Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Secret Lives of Teachers

Now that I spend so many hours a day (and night) sitting around feeding SHB, I've had lots of time to read random articles on my phone (I would rather read actual books, but my local library has an abundance of giant hardbacks, and reading in the dark in the middle of the night doesn't work so well anyway), and I've been loving NPR's series on the secret lives of teachers. When I first got into sewing and costume-making, we had just moved to TCOCC and I was taking a year off of teaching, so those two parts of my life didn't intersect. When I started teaching again, at first I tried keeping those two parts of my life separate. Then I became friends with some of them on Facebook, got an Instagram account, students started following me, which led them to my blog here, and suddenly it became known that I made not only my own clothes (which they already knew about), but crazy costumes as well. Finally, I decided to just out with it and showed up to school last Halloween dressed as a firebender for our fiery hand demo. It was a little weird, because some of my costumes, while not NSFW, still show more skin than I would show at work, of course, but generally I don't mind my students knowing about this part of my life because I think it makes me seem, I mean it helps them realize that teachers have a life outside of teaching.

A couple of weeks ago, the highlight of my short costuming career (can it be called a career if I don't make any money from it and only do it part time?) occurred. Lee Pace, the actor who plays Thranduil, tweeted my wacky cosplay from last year:

When a cosplay friend alerted me to this, I was in shock for a good while (Is that the real Lee Pace, and not just a fan account? Hmmm, Richard Armitage/Thorin replied, I guess it's real), then I was excited (The. Real. Thranduil. Saw my cosplay of him. And liked it enough to tweet it. I am, however briefly, Internet famous!!!), and then to my surprise, I got slightly depressed.

The last two months with SHB have been a learning experience, and there have been moments of joy, but there have also been a lot (dare I say more) of moments of frustration: why won't he stop crying, why won't he sleep for more than thirty minutes, why does he have to be held all day? I was expecting to be able to do my own thing during those legendary 1.5-2 hour naps that babies supposedly take, but it seems like they're just that -- legendary. And not in a Barney Stinson way, unless you count the part where I'm waiting for it to happen. It's been hard not to compare last year, when I put together a full-blown costume what felt like every two weeks, and got to inspire and teach students (who are capable of expressing their wants with real words!), to this year, when I didn't even get to dress up for Halloween, arguably a costumer's favorite holiday, and have only sewn some Christmas stockings and a couple of tops and bibs for SHB. Like I lamented to Mr. Cation, I feel like my days of doing cool things are over, and I'm just this boring zombie-type person who doesn't get dressed or out of the house most days, whose only function is to produce milk, only to have it all just spit up back over me. Sometimes I look back at my old blog posts, just to remind myself that I used to do things.

Now that SHB is a spit up monster, not unlike the Jurassic Park version of Dilophosaurus, he is going through bibs faster than our laundry schedule can handle. Solution? Make new ones when he needs them, from Mr. Cation's old t-shirts.
Man, it's a good thing he's so cute and charming when he needs to be. 

When that mournful feeling seizes me particularly hard, I have to remind myself that this is a passing phase, and one day I'll do cool things again. SHB will get bigger and more independent (and sleep better) and I'll have time to sew for myself again, and one day he'll see my costuming pictures and realize that Mommy has a secret life outside of mothering.

In the meantime, I've been slowly, ever so slowly, pulling together a costume for the last Hobbit movie, Battle of the Five Armies. I don't even know if I'll get to see it at the midnight showing, much less dress up for it in as grand of a costume as I'm envisioning, but I think I need to at least make the costume, just for my own pleasure.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Geekiest Baby: Underwater Themed Art

I originally meant to have this post done in the beginning of August, but then we ended up moving into our new house. So I told myself I would finish it when we were done unpacking and decorating, because then I could show off the art in its proper place, but then the school year started. So then I decided to wait until I went on maternity leave, but wouldn't you know it, my last day of school was a Thursday and SHB arrived the following Monday...

Anyway, once we had decided on a nautical/marine theme for SHB, I decided I should acquire some appropriate wall decor. We went to Babies-R-Us and came across this gem:


Yeah, no. One look at this questionably overpriced mass-produced piece (that was nautical colors but not actually all nautical objects) and I realized it would be more economical (financially, but not time-investment-wise) and meaningful to make my own. I started with making little pen and color pencil drawings to fill up these IKEA frames that I'd had sitting around for six years:

I was honestly really afraid my baby wouldn't be cute, but thankfully this has proven to be true. 
This is a statement that I need to remind myself of (and attempt to live out) everyday around 6 pm when I still have one more hour to go before Mr. Cation gets home from work and SHB is being exceptionally fussy).

It felt so good to finally find a use for those frames, I got on a roll and pulled out three canvases that I'd been carting around from apartment to apartment for *gasp* thirteen years (and as many moves!). I had originally bought them at the UCSD bookstore my freshmen year of college, for the purpose of making dorm-room decor, and now that I've finally used them, I feel justified in hoarding craft supplies because they might get used one day no longer feel guilty about them hanging out in various closets, taking up space. Even better, I used acrylic paints that I've had for ten years to paint them.

I love a good whale pun. 

Let's count the marine animals!

A classic alphabet painting, from anemone to zooplankton.

Some close-ups of the alphabet and number pieces:

Everyone's who's come by has tried to guess what each of the letters stand for. While some, like J is for jellyfish, are pretty obvious, others, like B, C, and I have been stumpers. 

Q is also commonly missed. My favorite animal is the narwhal. 

I am especially proud of how my five nudibranchs turned out!

I must confess, I borrowed heavily from these art pieces in making mine, which is why I don't feel comfortable selling prints, although people have asked. But I feel totally comfortable using stolen ideas to decorate SHB's room! I had so much fun painting these, even though they took dozens of hours. Thankfully, I painted them in the summer, when I had plenty of time. It was admittedly a bit of a challenge, though, working around my belly at the time (it made it difficult to bend over the canvas, and I don't have an easel). But worth the trouble, because look how nice they look hanging over the diaper changing station!

The garland is made by stitching together paint chips. Also props to IKEA for making a non-pink cat changing pad cover!

Two days before SHB arrived, during the one weekend of baby-free maternity leave I had, I was seized with another fit of craft supply purging, and made some faux taxidermy pieces to go with a couple of wood plaques that I'd been saving for eleven years (goodness, these numbers are just embarrassing). I started with a narwhal:

It was so ridiculously cute that I had to go for the other end of the spectrum and make everyone's favorite hideous creature, the much-maligned blobfish:

Both were made from fleece scraps and stuffed with polyfil, then hot-glued onto painted wooden plaques. They made a nice addition to the drawings and a painting that my sister made for SHB:

The last craft-bust was this door hanger:

So there you have it -- the geekiest baby series, marine edition, is now (finally) complete! However, the nice thing about waiting this long to blog these pieces is that I can actually report on how SHB feels about it. At first, the paintings above his changing table were more entertainment for me as I waited for SHB to do his business (he's a fan of waiting until I change him before pooping into the fresh diaper, so I've taken to standing around the changing table fanning his butt with the old diaper in hopes of not "wasting" another diaper...oh, the ridiculous things parents are quickly reduced to doing!). Lately, though, his vision and attention span have been getting better and he is absolutely enamored with (I imagine) the bright colors and interesting shapes above him, and he stares at the paintings for long (for a baby) periods of time.

Look at that face of intense concentration! Also, note that somebody at the bib factory got bored and never finished embroidering the second N in dinner on his bib. 
Some of you have asked how Walnut has been doing with SHB. Generally he pretends that SHB doesn't exist, but occasionally he will surprise us by being interested, usually during the most inopportune moments, like in the middle of dealing with a diaper change or spit up of epic proportions. He also likes sitting on me when I feed SHB in the middle of the night, which is simultaneously sweet and slightly annoying.  

The paintings, then, are an unequivocal success. As for the taxidermy, they're currently located behind his swing, so he can't see them. Perhaps that's for the best, though, since Mr. Cation contends that the blobfish would give anybody nightmares.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Introducing SHB

Wow, I took quite a break there, didn't I? I didn't even finish up my Geekiest Baby series, but in my defense A Lot of Things happened right after my previous blog post: we bought and moved into our first house, the school year started, and I birthed a SHB! I do plan on blogging more about that first item (although you can see a sneak peek of my new sewing area on Instagram!), the second item is irrelevant for now since I'm on maternity leave, and here I am to briefly discuss the third!

5 days old, sleeping in the Totoro bouncer.

8 days old, getting eaten by a whale shark.

It seems a little pathetic that it took me almost two months to get around to introducing SHB, but I think you'll all forgive me when I say that it wasn't really high on my priority list. Pretty sure that keeping said SHB alive (and myself, too) is more important, and my goodness gracious, they weren't kidding when they all said how demanding newborns are! I feel like the first month and half was just one incredibly long, sleepless day involving constant feeding/diapering/rocking/attempting to eat one-handed. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that SHB started settling into more of a routine and babywearing made it possible to ease back into sewing.

They say (goodness, I'm quoting "them" a lot) that parenthood is all about taking back your pre-parenting "I will nevers," e.g. "I will never cosleep" or "I will never drive around aimlessly just to get my baby to sleep." Well, I've ended up succumbing to the first and will probably do so to the second, too, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I've reneged on my promise to never sew baby clothes, previous reasoning being that 1) they're unnecessarily small and fiddly (you can't even fit the armsyce around the free arm of a sewing machine!) and 2) the returns are low (baby will never appreciate or express gratitude for handmade clothes, they'll be outgrown before they even have a chance to get worn twice, everything ends up covered in spit up anyway).'s been getting colder and our house has spotty heating, and SHB has needed more cardigan/sweatshirt/non-hooded outerwear to keep him warm. And it is ridiculously hard to find said items in stores, so the solution is, of course, to *sigh* sew it myself. I quickly drew up a basic pattern based on one of his hoodies, then set about making a cardigan-y thing out of the fuzzy fabric leftover from lining this jacket. Unfortunately, my sewing skills are apparently a little rusty, because I cut two right front pieces. *headdesk*

See how the left side isn't as fuzzy as the rest of the jacket? Also note that I didn't even attempt plaid-matching.

There wasn't enough fabric to cut another piece (stashbusting at its finest!), so I just sighed and told myself that babies thankfully don't care if their clothing is sewn wrong, then went ahead and finished the garment. Since the front was already messed up, I didn't even bother finishing my edges properly and just left the serged edges from the original piece of fabric. Things got super dicey at the neckline, where laziness (and impending baby-waking-up-from-nap) took over and I settled for a quick zigzag to stop fraying. Not the finest return to sewing, but hey, at this point function over form is my modus operandi.

Serged edges at the sleeves.

You can see the questionable neckline finish up top. I did French seam the sides and shoulders, though. 
Rather than dealing with snaps or buttonholes (whose bright idea was it, anyway, to put such fiddly closures on clothing intended for wiggly squirming babies?), I settled for non-aesthetically-pleasing Velcro.

At least SHB seems happy about wearing it!

Testing out the mobility of the sleeve cap with some punches...
This face could persuade me to sew a lot more tiny garments...

I may or may not end up making more of these, depending on how cold it gets/how much spitting up happens/how fast SHB grows, but for now I'm just happy to be back! One of the things I remember from reading some mommy blog years ago was to do something irreversible everyday. That is, being a mom involves so much that seems to get "undone," like I just fed the baby and now I have to feed it again, I just changed that diaper, I just washed those dishes, I just did the laundry, etc., that it's important to do irreversible things just to save your sanity. Even though it took a whole week to sew this simple garment, I can attest to the truth of that statement. I feel more like me and less like a zombie cow when I'm able to sew, even it it's just sewing a stitch here and a stitch there. Of course, one could argue that even sewing isn't quite irreversible since one can always wield a seam ripper...