[almost] finished object report: crazy metallic quilt

I don't have a new quilt to show you just yet, but I am pretty close and I am super excited about it. In true Ashley-the-quilter fashion, this is a project that I started back in 2009. This quilt is really special to me, for a few reasons. Pardon me while I ramble.

I generally say I "inherited" this project from a friend who abandoned it shortly after prepping all the fabrics. She chose the pattern and the fabrics and the general idea for the whole thing, but she set it aside for a few reasons having to do with the pain of loving someone with ALS (which, at the time, we did a lot of [though she did a lot more of it than I did]).

When I took up an interest in quilting, she had me over to her house, at which point she filled up nearly 2 paper grocery bags full of fabric for me to have. She had a beautiful, impressive stash, and as every quilter knows, it's easy to build a stash and not always easy to figure out what to do with it. So she was happy to clear some space off her fabric shelves and I was happy thrilled to start a lovely stash of my own. (This project was the first to come from that happy outing.)

I started working on the quilt back in 2009 because it was already in progress and I was afraid of cutting into something else. I got stymied by something...intimidation, probably, and I put the thing away for a long time. I think I was pregnant again when I pulled it back out. In a burst of restlessness, I started sewing on it again. I decided on a fabric to do the sashing and borders (that dark purple one) and made it as far as piecing all of the blocks together with the sashing. Then, back into the pile it went until a couple of weeks ago, when once again I felt the urge to do some sewing, and the tug of finishing up this top and getting the project out of the pile and onto my bed. It is a twin-size quilt and I, conveniently, sleep a twin mattress. Gabriel is also a fan of this project, although it would be accurate to say that he is a fan of any blanket or blanket-like thing that is spread out on a flat or semi-flat surface. (Seriously. When it's cranky-hour around here, all I have to do is fluff up a blanket and set it on the floor, and it becomes happy-times.)

In the past, I was not so sure about this quilt. It seemed a lot more bold and fancy than I tend to be. (There's gold all over it!) I also was a little hesitant about how to use it, because not everyone in my household at the time was a fan of this particular project, and what's the point of having a quilt you made if you can't display it or sleep under it? But now, it's just perfect. I love it. I did a really sorry job of sewing it and quilting it, but I don't care. It was one great big learning experience, it was the most complicated thing I've ever made, and I love it.

I decided to quilt it with a loopy meandering quilting stitch. The backing is a lime green sheet I got out of an Ikea clearance back when I lived in Denver. The binding is going to be one of the fabrics in the quilt itself -- a sort of "seafoam" green batik with gold splashed all over it. This is very much a use-what-you-have-because-you-dont-have-a-fabric-budget project. If I could choose, I probably would have made the backing and the binding out of the same dark purple, but c'est la vie. 

The quilting, which you can see up close in the photos above, was a lot of fun to do, but it was killer on my hands. I can see why people who do this a lot are yearning for a long-arm quilting machine. I may have to take a class on one of those, someday. Yes...I have joined the ranks of people yearning for quilting equipment. And the other thing about the quilting is that it really found a way to emphasize some of the flaws in my block piecing. But nevermind! It is mine and I love it!

Now I just have to figure out where that green fabric ended up, and then press it and cut it and make 50 billion miles of binding and bind the whole thing and then I will be done! I think I might do a cheater bind, too, by binding it on the machine instead of by hand. Because I am eager to have it done, and I don't have a lot of time. 


an update! potty training at 20 months

Gabriel is a solid 20 months old, and I am going out on a limb and saying he's now pretty much potty trained

When we are at home, he has a phenomenal track record. I think there's been one accident in the past 2 or 3 days, here at the apartment. Accidents tend to happen when he is both fully clothed AND distracted (by playing or eating).

There's room for improvement in the pottying department, and I don't mean to suggest that I expect him to be 100% perfect all the time, either. The first thing is getting him to be reliably trained while fully clothed. I am working on desensitizing him to the whole concept of peeing when there's more than one layer of fabric between his legs -- up until recently, that was a diaper and diapers were for peeing in. And as much as I am all about simple clothing (and optional clothing at home), I'm not quite brave enough to tool around town with a pantsless toddler.

The other task is to get him used to asking for the potty when we are in places other than the apartment. This means while we're outside, in the car, and at other places (like church or the store). To this end, I have begun taking him, sans diaper, to a few "safe" places, like the big house, the church (where playgroup is in the nursery), and the pediatrician. Once he's reliable in pee-friendly places like that, I will get brave and start taking him places like the store and the library. My goal is to have him fully transitioned to the potty by the time his second birthday rolls around.

It's TOTALLY doable.

This son of mine...he's pretty amazing.


making super soft, iron-fortified bread at home

So it turns out that, despite a meat-loving pedigree, my boy does not yet like meat. He'll eat some salmon or some real fried chicken maybe, but meatballs, burgers, steaks, chicken breast, or any breaded nuggets, fingers, or sticks are not of interest to this boy. I am not too concerned about him picking and choosing what he eats right now, but I do get concerned about his protein and iron intake. I've taken to hiding meat purees in other things and finding other ways to get some of the good stuff into the boy while he comes around to this whole meat thing. 

One of the things I'm poking around with is finding ways to add some iron-fortified "infant cereal" to things. It's easy to sneak a good amount into oatmeal and sauces, for example. I've mixed some in with peanut butter that I spread onto graham crackers. But the latest thing I tried was adding it to bread. 

I bake bread in the bread machine -- that is definitely the easiest and requires the least amount of time, and the little loaves work well for my little family, too. I have goofed around with a few different recipes, but nothing works quite as well for me as the regular white bread recipe on the side of the machine, so for now that's the one I use. 

In a late-night experiment the other day, I tampered with my bread recipe by replacing some of the flour with toasted wheat germ (zinc!) and replacing the powdered milk with fortified oatmeal cereal (iron!). The result was a super soft loaf of sandwich bread that Gabriel now requests. The taste is pretty much the same, maybe with a little more depth from the wheat germ. Overall, I'm really happy with the results and I am going to keep tinkering with it to see just how much of the cereal I can add in. A slice of bread is not going to replace the iron content of an ounce of beef, but still...the more iron, the better! 


sick babies

There's a slew of sick babies on my facebook news feed. This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid facebook. I prefer to remain ignorant of sick babies.

These generally are sick babies who are born to families that love and adore and very much want them. Often they're born to parents whose marriages are intact, and maybe there are older siblings. These are stories that were supposed to be good and are ending in tragedy. It's heartbreaking.

But for me, it's also terrifying. Because I don't have an adoring husband right now. There's only one pitter-patter on my floors. And as much as I'd like that situation to change, the fact remains that for now, it's just the two of us. So if my baby were to become a sick baby, I would be the only one left. I can't look at the photos without seeing my son. I can't read the stories without playing the scenario out in my personal situation. I can't breathe for all of the "what if that happened to us" crowding my lungs. So I look away, scroll down, close the browser window.

Maybe this shows just how self-centered I am. And I do struggle with my own selfishness, every single day. I think that's what being a parent is -- a daily confrontation with your own selfishness. If you're a parent and you give a rat's behind, then you know exactly what I mean.

When I read about sick babies, dying babies, babies that didn't make it, I cry. I say a prayer for the child, for the caregivers, for the families left in the wake. I pray for the parents and their marriages, sending them strength in the face of unspeakable, potentially destructive pain. I pray for any older and younger siblings, that their heritage not be one of shadows, loss, and shoes that are impossible to fill. And I find my little boy, catch his eye, and try for a smile....ever grateful that he is there and smiling.

The truth is, though, that I very rarely read about these tiny children fighting their enormous battles. But their stories are never far from my mind -- the ones I know and the ones I don't. The heartbreak, the fear, and the gratitude, always braided together in the background.

Kyrie, eleison.


potty training a boy before 2

About a month ago, I was kicking a bag of dirty diapers around the bathroom when I realized that I just don't want to be doing diaper laundry any more. It had started to feel like it was never-ending because dipes have to be washed every 3-ish days, and between the washing and the air-drying and the re-stuffing, diaper laundry almost never ended.

These days, most folks don't even think about trying to potty train until the child is at least 2. Well...surprise surprise, I decided to buck convention in this regard, too. For about three weeks now, Gabriel has been diaper-free at home, with mixed-but-increasingly-more-successful results. He's made consistent progress, just not what I would call super-duper rapidly. That said, we went from peeing all the time everywhere, to peeing occasionally in corners, within a couple of days.

I am more or less following the advice of John Rosemond in his book, Toilet Training without Tantrums*. The very basic idea is what Rosemond calls N75, short for "naked and $75." N75 basically says that when it's time to train (and the sooner, the better), let your child go naked (or wear briefs if a boy) around the house and then when training is over, spend $75 on getting your carpets cleaned. I think it might be more like N100 these days, but since I have all hardwoods I just rolled up my carpets and we're good to go.

I started him off naked during all waking hours, partly because I am cheap and didn't want to buy underwear, and partly because I thought it would be easier logistically since G doesn't know how to take his pants on and off yet. But when I realized that he was having tremendous fun watching the "arc" if you know what I mean, I put him in teeny, tiny tighty-whities. These things are really freaking cute, to the extent that underwear can be cute. No more arc. So that seemed to help a lot with the progress.

He's also been staying dry during naps since we began this little experiment in parenting and socialization, which is admittedly very exciting but only to a small audience, namely ME.

We aren't quite there yet, but he's come a long way and has built up what seems to be a pretty good awareness of his body at this point. Now it's just a matter of getting him to remember to get to the potty, and not just be happy about identifying "go-time." We're about 75% there.

I'm not sure what will come next, but at some point I'll have to get him used to the deal while dressed, and while not at home. All in due time. In the meantime, I think I'm gonna go do the dance of joy.

*Not an affiliate link.


singing the praises of zaycon

In my kitchen, there are conflicting needs. One side of the conflict is the budget. There isn't a whole lot in the coffers here at Chez Freelancing Single Mama With A Toddler At Home. The other side of the conflict is my deep, deep desire to feed my son the best I can. And for me, "the best" is defined as clean, organic, whole foods to the extent of my ability. I prioritize organic meats and "the dirty dozen" in produce -- and if he were able to have dairy, I'd make organic milk a staple, too.

Organic stuff, as you know, is not so cheap. I buy in bulk whenever I can, but the meat gets me every time. Enter: Zaycon. They offer basically organic ground beef (93/7) and boneless chicken breasts approximately every quarter.

I am a HUGE fan.

There are a couple of catches to using Zaycon. First, their deliveries are what I would call "sporadic" -- I am a pretty new member so I don't have a really good sense yet, but I think chicken comes twice a year and beef comes quarterly to where I am. It may be that chicken also comes quarterly. The second catch is that these meats are not technically organic, because the farmers keep antibiotics on site to treat sick animals (which are kept apart from the health animals until they're off the drugs); to be certified organic, there can't be any antibiotics on site. So they are basically organic, and it's close enough for me. The third catch is that you are ordering in bulk. In 40lb boxes, to be exact. Too much meat? Split a box with a friend. If you're in the Triangle and you want to share a box, let me know! The fourth catch is that you're getting 40lbs (or more) of fresh meat, packaged in 10-lb things, which means you need to take your box home and process it yourself pretty much immediately because you probably do not want to stick ten pounds of ground beef straight into your freezer. You don't get to pick your pick-up date, but you'll know it a couple of months in advance so it can be easy to plan around. For me, "processing" four 10lb logs of ground beef involved a food scale and a bunch of ziploc bags, basically. Also: lots of time. It's fun with a friend, though.

That sounds like a ton of effort, right? Well...maybe it is. But I'm generally willing to do a little work if it means I can save a lot of money. So when I found out that the ground beef was $3.49/lb and the next chicken is priced at $1.84/lb, I was completely sold. I might have even uttered a four-letter word that starts with H and ends in hockey sticks as part of a verbal affirmation.

You want in on the deal? Check them out and see if there's a drop in your area.

Zaycon also offers other great stuff like strawberries and honey and milk, but only in specific parts of the country (NOT including my part, sadface). If I remember correctly, it's because part of their business model is to keep things as close to local as possible, though "local" is probably loosely defined as "within a state or two" if I'm guessing. Either way, no PNW wildflower honey for me.

I recently picked up my first box of their ground beef. I found out about the drop right before it happened and everything had sold out; fortunately, I was walking past my computer at the exact moment that I got an email saying that they had a few extra boxes for people on the wait list. By the time I got to the site (which was within 20 seconds of getting this email!) it was down to one box, which I handily nabbed. It was really exciting. (I guess you just had to be there.)

Zaycon's fall chicken sale is now open -- I would highly recommend you take a look and see if they're coming to your area. It's in October, so there's lots of time to find a freezer solution if you need one.

Note: the Zaycon links above are my affiliate links. I get a $1 credit for every purchase made by someone who registers using that link. 


nouwen on broader vocation

I'm reading a Nouwen book on discernment and what the process looks like. It's rich stuff, but this is no surprise.

Lately I have felt inexplicably overwhelmed. Certainly being overly tired, having a toddler at home 24/7, and running a little low on funds has something to do with it. But it's felt almost like there's some sort of block against me being able to get as much done as I'd like. It's been frustrating to feel so easily incapacitated. Mama needs a nap.

It's felt a little tough lately. I didn't work for most of June because of some health concerns, and July has been very low-paying as a result. Things will pick back up in August, but if I'm not able to find a way to get more sleep, I will just be burning the candle at both ends. We're in the throes of potty training and it is not going "well" if "well" is defined as "learned quickly," so I spend a LOT more time cleaning than I would prefer (but the alternative of going back to diapers makes the trade-off worth it, in my opinion). Tell any single mama who is at home all day with a toddler that she "shouldn't be this stressed" and just see if she doesn't go ballistic on you; that said, on paper there doesn't seem to be much of a good reason for me to feel as close to the edge as I do. The question "how could this possibly be the right thing to be doing?" keeps me up at night. Something isn't working right.

Turns out, it was me all along.

The other day, surrounded by three dogs and one naked toddler, I snatched a few minutes to lie on the couch and read a couple of pages in the Nouwen book. And what I found was exactly what I needed to hear:

What I learned from testing a call in Latin America is that my broader vocation is simply to enjoy God's presence, do God's will, and be grateful wherever I am. The question of where to live and what to do is really insignificant compared to the question of how to keep the eyes of my heart focused on the Lord. I can be teaching at Yale, working in the bakery at the Genesee Abbey, walking with poor children in Peru, or writing a book, and still feel totally useless. Or I can do these same things and know that I am fulfilling my call. There is no such thing as the right place or the right job. I can be miserable or joyful, restless or at peace, in all situations. 

I've been getting too caught up in the notion of "the right place" or "the right thing to do" and measuring myself according to some standard that not only is not realistic, but is entirely self-directed. I've got to cut myself some slack and be realistic about my situation -- the good, the bad, and the temporary. I've also got to start getting to bed at a decent hour. And it's time to get back into morning prayer for sure.

I'm no less tired than I was, but I feel more calmed. The panic and perpetual frustration are starting to subside as my heart gets refocused. Yes, with God's help, I can do this.

Let this be a reminder. Kyrie eleison.