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Month: December 2015

simon rides to school

simon rides to school

Several weeks ago as Micah was taking the boys to school, they ran into a friend from Simon’s class who was also biking to school with his mom and sister. Only he was on his own bike. Simon’s eyes got wide and he said, “Can I do that?” (His friend only lives 2-3 miles from the school, compared with 5 for us.)

Well, we knew he probably could. He can ride 5 miles pretty easily, as he did it many times over the summer while I ran around the park. The bigger question was how long would it take? Because he is young enough to ride on the sidewalk still (and will be for several years) we weren’t too worried about traffic. We thought that the weather would make it a moot point until spring, and that then the baby would make it equally difficult/impractical for him to ride to school (or, more accurately, home from school since I won’t be able to take the baby on the bike until he is a year old). But since got up to nearly 70 degrees this week, we let him make a test run.

He and Micah headed out Saturday afternoon while I took Oliver and Elsa on a bike ride/run around the block. About an hour later Micah let me know that they made it safe and sound and were getting a celebratory slice of pizza. It took Simon about 50 minutes to ride, which is about the same amount of time it takes on the train, but it’s $2.75 cheaper.

I don’t know if it’s something we’ll really be able to do this winter . . . or any time soon, really, but it’s good to know he can. Because as much as I love the idea of putting 4 kids on the bike . . . I don’t really love the idea of pedaling up the bridge with 4 kids on the bike.

So thanks, Simon, for that.

scenes from the season 2015

scenes from the season 2015

Best Christmas Ever. Maybe it’s because it’s been unseasonably warm. Maybe it’s because we’re getting into our groove. Maybe it’s because we really worked to make giving fun. But whatever it was, this Christmas was . . . really great. Which is not to say we didn’t have our stressful moments, our late nights, our plans gone wrong and the like, but in the end it all came together like a perfect performance after some worrying dress rehearsals.

We tried to give the kids some extra opportunities to be involved in giving, which was where things mostly went wrong. Or if not wrong, at least not smoothly. After school one day I took them up to the main post office on 8th Ave and 31st. (“This doesn’t look like a post office! It looks more like the White House!” Simon said.) We signed up to participate in Operation Santa, where the post office lets you read some “undeliverable mail” to Santa and then pick one or two or ten letters to respond to—meaning purchase gifts and have them delivered. We read 10 letters, some of which were written by parents, some by kids, and settled on one from a 5-year-old who wanted a blue bike with training wheels. We thought it would be easy to just get one gift and we could have it taken care of in one night. Not so. We ended up having to order a bike from a store, and by the time it got delivered to them, it was Dec. 23rd. So Merry Christmas to that little boy . . . next week. But we’re hoping the kids benefitted from it anyway.

Our other big endeavor was to have the kids make gifts for each other. We brainstormed at the beginning of December, but didn’t get around to helping them make the gifts until . . . Dec. 23rd. But they worked hard, Micah and I helped out, and the kids were both really proud of how they turned out and really excited to see their siblings open their gifts. So that was a win.

The last experiment we tried was an idea stolen from a friend: do something for someone else Christmas morning, before opening gifts. We decided to take some scones over to the local firehouse. The kids helped make the scones the day before and we baked them up Christmas morning. I was surprised that there was no griping about having to wait to open gifts or to get all dressed to go out. And, in fact, we sang Christmas carols during the 10 minute walk over there. But then . . . no one was there. The truck and all the firefighters were gone. We stepped back to try to figure out what to do and just then the truck came around the corner and pulled into the firehouse. Christmas miracle. We gave the very tired looking firefighters the goods and wished them a Merry Christmas and sang carols all the way home.

I don’t know if that little activity had anything to do with it, but I like to think that maybe doing something for someone else primed the kids to be a little less focused on themselves through the gift-opening portion of the day. Micah and I had thought about which gifts might be the ones to cause tears of jealousy and cries of unfairness, but it wasn’t until we were getting dinner ready that we realized that there had been no tears at all. Everyone was happy. Even at the end, when Simon still had 3 gifts to open and the other two had none, they were all just excited for him to open them and see what he got. Three cheers for that.

We hope your Christmas was half as good, because if it was, it was undoubtedly a very Merry Christmas indeed.

the end of the quilts

the end of the quilts

A few weeks of sporadic work and suddenly Elsa’s quilt is finished. I am too close to the situation to know if I really like it or not, but she does and that is what matters, right? Now she just needs a bed big enough to put it on. (I think that might happen in the next year or so with the big bedroom remodel we have planned . . . picture lofted beds everywhere!)

I would have thought that by quilt #3 I would feel like I was slightly more than amateur at this, and that the quality would have improved significantly. I would have been wrong. The only thing that I feel I got better at was the binding, which is something, I guess. Though maybe the problem was that I tried 3 different quilting techniques (stitching in the ditch, straight lines, and wavy lines) and while they all worked, the one I was most pleased with was the straight lines, which was on Oliver’s quilt. Maybe next quilt I will actually follow a real-live pattern rather than just looking at a finished quilt and pretending I know what I’m doing . . .  .

So for those who are wondering my step by step process it was something like this:

Step 1: Spend 2 months pondering possible patterns. Then realize that I’ve actually never done this before and pick something simple and straightforward.

Step 2: Take Micah or a friend fabric shopping. If not for their expert eye and decisiveness, I would have spent the next 2 months pondering possible fabric combinations.

Step 3: Buy a new rotary blade and realize that I can cut an entire quilt worth of fabric in less time than it takes me to watch 2 episodes of Gilmore Girls, which is both encouraging and slightly disappointing since I would have loved an excuse to watch Gilmore Girls all day.

Step 4: Binge-listen to podcasts as I sat at my machine sewing quilt blocks together. It would have been more Gilmore Girls, but the machine was too loud and I needed my earbuds in.

Step 5: Move all the furniture in our living room . . . which, come to think of it, is only a couch . . . so I can lay out all the quilt blocks and pretend to “arrange” them so they look good. Take a photo and then stack the blocks in rows so I can remember what it is supposed to look like.

Step 6: Put the earbuds back in and stitch all the blocks into rows.

Step 7: Layout the rows and see all the places where my arranging was not as good as I had hoped. Rearrange again.

Step 8: Sew all the rows together. Congrats,the quilt top is done.

Step 9: Take the backing material, cut it in half, spend far too long trying to make the two edges match up so it looks like one big piece, sew it together, and realize that it hardly matters anyway.

Step 10: Make the quilt sandwich: backing, batting quilt top on top. Enlist husband and children to help pull each layer tight. Use a million safety pins to pin the layers together. Turn it over and see how many wrinkles are in the quilt back. Ignore them.

Step 11: Quilt. Marvel at how often the bobbin runs out, and at how long it takes me to realize the bobbin has run out.

Step 12: Clip a million threads, cut the batting and backing to be the same size as the top.

Step 13: Bind. Turn a blind eye to the many places the stitching overlaps on the front of the binding, rationalizing that the 8- or 6- or 3-year-old isn’t going to notice or care.

Step 14: Write a little note to the quilt’s new owner telling them that this thing is full of meaning and significance, then notice how, now that there is nothing to anticipate, there is nothing special about it any more.