Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Winter of No Sleeves

This winter (joyfully!) I will have three kids who are all old enough to want to get dressed by themselves but not old enough to actually manage all the details themselves. Details like putting the right arm into the right sleeve, managing to get their hand all the way through the sleeve without getting tangled up, connecting the bottom parts of the zipper - it's all very complicated when you're three or four. Complicated and likely to completely derail a mom's morning.

Hence, I give you ... The Winter of No Sleeves.

This year, the kiddos (so weird to not just say "the boys") are going to have no outerwear that has sleeves and zippers. Usually, I get one light jacket and one heavy coat for each of the them. Sometimes if I'm able to find a really good quality formal coat, I'll get that too, but we don't have a lot of formal occasions to look sleek for, and our church is pretty casual. This year, we're doing cloaks. One fleece, one wool.

I made the fleece versions this week. I wanted to test out the pattern and fleece is a lot cheaper than wool. Also, the wool cloaks will need to be lined, so that's another level of trouble that I don't want to waste if the pattern isn't right.

Buying the fleece was fun. Twinkle instantly landed on his choice. Munchkin took more guidance. His favorite color is pink, so I wanted him to have a pink cloak, but I didn't want it to look like he was wearing a girl's cloak. ("Excuse me, saleslady, can you show me where you're keeping the non-feminine pinks?") We considered several different options and landed on a fabric that mostly reads BRIGHT!!! rather than just pink.

Beautiful as I know Munchkin to be, it's possible he's not a born model.
I made Munchkin's cloak using M6431, view F except that I didn't use the neckline cutout. I didn't really think it through before cutting it out. Not including the hood, Munchkin's cloak has 6 pieces: front, back, 2 side fronts and 2 side backs. With Twinkle's and Mei-Mei's, I streamlined the pattern so that it only has 2 cloak pieces: front and back.

The original pattern had no option that only used 2 pieces. The simplest option (view C) had a zipper up the front, which I didn't want because obviously, zippers complicate life. So I used the back pattern piece for this view and cut it out twice. To make the front piece, I recut the neckline using the front pattern piece as a guide. Clear as mud?

After the fact, I wish that I hadn't used the front cutout, because the cloaks run a smidge big and I didn't need the extra room that the cutout gives. Also, I cut 2" off the bottom of Twinkle's cloak so that it would be the right length and I cut 1.5" off the bottom of Munchkin's hood because it was oddly oversize. But overall, I'm pretty happy with the first Winter of No Sleeves experiment, and I think I'll be able to tweak the pattern satisfactorily later when I do the wool versions.

But what really makes me happy?

I had to make 3 cloaks. Three.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Randomly on Wednesday

It's been a while since I blogged, so here is a whole lot of random news and observations.

1. We have LOA!! This is a super important step in the adoption process where we specifically commit to adopt a specific child, our little Mei-Mei. It seemed a little redundant, since we've been working towards adopting Mei-Mei specifically for almost a year, but this is the point where the CCCWA (China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption) considers us officially committed. Which means now we can ...

2. ... share pictures!

We think she's just about the cutest thing ever. I particularly love the little nevus spot on her nose.

3. We're working hard on visas right now. Way back when we got approved for a general bring-your-kid-home visa, now we have to get a bring-Mei-Mei-home visa and a take-Mama-and-Daddy-to-China visa. So many visas! It's been an interesting process. For reasons I don't understand, your visa application must be hand delivered to a Chinese consulate (rather than mailed), but it doesn't have to be your hand that delivers it. Fortunately there are courier services set up for such things.

4. I made a Morse code quilt! It was very simple and looked pretty cool, so I'm thinking of writing a tutorial. Pictures coming soon ...

5. I've collected and assembled all the pieces for Mei-Mei's Blessing quilt. This is a Chinese tradition where you make your baby a quilt using pieces from your friends and relatives. It makes me tear up, thinking of Mei-Mei wrapped up in the love of all these people. She is coming home to such a wonderful extended family and church family.

6. Someone needs to design language courses for adoptive parents. I've been learning Chinese using the Pimsleur course, which I like, but so far it's been strictly tourist stuff:

Are you Chinese? Nǐ shì zhōngguó rén ma?
I am not Chinese. Wǒ bùshì zhōngguó rén. (I'm really, really sure that I won't have to point this out.)

The course seems fairly keen on consent:

I would not like to go to your place to drink beer. xiǎng qù nǐ nǎr hē píjiǔ. (Thanks for looking out for me, Pimsleur. I'll be sure to party responsibly.)

There are a few phrases seem helpful:

Would you like to eat something? Nǐ xiǎng chī yīdiǎnr dōngxī ma?
What would you like to do?  xiǎng zuò shénme? 

But nowhere (so far) is that very necessary phrase for entering a shopping center with a toddler: Hold my hand. What about It's time to sleep or Wait a minute, food is coming?

7. I have discovered Poshmark, which is a pretty great way to buy clothes for someone who doesn't actually like shopping for clothes, who wants to buy quality but also who can't always pay for quality. People buy clothes, wear them a few times, decide they aren't as crazy about them as they thought but they've lost the receipts, so they put them up for sale on Poshmark. The highest prices I saw were about 2/3 of the original prices, but I also saw some rock-bottom prices, too. I got a Eddie Bauer waffle weave shirt for just $5 plus shipping. It came in the mail today and like the previous owner said, it's just like new. You can buy stuff on the spot or you can negotiate with the seller. It's set up well and you can search by brand, size and type of garment.

And best of all: you can shop in your PJ's after the kids are asleep. I'm a fan.

8. Last Saturday Munchkin and I went to an English tea room. I politely refused the waitress's offer of a child size cup, and he drank 3 full cups of tea, no sugar, no cream. (In fact, after the 3rd cup, I offered him a cup of tea with cream and he hated it.) Other than refusing to eat Digestive biscuits (can't blame you there, kid) or short bread cookies (that was a mistake, buddy), it was a very pleasant outing. We discussed Thomas and Friends nearly the whole time.

The key, for future tea outings: when you are ordering your tea, also order a dish of ice so you can cool your child's piping hot tea down to a temperature that won't scald them if they gulp it. Because, they will gulp it.

9. I'm knitting a scarf made from a mixture of wool, silk and Australian possum. It is delightfully soft and cushy and the mistake rib stitch that I'm using makes it even more so.

I am 98% over the fact that there is possum in it. Australian possums are only slightly less gross than American ones.