Friday, December 7, 2007

Life is Good.

What a day I had yesterday! You know, sometimes I love my life. Actually, most of the time I love my life, and yesterday was one of the days why.

I now know how to drive the sewing machine. Sandy came around after dinner on Wednesday and showed me. She hasn't used it for 5 years or so, and when she sat down she gazed at it for a long moment, then said, "Gee, it would've been a good idea to bring my glasses. When I last used this I didn't need them!"

She studied the manual, apparently learned a whole lot more about what her machine can do, and we got stuck into it. I learned about bobbin threading, tension (apart from the one in my shoulders when I'd tried using it before) and I even tried whizzing around and around with the line of sewing as if I was freehand quilting. It was on an old baby's bib, so I couldn't get too far lost. It was a evening of sophisticated fun and frivolity. The boys kept well out of it and played guitar in the back room. Thanks Sandy... I'm now an expert and no doubt sewing machine mishaps will never happen to me again.

Yesterday started at 5.30 when I was up writing student manager remarks to go on the front of every year 10 child's report. Sarge, my partner in this job, and I split the classes between us, so I have 5 classes x 26-28 kids to do. The remarks go something like this:

"Ermengarde has earned a fantastic/pleasing/pitiful set of reports which show that her studies in year 10 have been outstanding/diligent/nonexistent. Blah blah blah for the rest of the paragraph, talking about specific results and problems. Good luck in VCE next year"

As is often the way, the good kids are easy to do and you can whizz through them. The lazy kids and the failing kids are the ones that take ages, because you have to tailor each remark carefully to ensure tact without totally lying. This semester I had to write Jack's remark. I found out something really interesting about how I parent. I read his report, looking at his marks and the levels that each teacher assigned him for effort and classroom behaviour, and I wrote a remark that was far harsher than one I would've done if he was some random. (He's improved immeasurably since last year, but his effort rankings were still a bit low in some classes. Understandable. It takes time to get back to speed when you've slacked off for two years, but I really sunk the boot in.) I was driving to work and it dawned on me that what I should've done was give him the remarks of a 'very good' kid, but just modify them slightly. This is what I was doing with all the other kids like him. After all, in 3 subjects he scored a 10 and a couple of 9s. (Out of 10.) Thank goodness for computers. With the press of a keyboard it was done. But how interesting. Obviously nepotism has to struggle to survive in this house!

Next year he begins VCE, which for those non-Victorians is a two year study, where the student can pick the whole course, except English is compulsory. (Naturally. It's the bestest one of them all.) I've never seen Jack so excited about school. He's chosen a year 12 Maths (which he loves), Maths Methods (again... he says it's fantastic), Economics, Music and Physics. He begged me to go and buy the text books on Wednesday, so nearly $400 later we left the shop. This week they're doing an orientation week for VCE, so they're back at school doing classes, and he's loving the work. If only I'd known this was going to happen. I've been stressing out for years about how slack and disinterested he was. If I'd only known that it was going to take a course almost entirely consisting of the devil's work (ie: maths) to make him happy, I would've breezed through the last two years with a happy smile on my face.

Speaking of $$$, yesterday I paid the school fees for next year for Jack, Jordan and Brennan. This wasn't one of the things that made yesterday a nice day. They all do music, so that adds a couple of hundred to each boy for the tuition. Hire of instruments will be paid next year. A New Year's treat. I grabbed my trusty MasterCard, walked up to the bursar and braced myself.

Are you ready? (This isn't a private school, it's a government school. So private school parents will roll their eyes and say "I wish!" The rest of us will freak.)

$1900. This doesn't include school books or uniform. It's just the subject levies and music tuition. I tottered away from the bursar's window, a broken woman. Or maybe just a broke woman. I've bought Jack's books, a mixture of secondhand and new, which cost over $400. Jordan's books have cost me $65, but I still have to pick up a few new ones. Brennan, thankfully, uses Jordan's books from this year. And Connor, next year, will do the same. I knew there was a reason why I had these boys so close together. But still! This 'free education' costs a lot of money. The hire of their instruments will be around the $400 mark, I think. Probably 3 months of child support will go towards just outfitting them for school, once I buy bits and pieces of uniform and new leather school shoes as big as canoes for 3 pairs of galumphing feet. (Yet, as Lou from the bursar's office said, "Just be thankful you're getting it." True. The days when Tony wasn't paying child support were happening when the kids were small, young and cheap. Phew!)

And now.... the quilting class. It was great! I was rotary cutting all night. It's very addictive. I was waving the square ruler around and eying up my pieces of fabric and cutting into them with gay abandon. Woo hoo! Bits of material were going everywhere. I found it hard to get the hang of all the measuring at first, but once I gave my inner Virgo a stern talking to, and told her to get her nitpicky eye out of whatever place she was burying it and come and take over, then it went surprisingly well.

And I wasn't the only beginner, thank God. Two other women were first timers, though they were more advanced than me. One had sandwiched all her layers together and was starting to hand quilt, while the other had bought a Kaffe Fasset book and was doing one of his designs with his fabric. She was having a crisis of confidence about whether she'd end up liking it. The teacher was laying out all the squares she'd already done, and was speaking soothingly and encouragingly to her. I knew I was probably seeing into my future, but as they say in 'How I Met Your Mother' (great show), "I'll let Future Frogdancer take care of that. That'll be her problem."

There were two other people there. One woman wore very thick glasses and sat quietly all night, hand sewing teeny tiny triangles and saying very little. To be fair, if I was sewing triangles that were that small, I probably wouldn't be waxing lyrical about stuff either. The other guy was fantastic. He was onto his second quilt, the name of which was 'Hectic Eclectic' with lots of colours and rectangles, and he was also making a tote bag for his partner's Mum's Christmas present. Again, he used lots of colours and it looked fantastic. He was very funny and so helpful. At the end of the night I grabbed all my scraps from the rotary cutting and was looking for a bin. He saw what I was going to throw away and nearly had a coronary.

"NO! Wait! Look, you've got so many usable scraps here. If you make a 'Hectic' next time, you can use all these strips for your little squares."

He grabbed the scraps and started going through them, measuring any that looked a bit dicey, talking all the time about what I could do with them. My frugality kick was purring like a purring thing with fur and a tail. It was fantastic. I now have a stash. I asked him and he said so. That's how I know. "I love my stash!" he declared. It was all very exciting.

So today I have the day off to complete my reports. (I'll be doing a spot of patchwork during the day, I suspect.) Something funny happened this morning. Quilty people will appreciate it. Or else I'll just look like an idiot. I was showing Connor the squares I cut out. He was bobbing up and down beside me, eyes darting everywhere observing all that I've done. I was laying them on the bench, with the 9.5" squares lying alongside the 3.5" squares. It is supposed to go 3 little squares fitting alongside each big square. The squares didn't match up. The little square row was way overhanging the big square. I was devastated. I grabbed a ruler and measured the squares and they were all accurate. What had gone wrong? How could I have made such a huge mistake? I was having a stress attack, while darling Connor was patting my shoulder and saying, "It's ok Mum. Just have uneven rows. I'm a guy, I don't care if it's not perfect." Oh, my son, but I do.

Then it dawned on me. The little squares have more .25" seam allowances. All was fine again. I was still the master of the rotary blade. This measurement stuff with quilting is really going to do my head in until I get used to it.


Marita said...

I have a couple of sisters in law who quilt and it really does seem to be mighty addictive.

If sewing machines would stop breaking at the mere sight of me then I might give it a go also.

River said...

I love patchwork and quilts, just don't have the patience or the eyesight to be able to do it. Let's not mention the carpal tunnel thing.

Frogdancer said...

River, you don't need patience!! I'm one of the most impatient people on the planet, and in today's post (which I'll be doing in a few moments) I'll have a picture of what I was able to do in a couple of hours. Admittedly, the squares are HUGE, but I've got to say that it's terribly encouraging.

Marita, you made me laugh. I felt that way too, and (touch wood) so far the hex hasn't happened.

River said...

HUGE squares eh? Maybe that's the way to go. Damn, there goes my last excuse. This time next year I may just have a couple of new patchwork cushions to go on my new couches.

Frogdancer said...

And then you can make some patchwork couches to go under your new cushions.