Sunday, 25 May 2008

Party Report

Little Stuff's party was yesterday and it went off very well. Her mom, the ED, had purchased a castle backdrop and crowns for the guests to decorate, plus Barbie princess table decorations. Daddy provided a huge bunch of helium balloons in the party colours of yellow, pink and aqua ("Is there a yellow dress, Grama?" 'You do not need a yellow dress," says mom with more than usual firmness.) There was a completely OTT cake with a plastic fairy in a larger plastic blossom that opened and closed. There was lots of fruit and yogurt to cushion the sugar hit of aforesaid cake. There was one extra guest, as one little girl arrived with her eight year old sister, so the ED had to scramble for another loot bag. Only one crying spell, over a skinned knee while blowing bubbles on the back deck. All in all, a huge success. And the Birthday Girl was happy.

What amazed me is how differently they used the costumes than I had expected. Grandpa was worried that the guests might get into rows over who wore what. He need not have. What they did was take the costumes on and off, all except Little Stuff who chose the purple glittery one first off and stayed with it. I think that every kid, including the sister, had all the costumes on at one time or another. One little girl arrived in her own princess costume from last Hallowe'en and stayed with that. One was wearing a brand new party sundress and preferring to show it off, took her princess costume off after the photo op. The others tried pink and aqua and blue and green, helping each other with the velcro fasteners, and had a ball. They would swoop off to another activity (big brother's snake was a huge hit) and swoop back to the dresses.

This level of co-operation fascinated me. I am wondering if it happened because most of them go to the same daycare and kindergarten and are used to playing in that group. I am not familiar with how 'daycare' kids interact. The small herd of neighbourhood children that my girls inhabited worked rather differently – there would be one or more leaders and the others were assigned roles or parts or costumes or whatever. And if one of the others got offended, he or she stomped off home. This cannot happen in a daycare group, obviously, and I have to commend the teachers and ECE leaders who run the kindergarten/daycare that Little Stuff attends. I am sure I missed some of the nuances, as the party took place in shrill, high decibel French and I am, um, French language challenged, but I did not see any hurt feelings body language at all.

In fact, the body language was also very interesting. This group of little girls crowds together. They colour and do crafts touching one another. They gathered so tightly around Little Stuff when she was opening presents that her mom had to lean in over the top to remove the wrappings and opened gifts. They travelled from room to room holding hands. They hugged one another. They also sat quietly at the table to eat and almost nothing got spilled. Amazing!

Enough of Grama as social anthropologist. Except to say that it is a long time since I have been at a small child's birthday party. Thank goodness. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Phew! (Almost Wordless Wednesday)

The princess costumes are finished. These are the latest three. I took the prototype to Little Stuff's house and tried it for size. Her Royal Highness requested bows on the skirts. Voila!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Moving Finger Writes....

When Hillary Clinton made her gaffe about running the gauntlet of fire in Kosovo, there was a lot of editorial comment in the press about memory and how a person edits it. I got interested in the discussion and went and did some research, culminating in reading a book called White Gloves, How We Create Ourselves Through Memory, by John Kotre. This book turned out to be a bit off the topic I was looking for, but is a marvelous read for anyone who doesn't have basic psychology training but is interested in how memory works to form character in young children.

And so I started thinking about memory forming my character and that of my daughters. And how I edit memory myself. The premise of the book is that we form memory in different ways at different ages, and that memory is stored and accessed in layers. One of the major things we do is to stretch memory to cover more than the original event – leading to, for instance, a clear memory that it was always sunny in the summer at the cottage. Or the conviction that your sister always got the first chance at something and you got second. These convictions shape your perception of reality as an adult – causing extra misery if your week of vacation is rainy or colouring your reaction to your sister's success. It is possible, according to Kotre to deconstruct these memories and influence how you react to things, although he is very sceptical about accessing childhood memories (regressing, I think is the term, but I took the book back to the library).

A lot of our childhood memories are, in fact, not ours but are picked up from the adults around us and incorporated as if they were real. We tell our children stories about themselves and they internalize these stories. Or, at least, my family did it that way. My grandmother and my mother told me stories about myself as a baby or a two year old or whatever. I can identify some of these stories as dramatizations when I think about them. Or at least as edited versions of an event that was probably a lot more shapeless when it took place. As an example, my mother would tell, repeatedly, a story about taking me to the House of Commons public gallery at the age of three and being embarrassed by my saying in clear and ringing tones 'there's the man who wore Daddy's pants' about an MP who was my father's friend, causing all the MP's to look up at the gallery. This story was supposed to illustrate my precocious command of clear speech and, I suppose, that I was an extroverted toddler. The tale has become part of my mental furniture. I have no clue how it really happened, but I think of myself as having been a confident and extroverted child.

I think we all do this to our children to some extent. My grandmother relied on her memory; my mother did much the same. When I do what my daughters call 'telling baby stories' I tend to pull out photograph albums to illustrate things, or I tell stories from the photographs. Because although my grandmother and my mother did have photographs, they were far fewer and mostly static poses. I have maybe half a dozen images of my mother as a little girl. I have more of myself in my first three years because my father was in the navy during WWII and the family sent him photographs; it was much more expensive, relatively, to take and develop photos in the '40's and '50's. Even in the '60's, colour photographs were an item that most people had to budget for. Today's disposable cameras and $.19 prints amaze me; even more astounding is the digital photograph revolution, making still and live photography available in quantity immediately. And so, where my mother relied on her memory, my daughter will have not only still photography but also video to discuss with her daughter.

And there is the mommy blog. Unless your mother kept a diary or a baby book, your stories, like mine, rely on the spoken word backed up with still photographs or even the occasional grainy 'home movie'. Mommy bloggers' children will have the stories preserved, in their original form, backed with copious illustrations in living and sometimes moving colour, put together as the event unfolded. You will probably still retell seminal stories to your children. But your blog will be there to give them a different look, a time frozen reference, to these stories. And to the woman who was telling them.

I wonder a lot about how that will unfold. I picture my granddaughter remembering, say, planting flowers with grama. And there will be the story, with photographs of her in her bug shirt lining up the plant pots. Not raw data, certainly. All of us necessarily edit the stories as we tell them, shaping them to fit the time and space we have to get the story down, emphasizing the point we want to make about what happened. Even bits of dialogue get edited for coherency or chosen to fit into the thought thread as it is spun out onto the page.

I wonder, as I write this, how my mother would have blogged about her day at the House of Commons with her daughter. Or how she felt about raising a child alone when her husband was out sailing around in a corvette in the North Atlantic, in constant danger. I have these stories as she told them recollected in tranquility and, I am sure, smoothed into a pleasing shape by time and repetition. I know that the stories I tell to my daughters are, in fact, partly constructions formed by time and retelling. The stories about Little Stuff, on the other hand, are immediate, although shaped. I almost wish I could live long enough to understand if there will be an appreciable difference.

I won't. When Little Stuff is, say, forty, I would be 101. I'm not hoping to be that old; don't much want to be, tell the truth. And so I write this blog, a message sent forward into the future with hope and love, and try my best to make it a true record, even though I know it can't be perfect, of who I am, what I think, and how we were together.

And I had better get myself back to the sewing machine and start on dress #6, green spangles and all. Tempus is fugiting.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Musing about Nothing Much

Dress #3

and 4.

The idea is that Little Stuff is getting all of these in a 'Dressing Up' box, since she is fixated on princesses just now. Her friends will wear them for the party and then the dresses will go back into the box. I hope this works, as I do not want her birthday party guests to be disappointed. They are getting their crowns to take home, plus loot bags, plus sceptres if the ED and I can find enough the same.

The 'Dressing Up' box is my idea -- my daughters had one and they loved it. I made dresses and other costumes, plus junk jewellery, scarves, hats, artificial flowers and whatever else they liked to put in. They and their friends had a wonderful time with it. I was talking with the YD about this on Sunday and she says she remembers it well, plus my making costumes for school plays and shows and Hallowe'en.

The dresses are not as fancy as they look because all the fabric except for two pieces came from the remnant room at a wonderful fabric store in the city and cost about $2.00 (Canadian) per metre. The trimmings are mostly wired floral arrangement ribbon. I figure the average cost per skirt and vest combo is around $9.00, adding in elastic and velcro. And it is very easy to do, especially since I am making the vests reversible and thus avoiding bias trim. I may spring for some custom frogging closures, if I run out of energy to make the bow fasteners.

The Painted Maypole organized a send up of personality tests as this week's Monday Mission. Hers is really, really funny. You can see it here. Her post got me thinking about personality and personality tests. There is one you can add to Facebook. I have done mine and each time I did it, it came out as something different. I am either an INFJ, (Sage) or an INTP (Theorist). I am both amused and bemused by this; some of the explications seem apt and others are just not anywhere near.

And so, who am I? In fact, if I think about it seriously, I really am not sure who I am. I am one person at home with the husband. I am quite another person when I am running a Board meeting. (Catch me telling JG that he's out of order -- not one snowball's chance in hell!) I am not the person I want to be -- who is, after all? I am not the person I was 25 or 50 years ago (and thank goodness for that!). I guess I should be happy that, whoever I am, people seem to like me and work with me. And I should get on with cutting out dress #5.

I have a flight of male goldfinches at the nyger feeder, glowing in the late afternoon sun. I have a wild turkey stomping around in the dead leaves in the little bush below the screen porch. The Canada Plum and the trillia (ums?) are blooming and there are two red ones in the patch beside the kitchen window. My bearded iris got planted this morning. The lilac are budded out. How I love spring, blackflies and all.

I should put in a post label called 'babbling on'.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A Window

Did I mention, the last (long ago) time I posted, that I am making seven princess costumes for Little Stuff's birthday party? Here are the first two. Three broken needles, innumerable rethreadings, too many replacements of a loose footplate and recurrent tension problems all make me think it is Time For a New Sewing Machine!!! I even have a clipping of what I want which has been sitting on my desk for a year. I need, as my daughter's friends used to say, to get a life.
Oh, yes, one of the skirt elastics unthreaded just as I thought I was done. Grrr. And when I tried to iron the gold overlay on the pink outfit, it fused to the iron. Luckily it scrubbed off easily, as I like my iron and do not want to buy a new one of those.
Five more to go.
And then I may get back to regular posting. Or not, if I also have to replace this computer. It is slower than molasses etc.
What else have I been doing besides sewing? Line dancing, for one thing. Love it! I got an MP3 player for my birthday, and am now trying to learn how to download the music I need for the dancing. Anyone know who is the perp of Liar's Waltz? Can't find anything other than a group of that name. And they don't play waltzes. We are to the level of learning 'four wall' dances now in the class I am taking. A four wall dance is one in which the whole line of dancers turns a quarter turn four times, ending up, one hopes, back facing the original direction. Sometimes I even do.
This month is sheer misery for meetings -- and some of them are up to two hours' drive away. Sigh. I went to one yesterday, we settled a tender, we thought, and when I got home there was an email waiting saying that the decision we had come to was not in accord with the CHC's policy on tenders and we would have to meet again. Grr #2.
However, the first hummingbird arrived today, all the trillia are in bloom and it is cool enough that the blackflies are not totally obnoxious. I need to transplant my iris, pdq. In between costumes three and four, perhaps.
I volunteered for this costume thing. I love to make costumes. But it sure is eating into my blogging and reading time.
And JG wants shishkabobs for supper. Is he threading little pieces of stuff onto skewers? Hah! So I am signing off, and you know where I am going. Grr #3.