Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Journey Home Part 3: The Last Day

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Right now at this very moment I am sitting at my desk for my very last hour of work. I thought it would be so strange, sitting here in the same seat I have spent countless hours in for the past almost seven years, but it feels totally normal.  Knowing that this is the last time I will do this one thing that I have done a million times before.  Maybe it just hasn't set it that I'm not coming back next week.

People keep asking me if it feels so weird knowing this is my last day, but it doesn't.  It reminds me of our wedding day.  People kept asking me if I was nervous, but I never once felt nervous.  It just felt normal, like this is what is supposed to happen and this is when it is supposed to happen.  Hard to explain, but it helps me know that this is the right decision.

It has been so wonderful to see the support that I have been given from coworkers, even those that I never expected.  Most of my superiors are proud 'career women' - which is expanded further when you consider they fought their way in the male-dominated field of science.  But even they gave kind thoughts of "I really admire you, I wish I had the patience to have stayed home with my daughter" and "I even took a few years off when my kids were really young."  Others (admittedly, mostly men) have literally cheered when they heard why I was leaving (cheered in support, not in a 'hooray we got rid of her!' way).  Honestly one of my fears when I was preparing to hand in (ehh... e-mail) my notice was that people would put me down for this decision, (especially because I work in a laboratory with a very liberal culture) but it has actually been quite the opposite.  Many have told me that they believe we need more stay-at-home moms, that every sacrifice is worth staying home with your children, and even though I have always had these convictions, to hear these things coming from people that I always assumed would mock me for this decision is SO encouraging.

Over the next few days (okay, lets face it, probably weeks) I'll tell you more about my transition to domestic bliss, but I just wanted to share a bit of how I feel right now, just before the  start of a wonderful new beginning.

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Journey Home part 2: It takes a leap of faith

source for this image

I guess this also could have doubled as an Inspiration Sunday post. But we all know I've been slacking/"busy" lately and haven't done one of those in awhile. (But I do have ideas in my head, so thats something...)

This will be my last week at work.  It is so strange to say goodbye to something that has been such a major part of my life for the past seven years.  When I am at work, I wonder why I would ever want to leave, but when I am at home, I understand completely.  I do leave knowing that it is the right thing to do, however.

When we were first convicted to have me quit to stay home, we were wondering how we would do it, but of course we planned on that being a year or more away, and figured we'd come up with something.  However since our plans were expedited, when I handed in my notice we still hadn't come up with how to make ends meet.  Even though we knew it would be a very significant drop in income, we both knew it was the right thing and decided to take a leap of faith and trust that God would provide a way. (LDS friends: Bring a primary song to mind? "I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands; I know the Lord provides a way, He wants me to obey!")

When I put in my notice at the end of December and knew for sure that I was leaving in a month, we did the financial math.  If we changed our eating habits (from super cheap to literally beans and rice for every meal) and bought absolutly zero extras and had no health problems, broken cars, or home repairs, most months we would spend every dollar my husband earned, and fall short a few months since he is paid on commission.  This is a scary thing to face, we've never had any debt aside from our mortgage, and have always maintained an emergency savings account.  We decided that if something came up we'd have to sell my car to pay for it.  But, seeing as we'd live, we did it anyway, still hoping that somehow we could come up with a way to earn an extra $100 or so each month.

A few days after I had put in my notice, a neighbor mentioned to me that she was looking for a piano teacher for her son.  I taught piano before we were married and knew her and her son, so I said I'd love to teach him.  Before the weekend was over, I had 10 other moms from the neighborhood ask if I could teach their kids as well.  I didn't ask her to spread the word or anything, but somehow the word got out anyway and our prayers were answered three-fold - $300 a month from teaching piano! Something I never thought of doing, and didn't even try to do, it just fell into my lap.

A few days after this, a local boutique that I have sewn for in the past called up.  They are looking to start manufacturing their own brand locally, and wanted to know if I would sew from home for them. They want at least 10 pieces a week for now ($200/month), with the possibility of me designing and drafting a children's clothing line for them later this year. So now our prayers for $100/month were answered five-fold. $500 a month in work (that I can do from home!) that was literally given to me. I never had to seek out these jobs.

About a week after I put in my notice and we were in awe of the miracle of the piano lessons and the sewing, some problems came up at hubby's office.  One of his coworkers ended up quitting on the spot because she couldn't handle it.  His direct superior asked if he would be willing to take on her responsibilities if offered a raise.  As a part of this deal, he would also be put on salary, so we wouldn't have to worry about making more some months and less others.  This raise resulted in about an extra $800 a month.  When he called to tell me this, I was speechless. We would now be making $300 more each month than we had when I was working. 

By taking that leap of faith and quitting when we knew it was right, even though we didn't know how to make it work, our prayers weren't just answered, They were answered 13 times better than we had hoped.  We had asked for $100 a month, and were willing to work to find it. We were given $1300, which was handed to us without our seeking it.  Our heavenly Father is wonderfully incredibly good.  I am certainly not a perfect person, but just look what He has done for us!  How could I ever doubt that this is the right direction to take, after witnessing such a miracle?

Back to the primary song mentioned before - remember the story of Nephi? (okay, you who aren't LDS won't remember because you've probably never heard it) Nephi was told by God to go into Jerusalem and get the plates.  He knew only that he needed to, but didn't know how it would happen.  I imagine he stood outside of the city and just stared, saying "I don't know how this is going to work, but I know it is right, and so I will do it."  Previous attempts had made this task seem impossible. He walked into the city, "not knowing beforehand the things which I should do," and God showed him the way.  We didn't know how we were going to make this work, but we did it anyway, trusting that God would show us the way - and He did.

I will close copying the words of Nephi, beacuse he said it better than I could:
"I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Journey Home, Part 1 - Goals

Okay so I'm failing miserably.  The plan was to post twice a week not twice a month. ehh.... This month has been extremely busy! I have been coming up with posts in my head but I never find the time to sit down and write them.  I am sorry, I am trying to do better!

The Long Road Home
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I want to tell you why January has been so busy.... I am leaving my full time job to stay at home. It's taken a lot more preparation than I thought, and has involved me pretty much working two jobs this month.  Here's the story:

I have been wanting to quit to stay at home forever, and it was the plan all along, but we just never felt it was quite the right time to do it.  Early last year we came up with a plan of me quitting in the fall of 2013, and were pretty set to that idea.  We did the math to figure out if we could afford it, what our budget would be, etc and knew it would be possible.  We were comfortable with the 18 months of buffer time to figure out some sort of part-time work for me or my husband, and were working to save up a good emergency fund.

Then, one day in October, my husband randomly called me up in the middle of the day and said "You know what, I don't think we should wait another year for you to quit.  You need to be at home." Let me tell you, those are probably the sweetest words any working mother can hear!  We decided it would be best to wait for the year and the holiday season to be over (okay, so that was a bit selfish - the extra holiday pay and one last quarterly bonus that would happen between then and now was quite the incentive.)  So much has happened since then, and I plan to tell you all about it (but in installments, because it's quite a long story, and isn't over yet).

So the first thing I've been trying to figure out is how I am going to adjust schedule-wise.  I am used to coming home from work at 2 a.m. I stay up that late on weekends (five hours after husband and child are asleep) so that I am not too tired on the days I work.  I try to wake up at 8, but it's realistically more like 10. Because I'm not home, I rarely cook dinner.  I usually am too tired to clean during the week, so I just let the house accumulate a week's worth of mess and clean it all on Saturday. This isn't what I want life to be like, it is what one of my best friends/mentors calls "survival mode" - it's what you have to do in order to achieve something better.

My big goals are:
- to sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. This is a major adjustment! I have never been a morning person. I love staying up alone at night, watching TV shows the husband doesn't like, working on projects with no interruptions... it will be hard to give up that time.  How am I supposed to wake up at the crack of dawn and enjoy it? I have never experienced not being miserable in the morning.
- to make dinner. Real dinner with real food, not microwave stuff. I usually cook dinner like 2 days a week... I don't know if I can think of new meals every night!  This means I need to learn how to make a meal plan and stick to it.
-to actually spend time with the kiddo. Usually, when I'm with him, I'm struggling to stay awake and frantically get what little I can done.  This means he gets lots of TV time, lots of fast unhealthy foods, and very little play time with mommy.  I feel terrible about it, and it's time to change this!
-to keep the house clean consistently, rather than do it all in one day.  I have read some homemaking books to see what has worked for other people, and I am trying to get my own schedule in place.  This will definitely take some trial and error.  Right now I have a list of things to do every day (dishes, laundry, etc) and then I've divided the house into 14 sections so I can focus on one section each day - that way each room gets a good clean every two weeks. We will see how that works.

As you can tell, this is a lot.  This is a completely different lifestyle that what I have been living for... well, for my entire life.  It's what I want, but I am afraid of the difficulty that it will take to adjust.  I am afraid that I'm just going to give up and go back to my old ways.  I pray every night that I can do this.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tutorial: Sew your own leggings!

I'm usually not the trendiest woman in the world, but leggings and tights (or as my mom calls them, "leggins") have been 'in' long enough that I think I feel safe wearing them.  Especially when its been below freezing for several weeks (and it has, brrr!).
Last week, my local WalMart put out an incredible bin of sale fabric.  Chiffon, stretch lace, t-shirt knits, sweater knits, courderoy... all $1/yard!!! seriously. I think I bought like 20 yards of material, and would have bought more if I weren't afraid of what the hubby would say when he saw it all. 
So, my first project was some "leggins" made from brown stretch lace. (my only options were brown and pink, but you don't complain when its $1!) I know lots of people probably think its crazy to make your own leggings (mom included), but I'm a pretty crazy person.  Plus it really isn't hard. If you can make pajama pants, you can do this.

Step 1: find your material.  You can make leggings out of anything stretchy - t-shirt material, sweater material, swimsuit or leotard material, get creative!  Figure out how long you want your leggings, then add a couple inches, and thats how much you want to buy. I got 1 1/3 yds and had about 6 inches left over.

Step 2: make your pattern.  This is easiest if you already have some tight pants to trace. Other leggings, skinny jeans, exercise pants (or what I used, long thermal underwear).  If you dont, you'll end up having someone trace your legs onto tissue paper, and thats going to be awkward, and then your going to have to get the crotch worked out... frankly it will be a pain. If you are like me and don't have a lot of junk in the trunk, you can make your back and front identical.  Just fold your pants/leggings/whatever in half and get them to lay as flat as possible, and trace onto tissue paper adding an extra inch at the top and bottom (for your waistband and your hem) and a 1/4 inch seam allowance on all sides.  You should end up with something like this:
Pattern piece for leggings
Step 3: lay your material out flat. Find the selvedge edges (the manufactured edges) and the cut edges.  If you can't tell, stretch knit material should stretch more from selvedge to selvedge than it does from cut edge to cut edge.  Then, fold the selvedge edges in toward the middle, just as wide as the widest part of your pattern.  Place the long straight side of your pattern along the fold and pin. (if your pattern isn't totally straight, thats okay, just pretend it is.) then cut it out, and do the same on the other side.  You should end up with two pieces that look like this:
Leg pieces for leggings
Some general notes about sewing stretch knits before we continue:  It might seem wrong, but you want your clothes to stretch more side to side, not up and down.  For this reason, you always cut your pieces to be vetically parallel with the selvedge.  Also, if you don't have a serger, just use a tight zig zag stitch on a standard machine then cut close to your stitches.  Practice on some scraps to find the right length and width (I set mine to be a 2 width and a 2 length.)  If you used a really thin material, you may want to try a #9 needle.  Finally, pins are your friend.  Put your pins close together to prevent your material from stretching and sliding while you sew.

Step 4: Fold the pieces right sides together and pin the inside leg seams.  I put my pins vertically along the seam line when I sew knits to keep the material more steady.  Sew from the crotch to the hem with a 1/4 inch allowance (if you cut a little unevenly youd rather cut the hem straight than have a wonky crotch seam, right? right.) Now, clip close to your seams and continue.
see those pins? vertical and close together!
Step 5: turn one pant leg right side out and put it inside of the other, so that right sides are together.  Line up your inner leg seams and pin, then pin up to the waist band on both sides.  You should have a U shape to sew... now sew it with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and clip close to the seam. Then take the leg out from inside the other so it looks like inside out leggings now.
With one leg inside the other...You can kinda make out that U shape, right?

Step 6: make a waistband by cutting a piece of 1/4 inch elastic to be the size of the waist of your leggings plus a half inch.  pin elastic to the top (on the wrong side of the fabric), overlapping the extra, and sew with a wide zig zag stitch.  Then fold under again and sew with a wide zig zag stitch again, this time with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Elastic pinned to the waist
Sew the elastic on with a wide zig-zag stitch
Step 7: you can add a hem if you want.  I didn't. My material won't fray and the raw edges look just fine I think.

Step 8: turn right side out and admire your leggings, then put them on and keep your legs warm(er) when you wear a skirt and its 12 degrees outside! ta-da!
The finished leggings
Yeah, I made that.
p.s. if you make them for a little girl, I think you should add ruffles to the bottom, because when else can you get away with wearing ruffled leggings? I sure wish I could.

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Modest Monday

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Look 6026 Pattern Review


This top is New Look 6026 view D, which I made as a sample for JoAnn's.  I was excited to make this and think it turned out pretty cute, but it was much more difficult to make than I expected. There were a ton of little pieces and the instructions were a nightmare.  This was one of those projects where I had to ignore the instructions and do it myself!
So, while the end result is nice, I warn you that you will need to have patience because there are about 14 pieces in the neck and sleeve bands.  The ruffle at the bottom is a bit too ruffley for my taste, I plan on toning it down a bit. The sleeves are a bit to butterfly like.  Also, I was disappointed at how wide the neck is, you may want to consider altering it to be smaller unless you like your bra straps peeking out or you plan to wear a layering shirt under. 

Simplicity 1805 Pattern Review

This knit shirt is Simplicity 1805 view A, which I made as a sample for JoAnn's.  It is made from a thicker double stretch knit in a dark red. (the picture muted the color a bit)  I wasn't thrilled about making this shirt - I am a small person and feel like baggy things like this drown me out.  However, after trying this one on I actually really like it.  It isn't as baggy as I expected.  Beware that the directions on how to do the neck band are horribly wrong. (interfacing on a stretch knit?? what??)
So, If you do use this pattern, do not follow the instructions for the neck band.  Just sew the short ends together to form a loop, fold it in half wrong sides together, iron it nice, and pin it on the shirt body (also right side out) with the raw neck edge and the raw edges of your neck band together, then turn it in and iron it flat. Easy as that! (hey look, I made a rhyme!)

Simplicity 1943 Pattern Review

Simplicity 1943
I recently made Simplicity 1943 as a sample for JoAnn's.  This should have been a really simple bolero jacket, but my poor fabric choice really ruined things for me.  I did view F, which I was happy about, the others weren't really my style.  I think it is a cute addition to a strapless or sleeveless dress to make it modest.  I used a black taffeta for the shell from the special occassions collection at JoAnn's.  The material is really awesome (check out those swirls!) and was originally super expensive but I scored a great deal on it (I think 65% off?) by combining my discount card with a sale price.  The lining is black costume satin from WalMart.  Both of these were bad choices.  The taffeta is pretty for sure, but the swirls make it hard to sew, some places are thick and others are not, and this makes all the edges look jaggedy no matter how straight your seams are.  The costume satin was horrid! It was flimsy, slippery, and just DID NOT want to be sewn.  The pattern was easy enough, although it got a bit tricky when it came to turning the garment right side out and sewing up the side.  I ended up having to do it completely different, mostly because both my materials were threatening to rip and also because it wouldn't cooperate to be sewn that way.  So, there are some exposed seams under the arms. Nobody will care but me. The sizing was weird as well, I think the back piece is too big.  When I get it back I will experiment with cutting the back in half and sewing a back seam to make it a bit smaller. (unless someone medium-large out there is interested in owning this one?)  Would I recommend the pattern? Yes, but be prepared to make up your own directions and do some alterations.