Tuesday, June 30, 2009

so much...

Since Reuben felt pretty well last week, we spent a lot of time doing properly summery things. And the boring daily things. And the teensiest bit of unpacking. I took all sorts of blog-bound photos (including a quick crafty social, making these, which were so fun and turned out darling), but didn't quite squeeze in photo-editing and blog-writing time before our Philadelphia trip this week (which was partly good, because I spent my late nights projects instead, like pulling apart our futon cushion and stitching the padding back in place around the springs while I watched Friday Night Lights. I finally gave in to this series when Ira Glass praised it. Because I *heart* Ira Glass). The oncology rooms here are kindly outfitted with computers, but not the camera interfaces. So next week it is!

Medically: R's MRI yesterday looked pretty much the same as his initial one in early May. So I don't have delightful news to pass on to you, but we're feeling fine that the tumor hasn't increased in size or spread into his pretty pink lungs yet. And the "oh-no-I-can-see-this-thing-growing-every-day!" phase was between the two MRIs, so it seems that the stinker grew, then shrunk back. I try to self-analyze: Is my hopeful "surely this is smaller today!" self stronger than my devastated "surely this has grown overnight!" self? Paranoid both ways, so I'm deciding it's a wash and I can trust me: I know it is softer under-arm than it was. So it's two more cycles at least, then another MRI. Surgery when it looks like it isn't shrinking anymore. We've asked to have the surgeon come chat with us about how this sort of resection goes (answer: it varies. Still, surely he knows more than my imagination does).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

old books

I'm working my way through a lovely old book, I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. I read the recommendation somewhere & reserved it at our library, serendipitously ordering a first edition.

The book is laugh out loud funny (which I can really use this morning; dark night last). While trying to find a photo of my particular printing (the above is the first British edition), I found this JK Rowling comment that I wholeheartedly agree with: "This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met." I am entirely charmed. I do recommend it, only 90 pages in. But my recommendation is not the point of this post.

I am so loving the old book experience. The pages are so soft, the illustration sketches charming and, of course, the smell. Next week will find me browsing our library (it's in a converted old mansion on King Street), choosing reading material based entirely on age. 1948 was a perfect year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

locals? good wet fun & happy support

The Drew Michael Taylor foundation's Family Fun Night and Splash Party at Shippensburg Memorial Park is this Friday night from 6-9. The Taylors live 2 houses away from us and are crazy kind people. Marcie started the foundation in memory of her son Drew who was killed in a tragic accident 3 years ago this month, and it defines "good cause."

Plus, after this sunny week, next week is supposed to be weather-filled. So a bit of splashing on Friday is a very good idea. Come.

All the info here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

attempt #1: Indian textile stamps on linen

Marian and I had a special craft date while Audrey was at a birthday party on Saturday. Our main goal was to make Marian's American Girl doll a bed (she's posting a tutorial, making a sturdy cardboard bed from the doll's original box, on her blog soon) and Marian decided to try out my new antique Indian stamps with acrylic paint to decorate Josefina's bed. I wanted to try the stamps on fabric, and worked on a scrap of linen while she did her decorative painting (she got 100% of Mama for the rest of it, but the finishing detail work was just for her, so I sat across the table with my own paints).

Supplies gathered!

textile ink (this jar is Jacquard brand, originally bought for freezer paper stencils)
soft rubber brayer (from a Speedball block printing starter kit)
a plastic spoon (I have a stack I keep with my textile inks for scooping that I clean & reuse)
a sheet of glass
well-used art board to protect the pretty table
and a pad for under my fabric (this felted wool potholder worked like a charm)

I think you could just use a foam brush to apply the ink to the stamp, especially a small one like this, but the brayer and ultra-flat glass make even application easy and quick. Particularly for larger stamps or blocks or repetitive stamping (like I have planned for my future bedding project), the good gear is highly recommended.

**I start by spreading a line of ink across the glass with the back of a spoon, then use perpendicular strokes of the brayer to get an even sheet of ink.
**Roll the inked brayer across the surface of the stamp a couple of times.
**Press your inked stamp into the fabric. I was worried that the hard wooden stamp wouldn't make a clear image; the "give" in a rubber stamp, added to that of the foam pad that is part of the mount, helps the uniformity of the impression. One tutorial I browsed suggestedusing a pad under the fabric, which somewhat contrasts, methinks, with suggestions to stretch the fabric taut on a frame, but I thought this felted pad worked marvelously. Marian's stamps, on corrugated cardboard that was slightly warped in some places from our manipulation and the paint, were not as clear, though the images improved when we decided to just let the stamp sit there a moment, allowing the paint to flow down.
I thought my little paisley looked lovely (though I do increasingly prefer the term Persian pickle--so homey!--after reading the Persian Pickle Club).
The second stamp I chose (one of Nathan's picks) was designed for a continuous border. It is damaged a bit at the edge, which (along with my inexpert handling) made it less continuous. Practice I will!
My big stamp is a botanical beauty, and I realized after stamping a couple of images that it is also designed to be part of a continuous swirling border.
Which I did line up better in take 2, this time on my fanciest paper towels (I prefer Bounty, exclusively in the choose-your-size tear pattern. I (infamous in several circles for always tearing wipes in 1/2) always choose the smallest, of course.
A word of caution: My stamps were totally black when I bought them, and when I washed the ink off during cleanup, a lot of paint came with it, which marred subsequent stampings. You can see the black blots on the paper towel above. I'm not sure if that is how they come from India or if the store I bought them from (which had decor rather than actual use in mind) painted them to polish 'em up a bit, but I recommend keeping the mess potential in mind. I did not have any troubles with black transfer during my initial work, so plan on assuming that a nice dry stamp will be fine for future work, too. I just cannot switch colors mid-project without getting out the hairdryer. I'll have to debate varnishing them...seems that it will interfere with the ink "grab"; perhaps varnish all, then wipe off the stamping surface?

Conclusion: get your own, friends (a good place to start may be here: hooray for one-woman businesses!). Next up: batik!

happy Father's day


Sunday, June 21, 2009


I forgot to post another thing Reuben liked to eat during our hospital stay: embroidery floss.

I had bought some new colors and let him help while I wound them on their neat little cards. Butter yellow had to be snipped into 5 pieces before I could untangle it, and it is still a bit stiff with sweet baby drool.

rained out

All of that lush green can only come from a whole lot of rain, so our Saturday woods plans had to urbanize. The nearest Waffle House was in Frederick, MD, so while we were there, I convinced the troops to stay awhile. The historic downtown was really lovely (blue skies now...).Sidewalk samples. I'm always in a mossy mood. I convinced the troops to accompany me to Great Stuff by Paul. The girls loved itand Nathan, well, he has a new iPhone to play with. And he kept Reuben occupied, which was super champion of him.

I had heard of the store as a great place to glean treasures, but it was more curated and less dig-through than I'd anticipated. Their antiques (they started with a lot of European ware, and are now mostly rustic Asian) are lovely, but not in the spur-of-the-moment purchase price range for this girl (though I would die happy if I owned a particular 48-drawer cabinet, and what kind of price is $1900 to place on happiness after all?). Perhaps I should have tried here for a thriftier shopping experience:Reliable Junk!
I was sore tempted by a bin of wooden type that has been much-rifled through. Pretty much all that was left was Z, V, F, & U. Luckily for me, I like those letters and found a little "G" to complete my monogram (vfg).
I also splurged on some antique Indian textile stamps (which took me 1/2 hour to choose) and, for the umpteenth time in the 5 years I've been "seriously working" on nice bedding for my poor bedroom, think I've finally found the thing. Marian and I experimented with them this evening and are feeling optimistic. Handcarved pear wood, say my sources. Sample results soon!

miniature terrariums in Catoctin

Saturday I woke up to this view: We talk a lot about trying to move back West, nearer our family and roots, and I always think about how much I would ache for these deciduous Eastern forests. (Reuben was so enchanted with that striped ceiling in the morning; we camp in a delightful and huge bulky canvas tent that Nathan grew up with.)

The summer's first camping trip deserves a good nature craft, and I turned to my ever-giving pile of medical supplies for a re-use/repurpose. These little bottles originally contained Marian's growth hormone, but I've gleaned similar from methotrexate (wider necked) and Neupogen (tinier). I've heard insulin bottles are similar. Ask your sick friends ;). I clip the thin aluminum bands and soak off the labels and am left with a neat little rubber-stoppered bottle.I brought each camping child a different color of cotton yarn to string their bottles around their necks (pull-over length). The narrow neck is perfect for tying. Our instructions were simple: find some dirt, add some moss and other little bits.Then let Miss Valerie take your picture.


This week's hospital visit allowed a bit of embroidery time.

I'm loving my little free spirited sampler so far, and left this photo big (click on it) so you can enjoy the detail with me. Especially the "wild", of course!

Fabric for me

Sew, Mama, Sew! is a very cool site (oh-so-well-chosen fabric & idea-packed blog & new forum) that I really under utilize. Because I'm not sewing much these days. They're doing an awesome thing right now called Guest Fat Quarter Packs. Craft blogging superstars (Alicia Paulson, Amy Karol, Hillary Lang...) pick a selection of fabrics for a great FQ pack and you can buy them or comment to win. I think my Orla Kiely bag win will make the stars think I'm already too lucky to win again (I love that purse more than I should), but this is the comment-to-win I left this morning on Hillary Lang's FQ selection and don't you think those sparkly stars should align again, anyway? Yum.

I have a new house & a baby boy, so will use the fabric with ease! But I do think that the best use for Hillary's selections would be one of her patterns.

Back story: I'll admit I'm a wee wonderfuls collector (I have nearly all of her embroidery & toy patterns & two of her dolls that she sent to my daughter last year when meeting a fellow craft artist--imacraftartist.blogspot.com--was her Make-A-Wish Foundation wish, but we couldn't arrange our schedules before Marian's bone marrow transplant). My favorite of Hillary's patterns are the Handsewing for Fun series. The trifold cards are so sweetly designed and the little animals simply delicious. Hillary's blog was the first craft blog I started following religiously, 3 years ago when I moved to a small town with no crafting friends and my daily internet craft fix saved my sanity. I fell in love with her work when I was searching for tiny felt animal patterns and found a delightful small felt crowned turtle among her flickr albums (I think she linked it in a craftster.org post) and I spent quite a bit of time trying to sketch a pattern to replicate it. When I saw that a pattern for the turtle queen was in the works, I was really-too-excited-to-be-a-grown-up about it and bought the series right away. My daughter went to her first day of first grade with the sweet turtle buddy in her backpack for luck (the other got an equally wonderful butterfly, http://purplepetunialife.blogspot.com/2007/09/back-to-school-with-wee-wonderfuls.html).

Which is the very long way to this point: both the turtle and butterfly Handsewing for Fun patterns use scraps of cotton for visual interest on their shells and wings, respectively, and using Hillary's FQ selections for those wee and wonderful panels would be darling and I swear if I win to do it and show you pictures. The end!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


After hours in the ER (I overheard a man in the hall say angrily, "I've been waiting for half an hour..." and smiled to myself. Novice.), we were admitted for a few days for IV antibiotics and watching until Reuben's white cell count pulled out of its "7-10 days later" trough. Home this afternoon. Finally. The prevailing theory was that it was Reuben's mouth sores (poor hoarse throat!) that spiked the fever, which mercifully never got very high and only reared its hot head once more after the initial Tylenol dosing (why oh why are kids' medications dyed so brightly? surely a tint is enough to differentiate it from water!).

On the way home, I drove a couple of miles out of my way to use a gas voucher at the participating station and was so happy because I have hitherto forgotten to drive through downtown Hershey, cute planned factory town. Witness the street lights in this the-light-just-turned-but-finally-I-found-my-camera-in-my-crammed-purse-and-my!-it's-raining photo:
Look closely. Every other kiss is unwrapped. Chocolate-y goodness. And, yes, that's "Cocoa Avenue".

(I know that the American standard for quotation marks is to place them after the period, always. C'mon, of course I read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves--watch for a reference in a future planned post as to why it was gifted to me--but sometimes I just disagree. Like the period/parenthesis rules. Wrong.)

And I know that this mishap is the least of my punctuation foibles. Like that passion for randomly placed elipses. I'm just creative.....(and confused.). or...


See that? Bottle baby. A combination of mouth sores and teething sent Reuben on a nursing strike in the hospital and it was horrible. I took the photo to show part of why our bottle and our breast attempts were so unsuccessful: that bottle is at the side of his mouth. Chewing, chewing, chewing. Which didn't work for me. And got very little milk out of the bottle (feeding in the sling with music and swaying was ultimately our most successful approach. Sometimes I even tilted the bottle so he could get at the milk because I almost get how to use those darned things.).

(see? am I supposed to use two periods there? My side-comment parenthetical remarks get long and while I know what to do with one partial sentence, what do I do when I run on and on? I need to consult Ms. Truss again. And also stop commenting on my punctuation because now you'll analyze every post because I'm sure you're as punctuation paranoid as me. At least I just wrote "you're" appropriately. Pet peeve and you would not believe how lousy Nathan's students are at this in their--not there or they're--papers. Or else you would because you are as anal as I am.)

We also tried a lot of solids, which we have done less of at home because when he's nauseous he cannot tolerate them. I think we'd best work on that skill anyway. We had limited success with rice cereal and applesauce, but he did enjoy food from my tray:
Lettuce.Plastic lids.
Fudge brownie!

(you may note from the drooly line on the right that I alternated brownie and frosting sneaks with bites of rice cereal/applesauce mix--he was tricked into opening his mouth because the fudge was awesome and was only a little disgruntled at the switches)

See the abandoned breast pump and bottles in the photo? The room was strewn.

Once during Monday night he forgot his strike and nursed and I didn't quite give up hope.


Now we're home. Nursing like a champ. It's just better here. I'm going to do more Reuben food work now, though. We need more in our calorie-obtaining arsenal.

Oh, and his mouth is, too. Hooray, new white cells! Healing champs, those guys. Keep yours around, my friends.

dying over this


I have 1000+ posts to read on my google reader because I'm behind and I want to just clear everything, but what if I had missed it???

that's why I'm not unpacked, too. I'll admit it. It's not just the baby and the cancer and all of that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

silly me...

I finally unpacked my hospital suitcase in a rare moment of Sunday morning efficiency.

Silly me.

Fever. Back again.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


More photos from this weekend.
Our room had the perfect view: green hills in the background for Mama and a bright construction zone just under us. Even though it was quiet for the weekend, Reuben loved staring at the colors and the pennant flags dancing in the breeze. Is truck-love already beginning? (my nephew Zander could recite--and identify--construction vehicles as soon as he could talk and I'm so looking forward to those obsessions. Did any of your children have them? I remember my brother Justin & cows, his little 3-year-old voice declaiming, "Hereford-Angus mix!" "Jersey!" as he stared out the window on family roadtrips).My friend Sherry lent me one of her slings to try this weekend, and I was so glad I had it. When R felt ill and wanted to be held, the swinging support brought comforting cuddles without the usual pressure points of bony Mama holding a wiggly sad baby, and more than once it was the only trick that brought us to this happy view: sweet slumber. A quick project for what is left of the perfect fabric, methinks. It's the ring sort, but not the bulky ring sort. Lots and lots of IV fluids to flush out the poisons bring on puffy eyes and ohsomany diaper changes. Fun body detail: one of Reuben's chemo drugs is fruit-punch red, and it's crazy how quick (like 15 minutes later) the pink shows up in his diaper. Go, kidneys! The Hawaiian shirt was hospital-awesome: button-ups are great for port access (thank you, Stephanie!). You can see in this photo, too, his wrapped tubies: he seems to want to take his poison orally, so determined he is to bite through the lines. Burp cloth and safety pins to the rescue.

A rare moment in the crib. Gorgeous quilt courtesy of Cynthia. The little sleep bench for parent use is narrow (2 1/2 feet), but exceedingly cramped for both of us. Still, squashy side sleeping beats no sleeping at all...
Nathan and Audrey gave us eye rolls and "Packrat!" accusations, but I knew I should save this placemat* from our "room service" trays. Marian immediately saw the value, and drew us a picture for our wall: a rendering of the wee playhouse at the Hershey Ronald McDonald house. C'mon--scallops! And I moved the food off really fast to avoid condensation rings... *7 more in my suitcase.