Arts, Showers Plaza, Bloomington, IN. This is the last farmer's market craft fair of the year! My computer crashed and we went to California at around the same time, so I unhappily can't remember if I was on top of life enough to apply to the Holiday Market here, but I sadly think that maybe I didn't. Oh, well...I'm not really that into Christmas, anyway.

Saturday, October 18, 4:00-6:30: Babywearing Workshop, Barefoot Herbs Barefoot Kids, Bloomington, IN. This is the other of the classes I teach just to be near cutie little baby patooties, with the added bonus of occasionally being permitted to hold a really live itty baby while talking a parent through putting on a carrier, or maybe even wearing said baby myself for a minute, just to demo, you know. We work our way through all the attachment parenting standards--pouches, ring slings, wraps, mei tais, and the ergo. No Baby Bjorns need apply.

Whew! What are you up to this fall?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nobody Can Call Me a Clean Freak

Yeah, yeah, yeah--I don't clean my house. Big whoop. I absolutely let a plate of uneaten spaghetti from last night's dinner sit on the table all day while I walk past it 800 times. When Willow runs by with a bath towel and spray bottle and announces, "I spilled the jam, but I'm a-gonna clean it up," I say, "Cool," and do not follow up. Every single day I angrily dig through a mountain of clean laundry up to my waist to find two socks for Willow to wear to school, and they DO NOT MATCH. Seriously, I'm over it.

Events taking place this weekend, however, brought to light a very specific circumstance in which I do clean very well. See if you can find the pattern:

I will happily clear off the floor, vacuum it, and then marshall the girls to help me mop with Murphy's Wood Soap----so that I have a place to lay out a quilt to be pieced: This cleaning project is actually a biggie, because this section of floor has to be kept clean for DAYS--I have to lay it out to find a pleasing pattern, then after I piece it I have to lay it out again to attach the back, then after I stitch in the ditch each row and column I have to lay it out again to pin a new section, then I have to lay it out again to cut the binding to the right size, then I have to lay it out again to admire how awesome it looks when I'm done. That means that I have kept that floor section clean all weekend--I picked up the French fries Sydney dropped, I wiped up the glue Willow spilled, I vacuumed up the cat fur--it would seriously take all my freakin' time as a stay-at-home mom just to keep the freakin' floor looking good if I cared that much every day. The girls are happy to help, though--I mean, come on, doesn't this look like fun?

Then last night, in a feat of strength and energy nearly unprecedented in this house, I untaped the butcher paper on which the girls have been drawing on top of the table for a couple of weeks, rolled it up and put it away (Hello, wrapping paper!), wiped the tabletop clean, blah, blah--so that today we could do this: Um, and what is this, you ask? Well, we've just gotten back from California--this is our new ocean. The actual ocean material is some stash fabric donated by Grandma Janie, and the girls have so far drawn on it-- (Beluga whale, don't you know?)--and added shells from a big box I scored at the free day of the Monroe County History Center garage sale last year----and I printed and cut out and pasted together these photo-realistic fish and marine mammal 3D models from this awesome CD-Rom we checked out from the library last week--
and the girls added their toys, of course:
The rock that the seal is sitting on totally cracks me up.

So the girls have been literally obsessing about this ocean all day, and it will probably be weeks before we can actually use our big table again. And sure, we did eat our dinner sitting on the floor again tonight, but the girls have also been poring over shell encyclopedias, and swimming their cut-out fish all around the house, and this morning, when a neighbor lady came running over from her house across the street because she saw Willow climbing on top of the car and couldn't imagine that this child's mother knew where she was at the time (she and I hadn't met yet, obviously), she was greeted not only by the sight of me sitting on the porch steps cheering said child on, but also by Sydney, naked, running around in circles in the yard shouting "HUUUUMP BAAAAACK!!!!!" over and over again.

Actually, I probably should go clean the house some more, in case Child Protective Services stops by for a little visit tomorrow. Should I show them the ocean?

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