Monday, 25 November 2013

my army is complete

The wee folk are finished! I stayed up way too late two nights in a row and loved every minute of this project!  I finally decided that (as much as I wanted a "young St. Patrick") he was just just going to look so much more "right" if he had white hair.....

At first, my white-haired, bearded St Patricks looked like Ninjas. I was near despair. 

Then I found an online tutorial about painting faces and facial hair on peg dolls. Phew. 

The final product looked mostly like this. None of them have their high-gloss spray yet, so they are not as shiny as they will be, but they are otherwise done. Unless....I figure out some way to incorporate some sort of "breastplate" into the doll. But they are probably done.

Maria wanted to take a picture of me with my completed army and crazy morning hair.
And she wanted the picture included on the blog..... 

And now I'm in need of a new project.
 Which is why I placed my order yesterday for some more plain wooden pegs.  
For this:

Actually for this, times two. One set for my kids and one set for my sister's kids. 

Maria really really wanted to help with the St Patricks - and I did not let her - so I am going to let her 
paint some angels and shepherds for this project. I thought we'd do a couple of pieces together each week of Advent and have a complete set by Christmas. Right now I'm thinking big:  Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a HOST of angels, a BUNCH of shepherds, shepherdesses and shepherd children, 3 wise men, a drummer boy. I already own several small plastic sheep and a donkey from a Fisher Price nativity play set that my kids used to love to play with so much that I was never allowed to put it away during the non-Christmas seasons of the year. (They ended up losing two kings, the camel, Mary and Joseph in New Zealand, but we still have the animals.) 

Ok, before I end up with more Vaseline on the sofa, or something worse.... Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

(pegs ordered from Casey's Wood Products)

Friday, 22 November 2013

st patrick, ad nauseum

I spent this afternoon painting a Saint Patrick "peg" doll - twenty one times (well, I got started on this massive project anyway). Twenty other women in town will spend the next few weeks doing almost the same thing, only their pegs will be painted into the likes of twenty one Padre Pios, St Agneses and John Paul IIs. Before Christmas there will be peg-painting party and a peg swap. On Christmas morning, there will be a collection under the Christmas tree in twenty one homes. 

This is a fun and inexpensive gift idea, so I thought I'd share it.  I've seen superhero pegs, Little House on the Prairie pegs, Old Testament pegs and more.  They remind me of my old school Little People (but fraught with far more possibility...)  

How does Kelly have time for projects like this?! you may be wondering. Fair enough. I was perched at the kitchen island. My eldest was assisting me by sorting paintbrushes and lining up unpainted dolls. My baby was playing quite merrily inside the island, clanging muffin tins together.

 We have what I believe is called an "open plan" kitchen (though I would have no clue, really) - basically, my kitchen and family room sort of flow together as one large room. My two middle children (ages 2 and 4) were in the family room where I could both see and hear them as they played quietly together. I could only see the tops of their heads over the back of a sofa, but clearly they were happy getting along and not doing anything remotely dangerous. The house was super tidy. Dinner bubbled in the crockpot. A scented candle glowed in the midst of all.  I felt so good about the domestic harmony and peace abounding in my home. 

Suddenly, it all struck me as too good. Far too good.  My Spidey-senses started tingling. I knew that I had to see what the heck those two quiet kids were DOING as they huddled together in the family room. 

They were smearing Vaseline and water all over the seat of the new couch. 

I nearly lost my mind.

St Patrick, pray for them......

Anyway, back on a happier note......I'm trying to decide whether to give St Patrick a beard or not. I think he might end up looking like Jesus if I do give him one. I originally wanted to give him a tonsure but Richard didn't think the tonsure had been invented yet (so in lieu of that 'do, I bestowed the halo). When he's all done, he'll get a spray of high-gloss coating that renders him nearly indestructible to toddler boys. If my boys like these as much as my girls love the fabric saint pegs I made in New Zealand, it will be a very Merry Christmas  - if that Vaseline comes out of the sofa.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

fig leaves

My kids had a lot of friends over this week. It was just that kind of week. On the last day of our playdate marathon, two sisters came over to visit. Both are very young, totally innocent, impeccably polite and super sweet. As their mother shepherded them into the house, the eight year old beamed up at me with a radiant smile and chirped with darling sincerity, "Oh! I like your jeans! I really want tight pants like those." I wanted to crawl under a rock in shame.  Sadly, I had no rock immediately available to me.

Skinny jeans. Christian homeschooling moms. Are these two trends able to harmoniously co-exist? In the "homeschooling Catholic mom" milieu, the skinny jean is not the norm - neither amongst moms, nor amongst their daughters (even the teenage daughters). When skinny jeans first materialized, I was certain I would never own a pair. I thought they looked cheap and desperate.  After years of bootcut jeans, bell-bottoms and flares, they struck me as a bit....ridiculous. And that was before I ever imagined I would be seeing them on males. But after Joseph was born, I needed a pair of jeans for that awkward postpartum period in which your maternity pants are too big and your college jeans laugh at you. We were in New Zealand at the time, where leggings and skinny jeans were so uniformly worn that it was difficult to find anything else. I had to choose between skinny jeans and "mom jeans" (you know) and so I bought my first pair of skinny jeans. Initially, I wore them only with long linen shirts and thought very little about it. 

But I have been thinking more about it lately. And by it, I mean modesty. And by modesty, I mean something bigger than and other than "modesty". I mean dignity and femininity and fashion and beauty and goodness. I'm also considering the heavy reality of being a role model (consciously and unconsciously). And I am confused. 

Many days, my husband is the only adult who sees me all day. Most days, he is the only man who does so. He likes my skinny jeans. When I told him (after my sweet tiny guest broke my heart) that I was considering getting rid of them, he was sad. He doesn't want to come home to a frump, nor do I want to look dowdy to him. I know there is a (wide) middle ground between skinny jean and frump, but from the guidelines and example of many champions of modesty, one might not be aware of this truth.

Giving example is another important consideration to me, hence my distress at having a child want to wear tight jeans just like me. One the one hand, I don't want to be involved with any child wishing to wear something more sexy than the innocuous fashions appropriate to little girls. On the other hand, my daughters already are counting down the days until they can wear all kinds of women's undergarments - and I'm certainly not about to stop wearing those simply because they are too grown-up for my girls. I read a great book a few years ago that mentioned that daughters are not going to listen to their mother's fashion advice if they consider her totally out of sync with what is fashionable. I want to look appealing (and fashionable) to my daughters. Furthermore, I want to look lovely to my sons as well. I am sort of "base neutral woman" for my boys - how I dress will have some influence on their idea of what is pretty and normal and appropriate for women to wear.  So I guess the perfect balance is to wear clothing that delights my husband, attracts my daughters' admiration and would not alarm me to see on the girlfriends of my sons as they enter the dating years of their lives. Good grief. 

But there is more. I really believe that a woman's clothing should be inherently beautiful, echoing her own beauty and dignity. Even the most modest women I know rarely wear things that I consider up to this ideal, although I have known a few exceptions. Our contemporary fashions fly in the face of these ideals to the point that it is nearly impossible to find anything both beautiful and dignified for everyday wear. I love pretty skirts and dresses. They are not too hard to find in stores. But I spend all day on the floor with really small children. I literally have to wrestle James into and out of his diapers and change him with my hands while pinning him down by the shoulders with my feet. Every time. True story. And that is just not a graceful moment for the skirt-wearing woman. I'm scrubbing floors on my hands and knees. I'm driving the car. I'm scooping up tantruming toddlers.  I'm sitting cross-legged on the couch so that my lap is wide enough to accommodate the three children to whom I spend hours reading and a nursing babe in arms. I can't do my normal daily activities modestly in a skirt, however long or short it might be. I know because I have been around other mothers trying to do these things in skirts and I have seen undies. A lot of undies. "Undies" are pretty much the opposite of "dignity". 

So although I really feel strongly that skirts and dresses are hands-down the most dignified, beautiful choices for women, most days they are not a practical choice for me. That makes me sad, because when I do wear a dress, my Joseph will stop everything he is doing, drop his mouth open and stare at me with unfeigned wonder. Then - very slowly - he'll smile and tell me "Mama! You wook so boo-tee-fuh!" (Sometimes, to change it up, he'll tell me I look "cool".) When your two year old boy looks at you with awe and tells you sincerely that you are beautiful (or cool)... you are. I don't think any man can ever make a woman feel as flawlessly gorgeous as a two year old boy can. For that reason alone I am sad about skirts!

Jeans (and pants in general) are either too flattering to a woman's bottom or horribly, horribly unflattering (aka "frumpy" - and detracting mightily from her dignity). Plus there is the ubiquitously pesky issue of peek-y butt cleavage. This is a widespread issue even for Christian butts, mothers or no, homeschooling or not. The only solution to these pants issues is long, long shirts. And that brings us back to the skinny jean: once you have on a long, long top, I wonder if there is any difference between the skinny jean and the bell-bottom? I fail to find any substantial difference, other than how snugly the material fits against the calf. The calf is often covered by enormous boots over the skinny jean. The calf is often exposed or encased in tights when skirts are worn. At this point I become frustrated and disgusted with the entire modesty debate. It begins to seem like a very small, ridiculous, petty, hairsplitting concern when contrasted with the larger issues in the world and with my own sins against charity. 

I'm not saying that modesty is a small, petty issue. It deserves attention. Some attention. When it gets too much attention, it becomes a source of vanity, pride and uncharitable judgments. Modest dress is a tricky thing to balance in our fashion culture. We don't have beautiful universal standards as in the days of graceful hoopskirts and dainty shifts. We must assume that the Christian women we know are doing the best they can given their awareness and their resources for clothing themselves. I recently overheard some young Christian women bewail the immodest dress of teenage girls, although I notice that they themselves habitually wear sloppy sweatpants and shapeless tees that do no more to enhance their feminine dignity and beauty than the fashions they condemn. The world thinks that "modesty" is equivalent to the denim jumper, the awkward skirt, the shapeless anything. In this light, "modesty" is all that the teen girl least wants to be. We need to challenge that prejudice. Modest clothing enables a woman to present herself as a person both beautiful and dignified. It should set a desirable example - in other words, a modest ensemble ideally ought to attract happy exclamations from young girls and teens, "Oh, I like that! I might like to wear something like that!"  To my shame, when I attracted those exact compliments this week, I was not wearing something that I considered suitable for a child's admiration.

Now my challenge is figuring out what to aim for. I can't quite catch a vision of a wardrobe that would be practical, pretty and dignified. I have neither time nor money to burn until I have a concrete idea of what to purchase. When this subject comes up among my friends, I find that either they are wrestling with the same questions I am or they have found an answer and I do not fully agree. Eve had to settle for fig leaves and animal skins. Elizabeth Bennet got to wear bonnets and velvet. In every age, woman and fashion collide. I have no conclusion tonight. It's weighing heavily on my heart to weave together some kind of style that works well for me. In the meantime, I am grateful that whenever I do leave the house, I generally have the most modest, dignified, beautiful covering to which a woman can aspire: such a thick orbit of children clustered around my person that in all probability neither an inch of my flesh nor a stitch of my own clothing is visible to anyone. My accessories are slightly less constricting than the corset, as beautiful as the most gorgeous costumes I've seen on Lady Mary Crawley, and bestow more dignity than either. Très chic!