Tag Archives: Númenor

MT: When a button pulls through

This is an installment in a series on mending techniques.  For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.

I have a six-year-old who LOVES to wear button-down shirts, but isn’t always careful when taking them off.  Sometimes he seems to think buttons are snaps, and if he just pulls hard enough…well, you see what I mean.

Most of the time the threads tacking the button down are the first to break, and this is a relatively easy mending job.  But sometimes, especially on older garments or fragile fabrics, the fabric that the button is tacked to will tear through, leaving a small, usually round, hole through one or more layers of the button placket.

Here’s what I do to mend a button that’s pulled through the placket.

You will need: needle, thread, scissors, tweezers, the button in question (or a replacement if the original has been lost), and twill tape that is at least 1/2″ wide.

  1. Cut a small piece of twill tape, roughly 1″ longer than the hole to be mended.  I usually use a piece that’s barely 1.5″ long, but it depends on how fragile the fabric is and how much the tear has spread.
  2. Use the tweezers to push and pull the twill tape through the hole, into the placket itself.  It should be lying flat, sandwiched between the layers of the placket, almost like interfacing.
  3. Slide the twill tape around in the placket with your fingers until the hole is nicely centered on it.
  4. Thread the needle with doubled thread but DO NOT knot the ends.
  5. Use one arm of the tweezers to tuck the fabric around the hole under itself until all fraying is obscured.  A circular motion usually works best.  If the button tore the inside placket fabric, repeat this step on that side of the hole before proceeding.
  6. Bring the needle down through the right side of the fabric just at the edge of the tear, stitching through all layers of the placket and the twill tape itself.  Be careful to leave a thread tail of at least 2″.
  7. Needle up on the diametrically opposite edge of the hole.
  8. Take a stitch across the exposed face of the twill tape, catching the edge of the tear as you needle down.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 around the tear in a star or asterisk shape until the edge of the tear is well-secured.  On larger holes or more delicate fabrics you may want to continue until threads nearly cover the twill tape.
  10. Needle up through the center of the twill tape.
  11. String and tack the button to the twill tape as usual.
  12. Wrap the working thread 3-5 times around the core of tacking threads between the button and the twill tape.
  13. Tie the working thread and the thread tail from step 6 together with your choice of joining knot (the tailor’s knot is a good choice here, but the square knot will suffice).
  14. Trim and bury thread ends within the placket.

A very similar twill tape patching method can be used to repair other structural fabric tears, such as when the edge of a patch pocket pulls through or the mitered corner seam on a fitted sheet begins to fray.  In these repairs, instead of trying to slip the twill tape between existing fabric layers, I simply apply it to the wrong side of the mending.

Impossible Things

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through the Looking-Glass

My five-year-olds spent the weekend with their grandparents so that Robert and I could get in some quality couple time before the new baby comes and we descend into complete chaos and madness for a few sleepless, teary weeks.

To our credit, we did housework.  And nesting work.  We also ate sushi and watched foreign films, though, because that’s what grown-ups do.  But when our sweet babes were returned to us by grandparents who had unwisely taken them to the zoo even though animals defecate (which fact five-year-olds are THE BEST at remembering, pointing out, and discussing at length), I was met with a moment of total panic.

My mother handed me a sheet of notepaper with the explanation that it was “Númenor’s presents list”.  Apparently he’d demanded that she take dictation for this critical manifesto.

That’s right, folks.

My kid came home from grandma’s house with a Christmas wishlist.

Why is this a problem, you might ask?

Um, because it was December 5th when this happened, and I had already compiled the wishlists and distributed them through the family network weeks prior, not to mention that I had also long finished the shopping I was intending to do.  Because we plan ahead in this family, at least when lists are involved.  And in my defense, the wishlist I had was based on things I thought Númenor would like.  I pay attention to the smalls’ interests and research toys and games and books constantly, and moreover, I asked them explicitly what they wanted for Christmas and they were both totally uninterested in telling me.

To be fair, that was in October.  And when you’re only a few years old, the subjective time-dilation is extreme.  Númenor probably genuinely couldn’t fathom wanting things for Christmas when I asked him about it with a jaw-dropping 11 weeks to spare.

And he has NEVER made a wishlist before.  We don’t do Santa, so we never write letters to Santa, which means my children had to be developmentally capable of picking up this idea from fiction, and even then, they hadn’t previously shown interest in the activity.

But the fact is, he came home with a Christmas list.

And three things on it were alive, one thing was impossible, and two things flew right in the face of our standards for toys.  Which left only one item.  Which, to be fair, I already knew he wanted and had plans to make.  One out of seven, I thought, would likely disappoint him.

Perhaps the worst part of this debacle was not the list itself, in fact, but that I found non-living, non-impossible work-arounds for things and Pinterest projects for cardboard versions of other things until I felt that I had satisfied his list, and only then did I realize that only ONE of my TWO five-year-olds came home with a list.

Which meant I had to ask the other one what he wanted.

Because fair.

And he wanted one impossible thing, one alive thing, one thing he already has (?!?), two things that don’t meet our guidelines, and that same item from the first child’s list that I was already making anyway.

Kids!

You love them, and you do your best to give them a well-balanced, fulfilling, and overall positive life experience, and they go around asking for impossible things and exotic pets all the time, like that’s any way to behave.

Of course, that’s what children do; it’s their simultaneously inconvenient and inspiring function in society to be the ones tilting at windmills and dreaming the impossible dreams and riding off to brave adventures with their parents as their loving but often flummoxed squires.

And someday, soon enough, they will come to the inevitable end of their quests. Laid low by a reality that did not go away when they stopped believing in it, they will grow up.  In twenty years, they may be making business plans instead of drawing a picture of the storage system for their happy rainbow dreams.  In ten years, they’ll almost certainly be more concerned with the opinions of friends and external authorities than with quoting imaginary advice from a well-worn teddy bear.

But today, Númenor wants a Star Destroyer and a rectangle tank of deep-sea jellyfish, and Ithilien wants a pet baby talking opossum and a self-driving car that transforms into a self-flying plane.  They never doubted for a second that these were things they could ask for and hope to receive.

There is a wild power in not knowing the bounds of reality or accepting the limits of possibility.

Honestly I’m a little jealous.

But mostly, I’m nervous about my ability to fulfill these requests.

Small Victories

This afternoon, my family took a moment to celebrate.  Full-voice whoops of excitement, high fives and tens all around, jumping and spontaneously dancing to no music at all, running around in circles at high speed.  We had just done a dry-run install of the baby‘s car seat, and found a way to get a safe and correct install of all three kids’ seats in the back of our entry-level sedan.

And yes, it absolutely is a red-letter day.

This is what my life has come to.

So, I made a list of similar occurrences.  Because lists are a major part of how I cope, obviously.

Major but Trivial-Sounding Victories of Our Early Parenting Years:

  • Númenor’s feet were finally long enough that storebought newborn socks didn’t have ridiculous-looking empty heels flopping around halfway up his calf.
  • I found a stain-fighting solution that took out Númenor’s iron supplement.
  • Ithilien slept through the garbage trucks coming down our street.
  • I modified a recipe for a breakfast cookie so that it met all my criteria for a young toddler’s diet and didn’t taste like crap to me, either.
  • Númenor and Ithilien sat through a whole Chekov play without being disruptive.
  • I said “Well, it’s up to you.” and I meant it.
  • Ithilien decided that yes, sitting on your butt and scooting down the stairs WAS something that he could survive.
  • Númenor went a whole week with the same sheets on his bed.
  • Ithilien didn’t mind that his orange shirt with the monster on it was now too small for him and wanted to make sure we would put it into storage until the baby was big enough to wear it.
  • Númenor “read” a book to Ithilien so I could take a quick shower, and they were still “reading” together when I got back.
  • Ithilien spent a whole car ride talking about the interesting things outside his window instead of screaming hysterically for unknown reasons.
  • We invented the high-pitch OR high-volume rule.
  • Númenor chose to go back to his own bed in the middle of the night instead of coming into our bed.
  • Ithilien let me brush his hair, even though he had some tangles that needed working out.
  • I found a way to fit both small beds into the nursery in yet another house.
  • Númenor turned off the nature documentary he was watching and went outside to play.
  • Ithilien put his dishes in the sink immediately after he finished eating.
  • Númenor sat still while I dug a deep and painful splinter out of his foot.
  • Ithililen asked for more salad.
  • Númenor said “Can it be bedtime now?  I am tired.”

It really is the little things that make life worth living, isn’t it?

15 Truths About Parenting Little Kids

http://explosm.net/comics/3814/

You never, ever sleep alone, or a full night.  How would you know it was 3am if somebody hadn’t wet the bed?  How would you know it was 4:30 unless somebody had snuggled in next to you and miraculously managed to occupy 85% of the bed with a body 25% the size of yours?

Every meal is worse than water torture.  Forget getting them to eat the damn food, how about deciding what to make for them– when making plain pasta is UNACCEPTABLE and making sauced pasta is UNTHINKABLE and presenting them with either dish a personal insult, what is it that they want us to do?  How about bribing/threatening/manipulating/whatevering them into letting you prepare what they’ve demanded in peace, if they ever do decide on a single demand?

Your war cry is “Just a minute!”  They want fifteen totally contradictory things, surrender is not an option, and you’re just trying to get through the hour without having your head explode when they suddenly barrel in out of nowhere, shrieking and crying at you in the resonant frequency of your skeleton, and you know full well that they will show you no mercy if you ask them to slow down or start over.

Reason is not an option.  No, they don’t understand that if they would just hold still you would be done by now.  They don’t seem to hear you when you say that violence begets violence and remind them to use their words, and then they somehow conjure up surprise when they are in pain.

And yet, you are expected to know the explanation for everything.  “What does ‘solitary’ mean?” “Why do birds have feathers?” “What do tarantulas eat?” “Why are oil molecules slippery?” “Why do they call it ‘French’?” “What kind of spider is that?” “What is that dog’s name?” “Why are rocks hard?”

You have memorized what tracks of what CDs are “robot songs” or “hey! songs” or “na-na-na songs.”    You are secretly pleased that they like “Hey Jude” and “What I Like About You”, but you’re kind of embarrassed that they know so many words to “Domo Arigato Mister Roboto,” and you really hope they never sing “Centerfold” at Grandma’s house.

Movie nights are an unparalleled source of déjà vu.  Yes, they want to watch it again.  Even though they just watched it yesterday.  Even though they can recite every line.  Even though the songs have been stuck in your head for three months.

You don’t bother to guess what artwork is supposed to be.  To you, it’s clearly a scribble surrounded by irregular boxes, but this is a heretical thing to suggest to the beaming illustrator of, apparently, a Star Destroyer attacking a baby echidna in a robot suit with the laser guns going pew pew pew and a spider web catching the laser blasts so they can be recycled at the depot and made into force fields red force fields.

All of your household rules can be expressed in pithy soundbites, the better for yelling across the playground like an idiot.  “Be gentle and kind!”  “It’s his body, so he gets to decide!” “Everyone has their own imagination!” “If you don’t have consent, it’s not a game!”  “Use your words, and then get help!”

Sometimes, when you give advice, they listen.  Maude and all the Golden Girls be praised, y’all, it’s a Bastille Day Miracle!

Getting into the car seems to take every muscle in your back and most of an hour.  Address nudity, send to the toilet, help with shoes, maintain pace and stay on target, unlock door, demonstrate how to open door, wait, lift child, bend over, buckle, buckle, buckle, check shoes, check provisions and possessions, distribute car toys, defuse fighting over car toys, get in car, buckle, start engine, “rocket ship blasting off” countdown, drive away.

You no longer understand comedy.
They say: “Knock knock.”
You say: “Who’s there?”
They say: “Chicken walking across the road.”
You say: “Chicken walking across the road who?”
No answer, just hysterical, rolling-around-on-floor laughing.
What.  Just.  Happened.

History doesn’t seem to be the way you remember it.  “When I was a baby, I just went into the ocean with my robot swimsuit submarine and saw a shark and I said ‘good mornden, shark, I want to be your friend’ and the shark said ‘no I will eat you’ and then I was eated up and I died.” — Ithilien, apparently still alive and uneaten

Context is a luxury.  “Remember when we saw a movie at the drive-in lasted night, with the many women and the one woman growing a baby and one woman with black eyes and the white men driving-racing with a truck with monster-truck wheels and all fire and a sand cave full of ice and sand and there was an explosion?” –Númenor, describing Mad Max: Fury Road, which we saw six weeks prior

It’s a sacred and awe-inspiring occupation.  Every day is a fresh adventure, and they learn and change so fast you can barely keep up, but they still need their scrapes and bruises kissed and want to snuggle when they are tired.  They have sweet, baby-round cheeks, and long, strong limbs that carry them far and fast.  They worry about impossible things (like teddy bears coming to life and starving because they have only stuffing and no digestive organs) and inevitable things (like their own death).  They have tiny, mad, whirring, working minds, and the verbal skills to let you peek under the hood.  They love to give presents and have parties and prepare for holidays months in advance.  They tell you they love you, and they mean it.

Expectant

“Mommy, is you going to snuggle us’s new baby?”

Ithilien is always insistent about having real and prompt answers to his questions, so of course I say yes.  But he has more to say:

“Babies need thems mommies to snuggle them and give them milk or they die.”

Oversimplified, but true enough for mammals.  I tell Ithilien about the wonders of lactation– breast milk is full of antibodies, and even stem cells, and babies get everything they need from it.  We talk about how fragile babies are when they are still growing inside of somebody else, how the directions for building them that they carry inside their cells can be wrong or broken or missing steps, how teeny-tiny and tenuous that new life really is.

And every time Ithilien wants to talk about it, I have to face the hard realities that expectant parents try to ignore: that miscarriage is common, that stillbirth happens, that prematurity is surmountable but damaging, that sometimes there’s no good reason for a child to die or a pregnancy to end but it happens anyway.

I try to take a moment to really feel the powerlessness and the fear during these conversations, no matter how strongly I want to deny it and how harshly I want to reject the possibility that the child I carry now could come to harm.

Because I know that it’s possible.  I have walked that road before, and as distant as its horrors may seem when I’m ankle-deep in splashed-out bathwater and contemplating walls that have been fingerpainted with tomato sauce, I will never be able to forget.

So, as I knit and sew and write and organize in preparation for this new baby, I do so with the understanding that hit might never wear these tiny clothes or be wrapped in this beautiful blanket.  I watch the clean, pure wood emerging under Robert’s knife, and I envision the crib he’s building, and then I picture packing the crib away, still unused, and being too worn out by my grief to even summon tears.

Sometimes I have to put an overwhelming amount of effort into remembering that the most likely thing that will happen is that I will give birth to a living and healthy tiny human this winter.  I reassure myself daily that pregnancy loss after this point is extremely rare, that stillbirth and perinatal death and neonatal death are all unlikely, that infant death is not commonplace in my society.  I try to believe, to truly expect.

It’s not easy to have hope when you have known utter despair.

But I am trying.  Some days it feels like I’m tricking myself into thinking we’ll have a new baby, artlessly attempting to hide the inevitability of my bereavement.  Some days it feels like part of me does expect a new baby, and the rest of me holds that naive part in simultaneous awe and contempt.  And some days, some precious days, some few precious days, I really feel myself to be an expectant mother.

Those are the good days.  Days when the baby is kicking and rolling and generally making hits presence felt, and I’m just sick enough to believe that I’m pregnant without being miserable, and Númenor and Ithilien say sweet things about their plans for being big siblings and ask to put their heads on my belly to talk to the baby.

“Hi, baby.”  That’s how Númenor starts all of these conversations, which can, depending on his mood, be quite long and wide-ranging.

“I love dyu, baby.”  That’s all Ithilien ever seems moved to say.

And that’s perfect.

Because, thankfully, babies don’t expect you to have all your shit figured out and your baggage neatly unpacked through years of psychoanalysis and personal growth.  They aren’t born demanding quarterly statements for your investment account or even the car keys, although I understand that does come up eventually.  They don’t care about whether you finished all the projects on your nesting list or why you’re moved to tears to see their tiny squinting faces.

They don’t need anything but love.

And snuggling.

And milk.

And those are things I am totally comfortable holding in expectation.

Find the Magic

We spent our weekend (our WHOLE weekend, friends!) cleaning and reorganizing the house.

Yep.

That means there was plenty of dust and laughter and reminiscing, and lots of frustration and more than a little yelling, lots of going up and down stairs and hefting and hauling, some sadness and some serendipity, and the smell of vinegar and the sound of the Pandora station I created to bridge the gap between Robert’s taste in work music and mine.

It also means that the smalls spent the weekend Being Tested: listening, following directions, performing difficult tasks, staying focused, managing their compulsions to derange sorting piles and run around unaccustomed places, being responsible for their choices, and proactively communicating their own needs.

Unsurprisingly, then, today everyone woke up feeling pretty grumpy and low-energy.

On grumpy, low-energy days, even ones that you have earned by dint of hard work and awesomeness, it can be difficult to find the magic in your life.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So this afternoon, while I was feeling like ugh and yuck and blerg and blah, I walked around my home and captured these little bits of magic:

artwallAn updated art wall (now with figural art, perspective cues, symbols, and some child-written labels!).

knitting in progressA big project edging toward completion.

soft toys in a rowRe-discovered pretend friends.

new saltNew salt, white and pure and beautiful.

lettuceLate-planted seeds racing toward the sun.

garlic harvestThe first garlic harvest of the year, laid out to dry.

toys put awayCreative tools ready for new inspiration.

took and henhouseA laying flock.

reading nookA quiet, comfortable hideaway for book lovers.

spring raindrop baby dollSweet reminders of a spring well-spent.

blackberry blossoms and ripening fruitAnd the promise of blackberries to come.

Happy summer to you and yours!  May you find the magic wherever you look!

 


Stay tuned for more on the knitting!

Soft toys from L to R: homemade rocket ship (following this tutorial), sea turtle, warty pig, trilobite from PRI, and manatee from Sea World (from a trip I took in my childhood; I would NEVER go there by choice).

Toys from top L, clockwise: train, dragon, bushel basket, American maple hardwood school blocks, rocket ship, homemade storage cubbies.

Reading nook: The Hare and the Tortoise, Goodnight Oregon, C is for Cthulhu, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Basket is an old one from Ten Thousand Villages, shark bean bags are homemade based on this photo.

Spring raindrop baby was homemade, inspired by the work of a now-retired Etsy seller.

 

Where We’ve Been

We traveled the state, learning to spell all the important words and breathing the sea air and feeling the cool dappled forest shade and biking unsteadily along the rivers.

We played in the rain.

Ithilien plays in the rain

We got haircuts.

We spoke the most important words in the world daily, hourly, sometimes more than once a minute: love, you, have, eat, hold, go, kind, wash, sweet, listen, look, yes, gentle.

We learned about cell division, human reproduction, essential vitamins and minerals, volcanoes, colonial encounters, death, weather, sharks, sea lions, shipwrecks, and salmon.

Númenor and Ithilien looking up at an exhibit at the aquarium

We sat in the sun and laughed with friends.

We celebrated the end of a teaching year, and witnessed the beginning of a marriage.

We played music with our speakers and made music with our voices, our hands, our hearts.

We ate strawberries and asparagus, brie and mustard, chocolate and almonds.  We drank hibiscus tea and lemonade and milkshakes and mead and plenty of cold water.

We heard the cicadas.

We told stories late into the night.

We went to the drive-in.

We danced in the car, and on the deck, and in the kitchen, and at the beach, and while pulling weeds, and to music we were hearing for the first time, and to songs we know by heart.

Númenor sifting sand at the beach

We boiled salt.

We scrubbed socks.

We compared tan lines.

sparse clouds in a blue sky with some fir tree branches

We read books and magazines and blogs and Wikipedia, and we read aloud and read along and laughed and cried and were transported.

We saw a coyote, and a falcon, and a snake, and dozens of butterflies.

We baked bread and we bought bread and we ate bread and we fed bread to the chickens.

We treated our wounds and checked on their progress in healing.

We made popsicles and transplanted seedlings, we smeared ourselves with lemon balm and watched spiders, we fixed things long-broken and made new starts.

In short, we made, we learned, and we lived.


Where have you been these past few weeks?