24 December 2013

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve already, which feels strange. This time last year, I was feeling nauseous and we'd only told a select handful of people that I was pregnant because it was still quite early on. It was actually even earlier than we thought it was at the time--we thought I was around 8 or 9 weeks along when we found out the week before Christmas, and it turns out I was closer to 4 or 5. My body's first response was, "Hey, you're pregnant. Go throw up."

I'm mostly feeling far better this year than I did last year, though my digestive system is a touch moody after all that throwing up and being progressively more squished by a baby over nine months. Too much sugar and I get nauseous, and if I skip a meal or eat later than usual, my stomach launches a vociferous protest. J. and I are getting more sleep right now, in part because we're visiting my family so E. has two grandparents and three uncles who are willing to entertain her, and in part because she's suddenly started sleeping better at night. I don't know how long this will last, but I'm taking advantage while it does.

We've done the big get-together with many people, both family and friends (all on one day), so most of our visit is relaxing, hanging out, and doing stuff around Portland. We spent a while wandering around Saturday Market yesterday, admiring all the pretty breakable things that we should not buy right now. We're doing Powell's on Friday, and I think I'm making the pilgrimage to Mill End and Pendleton Woollen Mills on Saturday. Also on the list is a trip to my favourite tea shop in the world, the Tao of Tea, for a date and to stock up on pu'er, followed by The Hobbit at the Baghdad Theater (pizza, beer, and a movie with Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch? Sounds like a good day to me).

Today's been pleasantly quiet. We're off to the Christmas Eve service in a couple hours, and dinner's after that. Then I think my mum and I may finish watching David Tennant's Hamlet (we left off during a conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern last night after E. fell asleep) while J. plays board games with my brothers and my dad goes to bed early.

I'm knitting a bit here and there. I have my first Moebius cowl on the needles, and it's just a ribbed pattern, so it's very easy. And fast, since it's worsted weight on 6 mm needles. I just have a few more inches to go before I start the edging. I think I want to make another one in stockinette and then do a garter stitch lace edging. I'll have to play around with that. It might make a good pattern to stick up on Ravelry.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy the snow, rain, fog, sunshine...whatever it's like where you are.

18 December 2013

Frozen: some thoughts

note A: This is a re-write of sorts. I wanted to revise my thoughts a bit.
note B: this post will contain spoilers for the movie Frozen. Just a warning!

J., E., and I recently went to see Disney's new movie, Frozen. E. stared at the previews, fell asleep during the opening sequence, woke up for a feed in the middle (one of those moments when I like breastfeeding), then dozed off again and woke up during the credits. J. and I loved it, but as with any movie, we had a few quibbles with it.

I didn't know much about the film before we went; I'd seen the YouTube video of "Let It Go" because, well, Idina Menzel singing. That was it. I loved the sense of freedom the song invokes.

It's a great song. But I had a couple issues with it. The problems that arose for me were mostly minor, but I think that they contribute to the overall effect of the song and the story. Elsa's costume transforms part-way through the song into a spangled ice-themed outfit. I don't have a problem with that. My problem was that she went from a beautiful character to a sexy character. Her make-up was more enhanced; there was a slit in her skirt (which was jarring because the overall aesthetic for the film doesn't support that style very well; honestly that's probably the thing that irritates me most. They could have left out the slit to maintain consistency with the rest of the costumes, and she still would have looked fabulous and sexy); and her "confident" walk involved a hip sway. Sexiness isn't a bad thing, but when Elsa takes ownership of herself and her power, she becomes sexualized in appearance. I doubt that Disney was trying to imply that power in women must be mitigated by sexualization, but the implication is there.

Elsa is an adult character, and her transformation occurs when she is alone, so her choice to appear sexy isn't necessarily problematic: she is choosing how she wants to look, and it is very obviously about her desire to express herself rather than about her catering to the male gaze. But my concern is about what young girls watching the movie are going to take away from it--that it's about being sexy, rather than about being yourself. I like feeling attractive and I like trying to choose flattering clothes, but these days most of that is about how I feel when I look good and less about how other people respond to my clothing choices. Will young women absorb the message that expressing themselves must be about whether or not they are sexy? I'm probably overthinking it.

There are other points of contention. When the younger sister, Princess Anna, falls for a man and wants to marry him as soon as she's met him, this is met with opposition, as it should be. (Instead, she ends up with a guy that she falls for 1-2 days after meeting him). Anna is a great character, but the trope of princesses getting to fall in love with handsome men continues. The queen, on the other hand, Elsa, is permitted to stay single--no partner appears on the horizon for her (does this imply that power requires singleness in order to maintain control, or that Elsa's a strong character and can rule on her own without any male interference?).

However, on the whole, Frozen handles gender roles much better than many Disney films. Like Brave, Frozen is primarily about familial love and relationships. When Anna's heart requires "an act of true love" to be thawed, her saving her sister's life at risk to her own is what cures her, not a true love's kiss. I was thrilled with that turn of events. The denouement is about how the two sisters' reconciliation teaches Elsa control over her magic, thus saving the kingdom. And though Anna does end up with a cute guy, he's not a prince, and they don't get married at the end.

Having a daughter has suddenly made me far more aware of what books and movies teach; I'll let E. watch Frozen when she can understand it, but, like with any movie, I'll want to talk with her about it, see what she understands from the story. I'm definitely happier with the idea of her watching this movie than with her watching, oh, say, Snow White."Someday my prince will come?" To begin with, that's not what life's about, and contrary to what fairy tales say, there is a serious shortage of princes out there.

Other scattered thoughts about the movie:

The script was good--there were great lines, good jokes, well-written songs. The return to the more musical Disney movie has made me pretty happy. I love musicals with all the passion of a former theatre junkie (oh high school drama classes...how I don't miss thee, but I do miss thy music).

The snowman, Olaf, was a tad extraneous--the main characters were carrying the humour pretty well on their own, and then Olaf showed up to steal the spotlight. But he was cute. It's hard to dislike a character who introduces himself by saying, "I'm Olaf, and I like warm hugs!"

The textile artist in me wants to get out the inkle loom and play around with a few ribbons inspired by the trims in the film, but I'm crap at pick-up patterns right now and need more practice with set patterns before I try to make my own.

A linguist's quibble: The writing system they show in the movie is a futhark, one of the runic alphabets in use a good thousand years before the styles of the characters' clothing. Futharks are beautiful, and I suppose they wanted to go "timeless" for the era, but early-to-mid 19th century clothing (not a costumer so that's just a rough guess) plus the futhark was kind of funny, due to the chronological inconsistency.

many things

We're in the last few days before we pick up and head out to visit my parents for Christmas. It's been years since we spent Christmas at their home (years since we've been down to visit at all, actually), and we're very much looking forward to it. We'll be surrounded by people who will be delighted to take a turn entertaining E. so J. and I can get so much needed sleep.

I feel like my brain isn't working so well. E. and I arrived home from the store today, delighted to have finished the Christmas shopping. While I was wrapping presents this evening, I suddenly remembered two gifts I'd forgotten. One was for my grandmother.

J. got his Christmas present, a new computer, yesterday, and is still tinkering with it to get it working. It's not behaving properly and he may need to run back to the store one of these evenings before we take off.

My Christmas present is a trip to the bookstore and fabric store in my parents' town. I'm pretty excited about that. I've been working on sewing in small increments here and there. E.'s Christmas dress is almost done. If it ends up looking wretched once it's all together, we won't bring it, but at least the bodice fits right now. She's been growing by leaps and bounds. She's grown an inch and a half in the last few weeks, so suddenly pants that were far too long actually fit. She's still in the 0-3 months clothing (at 4 months old), but she's out of the newborn-sized clothing, for the most part. I got all teary-eyed when we put the newborn-sized diapers away on Sunday.

I've also been making her a Christmas stocking. I got the pattern here. I've skipped the applique in favour of embroidering her name on it. I've wanted to get better at embroidery, so I tackled stem stitch, split stitch, and French knots. Being geeks, we named our daughter after one of Tolkien's minor characters, so the cuff has her name in Sindarin embroidered on it with stem stitch and French knots, and the stocking leg has her name in English using split stitch. I'll stick up a picture once we have a good quality one.

In the meantime, E.'s finally dozed off. Time to see if she'll let me set her down in the crib so I, too, may sleep.

15 December 2013

beautiful writing

What makes something beautiful? Is there a universal standard, a formula whereby something is or is not beautiful? Would a strong philosophy of aesthetics be able to be broad enough to include the vagaries of taste and yet narrow enough to make a statement on what is aesthetically good?

Beauty is so often a case for opinion that I fear that this topic is doomed to drive me insane. Additionally, the idea of good vs. bad (or perhaps better vs. worse) is a hard one to manage in a post-modern philosophy (which, of course, makes it all the more of a challenge). A while ago, in a book on semiotics, the author (Floyd Merrell, Sensing Corporeally, 2003) mentioned in passing that there's a lack of semiotic literature handling aesthetics (he's written a number of books that would probably address this topic in more detail than he did in that one, but I don't currently have access to them so I can't check). I immediately became curious. Semiotics fascinates me, and the idea of combining that with aesthetics just sounded like fun. Complicated, but fun. I'm still in the extremely early stages, though, so I've no idea where I'll end up.

If I'm working with my own sense of aesthetics as a guide, I'll find that when it comes to writing, I'm just a novice. I am not yet a creator of beautiful writing, based on my own standards. There is a difference between good writing and beautiful writing. By my own definition, I am a good writer (when I am not lazy), but beautiful writing is a separate plane. I can communicate effectively, with reasonable concision, and am even capable of decent metaphorical expression, but I've yet to get to that higher standard.

When I read books where the author says something well, in such a fashion that I am riveted to the page, and cannot stop thinking over what I have read, I think of that as beautiful writing. I've encountered beautiful writing in fiction (both for children and adults), in non-fiction, and even in fan fiction (yes, I read fan fiction, because I am a geek and a storyteller, and the combination of the two takes me to interesting places). I've found it in Augustine's Confessions ("Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new..."), in Northrop Frye's work, in the works of Charles Sanders Peirce, and in Rosemary Wells' Bunny Planet trilogy. There is an ineffable quality to the writing, the ideas, and the stories in these works which captivates me and fires my imagination.

And I wish I could become a writer of that caliber. Oh, I wish. So I write. I practice, and I hope. Perhaps someday, I will make beautiful writing.

05 December 2013

Breastfeeding and Feelings

I have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. That's no secret. It still surprises me sometimes, how difficult I've found it, in so many little ways. And yet there are the moments when I love it, love being able to do this.

We're firmly set in the combo-feeding camp now. E.'s been good with all three of the formulas we've tried her on, and she's happy with a couple different bottle and nipple types. And I'm still breastfeeding her. She loves it. She gets a lot of breastfeeding in during the late evening and in the mornings, and then lunchtime, dinnertime, and one nighttime feed are usually formula. There's also a late-afternoon breastfeeding period. I tend to get a chunk of time in the early afternoon when she isn't eating and isn't sleeping, in which we can go for walks and run errands without it being a hassle.

The times when I struggle with breastfeeding are when my nipples are sore, again. Even when she's properly latched, there can be some discomfort, though it's not the pain I experienced when we had thrush, so it's easier to deal with.

There are days when I long for the times when my breasts were not used for feeding a tiny wiggly child who wants to look around while eating.

There are days when I wish I wasn't so casual about pulling my shirt up or down and unsnapping my bra. I'm not an exhibitionist, and yet I've become extremely comfortable with breastfeeding in front of other people (though when in public, I do use the cover--it's just easier). I have to wear layers that allow me to stay warm while feeding her, so sometimes I look a little unfortunate. And when I do get a break that will keep me from feeding her for more than a couple hours, I have to plan for my breasts to get a little uncomfortably full. I don't get terribly engorged, but it's another source of discomfort. We're going to a Christmas party tomorrow night and leaving E. with some friends for the evening, and I have to make sure that what I'm wearing will withstand a little growth, and that I can fit breast pads in there, in case of leaks.

I'm tired of sharing my body with my child--it's like an extension of pregnancy, though it feels totally different, and for an introvert like me, it becomes very wearing.

And yet there are times when I appreciate it. It's convenient. It makes E. happy. When she's upset, it's often a great way to soothe her. Breastfeeding was very helpful during her first round of immunizations the other week.

I suppose there's something to this bonding and breastfeeding thing. I still don't get the rush of promised happy hormones when I feed her, though.

And I'm glad that my body works well enough that I can breastfeed her, even if she still needs the formula in order to gain weight.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling ambivalent. Is this the way it is for everyone?

03 December 2013

Checking Off: Buttonholes

I finally braved the buttonhole setting on my sewing machine and made a couple of wonky buttonholes. I don't have pictures of them (black fabric, black thread, not the best subject), but I do have a picture of E. in her finished outfit. Not the best fit, but I'm new to this pattern-drafting thing.

E. likes her jumper, but finds the camera flash startling.
Basically, the straps don't fit as well as I'd like. But she has a jumper made out of Space Invaders flannel! When I bought the material at the fabric store, the woman looked at me and said, "You aren't putting that cute little girl in this, are you?" I replied, "It's for a blanket," neglecting to mention that I was planning a jumper as well. And shoes. I didn't really feel like arguing about gender stereotypes with a complete stranger.

I have plans for a baby dress that will require more buttonholes, so I will do pictures of that when it's done. My machine makes it easy, although the last time I'd done buttonholes on it, I'd been supervised by my grandmother and I wasn't much older than ten. Of course, this is what the manual is for.