July 6, 2017

Incredible

Something crazy happened and I am compelled to share the story.

Last week, after the girls had woken up from their afternoon naps and I settled the big one in front of the tv with a snack, I took the baby out in the front yard for a leisurely walk to the mailbox. She loves looking around out there- we have lots of squirrels, birds, and bunnies, not to mention the plants and wind and trees.

I noticed a man with white hair tucked into a baseball cap in a bright blue shirt walking door to door across the street- not unusual, we get a lot of solicitors.

We grabbed the mail and were standing on the sidewalk, looking up at our huge oak tree, when I noticed the man had made it around to our house. I hoped he wouldn't keep me outside forever talking about which energy company or internet company I use or trying to sell me a new roof.

As he's walking up, he is pulling a paper out of his pocket and saying, "I got a permit from the City of Plano to be out here, to show that I'm legit, and here it is. They only give these out for a month at a time- they are really serious about lowering the amount of solicitors. Did you hear that story of a terrible rape down in Dallas a few years back? I don't want anyone to feel worried when they see me coming. I was looking for a no soliciting sign first before I left my card on your door. Do you live here?"

I recognized him. I knew this guy. I had just been thinking about him a couple of weeks ago.

He is a painter I worked with- one of my customers from the first paint store I ever managed. That store was so small, we only had a handful of regular customers- maybe two handfuls of customers, period. He's someone you don't forget because he is friendly and he will talk your ear off for at least 30 minutes at a time, longer if you let him.

Sometimes, if we were busy, I would get annoyed at how long he could talk, seemingly oblivious to the line of five other customers waiting for me to match their paint, or shake something up, or just ring them up for a paintbrush. Meanwhile, he's telling me about some customer of his who is really picky, or about his family who are all long gone.

If we weren't busy, and I had finished all my paperwork, I would listen to him talk as long as he wanted to. He would always take at least 2-3 of the free donuts we brought in on Fridays. He rarely bought much paint, maybe a gallon or two here or there. It seemed like he didn't have much work. I knew he lived in a detached garage on a friend's property and wasn't married- probably never had been. He is religious, and that peppers most of his conversations.

When I sliced open my thumb on some metal rack in the warehouse, he told me how once he sawed his arm open so badly he had to go to Parkland because he didn't have insurance and sat there in the ER for hours waiting for them to sew him up. He had to buy new clothes to go finish the paint job he was on the next day.

He also had the dirtiest pair of painter's whites I've ever seen. Layers upon layers upon layers of paint covered the thighs, like he never used rags and just wiped everything on his pants.

I got on a kick during my second year at the store where I asked all of my customers when their birthdays were and then made them cakes.

The mullet brothers- another regular set of customers- were happy and made a special trip to pick it up, but never told me if they liked the actual cake or not. (Did I mention I asked all the customers their favorite flavor? The mullet brothers preferred Butter Cake which I'd never made before and when I went to cook it it called for 2 sticks of butter which I didn't have so I substituted apple sauce....they might not have actually liked that cake! haha)

When I made David Lamb his birthday cake, he almost cried and said, "Thank you! Do you know I've never had a birthday cake in my whole life?" He was in is 60's.

I never forgot him because of the birthday cake, and how friendly he was, even if I forgot his name.

So when I saw him walk up and hand me his business card, I said, "I know you."

He seemed so confused and I reminded him that I worked at that store, and he still seemed a little confused but we talked through some details like about how I cut my thumb (I left out the birthday cake story); how I left when I had my kids, and how it was so awesome that we were getting to chat.

I offered him a drink from our drink fridge- this was the one time I wished we kept bottled water instead of the refillable ones for just our family- and he accepted a Dr. Pepper.

He followed me into my house and complimented the exterior paint, and asked questions about the age of the houses in the neighborhood- he wants to avoid working on houses built prior to 1978 because of the potential for lead paint. Suddenly I remembered when we got lead testing kits at the store and he was the only customer to buy them, use them, or even worry about being safe and using proper lead abatement procedures on his jobs.

He never made me feel weird for being so young and having such a fancy house. He commented on my wood kitchen and how he thinks stained wood will be coming back into style and how we should not paint over our cabinets.

I gave him the drink and we talked for a few more minutes while he cooled off. My favorite thing is when someone accepts a drink out of our drink fridge!

All in all, he was here for about 30 minutes, which is probably an average conversation with him. I felt so at peace with the encounter, almost to the point of elation. It felt like what I did at the paint store those 8 years mattered to someone somewhere.

When I felt beat down, overworked, unappreciated... when I worked on Christmas Eve with the flu and no heat in the store and only had one customer, when I almost lost Abby early in that pregnancy and had to go on a lifting restriction, all of the minuscule ways I was discriminated against for being a girl, for being small, for having eyelashes so the customers thought there's no way I could possibly know anything about complex problems or how to run a business.... for all the times I chose not to wear makeup so the customers wouldn't think I was pretty and would take me seriously. For all the times I surprised a customer with how much paint I could lift, and for the issues with my hips I still have today from carrying too much weight the wrong way, over and over and over for years...

I realize these problems are minor compared to what my friends with brown skin deal with every single day, and I'm not equipped to talk about that, but in my little world, I experienced a tiny sliver of discrimination for how I looked in that world, in the construction world.

When I left, I only took the satisfaction of the accomplishments I made on paper- the sales I made, the budgets I exceeded, the improvements in inventory that reflected so well on my P&L.

I never thought that I had an impact on my customers or that anyone would remember me.

I remember them: the yoga instructor who told me that downward dog should be comfortable and work your shoulders; the bubbly faux finisher whose husband got cancer but she gave me her fancy moving boxes for free and made me a decorated wine bottle for our new house; the friendly painter whose wife died of breast cancer and soon after he started dating a new woman and started talking about sex at my store; the jerk who finished painting a wall I was working on while I did some annoying tricks to tint his big batch paint a different color for free; the woman who bought hundreds of samples and painted her house a color she didn't test out; the painter who brought her cute daughter in with her all the time and we later found out her husband was extremely abusive but she stayed with him; the homeowner who was putting zebra carpet on her stairs and had a little book with the paint colors and finishes for every room in her new house.... I could go on and on.

I thought I was forgettable.

I wanted David Lamb to remember me for the birthday cake, but he remembered me for me. And I remembered him. And that's kind of incredible.


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April 12, 2017

Elsa Play Dress

Elsa has been Abby's favorite since we watched the movie when she was probably 2.5. I knew without a doubt I would be attempting an Elsa play dress. 

The details I knew were important included snowflakes, sparkles, and some kind of cape; plus a waistband if I could make it work. 

Base dress from Primary.com with matching shorts.

 

The hardest part of this dress was deciding how to place the snowflakes and jewels. It's very symmetrical which I usually don't like in design but it works here. The best part is I could keep playing with them until they looked right before ironing them down.

 

Here is the happiest accident! I sewed a finished edge around 3 sides of this stretchy, sparkly fabric to make the cape. Then I lined up the bottom edges, gathered the top edge and pinned it just below the buttons in the back.

I sewed a straight line across and planned to cut off the extra fabric and add some detail with some silver iron-on tape to hide the shoddy job (hehe) but when I picked it up, I absolutely loved how the top part of the cape fell down and looked so cute!

 

Not sure why I felt the need to include a close up of that edge- probably because it looks semi-decent and I don't think I've ever done one of those before. Clear thread for the win yet again!

 

After letting this one sit awhile I decided to add the waistband. I cut a tessellation design out of that iron on fabric tape and ironed it on. So simple- the hardest part was cutting it out!

In case you aren't familiar a tessellation is where the shapes in a pattern meet up perfectly. I created a shape that when I cut it out of one strip I was able to line up the edges with the flat edge at the bottom and they matched up.

I remember doing a tessellation project in probably 3rd grade when I went to another school for the day for GT; and we did a tessellation project in Design 1 in college. I'm a big fan! :)

 

I ironed that tessellation strip down (it goes all around the waist, even under the cape), and the girl was excited to try it on.

 

She has worn this since we've been home also. I've been able to machine wash the dresses (I flipped them inside out to be safe) and they came out great! 

This one needs a little touching up with the fabric glue- the snowflakes are coming lose as well as the waistband. I guess sometimes there's not enough glue on the iron on transfer stuff.

I've gotten compliments on these dresses and as I was making them I wondered if I would enjoy making them and selling them on Etsy or something but I decided that I wouldn't. 

It's like painting a room- generally I love to paint, but if I had to do it for a paying customer, I think my nerves would get the better of me and I wouldn't charge enough for the work it took. The time and materials for these dresses was about $40-50 each. I don't know if someone would be willing to pay $75 for one but that's what I would have to charge to make it feel like it was worth the effort. 

I really did enjoy creating something new for my girl though! 
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April 11, 2017

Belle Play Dress

I was most excited to try out this Belle play dress because she's my favorite (of course!) and I knew it would be a challenge. I'm a mediocre seamstress- the biggest projects I've ever done were a few formal dresses in high school when I was really into fashion design and planned to study it in college. 

They were simple, I picked a pattern and fabric and followed the instructions. Nothing was super wild although I did make a skirt with a detachable train, added jewels to a Gap tank top, and made a purse to match my outfit and my date's shirt and tie. In the picture at the dance they made him hold my purse. hahaha!!

When I think of Belle, the two things that stand out are red roses and that big, flouncy skirt swirling around the ballroom. 

The base dress came from Primary.com again (with matching shorts again!) and this one turned out to be my favorite... and I think Abby's also since it was the first one she wanted to wear on our trip, which coincided with the day the live action version of the movie opened in theatres. She's also worn it since we've been home. 

 

I kept the top simple- I started with just 3 rosettes but decided it needed 5 after letting it sit for awhile. These were just glued on and pinned in place until they dried. Simple!


Please notice the run in the fabric in the middle of this photo! It just shows how lots of mistakes are hidden in this dress and I'm not pretending to be an amazing seamstress!

To make the flouncy skirt, I folded the yellow fabric and sewed one long end, then flipped it right side out (it was one long tube). I didn't even iron it at this stage.

Then I gathered it up and pinned it to the edges of the skirt, let it out and re-pinned as necessary to make it look right, and then I just sewed a straight light across the bunch of fabric to attach it to the skirt. Over and over until all of the flounces were attached.

They looked a little weird so I used the trusty fabric glue to gather and pin and glue the flounces down and added the yellow flowers to make it look intentional.

 

Without those flowers the fabric just hung there instead of making little pockets like you see here.

 

She was definitely excited about this one!
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April 10, 2017

Rapunzel Play Dress

This play dress was fun to put together. I am not a seamstress but I found the miracle of clear thread that helped me stitch some of the details together. I purchased the dress from Primary.com (with matching shorts to go underneath). The quality is great, nice thick fabric. 

I found a spool of pink/purple ribbon on clearance and it was perfect. A roll of pink ribbon, white lace, and gold cord and I was all set!

The defining characteristics of Rapunzel's dress are the sleeves, the gold lace up bodice, and the white lace collar. I think with those 3 features, it's pretty obvious who the outfit is emulating. 

 

I started with the gold lacing and decided to just use fabric glue. It was so simple. I started at the bottom and just free-handed it, gluing and pinning as I went until it was all stuck down. Let it dry a couple of hours, and pulled the pins out. Tied a bow at the top and I was done!

 

While that dried, I stitched the side pieces and sleeve pieces, then glued the pink ribbon on top of the sleeve pieces. The white lace was quickly stitched onto the neckline. And that's it!

 

Abigail was so excited to try it on and pose. Although she did complain that the lace neck was itchy, so I pulled it off before our trip. When we got to our last day at Disney World, this was the last dress but when she put it on, the sleeves were itchy so she didn't wear it. I tucked the ends of the ribbon under the edge of the sleeve and that's the part that was bothering her. I'm planning to fix it and I'll post an update if I can get it right. 

This dress was my least favorite but it was Bean's very favorite!
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April 7, 2017

Abigial's Princess Ballerina Birthday

This year Abigail had much more input into the planning of her party which was nice. My goal again was to keep it simple and fun and to stick to our rule about number of guests and mostly homemade. I hardly took any pictures, but at least I captured the most important moments.

When her 4 friends each arrived, we had some ballerina tutus and crowns set out that they could put on if they wanted. Then they basically all went outside and sat at the Play Doh table most of the time. They were all having fun, enjoying all the colors and tools, and didn't want to do anything else.

  

The friends she invited this year were Addie, Kristin (not pictured), Savannah, and Makinley. All girls from her class, although Makinley is a year older and wasn't in her class at the time, but we had seen her recently.

One of her friend's big sister is a Cougerette and offered to teach a little dance routine to the girls but they just wanted to freestyle to whatever song was on. 

 

As soon as the music was off, they all went back out to play with the play doh.

 

This is the best and only picture of the snacks- again, all easy stuff. I loved that cake, it was so easy and fun just sticking things onto it. We always get two or three types of icecream from our local icecream place, Henry's for the party. I love that touch- we love Henry's and shopping local.

 

Family photo! She insisted on putting her Elsa dress back on. This is a dress we hid for about a month until she kept asking for it and we pulled it back out again. I never thought I would get annoyed at seeing an outfit on my kid- it's a really pretty dress! But when it's the same thing every other day....."I love you"- speaking of my helper, she asked that I type that right there.

  

After her friends left, we had present time with the grandparents!

There is a feeling of pressure around parties these days that I'm digging in my heels against. I love planning parties and coming up with all of the details, but I don't want it to feel stressful or not worth it. 

We've been to parties that felt so overwhelming with the activities, and going from one thing to the next every 15 minutes, or the ones at that damn Chuck E Cheese. I need a nap just thinking about it! I understand the urge to have the 'best' of everything, and thinking that kids just want all the flashy stuff, and why not, because it's a party... I felt like this party might have been a little too plain when I compared it to other's.

However, I don't want to spend a ton of money on a party when the biggest lesson I learned from this party was that kids are happy just playing with Play Doh and dancing! 

Simple won for the second year in a row!
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