Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shopping in my house and more sewing projects

All of the activities before which I thought were "nesting"? Yeah, that's been nothing compared to the overwhelming need to get things done and cleaned and ready which seized me at the end of this week. In part, I think, it's because I finally finished the book series I was reading. I wanted to get that done before Baby's arrival because, while I love the books, they wouldn't have been fun to read out loud. And I plan to do a lot of reading aloud to her. Such a list of good books to read aloud that I've got in my head! It starts with "Pride and Prejudice". (I figure we'll get into board books a little later on, when she's more active than a potato.)
It is, of course, starting to get dark around here. The piss-poor way this house was set up, with the biggest windows on the North side, doesn't help. Even during the weekends, in the daylight, I would find myself wanting a bit more light to read by. But I didn't want to turn on the power-sucking, huge overhead lights.
(I hate these lights.) I've been thinking for a few weeks that we really should get a lamp for the living room so that we don't have to depend on those horrible overhead lights. I thought that I'd look at Value Village the next time we went (which we'll need to do for our Halloween costumes) and then realized that there was a perfectly good lamp in our bedroom which we almost never use. It's small, and it's one of those ones with a clamp to hold it onto something. It's been clamped to Shane's desk everywhere he's lived since before I met him. I pulled it off, then looked in it and realized that most of the reason it gets used so rarely is because it's got a blacklight in it. So I went searching in one of the hall closets for our CFL lightbulbs and what did I find? A different clampy lamp. One that looks a bit nicer and is a little larger, far more suited to the living room and my needs out there. I didn't even know we had this lamp, and how bad is that?
Needless to say, I put the other lamp back and used the one I'd found in the hall closet instead. Now I have a decent-looking and comfortable place to read. If I need to put my feet up, I use the exercise ball. Frequently, the cat jumps into my lap and enjoys the quiet reading time with me.
My horror at not even realizing we had this lamp lead me to clean out that closet a bit more. I realized that in the past I've looked through the upper cabinets but there are lower cabinets which I've mostly left alone, thinking that I knew what was in them. Clearly I do not. And it turned out to be a bit of a gold mine, mostly in terms of things that we can get rid of. Some holiday decorations which were given to us, and which we've never actually used, filled up half a bag.
What really surprised me, though, was a thing whose origins I don't know, and I can't even guess at what it once was. It was a big white sheet of waterproof material, torn in several places, and with definite corners and a long zipper. ???? It's about the size of a full-size sheet, but I don't know what it is. I suspect it's something from our old roommate, and I'm probably the one who kept it thinking that it would be useful "someday". That day has come. :) I've been needing some waterproof material for some of the baby projects I wanted to get done, and this saves me from buying it. What a fortuitous find! Sometimes, my packrat tendencies do pay off.
Through one thing and another, I ended up having an entire free Friday because I didn't have to work. Shane has class on Thursday nights until 9:00, so I had an entire evening to myself, with nothing planned. I spent half an hour trying to read but my mind kept wandering to the projects I wanted to get done. I'd planned to do them the next day, on my day off, then realized that it was silly to push them off for no good reason. On went "Ghostbusters", out came the serger and all of my materials: two old sheets, the waterproof material, two pillowcases, and a cloth drawstring bag which I found in the closet with all of the sheets and realized was perfect for re-use. It used to hold a set of sheets, but no more.
If you're wondering where I got all of these old sheets and useless pillowcases and such (perfectly reasonable), wonder no longer. Some were left by our old roommate, and some were given to us by my in-laws, and due to their age the fitted sheet has since died. (By that I mean, Shane managed to put giant holes in them.) The top sheets were still just fine, though, because Shane hates them so they end up getting pushed to the foot of the bed, crumpled rather than torn. The pillowcases...well, some of those were given to us, and some we found in the couch after we got it. I have no idea what they were doing in there, but whatever. They've come in handy. Since the fabric for all of these thigns was still good, and I always have grand plans for projects I want to do, I saved them. It wasn't until I got the serger last Thanksgiving, however, that I really had the means with which to do anything. So now, out they all came to finally become useful rather than simply taking up space.
The first thing I wanted to do was to make some wetbags for holding dirty diapers. Because of the dog, we need to keep these off the floor, in some sort of container that will both cut down on smell and be hard for the dog to get into if she does get ahold of it. The pillowcases and the waterproof material were what I used. Cutting the material was by far the hardest part, both because the only space I have to use is the floor, and because my little "helper" kept swiping at my hands when I tried to cut the waterproof material. (His fort.)
So be kind when you see the finished projects. I'm still a very novice sewer, and I didn't have the best working conditions. Also, I used black thread on everything, no matter the color, because the serger is such a pain in the ass to change thread that I didn't even bother. I don't think any of it looks bad, though, so if you do you can keep your mouth shut. Overall, what matters the most to me is simply that I got these things done.

For the wetbags, I cut out waterproof material in the size and shape of the pillowcases, then sewed three edges so that they became, essentially, waterproof pillowcases. Then came the hard part, sewing the waterproof material into the pillowcases. The first one I did looks worse by far, but really only from the inside.
There's a bit of puckering because the waterproof material wasn't quite as wide as the pillowcase. (Thanks cat.) But since this is to hold dirty diapers, who cares? When I was out and about on Friday, I stopped at the craft store to buy a couple of zippers and sewed those into the tops of the wetbags.
I now have two wetbags which can be thrown into the washing machine along with the dirty diapers. Woo! The only thing I have left to do is to figure out how I want to keep them off the floor. I'm thinking I should do something to hang them in the closet, but I'm not certain what the best way to accomplish that is yet. I'll figure something out, and most likely I'll find whatever I need for that project around the house. :)
Remember the small drawstring bag I mentioned? That got made into a small wetbag as well, for in the diaper bag whenever we go out and about. By the time I did it, I was getting much better about sewing in the round. So it actually turned out quite well. From the outside you can't even tell that it's anything other than a small-ish drawstring jersey bag.

I've been wanting to make some curtains for our closet, since that will be Baby's "room" for the first few months. Just something light so that we don't have to worry as much about turning a light on in the bedroom when she's sleeping, but which also won't really be much of a barrier so that sound and air will travel freely. I knew exactly what sheet I wanted to use for this project, too. An old white topsheet was perfect. Basically all I had to do was cut it up the middle, serge the sides and bottom (both sides so that they would match, and the bottom because it was way too long) and then flipped the top down to make a tube through which to slide the curtain rod. (Also bought at the craft store--I spent a grand total of $16, and I got a set of pins as well.) I hung them up using sticky hooks, so they won't damage anything in our apartment. Overall, I'd say it looks pretty nice.

My final, and most ambitious project, was to make a nightgown for myself. Shane thinks it's silly, but I wanted something in which would be really easy to nurse. At the very least, when we have family visiting or go visiting other places, I'll need something that I'll be comfortable in. (I usually sleep either, um, naked, or wearing a big old t-shirt.) Anyway, I had a grand design in my head and thought that it wouldn't be too hard. And I was right! The hardest parts were simply that I don't have a great method of cutting out material, and that jersey is hard material to work with.
Also, I was making this for an approximation of my post-pregnancy body so I had to guess at some things. For a pattern, I cut an old t-shirt (with a number of small holes in it, so it wasn't in donatable condition) and used that to approximate my dimensions. As you can see, I drew on there some pattern ideas for the top using a Sharpie. Mostly, I wanted to be sure I knew where my boobs would be so that I didn't accidentally cut too little fabric.
The belly part was easy, I just put a few gathers in under the empire waist. I put one in at the back, too, (just one) that I think looks rather nice. Overall, the skirt was the easiest part.

Which means that the top is the hardest part. How to get things just right? How to make it look nice, or even decent? My first idea was to have two flaps overlaying each other so that I could just pull one aside at a time, but I didn't like that idea so much. So I did a scoop-neck instead. It's pretty low-cut, but that just means it'll be easier to pull aside for nursing.
I also wasn't sure how to make the edges look so nice. For some things, like the bottom and the armpits, I really don't mind having the serged edges show. But for the neckline? I figure that, at least, should look cute. So I cut out some very long strips of the sheet and braided them together. I'm still in the process of hand-sewing them on. They'll also serve as the straps, since they're sturdier and less prone to stretching than one thin strap of jersey material would be. They'll still be easy to slide off my shoulders, though.

When I showed Shane my project he thought it was rather silly that I felt the need to have a nightgown at all. (Until I reminded him about feeding the baby around friends and family, at least.) Then he said, "Wait, is that a sheet?" I said, "Yeah, would you rather that I had bought fabric for this?" He said, "No, but I still reserve the right to laugh at you." Fair enough.
The nightgown is far from perfect. More than a short glance will show some places where the sewing could have been done better. But, considering my lack of experience with the serger and the fact that this is the most ambitious project I've ever tried, I feel pretty good about it. (I'd post a picture, but I'm still 9 months pregnant so it looks pretty silly on me at the moment.) Maybe I'll try making more nursing clothes for myself? I do still have about half a sheet of material left....

I still need to make some changing pads for diapering Baby, but I have plenty of the waterproof material for that. The only thing I'm not certain about is what else I want to use. Should I just use a layer or two of the flannel, with the waterproof material either under or in between? Or should I get a couple of towels at Value Village and use those? Should I do a different one for the diaper bag, since we might need to change her diaper on a hard surface, or will that not matter too much? I'll have to think about it some more, but quickly since according to my doctor I could go into labor at any time now. (Yay! But my due date isn't for another two weeks, and she also wouldn't be surprised if nothing happens before then. She told me to "just hang on and don't get discouraged.")
I didn't do this yesterday, but I did make more dog booties this year. I mostly used materials I had leftover from last year, like the velcro, elastic, and canvas (so much of that left). Since I didn't have any fleece for the insides, though, I used some more bits of the flannel sheet which I'd cut up for baby wipes. The purpose isn't really to pad her feet, but to keep them from getting frostbitten in the cold, so the flannel will work well enough. And this year I learned from my mistakes: I used two layers of canvas on the bottoms. Hopefully these will hold together better. I'm always looking for ways to improve the design. One day, perhaps, I'll be able to make some dog booties which last for more than one winter's worth of walks and runs.
If winter ever gets here, that is. Almost Halloween and no snow? Even worse, it was so warm that it was raining for a couple of weeks, even at night. What the hell? It's actually nice to have frosty days once again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take the good with the bad

I have to admit, for the most part I've really enjoyed being pregnant. At the very least, it's fun digging into the biology behind what's going on and tracking the changes in myself. Seriously, it's magical to be able to make another human being.
At its best, I realize in awe that no one else will ever get to have this experience of my child that I do. Not even Shane has gotten to know her yet as I have, through her kicks and rolls and how we respond to each other. I eat certain things and she turns into a little ninja, I think in appreciation. (Baby loves Thai food as much as I do!) I sing and she goes quiet, either sleeping or just appreciating. However, she kicked and rolled through all of my Symphony rehearsals as if she was dancing. I've had a few inordinately stressful moments at work over the past few months and every time I got really stressed out she started moving a whole bunch like she was trying to say, "Mom, chill out! It doesn't matter!" It's amazing, getting to know her this way.
So most of my griping is because I'm just impatient. I dream about holding my Baby in my arms and I want to do it right now. We've technically reached full term (I'm almost 38 weeks) but still have a couple of weeks to go for optimum health. Still, when I'm alone I'll tell her that she can come out any time now, I'm ready.
My other big gripe is how other people respond to me being pregnant. I thought the most annoying thing ever would be having others touch my belly. But, I realize that the people who do this are just excited and awed by what's going on. I even invite people to touch my belly when she's poking a knee or a foot out, so that they can experience it a little for themselves. And really, it's only been friends who've touched my belly. (Plus one coworker.) One friend gets teased for being "that guy" because every time he sees me he reaches out and gently lays a hand on my belly. But, the look in his eyes is so reverent. He just thinks it's so cool, and how can I be annoyed with that?
What I didn't expect was the number of people who would think that it's perfectly acceptable to tell me how huge I am. What...what the hell? Why would you ever say that to a person? If it's not acceptable to say to someone who's not pregnant, why would it suddenly be acceptable to say to a woman just because she is pregnant? You wouldn't tell a fat person how huge they are. (Or at least, you fall into the category of "giant douche" if you do.) Generally, you expect that an overweight person will know it. And you know what? I do too. I already feel like a whale without you needing to say it, thankyouverymuch. And while I generally have a healthy body image, and I understand that I've gained weight because it's healthy when you're pregnant, I do still have my fears. Will I ever be able to get back into the shape I was before I got pregnant? Will I have stretched out, saggy skin forever? I take solace in the fact that my stomach is stretch-mark free, not because stretch marks are so terrible but just because it's one thing to cling to and feel good about.
These comments are all the more hurtful because I really haven't gained that much weight. 25 pounds is on the lower end of the recommended weight gain for someone who's not over- or under-weight. I measure exactly where I should be at every appointment, and there are no signs that I'm going to have a particularly big baby. No one at the doctor's office has said a word about my weight gain, since it's exactly what it's supposed to be. But, I'm short. Adding 25 lbs to my frame looks very different from adding that same weight to the frame of someone several inches taller. Also, I'm carrying all out front. I still have most of the inward curve to my waist when looked at from the front or back. So, yeah. The belly looks pretty big. But, there's also a tiny person in there. I made a fucking person. Back off about how big I am.
I do understand that most of the women who've made comments about my size (yes, it's only been women--men KNOW not to tell a woman she's big) don't have any children of their own and so I can give them the benefit of the doubt that they don't quite understand how hurtful that statement can be. There are only two people who've said this that I know were being catty. One I can forgive, because she's a friend and I have no doubt she was just trying to make herself feel better for her own pregnancy weight gain. (Which doesn't mean I didn't really want to point out that at least I don't look like a dumpling, round all over, and I did avoid her for a few weeks to calm down.) The other woman...well, there's a history there that I won't go into. Needless to say, I already couldn't stand her so her bitchiness is far less hurtful than the comment from an acquaintance who said, "Weren't you supposed to have that baby already? No?! Oh. ...Well, you're going to have a biiiiiig, healthy baby."
The other annoying question I get seems so innocent at first. But, everyone seems to ask it and I think it's about the dumbest question ever. "Are you getting excited?" What do they expect me to say, no? Of course I'm flipping excited! If I wasn't so huge, I'd be doing backflips to show how excited I am. It's right up there with people asking the gender and when I tell them they say, "Ooh, are you excited?" Once again, of course I am. But not because she's a girl, I'm just excited because I'm having a baby. A healthy baby, at that! That is something to celebrate, but it should be obvious and you don't need to ask me if I'm excited. Just trust me, I am.
Men can be weird about it all, and in such varying ways. Most ignore it, some (like my friend who touches my belly) are super excited about it, some are leery (as if it might be catching?), and some are just plain weird. There was the creepy guy in my office the other day who kept asking me questions with a weird smile. Maybe he was just trying to be nice, but I was just trying to work and I didn't want to play 20 Questions About the Baby Belly. It doesn't help that he started, randomly, with "So, does this mean you're having a baby?" "This"? I should have said that it was a tumor.
I did also have a friend of a friend (who, for background, was asking weird questions all night, including if anyone would mind if he lit up a joint, in a place where no smoking is allowed) ask me randomly who my doctor is. I reacted a bit harshly, in part because he'd been so strange all night and partly because I was so sick of answering questions. So I said, "I'm not going to tell you that. You've basically just asked me who's been poking around inside my vagina, and I don't feel like telling you." He got offended and only afterward explained that, apparently, his wife works in healthcare and knows a number of the OBs in town. It would have helped had he lead with that information, but it's still a weird question for a man to ask a woman. Or am I the only one who feels that way? I think it was also the suddenness of it, and the awkwardly confrontational manner in which he asked it. Not jovial, or silly, or curious. More of a command than a question, like he expected an answer, or deserved one. He was just as awkward and socially inept every other time he opened his mouth, so I was out of patience.
The one thing I don't get sick of is hearing my brothers answer their phones with, "Baby time? Or not yet?" They're so excited to become uncles, and they will be fantastic at it. Also, adorable. They will be adorable uncles. :)
I'm also overwhelmed by the number of friends and family who've sent things to us. I got a message from a cousin the other day which basically came down to, "What will be the most helpful thing you still need?" It was like a long-distance hug, I felt so loved. She's sending a box with a few things she'd kept from when her own babies were babies. So while we have lots of baby stuff, we've bought basically none of it. One dress and one infant onesie (but only because they're blue and we needed something to go against all the pink): $4, used. One nasal aspirator and one set of baby nail clippers: $5. That's it. If you count the gift card, we bought a humidifier but spent $0 of our own money. If you count the things I've needed while pregnant, we've bought some prenatal vitamins (about $30 total), some maternity clothes (all used, some given to me, so we only spent about $35), and the healthcare costs. I will be getting a breast pump, but that's paid for by my insurance. That's it, and with it we have enough stuff to see her at least through her first six months, except for bottles and I'll probably ask for those for Christmas. (We'll need those, at the latest, when I go back to work.) Wouldn't you be amazed and grateful for all of that help? I am so, so lucky to have such a supportive network of people around me and I just hope that I can pass the helpfulness along when more of my friends start having babies.
Finally, I have the dates my mother will visit! I'm excited for all of the other family who will be here for Thanksgiving, of course, but my mom has been so amazingly helpful through everything. Calming, sympathetic when I need it, and (after having four kids of her own) so knowledgeable. She, more than just about anyone else, has given off the vibe of, "What do you need from me? What can I do that will be most helpful for you and Shane as new parents?" (Rather than, "How often can I see the baby? It's all about the baby! BABY!!!!!") So she'll be here for two weeks to help out and I really couldn't be more excited.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gift card queen

I'm still plugging along with some of my projects, both for Baby's imminent arrival (less than a month until our due date!) and for other things. For instance, one of my goals for quite a while has been to work on and give away more warm knitted items. Some will go to charity, some to friends. A worthy goal, right? Except I haven't done pretty much any of the projects that I wanted to do. I've been lazy and pushed them off. But, our apartment really is feeling cluttered with stuff, particularly now that we're adding in so much baby stuff. (Holy crap, that kid has a lot of clothes already!) So, one small part of decluttering is to actually use up some of my yarn stash. I have tons of yarn. Approximately six large bags worth. It's silly. What's even worse is that I have a few half-finished projects but would need to buy more yarn to finish them! Oy. So I'm working on the things that I can, for now. I'm making a hat for one of my friends, some socks for baby (and if I can get the pattern right, more socks for friends and family who are having babies of their own), and some Christmas gifts. If I have time, I'd also like to make a quick mobile to hang in Baby's closet. Nothing fancy. I'm thinking I'll just make crocheted balls of different colors and hang them from an embroidery hoop.
I did actually get started on reorganizing our room and closet to make space for Baby. It seemed like such a daunting, cyclical task. I have to do X before Y, before Z, before A, before B...but that one requires X task be finished, otherwise it would be a huge mess. So I finally picked a spot and just started there. All of our baby clothes until about 3 months are washed, organized, and in our closet. Our nice clothes are in the closet in the spare bedroom (since we don't wear them that often) and our everyday clothes are now in the wire cube things next to the desk. (We've used the wire storage cubes as our clothing organizer for years now, rather than a bulky dresser, and it works out pretty well.) Not only this, but it's now doubling as a cat perch, so hopefully our cat will hang out with us more when we're back in the bedroom. (Usually he lurks in the hallway, staring in at me--not Shane, just me--and being a little creepy.) The one drawback to this: this morning he didn't want to let me get my underwear (in a basket in the top cube) and kept batting at my hands. I had to bop him (gently) on the head to get him to leave me alone. (He wasn't hurt, just offended.)
I still need to make and set up the curtains to go over the closet, and we need to move the cradle in. (It needs some wood glue first, just to reinforce it.) We still need to figure out something for where to put dirty cloth diapers and wipes, where to keep baby blankets (the pets have tried to claim them, and I don't want them getting ruined by cat claws or the dog's incessant need to create a nest whenever she lies down), and what to do for changing diapers. We could use some baskets or something to keep a few items in the living room, except we don't have baskets and I don't feel like buying any. (It's not in our budget!) But, I'm sure that we'll get the necessary things done before Baby's arrival and the rest can be figured out after she's here.
Because we had to move things around, it did necessitate a little bit more decluttering. I realized that there were a few clothes I owned which I could part with since I was mostly keeping them around because they're still in fine condition so I might as well, right? Never mind the fact that I didn't like them much and only ever wore them because I felt like I should. Not anymore, they're gone. I also have a couple of t-shirts which I wanted to hang onto but they don't look good on me. So, they're waiting for me to decide if they're really worth storing or if I should donate one and toss the other (not in donatable condition).
I got Shane to help me pull down a box from the spare bedroom closet, one I've assumed was full of his stuff, only to find out that it was full of my things. Even better, when he pulled it down a bag full of empty soda bottles came down with it, which my little brother must have left in the room when he moved out. (Thanks.) And we found two small boxes of the Boy's stuff, as well. The things in my box all went immediately into the donate pile, the bottles into the recycling stash in the garage, and the boxes of the Boy's things are waiting for my parents to take them home to him when they visit. Even just going through that small amount of stuff is making me feel lighter, though. Better. It's amazing how getting rid of stuff can make you feel more organized, even if you really aren't.
This doesn't really help with decluttering, but we do have a number of gift cards that we've received over the years and have never gotten around to using for one reason or another. Generally, it's because there isn't that store in town. Shane's family is big on sending gift cards, but terrible about remembering what stores we actually have in Fairbanks. *Shrug* But, I can't argue that they're not useful. We've just been a bit lazy about using them. I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but we had an incredibly generous gift card to a certain home store that someone gave us for our wedding. Since we've accumulated plenty of kitchen items we either wanted to upgrade (bread pans, thermometer, measuring spoons) or didn't have (muffin pans, 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup) we went ahead and used it. We got some really nice, incredibly useful kitchen items and spent a grand total of $1 of our own money. (And the things which they're replacing, such as the bread pans, are getting donated.) They arrived only about a month ago and we've already used the least used of them (the muffin pans) three times. You can imagine how often the nice measuring spoons have been used! (Always, always get glass or metal kitchen utensils whenever possible. Plastic ones just suck.)
We also need a humidifier. Our big old one that we have grew mold and we can't find any replacement filters. It's from the 70's (I think), enormous, probably a huge energy hog, and at this point pretty useless. So it's time to get rid of it. But a humidifier is very, very nice to have here. Already my hands are starting to peel and even crack because of the dry air. And that's after a rainy night! It gets much, much worse over the winter. So I used a gift card to another clothing/home store and found a humidifier. With shipping, there was $.24 left over on the gift card so $0 spent on our part. That makes me very happy.
We have other gift cards, including two for other home/clothing stores. I'm keeping an eye out for flannel sheets, since we don't have any and the jersey sheets we got as a wedding gift have already worn out. I'll hang onto them and use the material for other projects as needed, but they've got a few large holes in them that make them not so nice for bedding anymore and that means we're effectively down to two sets of sheets, one for our bed and one for the guest bed. Not the worst situation, but since we have the means to fix it, why not? And, it's hard to argue against having a set of flannel sheets in Fairbanks.