Ripples

Three years post divorce (and almost one year post disastrous change of custody hearing) life is generally calm. Okay, calm does not even come near to describing my life as a divorced mom of five kids who is trying to finish a degree while doing all the other things too. Nope, life is not calm…but it’s got a certain pattern of functionality and (usually) fun to it, a day-to-day relative calm that makes it easy to forget how tumultuous our lives have been over the past four years. But every so often there’s a bump in the road, a blip on the relative calm radar, that is reminiscent of the disruption of life that your family has been through.

Getting a divorce is a bit like throwing a giant rock into the peaceful pond that is your child’s life so far. It disrupts their stable, serene state of being with a dramatic splash that’s followed by ripples extending outward through time and space even after the rock has reached the bottom of the pond. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, this is always true.

Yesterday was a reminder that, even years after the rock crashed through the surface, ripples are still extending outward. Divorce is still affecting my kids’ lives in profound, albeit more subtle, ways. (Subtly profound might be something of an an oxymoron.)

First, on the way to swim class, my seven year old informed me that his school Valentines Day party was not very fun because I didn’t go. “Mom, you could have come to my Valentine’s day party, almost everyone had a parent there but I didn’t.” he told me.  Valentine’s Day didn’t fall on my parenting time and I hadn’t volunteered to help in the classroom, really there’s no reason I would go. This year the responsibility and fun of celebrating Valentine’s Day with the kids wasn’t mine; that’s just the way it goes. I said something along these lines and then mentioned that I thought maybe his dad or step-mom would be going to his class party. His matter of fact response caught me off guard. “Dad and Miss D don’t go to things at my school anymore because people think Miss D is a homewrecker.”

Turns out my diplomatic response skills are not what they should be. I should have said something about that being their, his dad and step-mom’s, loss; they’re missing out on fun and important things. That’s not what I said. I did not, however, say any swear words so it could have been worse. (But seriously, WTF?!? How are these words coming from my seven year old???)

After swim my little guy told me that I should stop going to school….he saw me doing homework on my laptop in the bleachers during his lesson and felt like I should have been paying attention to him. I reassured him that I was, I was watching over the top of my computer screen as he back stroked across the pool and then later when he got to jump off the diving board. I think that appeased him for the moment.

And then later, at bedtime, we had the 100th day of school meltdown.

The 100th day of school snuck up on me like so many of these little big deals do. It was not on my radar at all; I had noticed it in the class newsletter weeks earlier but it fell on their dad’s parenting time so I didn’t add it to my long list of things to be aware of. But then at some point my ex asked if the kids could stay the night at my house tonight. They would already be here for the evening anyway, of course I said yes. I made sure I had enough school lunch food, milk, and cereal for breakfast. Good to go.

Yeah, not so much. As I was getting the little guy to bed (late) he started crying. It took a good few minutes to get him to tell me what was wrong but finally he said “I’m supposed to dress up as an old person but now I can’t.” And this is how I became aware that the 100th day of school was tomorrow. At 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night, an hour after bedtime (when I still had my own homework to get to, six lunches to pack, and a fair amount of cleaning up to do before I could even think about my own bedtime). I reassured my son that I could get an old person costume ready for him while he slept but he was not appeased by this.

Then,  suddenly, he jumped out of bed and started rummaging around his room. “What are you doing?”I asked.

“I’m looking for my markers.”

“Umm, why? You need to get to sleep!”

“To make a 100th day of school shirt.” he responded triumphantly.

While he was not happy with the option of me throwing together old person wear, the idea of making a shirt (also an option to commemorate the occasion) satisfied him.

Pay no attention to the stains on the shirt, undershirts are a scarcity right now.

I knew where exactly two sharpies where, luckily they were different colors. After drawing 50 smiley faces each my emotional little guy was satisfied…until the next morning when he decided there should be a hundred aliens on his shirt. Agh!

This is why I can never be on time for anything. Aliens.

Even after the tears and chaos of the night before he went to school happy. Some days the ripples make for choppy waters but we ride the waves and move forward. Throughout the upheaval of getting divorced the mantra “Fake it until you make it” helped get me through my day-to-day life but, with this chaotic crazy life we have, I’m pretty sure we’re actually making it now.

The Price of Being Cheap 

I am thrifty frugal cheap. It’s one of my best worst qualities. Or maybe one of my worst best qualities. Either way, it’s a quality and I possess it. Usually it’s not a bad thing but every once in a while my cheapness comes back around and bites me in the ass. The Wonder Woman accessories I recently made for a niece of mine are a prime example of said cheapness and ass biting…

Along with most the other sewing stuff that was in my home growing up (including one of my favorite sewing machines), I inherited this 1978 girls super hero costume pattern. I don’t ever remember her sewing, but apparently my mom made the Bat Girl costume for one of my older sisters. The hood and cape, in all their turquoise broadcloth glory, were residents of our Halloween costume bin. It came up in conversation not too long ago. My oldest sister remembered the costume, I told her I still had the pattern our mom used to make it. She then asked if could I make some Wonder Woman accessories for a special costume themed reading day at her daughter’s school. She happened to have some gold fleece leftover from another project. Apparently cheapness runs in my family.

Of course I said yes. She didn’t want a whole costume, just the crown, belt, and cuffs. That was a forty-five minute project, max. I could squeeze that into my insanely busy schedule.

So I obtained the leftover fleece and pulled out the old pattern. Lo and behold all the Wonder Woman pieces were missing. Well, all the ones I needed (aside from the cuffs which are meant for Bat Girl) since I wasn’t making those cute little shorts. My first instinct was to draw the pieces I needed but seeing as my printer actually had ink I decided to splurge and print some off the internet.

It didn’t take me too long to find a printable pattern for the crown, emblem, and a few stars and then it was time to get this party started. (I don’t remember which ones I used but, seriously, just Google Wonder Woman costume pieces. There are tons to choose from.)

As suspected this was a quick make. Other than those bastard stars. Cutting small, precise shapes out of flimsy sequins fabric is not as easy as one would think. At least I wasn’t sewing them on as I had also found some fabric glue in my sewing supply stash. I always felt like fabric glue was cheating, not for people who knew how to sew, and stuff like that but it was super convenient to just stick all that sparkly adornment on. I got the stars glued before setting it all aside to finish in the morning.

The next morning I threw together a sparkly logo.

I both glued and sewed it to some scrap denim from an old pair of jeans.

And then sewed it to the fleece belt. Things were going well (even the back looked cool); all that was left was the Velcro.

I scrounged around and found a strip of Velcro, slightly sticky on one side, that I had saved from some packaging a while back. I don’t remember exactly what but I distinctly recall seeing Velcro adhered to a box or envelope that was going to be thrown away and thinking “I could use that for something!” Psh, who would just throw away perfectly good Velcro? Not this girl! I pried it off the package and set it aside. Sure it was stiff and a bit goopy but on the Wonder Woman gear it would be on the exterior or at least away from skin so it was no big deal.
I could even use the stickiness to help hold the velcro in place while I sewed it down.

But for some reason my sewing machine was not happy about this particular little bit if sewing. It kept skipping stitches and jamming up resulting in a hot mess.I changed the needle and checked the bobbin. It still wasn’t working and my frustration level was rising. I switched sewing machines because clearly that one just wasn’t working. Ugh!

The same thing kept happening with the next machine. I changed directions for a minute and sewed the ends of the crown together. Well that worked. Then I tried the Velcro again. More jamming and mess.

Finally, finally, it dawned in me that the sewing machine wasn’t the problem. The Velcro was. The sticky stuff on the plastic side of the Velcro was gumming up my needle and causing problems with.. well, everything!

After that realization I dug up some fresh, brand new Velcro, pulled out the gross stitches, and threw the reused stuff away.

It took maybe five minutes to finish the set after switching Velcro. By that time I had spent upwards of half an hour messing about with sewing machines not working…all because I thought it was a good idea to re-purpose a strip of Velcro.

Sometimes it does not pay to be cheap!

Wordsmiths

Even though it wasn’t finished I gave my daughter the Fandom blanket I’ve been working on. It was her birthday (back in January); I wanted to give it to her for a special occasion and there was no way I was waiting until next Christmas. So instead she got a P.I.P…Present In Progress. Which sounds a bit like RIP so I made a tombstone to go with it…

Which apparently I did not get a picture of. Hey, I was super exhausted that day.  Her birthday fell on a week that I was working extra shifts And the kids had extra appointments and activities. Really it was just an outline of a tombstone that I printed out and wrote on, nothing spectacular. I wrote the dates Fall 2015-Winter 2017 (because this will be finished this winter) on the tombstone. My daughter was impressed with how long I’ve been working on this. (My first post about this blanket-to-be is here.)

While I’ve shared some of the squares as I made them. (Like this and this.), there are a couple that I’m especially proud of that I haven’t yet.

These four are the latest additions.

From left to right is Wesley from The Princess Bride (she’s a huge fan of the book and the movie), Shakespeare, a quote from the musical Hamilton  (the daughter literally knows all the words. To the entire show, no joke.), & a horse (that’s pretty self explanatory).

I found both the horse and the Princess Bride pattern on Ravelry (here & here respectively) but had to get creative to make squares that represented her two favorite wordsmiths (Shakespeare and Hamilton in case that wasn’t clear).

After scouring the Internet I came to the conclusion that no appropriate Shakespeare patterns existed. So I did what any good crafter would do and made one myself. There are websites to help with that. Basically you import a picture as a JPG or whatever, set the parameters (how many pixel/squares for example), and a pixilated picture is generated.

It took some playingaround to get Shakespeare’s face to look even close to right and that resulted in a square I knew wouldbe way too big. To par it down I took a screen shot of the pattern on my phone and cropped it in. I followed the screen shot (shown above) as a pattern. Even though I cut a row or two from the Bard’s forehead region he’s looking a bit long in the face.

Oddly enough I had trouble finding a Hamilton related crochet square and that was including a thorough search of Pinterest. I tried putting the logo, the one with the guy on top of a star, into the pattern generator but couldn’t get a clear picture. The guy looked like a jagged rectangular nothing. It was not good.

What I did find on Pinterest was more than a few images of Hamilton cross stitch projects. And guess what….

Cross stitch is also made of pixels!

Who knew? So, once again I took a screen shot on my fancy-dancy phone and used that as a pattern.

After some zooming in and lots of little black square counting I’ve got a pretty decent Hamilton square. (My daughter pointed out that I could have just made one that said “And Peggy!”. It would have been more simple but the quote I made is pretty cool as well.

And of course my girls was super excited about the quilt squares.

She suspected that I was making something for her birthday but had no idea what it was. She’s wanted a “Fandom blanket”, as she dubbed it, ever since I made this one for a friend’s baby almost two years ago now.

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I also got my daughter tickets to see the Lumineers in Grand Rapids. That’s what I call a present with a bonus. She was excited and I got to go to a super cool concert with her. It was a win win win.

Finishing the Bathroom 

One thing I’ve learned about home improvement projects from fixing up my bathroom is that there is no hard and fast finish to these things. It’s not like those shows where they add one last touch, have a big reveal, pack it up and call it a day. Right now my bathroom is mostly done. Basically. I could add another layer of paint to those shelves and maybe I’ll caulk around the toilet. Oh, and there might be a small drip under the sink that will have to be addressed at some point…but the renovation is, for all intents an purposes, finished.

I panted, tiled, and caulked. There is a new sink and vanity, new faucet, and a semi-new toilet (replaced just over a year ago when something fell in the previous one and it stopped flushing. Turns out it’s cheaper to replace the toilet than get a plumber out.)

Here are some of the stages of progress:

 

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Some creative thinking/problem solving skills were employed to make this vanity fit. My choices were limited by the narrow space between the wall and toilet; of the few available I really liked this one (and the mirror that matches).

Not impressed yet? Well, it started like this:

And now it looks like this:

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Okay so the tub is still a little rough but that’s a project for another day.

All told the cost of this bathroom update was right around $700 including paint, tiles (from the Habitat for Humanity Restore), cement backer board,thin set, grout, grout sealer, the vanity/sink, faucet, some pvc drain pipe stuff, and an assortment of random tools and bits and pieces. Oh, and a reciprocating saw. If all goes according to plan (and really when does it ever?) you’ll be seeing some more of the saw’s handiwork in the spring. Now that I’ve dipped my toes in the home improvement pond I intend to do some serious wading

Bathroom Reno Part 2

It seems I am blogging about this bathroom renovation project at a rate that is proportionally slow to the progress I’m making on it. So as a reminder here are a couple “before” pictures:

And here’s the post about the destruction of this beaut (in case you missed it).

When I was looking ahead, tiling the floor appeared to be the most challenging and intimidating aspect of this endeavor, well, that and sawing. It turns out it was the most fun.

I had to start with a layer of thin set/mortar (they’re the same thing..Hey, it was news to me.) and cement backer board. My brother-in-law came over and helped with the cutting and manhandling of the backer board. Once we got it all cut and ready we headed back to his house to celebrate my niece’s birthday; later that night I had my first experience with mortar. It was fun. There’s something sort of zen about raking even lines through some smooth, grey mortar and then squishing it all down with a board. Joint tape is pretty fun too.

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Even with only the backer board down it’s an improvement.

And then, of course, that had to set for twenty-four hours. Almost everything does, turns out home improvement is yet another provider of lessons about patience.

During the destruction of the bathroom I saw that my toilet flange was broken around one edge. My brother-in-law none too gently hacked out the rest of it and, in the process, notices what looked like a crack in the drain pipe beneath it.

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I spent a morning stressing, Googling, and phoning a friend over those little lines down in that pipe. After assessing how difficult it would be to cut the pipe out and replace it but before actually starting to cut I decided to take a step back and apply a classic mantra: Keep it simple, stupid! (One of the very few things I retained from high school math.) After one more assessment and some basic reasoning I realized the pipe was not in fact busted, those were just seams. Crisis averted…but morning wasted. Doh! At least the flange was easy to replace. I got one with a built in rubber gasket that just slides inside the existing drain pipe.

By this time it was Wednesday evening (week one). I’ve got class until mid afternoon Thursday and the kids come back from their dad’s Thursday evening. It was becoming obvious that I was not going to have the bathroom back together by then. Ah well, onward and upward right?

Because my bathroom is on the small side I laid out all the tiles to see how they’d fit. I took some helpful YouTube video’s advice and measured the center of the room, laid a line of vertical and then another of horizontal tiles, adjusting as needed to fit before filling in the rest. I preferred the look of the tiles flush with the tub on one side which left about a two and a half inch gap on the other. There was a matching gap on the short wall that’s perpendicular to the door. I have a random assortment of smaller tiles in my basement, my first instinct was to see if any would fit. The closest I got was some 1×1 inch green tiles but they were thicker than the main ones and there wasn’t even close to enough for both spaces. Obviously a no-go but I liked the idea of a smaller tile mosaic border.

But first things first, I needed to cut some tiles to fit around the toilet opening, along the back wall, and around the floor vent space. I done mentioned my saw intimidation, turns out it was a non issue. My nice neighbor has a tile saw and was happy to lend it to me/teach me how to use it. Cutting the few tiles was really no big deal at all! I got that finished and the tiles refit Thursday just in time to pause and go pick up the kids. Little did they know it was going to be a frozen pizza, not even sit down together, dinner night. I had tiles to set!

Again with the thin set.

I was a little worried that I hadn’t used enough thin set with the backer boards (time will tell I guess) so maybe I overcompensated when I was laying the tile. At first I was making a giant mess but after a few I got the hang of spreading an even layer of mortar, raking it, and applying the tiles and spacers in an orderly fashion. My youngest thought the process was pretty cool and “helped” some. Mostly he watched but I did let him press a few tiles into place.

And then it was time to wait for the materials to set. Again. Friday and Saturday were both busy days and (I was working Friday night) so other than pulling the spacers out, nothing happened until Sunday…

On Sunday morning I got up early (for me), made my coffee and tried out some edging layouts with the glass/stone mosaic tile sheets I had picked up.

br2-edging-tile       These things are not cheap but I only needed two sheets. Also they’re apparently mostly used for back splashes and wall tiling but I found at least one website that talked about doing mosaic tiling on floors and the sides of the room are little to no traffic areas. Plus they’re the same thickness as the other tiles which, from what I could tell, was a key factor.

They were a little messy to put down and I definitely used a little too much thin set in a couple areas making them less than even but all in all the results aren’t too bad.

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I definitely like the what they add to the aesthetic of the bathroom..

Yes, I know, the walls are terrible. That’s something to take care of later in the process. After all the edging tiles were down I left them alone for a while and later that afternoon we grouted. BTW grout is Not the same as thin set. It also takes a lot of water to a little powder. My fifteen year old was roped into helping me with the grouting and we learned that the hard way. Let’s just say we had some extra grout mixed when all was said and done.

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Also, grouting is a messy, messy process. It cleaned up a little better than what you see there. After a day or two of letting the grout set, I applied a sealer. It was really not too exciting and didn’t change the appearance at all so I took zero pictures of that. I did take some of the purple paint on the back wall.

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Not the finished painting, obvs.

 

With the floor done and some paint on the wall it was time to start putting this thing back together. Well, at least get the toilet back in. It’s still not quite back together…but I’ll tell you more about the details of that another time.

Bathroom Renovation Part I: Destruction

As the super creative title of this post implies, I’ve recently renovated my bathroom. Well, technically speaking I’ve started some renovations on the small bathroom on the main floor of my beat up old house. Hopefully it will be finished this week. Originally I thought I’d bust out this update in a week but like so many things in life renovations never follow the schedule we think they should.

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I’ve been wanting to do something to that hot mess for a while but didn’t even know where to start. The peal and stick laminate tiles gave me the push I needed when they started breaking and pealing off revealing the wood sub floor beneath. Now that’s a classy look right there!

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One of my sisters had just tiled her bathroom wall and if she could do it I sure as shit could! which meant I had someone with first hand experience to tell me about the process. Between her and about a million YouTube videos on tiling a bathroom floor I had enough confidence to tackle tiling the floor. On top of that my sister had enough tiles left over from her wall to cover my floor.

So two Monday mornings back I found myself wandering around one of those big box hardware stores (you know, with the orange or blue signs) trying to convince myself that I am an Adult and I can handle this. There may have been a couple mantras being repeated as I wandered back and forth before finding the flooring supply aisle way at the back of the store.

Two cement backer boards and a 50lb bag of mortar later I was pushing an awkward cartful of goods out to my minivan.

That evening I took advantage of my teenage boys being home and destructed the bathroom…

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The toilet came out easily enough but the vanity put up a struggle.

sink-valves         The hot and cold valves were on the inside of the vanity and they were not fitting through those holes. My goal in life  this project was to do as little plumbing as possible. Taking the ends off these things did not mesh with that goal. Good thing I had bought a reciprocating saw (aka a Sawzall except that’s not the brand I got)! After some rough hacking the cabinet was free and it was onto scraping off the lingering floor tiles.

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And here’s what I found underneath. It’s really not as bad as it looks…other than that one corner. I’m not sure what happened there.

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It looks pretty rough and for a few minutes I thought I was going to have to do some leveling but after buying a larger level I discovered that this little patch of roughness was technically even. Booyah!

(That black ring from the toilet is a little ominous but I’m mostly sure it’s a result of the broken flange there.)

And then it was on to prepping for the tile.

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While I’m still not done, great strides have been made. Next time I’ll show you the finished tiling and maybe the painting too! Fun stuff all around.

On Castles and Capes

Did you know there are castles in Ohio? OHIO! Of all the places!

My kids and I took a trip to Dayton over Labor Day weekend to visit our friends there (well, my friends really but I’m working on making them my kids’ friends as well). A few weeks earlier my daughter had pointed out that we hadn’t really gone anywhere this summer and asked for a road trip. Any kind of road trip would do but she’d like to leave the state. So we made plans to trek south to the Not-as-great-as-Michigan state of Ohio. Shortly before our trip I made the serendipitousl discovery  of castles in Ohio (on Pinterest of all places). Granted some of them are more castle-esque manors than actual castles, at least one of them is a legit castle.

 

While definitely a castle this thing is relatively young. Some super smart dude who was very into architecture, like five degree into it, moved to Ohio after serving in World War I and started building The Loveland castle in 1930. He worked on it until his death in 1981.

castle-j-5He might have lived there and the place was and is open to Boy Scout groups camping on the grounds and also is the world headquarters for this order of knights the guy started. Now it seems to mostly function as a tourist attraction and wedding site. The inside of the castle is not very ornate but it’s done in tenth century Normandy style so that seems appropriate. The gardens are pretty cool though and it has an active bee hive area. That’s not open to visitors but my daughter claims to have snuck back there. In addition the castle is located on one of Ohio’s many rivers and a small county park with canoe access is right in front of the castle. So one could theoretically canoe to a castle. How cool is that?

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My daughter, always the explorer, found some hike-able terrain near the river bank.

On Labor Day, the day after we returned home, my family was having one of its massive birthday dinners. This time it was only for four people and I had gifts for three of the four with the fourth being my one-year-old niece. I figured I could whip something up in the hour of free time I had Monday morning but was having trouble (and wasting precious making time) deciding what. A series of random texts to my sister revealed that the birthday girl did not have use for bibs and was not need any clothing items. I thought about making an apron or some baby doll clothes but wasn’t thrilled with contributing to the socialization of little girls to be the cookers and cleaners-up of the world while ..I was slightly stumped until I remembered the cape I had made for my daughter when she was little and how much she loved it. I’ve made other capes as quick birthday gifts over the years and they’re always a hit. Plus they’re pretty quick to make. Bonus!

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The lavender material was left over from a fabric dying project in my daughter’s art class last spring. I butted the bottom of the cape up to the already hemmed edge to minimize mundane sewing and maximize construction efficiency. After doing a small rolled hem on the sides, I cut a two inch wide strip of fleece for the neckline. Rolling that over the top (which I roughly hemmed to prevent fraying and fabric degradation)made a nice soft neckline which was finished off by a couple of pieces of red ribbon.

I fee handed a large block M from some other leftover fabric, attached mid-weight fusible interfacing, and used a zig-zag stitch around the edges to attach it to the center of the cape.

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Ba-da-bing, ba-daBang!

While it’s rather large for the one-year-old, it fit her big sister perfectly.

 

Methinks another cape might be in order next spring when this girl has a birthday. Different letter of course.

Some castle garden pics for the road…

 

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The actual birthday girl who will be swimming in her new cape for at least another year.