Sunday, May 31, 2015

This is My Fight Song

My son is SO excited for Kindergarten to be over. He told me that he is completely ready for 1st grade and that it really doesn't make sense to spend so many more days on this easy stuff that he has been doing. I can't imagine him as a first grader - he's still so little!

And he is totally pumped for our summer journey back to DC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Atlanta to see family and friends. I am - not quite as thrilled. Due to a crazy work schedule, Kevin is unable to travel with us. That leaves me as the responsible adult who has to herd the cats through the airport, onto a cross-country flight, into a rental car, around town, including a train ride as well to NJ, and back again, over the course of 5 weeks. I am certainly not heading into enemy territory - the East Coast is home - but I typically do not take on these solo journeys because they rattle me to no end. And while I so wish everyone we were visiting had a planned itinerary for our stay, the majority of our adventures will be dependent on me and my planning. Oh - but let me not forget to give a much-deserved shout-out to my sister-in-law Emma, who, as a fellow Gemini, has absolutely planned our weekend visit to include beach and shopping and park time and wine time and kid time and - whatever else she planned. Go Emma!

The poor kids. They are stuck with me as their tour guide. Even for my own honeymoon, I sat back and followed my husband around. While I had been planning the wedding (which I kind of liked, but for the planning part of it), he planned a lovely holiday in Italy. I had little input and that was just fine with me. He is able to navigate activities and destinations and pick great hotels and find awesome restaurants and keep us busy but not frantic, relaxed but not comatose. It is a very fine balance. Heading back to Washington I certainly have an advantage - I know the place. But now I have to figure what to do each day with my little beasties at my side. And it will probably be a lovely 100 degrees with 100% humidity...probably payback for bad-mouthing California weather so readily.

I think I'm afraid plans will fall through. Or I'll just be so frazzled getting us out to the zoo that by the time I get there, I won't want to stay. I don't know. I plan everything else in my life - menus, workouts for the week, clothing for the kids, parties at the house, sewing projects and the order in which they should be tackled - why is this such a trap? Either way, it is sure to be quite an adventure. And along with other challenges that have come my way, I'm assuming that while it may not be pretty, I'll get through it. I try to remind myself that if I can get through this move across the country, I can do just about anything because NOTHING could possibly be harder than what I've already done.

It had only been a few weeks into our new life in California when I was driving somewhere, probably lost, left with my thoughts and the nice navigation lady's voice to keep me company. This song caught my attention. By Rachel Platten, it is called Fight Song and the lyrics are all about being strong and rising above and doing what you need to do, even if no one else believes that you can. I kind of loved it immediately and waited for the radio to play it again and again. Then I broke down and paid the $1.29 on iTunes and added it to my library and the more I hear it, the more I identify with the message. I play it on my way to boot camp each morning and I remind myself that I can do it. Whatever it is. I think everybody needs a fight song.

I am looking forward to seeing family and friends that I have missed these past few months. I am looking forward to familiar landscapes and repeat adventures. With some hesitation, I am looking forward to seeing how I feel now that I have a new home in California and it doesn't quite hurt as much to think about the old house or the old favorites. I am looking forward to getting back on the plane at the end of 5 weeks and saying with sincerity "let's go home", with home being Burlingame, not Alexandria. I am going to have to keep planning, as ugly as it gets. I am shipping books of activities ahead. I am having my sister do a Michael's run for crafts. I am packing cards for the plane, loading up on snacks and preparing for a long, but good journey. I will try not to let a little bit of work on my part or unexpected events dampen the joy. I'll take care of myself and my kids and we will be a great little team. And I'll get back to California and keep on fighting for peace and a sense of place. Everybody needs a fight song. For the summer, this is mine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Project Run and Play - "Chevron Madness" Top

This month's challenge was to re-imagine a cute little chevron shirt, compliments of The Crafty Cupboard. I call this my "Chevron Madness" top because it was a completely maddening experience, this challenge for May. But I set to work and ended up with this chevron top.

This month's pattern just did not work for me....and I don't know why. I attempted it twice, in different sizes, but neither fit Rachel very well at all. On the brink of throwing in the towel for this month, I decided to try and pattern it myself.....I probably should have thrown in the towel because that took a very long time. FINALLY, I had a pattern that seemed to fit properly. In re-patterning, I changed the way the back top panels meet, I killed the sleeves, I adjusted the armholes to make them pleated, and lengthened the whole thing.

Then I had to figure out the chevron. I do not love chevron, but I wanted to use it as a learning experience. Since I refuse to buy anything for these monthly challenges, I found a great striped fabric and set to work cutting it on the diagonal to build a chevron-inspired design. I then had to cut the pattern just right so the seam ended up in the middle of the garment on each side. Not easy. Not perfect. Not too bad. Very maddening indeed. And bonus - - I have TONS of extra pieces of striped fabric cut along the diagonal if anyone needs it!

The two button closure on the back escaped me. I guess I wasn't in the mood to try and figure it out. I scrapped the whole thing and just did a traditional one-button closure. The trim is a wide velvet ribbon that I cut in half and folded into the seam.

I lengthened the top and dropped the elastic band several inches in order to get the blousing effect. It can potentially be worn either fluffed up a bit or straight down. If I had Rae's little belly (which I do, since she inherited it from me), I would appreciate the figure-flattering blousing effect!!

And, for the record, while the rest of the country enjoys warmer May weather, Northern California is FREEZING COLD right now. (Now that I live here, COLD = 60 degrees). So I just couldn't let her run around sleeveless given the chilly breeze. I didn't make the top....someone at Gymboree did.

This is NOT reversible. I didn't even try. I think this month took more of my mental energy than ALL of the others entries combined, and I'm not that jazzed with the result. I ran out of fabric, I was definitely out of patience and I refused to spend any more time on it.

Once again, my model-in-residence showed much disdain for the multiple pictures I needed. But this is the first time she has not wanted to immediately pitch the garment off when I told her we were all done. She played at the park for quite a while post photo shoot. So while I may not love this outfit, Rae seemed happy and comfortable, which is really what matters, right?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Complaints Box is Full

I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy complaining about California. There is nothing too small that I can't find a way to blame on this place that I find myself in. Let's be clear - there are many things that are worthy of complaint around here....too many people, too many internet companies, too many pieces of real estate that are overpriced, not enough buses, not enough water, not enough food priced in the reasonable range. The list is limitless. Catch me on a bad day and see how long I can actually go on about what stinks about California. And if the weather dares to be anything less than perfect, California is a complete fraud, claiming to be full of sunshine and happiness when it really isn't. I have done my very best to deny that anything truly positive could result from a move to California. And time has passed and here we sit, still in California.

A few weekends ago I headed off to Napa for a girls weekend. We had been planning it for several months and I was really looking forward to the time with friends and wine. And it was everything I hoped it would be, with much laughter and fun, lots of wine, and a simply perfect landscape as a backdrop. Did you know Napa is in California? I was shocked, too! I can't complain about Napa. Not one thing. It is such a lovely place....and it is firmly attached to California (I guess until the next Big One. Something to complain about for sure. Earthquakes kind of top my list.) I fully expected to spend most of my time missing home but every time I tried to work myself into a homesick frenzy, I couldn't do it. And the ladies on the trip were comforting and sweet and understood my journey, as most had similar experiences, and - all was good. I love these gals. I can't wait to see them again. A WIN for California - Napa.

Cathy, Shannon, Janet and I
Add Lou and Renzo to the mix for an awesome day of vineyard hopping
PN, or Post Napa, I have been a bit more content. I have been less likely to hate on San Francisco, and more likely to take it in. Last week we had a perfectly lovely Friday and the kids were so excited to try the backyard pool. Yes, I somehow still find a way to complain about a backyard pool. I am embarrassed. But having not grown up going to the pool regularly, or even being that comfortable in the water, the idea of a backyard pool is tough. We almost didn't get this particular house because of it, but a sturdy fence around the perimeter has helped put me at ease. The water has been like ice - but I was willing to let the kids give it a try. And boy is that nice! A pool in the backyard is fun. I'm sure I'm not the first person to discover this but it is news to me. We had a fabulous afternoon and we will be inviting friends to join us soon. Another WIN for California - pools.

The little elves are happy again

Kevin travels way too much for work. It is getting ridiculous, the back and forths to the East Coast. He was gone for another Sunday and I was fully prepared to keep the kids in and clean the house. It is easy. A new friend here suggested we drive the kids down to San Jose and enjoy the day at the children's museum. Sounded - awful. Drive somewhere unknown and far away? Pay more money for another museum? Deal with the kids in a large space? Pack lunch? UGH! But I adore this friend and her children and I figured it would be good for us all. And it was. What a fantastic little place for a fantastic adventure. I felt so grown up - taking on the big adventure without Kevin to drive me or plan it, which is how it usually works. And all of us enjoyed the company of friends. Another WIN for California - endless adventures and great new friends.

Crafting at the museum
I actually have a legitimate complaint about this "wonderful" place. I have not been able to sleep. I have suffered from pretty awful insomnia. I have trouble falling asleep. When I finally fall asleep, I can't stay asleep, and I find myself awake at 2AM, reading the most boring things I can find to make me drowsy enough to crawl back into bed. It usually doesn't work and I end up reading for 2 hours, then getting dressed and heading out to an early morning workout. I'm up - I might as well do something, right? I have tried stretching and tea, lavender spray and lavender oils, drinking no water after 8pm and eating no food after 7pm. I've banished the iPhone and screens from my view a 1/2 hour before bedtime in hopes of settling my mind. I've tried - a lot. I even resorted to using ZzzQuil. It worked like a charm the first few times I took it, but then my stubborn brain won out and even if I took it, I could stay up despite the drugs. Initially, it didn't matter so much but then it started to catch up on me. I was literally stumbling through my days, snapping at my children, struggling to keep my eyes open during homework time. I was beginning to fear driving because I knew I was sleepy. And then I was fearful of bedtime, because I knew I wouldn't sleep. Sleep poorly for 3 months and life is hard no matter where you live. 

One of my new friends here was witness to my struggles. She offered suggestions and much sympathy for my plight. And then she read an article about insomnia and took action. She ordered me a coloring book and ordered me to try it. It couldn't hurt. Earlier this year she successfully cured my son's pink eye without any medication so I am very amenable to anything she suggests. And it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture. I climbed into bed, after stretching and lavender spray and no screens, borrowed my son's colored pencils, and set to work. 

It was fun. I liked listening to the sound of the pencil strokes and taking my time to color in the lines. And I didn't get very far before my eyes started to droop and I was ready to put it away. And then I slept. For more than 6 hours straight. I woke up, but was able to fall back asleep until my alarm had me up for my early morning workout. I had a great workout. And I had a great day. And I think it was because I had a coloring book. And I wouldn't have had that coloring book had I not met a great new friend....who happens to live in this place called California. Even if the coloring does not work in the future, I still have the great friend that gave me the book in the first place. That certainly can't hurt my life here on the West Coast. Another WIN for California - compassionate friends and restful nights. So while I could continue to complain about this place, it sure feels like I just shouldn't. The complaints box is full, its contents have been taken into consideration, and I'm feeling better about whatever comes next. But now let's keep our fingers crossed for no earthquakes. I know I will complain about that.