13 April 2014

Romeo and Juliet

I keep intending to finish off the comedies and then move into the histories properly, but for some reason, I'm stuck in the first act of Winter's Tale and can't get past it yet. So here's my thoughts on a play I've read before, for at least two different English courses. We're skipping ahead briefly to the tragedies. 

Romeo and Juliet is not the easiest play for me to write about. Like many kids, I had to read it in grade nine, and I hated it. Two idiots falling in love, making a series of stupid mistakes, and then killing themselves, is not my idea of a good story. "They're morons," I thought. "Why on earth do people idolize this story?"

Then I watched Season 2 of Slings and Arrows. Romeo and Juliet is the secondary plot in that season, and the treatment of the play there transformed how I responded to the play. The language is beautiful and draws me in, and I have been able to accept the story more. The characters are not wise, and in that sense, they represent most teenagers. I too, fell in love all of a sudden with someone I barely knew when I was only fourteen. I made an idiot of myself, and the only reason I didn't make any really colossal mistakes was that he wasn't interested (and years later it occurred to me that he could have done a lot of damage had he been a certain sort of guy, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I'd escaped that. Embarrassment was far preferable). After acknowledging that, it's easier for me to put myself into the main characters' minds. I would never have gone so far as suicide, but their passion is more understandable when I remember how I was in my early teens. I can empathize.

Despite my new-found empathy for the story, I still don't love this play. Romeo starts it off in love with another girl, Rosaline, and crashes a party hosted by his family's enemies, the Capulets, in order to see her. Then he spots Juliet Capulet, and the young Montague instantly forgets what's-her-name, and makes it his mission to conquer a different girl's heart. I almost wrote, "to nail Juliet" instead, but though I'd guess his interest in her is primarily sexual, he does appear to be emotionally involved as well. The two of them talk in the famous balcony scene, make plans to run away and marry, do so, and then before Romeo kills Juliet's cousin for murdering his best friend, and is banished from the city. Juliet is heart-broken, especially when her parents suddenly decide to marry her off to another man. As she can hardly tell them she's secretly married her cousin's killer, she fakes her death with the help of the friar who had conducted their marriage. He sends word to Romeo to come fetch Juliet. Unfortunately, Romeo receives the news of Juliet's death first. He arrives in Verona to find Juliet's intended lurking around her tomb, kills him, then kisses his beloved goodbye and downs a vial of poison. Then, of course, Juliet wakes up. As Romeo has been so inconsiderate as to consume all the poison, Juliet makes use of her husband's dagger to kill herself. In the aftermath of their children's suicides, the Capulets and Montagues reconcile.

See? Disappointing. I'm not inclined to think of suicide as romantic, so it just seems like a tragedy of morons and miscommunication. But it is a tragedy of morons with pretty language, so it does have some redeeming qualities. Just a couple of quotes this time, though.


"Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." Romeo and Juliet, I.1.4 This one somehow resonates with me--a poetic comment on the darkness overlaying these so-called 'civil' people, these nobles who can't stop killing each other.

"Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops." Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, III.5.7-10 The third line here is most often quoted, but a little context shows that the speech is even more lovely.

10 April 2014

Kids Clothes Week: Day 4

Okay, I promised pictures. I managed to take a few pictures of my first attempt at Geranium:

Geranium in an animal alphabet print
This is the 3-6 month size. E. is nearly 8 months, but the bodice is loose enough to be comfortable and give a little room to grow, and the skirt's a bit long on her. Yes, my child is tiny. I did "View B": pleated skirt, faux-cap sleeves, with the optional cut-out neckline. I skipped the pockets, though I have a version of this planned with a contrasting bodice and skirt that may get pockets made of the bodice fabric.

I mostly-finished another one yesterday in a rocketship print, and another one is cut out: a stars and planets print skirt and a green bodice. Those are all pleated skirts with the faux-cap sleeves, but I'm planning to try the gathered skirt at some point, too, and I have one set of fabrics picked out that I think would work will with the flutter sleeve.

My parents are coming for a visit this weekend, so I'm not sure if I'll hit the requisite time-length of an hour a day or not. I've managed a couple days where I got in a couple hours so I'm not going to worry too much if Saturday's a wash. This is for fun, after all.

08 April 2014

Kid's Clothes Week: Day 2

I managed to make E.'s suspenders yesterday, and get more things cut out. I'm counting prep time (cutting, pressing, etc) as sewing time for the purposes of this project. She doesn't do long naps very well most of the time, so I end up cutting out a few things, or sewing a few seams, and then going to get her because she's awake again. Or she tries to get into the dresser in the bedroom while I sit and sew and keep an eye on her. This is mostly successful but requires me to pause frequently.

Today: more cutting, more pressing, and a bodice for a Geranium dress put together. Then the skirt. The pleats are a little off, but it's my first time doing the pattern. I'll learn. Hemming and snaps to go! Pictures tomorrow.

06 April 2014

clearing a space

I don't like de-cluttering. It's annoying and messy and takes forever and at the end of it, I have stuff to haul to the garbage bin, the recycling bin, and the thrift store.

And we like clutter. J. and I are not minimalists, and I don't think we ever will be. We like books too much for that. He's into board games, and I'm into fiber arts. Both are hobbies that take up space.

But we do have stuff that needs to go. We really do. When I was in the process of sorting out E.'s bedroom so we could finally move her in there, I found a box. I opened it. Inside was a random assortment of stuff that I hadn't wanted to sort through when I was clearing our dresser top so I could put the changing pad on it. It had gotten stuffed in the spare room, and forgotten again. I sighed and took it to the living room, where E. was napping, and dumped it out. I sorted. I tossed. Her closet still isn't properly sorted, and her room is also home to the pieces of a giant desk that we're trying to give away on craigslist and Freecycle.

I feel better for it, but I don't think it's a process I'll ever love. I was the child who, when we remodeled our 60's-era bathroom, insisted on keeping a chunk of pea-soup green pebble-patterned linoleum. I later tossed it, but that's how attached I could get to things. Change was devastating.

On the other hand, I like to organize things. I just don't like getting rid of them. But I'm doing it. Slowly. I'm going through my closet and winnowing down my wardrobe. I'm opening boxes of random things and realizing that at least half of them are junk that we should have tossed last time we moved. I found cards from our wedding nearly six years ago that I haven't looked at since and had no intention of keeping, so those went into the recycling. It's a work in progress, and it's being done partly with an eye on our plan to move sometime in the next year or so. The more junk we deal with now, the less we'll need to pack up when we move.

I've never been great at keeping things uncluttered and tidy. It's not my forte. I'm a little better at it now that a tiny person is crawling around and throwing things on the floor, but our place still looks messy. I like the way things look when they are clean, but I think I'd be uncomfortable if our home was spotless and perfect. A clear space is good. A pristine space is maddening.

So I'll settle for clearing a space and hoping it stays that way for a little while.

Kid's Clothes Week starts tomorrow!

I'm participating in Kid's Clothes Week this season. The goal is to sew for about 1 hour per day for seven days. It starts tomorrow. I'm starting tomorrow off small. Baby suspenders and some cutting out of fabric. Also a trip to the fabric store, because I need more snaps. Hammering them in place the wrong way down and cursing them meant a lot of the snaps are now longer usable.

The suspenders are for E.'s Captain Malcolm Reynolds costume for Fan Expo in a couple weeks. I got a bit ahead of myself for once and sewed her pretty floral bonnet together today. Shirt and pants are already sorted, so now she just needs the suspenders. I'm still finalizing my Kaylee costume, and J. is going as Wash. He has the Hawaiian shirt but nothing else yet. Yes, we are geeks.

Also on the list for this week are two Geranium tops. This is a fabulous pattern and I'm excited to finally get going on it. It has several variations available, and I have the newborn-5T size, so I'll be making Geraniums for E. for quite a while, and may buy the 6-12 pattern when she's big enough for that if she still likes the dress by then.

Photo credit: Made by Rae
I have pieces mostly cut out for the Geraniums. One is an animal alphabet print, and the other is a spaceship with astronauts print.

The other dress on my list is the Little Girl's Crossover Pinafore from Smashed Peas and Carrots. This is a free pattern and tutorial. The pattern is apparently in the 6-12 month range, so it may fit my tiny 7-month-old right now, or it'll be a decent summer dress in a couple months and a jumper top in the fall.

Photo credit: Smashed Peas and Carrots
As you can see, it's a really cute little pinafore and it'll be great this summer. I haven't actually figured out the fabric for that one yet. It's a bit of a tentative one, as the suspenders and Geraniums are top of the list to get done this week.

I may get around to trying out the serger a friend lent me during this week, though I don't really need it for any of these patterns. We'll see how the timing works out. In the meantime, here's hoping Munchkin tolerates me measuring her for suspenders tomorrow as well as she handled trying on a bonnet today.

03 April 2014

the coming of spring

It starts with the sun breaking through ubiquitous rainclouds. Then a few catalysts kick the rest into gear. Someone tries to sell me herbs to boost my breastmilk while I'm the middle of slowly weaning my child. A near-stranger berates us for occasionally holding our daughter upside-down or tossing her up in the air (some of her favourite things, always done with due care, and not until she had proper head control). I don't get enough sleep because I'm trying to convince E. to go to sleep on her own, and my brain is won't shut up enough at night to let me rest. The PMS makes me irritable, the twinges in my gallbladder just hurt, and the measles outbreak two towns over is worrying.

I go home after that conversation with that stranger and cry off and on for the rest of the afternoon. I can't stop thinking about it, about how I snatched my baby out of my husband's arms and ran to get her away from that conversation, and how he followed and can't remember if he said anything to end the conversation before following me. I sob and sob, terrified that this woman will corner me again and again refuse to listen to us when we try to respond with reason. I know perfectly well that people who know us have no problems with how we handle our child. I know that she is healthy and happy and loved. But the whispers are there in the back of my mind, that maybe I'm a bad mother in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

The next day, everything weighs on me. The light, the time, my own thoughts. I make it through the day, and go to knitting group because the impulse I have is to isolate myself, and I know from experience that isolation will make it all worse.

The day after, I cry while reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" to E. J. stays home from music practice that night because I really don't want to be alone.

Today I go to a playgroup, and then for a walk, followed by lunch, laundry, and dishes, interspersed with trying to convince E. to have her afternoon nap. The darkness doesn't crash in until the evening when J. gets home, as if it was waiting until I wasn't on my own, so that it's mitigated just that little bit.

We're past the deadline of six months post-partum, so I know that this is probably not post-partum depression. This is me.

As always, I am functional. I have to be. Before, I had school and work, obligations that required fulfillment. Now, I have a small child depending on me. She needs me to be there for her. So I push through the quagmire, and decide that if I haven't bounced back by next Sunday, I'm giving my counselor a call. I'm hoping she won't send me to the doctor. The medication that helped last time is not compatible with breastfeeding, and while we don't breastfeed that much anymore, I don't want to quit entirely, not yet.

Some of this is probably the PMS. Some is weariness. Some is the change in the season. Most have heard of SAD, but only know what happens when people need more sunshine. I lean the other way, a less common problem in this hemisphere. The sunlight flips my moods inside out. I'm more-or-less okay during the winter, and then the weather changes, the clouds clear, and I'm hiding indoors, sketching jagged lines into paper, and avoiding people.

*             *           *

A couple weeks later, things have evened out again. I'm back to equilibrium. More sleep. Adjusting to the sun. Deliberately spending time with others. The apartment is still untidy, and I still hit occasional moments of grief. However, I feel far more normal than I did back in the days when the darkness refused to recede. For the moment, I have a reprieve.

Spring is here.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

10 March 2014

Milk: Letting Go

"You should try this," the clerk at the health store says, unprompted, holding up a box of mother's milk tea.

"No thanks," I reply, arms tightening slightly around my daughter. "None of those supplements really worked for me."

"Maybe you didn't try the right one," she pushes.

"We tried a lot of things," I say, then change the subject. "Do you sell honey?"


E. is nearly seven months old now. She's still small, but she's gaining weight at a normal rate and is busy crawling, sitting, and working on walking. She has yet to get sick with anything more than a slightly runny nose. We've introduced solid foods and moved her into her own bedroom. I'm still breastfeeding, but I've recently reduced our daytime feeds so that I'm only breastfeeding at night. I have to have surgery sometime in the next couple months and won't be able to lift E. very easily for a couple weeks afterwards. I'm cutting down on breastfeeding a bit sooner than planned so my recovery won't be as much of a hassle. It was easier than I thought it would be. It only took a day or two for my body to adjust with each one, and while E. was not happy about switching her afternoon breastfeed for formula, since she usually uses the breastfeed to get herself to sleep (which is why we're also in the process of teaching her to fall asleep on her own), it only took a day or two for her to be okay with it.

My feelings about breastfeeding are so mixed up that I didn't expect to be sad about reducing feeds. I hadn't realized how much the bonding part of it had affected me. In those first weeks, it didn't feel like bonding. It just felt miserable. I started counting down to when we could introduce solids. I don't know when it became something more emotionally positive, but it did, to an extent. 

My original goal was to breastfeed exclusively for six months. When that was derailed, I decided I would continue breastfeeding, along with the formula, for the six months, and see where it went from there. By the time we hit six months, I felt ready to quit most days, but E. didn't seem ready for it. Once I knew having surgery was a certainty, rather than a possibility, I decided it was time to cut down. And it felt stranger than expected.

Breastfeeding less has made me enjoy feeding her in the evenings more. It's easier to deal with her biting me with her brand-new teeth occasionally because it's not a constant battle. I don't get irritated from wearing uncomfortable nursing bras during the day (one gave me a bruise at one point because of the fit), my complexion is finally starting to clear up, and oddly, I feel more comfortable in my body. More like myself again. But once in a while, something reminds me of the hell of those first weeks of parenthood, and those emotions come rushing back.

I hate that incidents like the one above still make me feel bad. I know the clerk was just trying to sell me something and she took a look at me and decided that since I look like a crunchy mom, I'd obviously be exclusively breastfeeding. She didn't know my story. She just assumed. And it hurt. Enough that, while she and someone else in the store were chatting about natural vs. refined sugars, I pointed out that agave is pretty dang refined. I wasn't very catty about it, and it's true, but I said it out of my irritation more than anything else, and that wasn't right. 

I still want to slap the people who come up with the really sappy sayings about parenthood. I enjoy being a mum, and my daughter is very important to me, but this is not the be-all and end-all (I remember saying something similar about sex once). Parenthood does not always bring out the best in me. Sometimes it brings out the worst. Sometimes I am frustrated and unhappy about it, and sometimes I am extremely content. Some days letting go of the grief that I have about parts of is harder. Today is a more difficult day, solely due to that conversation at the store, but as always, I'll find an equilibrium again and be okay.