Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"They say goldfish have no memory ....

I guess their lives are just like mine.
And the little plastic castle is a surprise every time."

~ From "Little Plastic Castle" by Ani Difranco

This is one of my favorite Ani Difranco songs because I love the image of a shiny little fish swimming around, rediscovering a castle every few seconds. "Ooooh look! A castle!"

Lately, I think I know how that fish feels. With six months of pregnancy officially completed, I no longer wake up in the morning surprised about the strange lump in my belly or the ache in my back. I'm pretty used to them by now, and I don't forget that I'm pregnant anymore. But there are lots and lots of other things I do forget. Like where I put my car keys. Or if I've taken my medicine yet today. Or when the baby is due.

On Sunday, for example, I told Mom's friend I was due March 19.*

"I thought it was February," Mom said.

"Oh yeah." I said.

Part of me is afraid my subconscious is trying to prepare me for a baby who takes her time. I'm not very pleased with that idea. But I do take comfort in the knowledge that however poky she may be, I'm sure my doctor won't let her hang around an extra month.

I also take comfort in the fact that although my memory is bad, my sense of smell is freakishly good. Like a bloodhound's. Although, come to think of it, maybe that's not such a good thing. More often than not, what I smell is poopy or rotten or charred. Not a great endorsement of my homemaking skills, is it? Oh well. I'd still be happy with my olfactory gift if only I could use it to locate my car keys. Let me know if you see them lying around.

Oooooh look! Car keys!

*My actual due date, February 19, has been confirmed to the day by two ultrasounds, in addition to the doctor's little slide rule chart.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Making a mother proud

You know that feeling you get when you're laughing and laughing and laughing, and you can't breathe-- what with all the laughing. And the being pinned to the ground by your older brother's knee. And tickled. You know the sensation I'm talking about, right? The one somewhere between a heart attack and a choking fit. Don't you? You don't? Come on! Surely no one within the sound of my typing has escaped the supreme tickle powers of my oldest (and wisest) brother, Jimmy Joe Taylor!*

I'll admit I didn't always appreciate Jimmy Joe's, uh, playful spirit while recovering from the chest pain and shortness of breath caused by a JJ tickle attack. But even then I knew it was an expression of his affection. As the oldest of nine kids, I doubt he had much choice about taking care of his younger siblings. But voluntary or not, he supervised us little kids with love and kindness. I really looked up to him.

I was especially proud when, after high school, Jimmy Joe began preparations for his mission. At ten years old, I was excited for him, but apprehensive about him leaving. How would we ever get by without the WHOLE FAMILY living under the same roof? I was also unduly stressed about finances. I had no idea how much missions cost, but I knew they were expensive. We'd talked about making sacrifices and working together as a family to send JJ on his mission, so I figured I'd better do my part. I got some neighborhood kids together and set up a roadside lemonade stand. There was some dispute among participants (the ones who didn't live with me) about how the lemonade booty would be divided. Some thought each kid should have a cut, but I insisted that our earnings were going directly to JJ's mission fund. Those who disagreed eventually defected to their own stand around the corner. Undoubtedly, their enterprise failed while ours was a raging success.

I'll never forget turning our spoils over to Jimmy Joe. He thanked us graciously and stowed the coins in a box on his dresser. Despite the lack of pomp and ceremony, the scene is memorable to me in retrospect because there wasn't even a hint of mockery at our measly contribution. He seemed to accept my assumption that $2.12 would pad his mission account comfortably, and ensure he was properly clothed and fed while in Puerto Rico.

He's just nice that way. Jimmy Joe has an incredibly quick wit and a unique sense of humor, but he never uses it at others' expense. He never mocks or belittles. But the humor cortex of his brain is always churning, because he has an original pun (or four) for every conversation. And even if you roll your eyes and pretend you don't like puns, he'll still laugh at your jokes. (Well, my jokes anyway.)

It's that playful spirit that makes him the favorite uncle of just about every niece and nephew I know. Of course, he has, on occasion, used candy to leverage his way into their affections, but I'm sure he'd hold favored-uncle status even without a bag of sweets in his hand. Because besides being a top-notch tickle monster, Jimmy Joe is an interactive jungle gym and a human trampoline.

Even my own sweet Sam, usually a little shy about roughhousing, is endlessly enamored with Jimmy Joe. And rightly so. Jimmy Joe coined the phrase "Get off bug!" which will forever stand in Sam's memory as the most hilarious expression ever uttered.

Ever since our summer travels together, Jimmy Joe has been one of Sam's favorite people. Sam eagerly points out Jimmy Joe in every family picture he sees. In fact, one of Sam's favorite activities is to sit on a parent's lap at the computer and scroll through family photos. Invariably, this photo (above) is a favorite, as Sam exclaims "Jimmy Joe and Sam and Mom and Jimmy Joe!" And even though I hate this picture because it looks like I'm trying to forcibly dislodge a head of broccoli from a bicuspid (and maybe I am), I let Sam spend a much time as he wants admiring it because he loves his Uncle Jimmy so much.

I was never more grateful for their bond than I was one night a few months ago when we were all staying at Mom and Dad's house for some fun weekend festivities. Although we had a full docket planned for the next morning, Sam decided 2:00 AM was a good time to wake up. He began an energetic and extended conversation with the world from his crib. Ignoring him hadn't worked, and my attempts to quiet him down were futile. I was just about to get up with him and take him downstairs so that the rest of sleepers in the house could resume sleeping when Jimmy Joe knocked on the door and offered to take Sam. He was up anyway (he said), and would be happy to keep Sam occupied. Sam jumped at the chance to hang out with Uncle Jimmy. After a few minutes of play, Sam was soon slumbering sweetly in the crook of JJ's arm. (Of course, I hadn't warned JJ about Sam being a wiggly sleeper, and he'd soon wiggled himself out of JJ's arm and onto the floor. With a thunk. Sleep still prevailed, however, thanks to JJ's willingness to keep a toddler occupied during his wee-hour energy burst.)

With that energy and patience, Jimmy Joe is an amazing dad. Through the years, I've watched him care for his boys under difficult circumstances, yet he is always kind and consistent--two parenting attributes I'm trying hard to master.

I still look up to Jimmy Joe (even if these days my looking up is in a downward direction). As with most of my siblings, I'm embarrassed to recall my childishness in past interactions with Jimmy Joe--childishness that extended, unfortunately, too far into my adolescence and adulthood. But Jimmy Joe is endlessly patient and forgiving, and although I have kept a catalog of all my wrong doing, he has not.

Instead, he laughs with me at my own shortcomings. A couple weeks ago, after we'd missed our chance to see Barenaked Ladies in concert in Cleveland, we composed lists of things we're good at. My list included sleeping and procrastinating. Sadly, Jimmy Joe couldn't include sleeping on his list, but he promised that he too was a good procrastinator. "Mom must be so proud of us," I assured him. Then we laughed and laughed and laughed, and for a minute there I almost felt like I was under tickle attack. (Oddly, gasping for air is more fun as an adult.)

The truth is, I don't really know Mom's stance on our procrastination. But I'm sure that she's endlessly proud of Jimmy Joe for many other reasons. I can't blame her. I feel the same way.

Later today we're going to Mom and Dad's house to celebrate Jimmy Joe's birthday. Sam is, predictably, excited about the "cake and candles and [he hopes] candy," but I think he's even more thrilled about the prospect of spending the day with Uncle Jimmy Joe. Me too, Sam. Me too.

I love you Jimmy Joe! Happy birthday!

Names have been changed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SRC: Reducing my Reduced Stash

I have several SRC projects that I've been meaning to post about for the last week or so. I'm amused by the irony of hoarding blog posts about reducing my stash. But the time has come to clear the draft box.

I'll go in chronological order.

First, while I was working on throw pillows, I also recovered the rocking chair. It's a hand-me-down glider rocker purchased by a former co-worker about 15 years ago. The upholstery is still in decent shape, but it doesn't match our decor. Plus it's ugly, in a might-have-been-cool-15-years-ago kind of way. The chair is still perfectly functional and comfortable, as demonstrated by the nearly-nude model above.

I've been wanting to recover it since we got it, (before Sam was born) but I never progressed beyond getting a pattern (which also included lots of other baby room accessories). I planned to use that until I took a closer look. And behold, great was the foofyness thereof! No thank you!

So measured the cushions and bought a brown fuzzy blanket at Wal-Mart. I cut two rectangles for the seat cushion, and two tomb stones for the back and sewed them together. As always, I cut some corners. Figuratively, I mean. (Although I did literally have to snip corners to get the pieces to fit together.) Instead of fastening each cushion cover shut with velcro or snaps like I'd originally planned, I just folded the fabric opening down and pinned it to the cushion. That had the advantage of being less work for me, while still allowing easy on and off for cleaning. And you know what they say: If you can't see it, don't worry about it. (Or maybe I'm the only one who says that.) Anyway, I'm counting this project as finished, and finished is better than perfect.

Point breakdown:

I'm giving myself 25 points for the back cushion and 50 points for the seat because it was a little harder to fit together. I get an extra 25 points for thrift that very pleasantly soft blanket was only $7.00, and it covered the rocking chair plus 2 1/2 pillows.

Rocking chair total
100 points

Now on to the jewelry. Several months ago I happened upon a bead store. I've always loved shiny sparkly dangly things, and this store was full of them. Even better, they offered jewelry making classes at reasonable prices. Glancing down the list of possibilities, I saw several I wanted to take right away. With all my eager oogling and drooling, this could have been a exasperating excursion for Sam. But there was a small room with bins of legos and plastic beads for kids to play with while parents shopped, and Sam had a great time. (He actually talked about it for weeks afterward.) And I did too. I came home and immediately told Coach I knew what I wanted for my birthday: classes and supplies.

I don't know if Coach forgot or what, but Little Miss Fetus didn't. She stepped right up and gave me a generous gift certificate so I could pick out all my own stuff. I was very excited, and immediately pulled out all the beads and supplies I already had and started making stuff. The finished products are above. Those who know my jewelry collection well may recognize a few of these pieces as remakes of pieces I've made previously and broken. But I'm still counting them as new. Because I can.

Point breakdown:

From the left, I'm giving myself 30 points for the clear glass necklace cause I like it. I'll take only 10 points for the blue necklace. I decided it was not well-balanced, and have since cut it apart to redo it. (I figure if I don't take many points now, I can give myself points again when I remake it.) Bracelets and earrings are easy, so I'll take 20 points for the pink set. The chain part of the blue charm bracelet was ready made, but I'm taking 40 points for adding the charms, which I made from broken/unmatched earrings, loose beads, and miscellaneous pendants. The pearl and crystal bracelet is made from materials I used to make a bracelet for my wedding day. It was thrown together too hastily, and was a little awkwardly shaped. Plus, it kept falling off during the ceremony. So I've never worn it since. But I fixed it up and now it's perfect. I'm giving myself 50 points, mostly for sentimentality. The red bracelet is another remake. I like it a lot, but the clasp has some functional issues, (That is, it doesn't work. The long bead at the bottom won't stay aligned properly and slips out of the loop at the other end.) so it's not terribly useful as a bracelet. Still, it's pretty looped around my purse strap. So I'm taking 20 points. I'll take 10 points each for the earring sets, for a total of 30 more points (I already counted the pink pair with the matching bracelet, remember?).

I'm also giving myself 50 bonus points, cause all of the above were made with materials I already had on hand. And if that doesn't reduce my stash, I don't know what does.

Jewelery total
250 points

Next is Halloween stuff. You've already seen our costumes, but I haven't bragged about my thriftiness and given myself points yet.

The inspiration for the warden/convict ensemble came from a doggie prisoner costume I saw in a Halloween shop. Of course, I didn't want to pay $10 to costume the dog, who wasn't even invited to any of our Halloween excursions (I know, rude friends we have, huh?), but I figured it wouldn't be too hard to make hats and shirts for the whole family. I may have overestimated my skills, as we ran in to a few little snags. First, there were apparently only 2.5 yards of prisoner striped fabric left in the greater Akron area, and no one expected to get any more in stock. So when I laid out the pattern for my maternity frock, I was more concerned about conserving fabric than anything else. I didn't notice that I cut out the pieces with the stripes going the wrong way. That's right. Instead of the makings of a convict costume, I had a referee's shirt. Also, the pattern claimed to be a "generously sized maternity shirt," when it should have read "circus-tent sized maternity shirt." The point of the story is that I used up all the fabric on a ridiculous shirt.

So I moved on to plan B, which was to chop up the referee shirt and make hats for everyone. Then we discovered that Coach was on call the evenings of both of our Halloween events. And like I said, Malcom wasn't invited. So I just made a hat for me out of scraps, and left the referee shirt hanging in the closet for . . . well, I have no idea. Perhaps some future projects will get it out of my stash.

We still had a good time, and everyone got a kick out of our costumes (especially Sam's), so I'd say the project was still a success. (Plus, did you notice the unnamed hat model is wearing special prisoner earrings also featured in the jewelry project above?)

Point breakdown:

As far as points go, I'll give myself 10 points for my hat, and another 10 for my attempt at the shirt. I'm also taking 10 bonus points for the picture above cause Malcom's so fetching cute, as you can see.

I get more points for Sam's costume, cause it was an exciting exercise in thrifty improvisation. I purchased the light blue shirt, unembellished, at a second-hand store for 90 cents. I bought a couple iron-on patches (the flag and star), plus some ribbon and star buttons for a total of about $2.50. I made the name tag on the computer, mounted it on picture matting from our scrap box, and then covered it with contact paper. I attached loops to Sam's pants to hold the flashlight, which was lying around the house, and handcuffs, which I bought at Wal-Mart for about $3.00. The keys are random (and mostly unidentified) keys I found in drawers. I put them on a ring and attached it to his pants with a plastic carabeener clip, which we already had. The pants, long-sleeved undershirt, and shoes were already in Sam's closet.

I'll save myself the trouble of calculating and award myself 50 points for the whole thing, plus 10 bonus points for thrift (less than $7.00 for all of it!), and another 20 because Sam loves it so much he still wears it at least once a week. (Of course, I should admit that part of his motivation for that may be the hope that putting it on will get him some candy. Now where would he get an idea like that?)

Halloween total
110 points

Finally, last weekend Sam and I drove up to Grandma's house to make applesauce. I don't know how many bushels we went through, or how many quarts we made. But I do know there were lots of apples before we started, and when we finished there was lots of applesauce. And apple pie filling. Sam loved the fresh apples and apple sauce, and I couldn't wait to take home some of that pie filling (sorry, not pictured) to eat with hot biscuits. Yum! And did I mention YUM?

Mom should get most of the points because she already had all the jars washed and three pots of apples chopped and cooking by the time I got there. (And I''ll happily pass her share of the points along as soon as she starts her own blog.) We then spent about five hours up to our elbows in apples. I figure we earned 50 points an hour. Plus an extra 100 points for deliciousness.

Applesauce total
350 points

Grand total (this post)
810 points

How do you like them apples?

Friday, November 10, 2006

As usual, Neil Diamond says it best

Sweet Carolion(ess)!
(bum bum bum)
Good times never seemed so good.
(so good so good so good)

I can only assume that Neil was speaking of my sister, Carolioness*, when he composed the lyrics above, because they describe her perfectly. My Carolioness is as sweet as they come, and good times are never better than when she's around.

As evidence, I provide the following:

That's right. Hanging out with Carolioness is like going to a water park and a bubble-blowing contest and a costume party and a day spa all at once. But besides being fun, Carolioness is one of those rare people with the personal initiative to make order out of chaos. Take our family gathering last Christmas. For several days family members had been commenting, "We need to draw names to decide who's giving to who next year." We'd probably still be talking about it if Carolioness hadn't put everyone's name in a hat to send around. Of course, she started off the gathering with a hat-full of slips with her own name on them--the little trickster! (Don't worry, she and her accomplice were soon exposed.) Later, when the real name drawing was finished, Carolioness pulled out her laptop and recorded everyone's assignments so we could call her ten months later to be reminded who we're giving to. (Speaking of which, um, Carolioness, who do I have again?) She's just like that. She gets stuff done. I wish I had her around as my personal motivator every day.

Carolioness is just about the hardest worker I've ever known. She studied diligently throughout college, even when there were lots of tempting opportunities to slack off. She got into the competitive elementary education program at BYU, and, upon graduation, she beat out hundreds of other applicants to land a job in a district overrun with prospective teachers. And she has been a star sixth grade teacher ever since. I see the time and thought and effort she puts into her work and it reaffirms my faith in the public school system. Like B, I wish I'd had a sixth grade teacher like Carolioness. I missed out, but I hope my kids end up with someone like her. And your kids too.

I'm so lucky to have lived with Carolioness both as a child and an adult. During my wandering years after college, we shared a series of little houses in Provo. Talk about an ideal roommate! She's tidy (except when it's time to be messy) and silly (except when it's time to be serious), AND she makes a mean blueberry delight. It doesn't really get any better than that.

And did I mention she's fun? Once, while living together, we attended a multi-ward talent show at UVSC. Most participants performed ballads and arias in hopes of scoring dates through sheer force of vibrato, but Carolioness took a much more delicate approach. She played "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree." On her nose whistle. Read that again if you have to: A. Nose. Whistle. If you haven't seen a nose whistle performance from Carolioness, you really need to go to Provo and ask for a demonstration. It's hilarious and inspiring all at once.

Of course, I knew Carolioness was special long before she took up nose whistling. Carolioness was my little buddy from her toddlerhood. She'd sleep in my bed and keep her feet warm in the crook of my knees. I'd tell her stories and make her silly promises. For example, I remember promising her that when she got bigger and it was time for her to go to the prom, I'd come home from wherever I was and help her get ready for that momentous occasion. I don't know why, at eight or nine, I thought Carolioness's senior prom would be so significant that I'd have to be there NO MATTER WHAT. But five year old Carolioness nodded her head solemnly as if we'd just performed a pinky-swear ceremony. I regret that I didn't keep that promise, what with her prom being during my finals week and all. There must have been other childhood promises that I kept, but of course I don't remember any of those. I just hope I didn't let her down too often.

Carolioness has certainly never let me down. She is unfailingly reliable, and through the years she's been a strength and support to me more times than I can count. That's probably why Malcom likes her so much. (More than he likes me, probably.) When we lived together, Malcom took every opportunity to curl up at Carolioness's feet, or on the bathmat while she showered--or, if he was really lucky--on her bed. She says he had a crush on her. I think he just knew she was the alpha dog in our pack. He'd do whatever she told him to do. When Malcom got mouthy, Carolioness would come down to my room and give him a talking to. She'd tell him to be quiet and listen to the Boss. Remarkably, he obeyed.

I guess she's just got a way with my creatures, because Sam can't get enough of her either. Two summers ago, when my postpartum depression was at its worst, Carolioness came to my rescue. She spent her spring break taking care of Sam while I dug myself out of an overwhelming pile of schoolwork. It was such a relief to have her with us, and Sam was in aunt heaven. He was about nine months old at the time, and just on the verge of walking. She'd make motorcycle noises while pushing his walker toy toward him, and then move back to the other side of the room. He'd laugh and laugh while pulling himself up on the walker and wheeling himself over to her, and then giggle with anticipation until Carolioness started up the motor again.

As ideal a little sister as Carolioness has been, she's an even better big sister. Since the applicable younger siblings are incommunicado, I'll take the liberty of speaking for them to brag about what a great "big sissy" (her term) Carolioness is. I've seen her mentor, chauffeur, feed, house, befriend, and support Daisy and Javich as they learned the ropes of adulthood. That's right. Adulthood. It's alarming to acknowledge that my youngest siblings are all grown up, but it always made me feel better about the situation to know that the three of them were in it together. And still, through all the miles, Carolioness is still looking out for Sister Daisy and Elder Javich.

Just in case I had further doubts about the little kids no longer being little, I had a jarring moment of disillusionment this summer when I was in Utah for Carolioness's wedding. Carolioness was putting Sam's seat in the back of her car. She put her knee in the car seat and pressed down while pulling the lapbelt tight. Then she wiggled the seat back and forth and tightened some more, just like all the experts at those car seat checkpoints say to do. I've secretly tightened or re-installed Sam's car seat so many times after someone else has put it in that it alarmed me to see it done so perfectly. And effortlessly. On the first attempt. "You're like a mommy," I said, the way we always did as teenagers whenever any of us did anything remotely domestic. ("You used on oven mitt! You're totally like a mommy!") And then I realized she is a mommy. And then I got a little choked up realizing what a lucky little boy Nagol* is to have a sweet Mommy Carolioness in his life.

It's still a little hard to believe that sweet Carolioness, whose prom I missed, is all grown up. I think fondly of those days of carefree cuddling and late night whispering. But I'm so glad I have grown-up Carolioness as my friend and sister. Because, as Neil says: "The future's not ours to see, but there's some things that always will be, like sayin' I love you."

Happy [belated] birthday Sweet Carolioness. I love you.

*Names have been changed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

True Story

The scene: I have just returned from a girls' night out. Coach, up uncharacteristically late, greets me at the door.

Coach: Did you miss Carolioness's birthday? Cause B's got a birthday post up.
Boss: No. Her birthday's not till Novemb--wait is it November already?
Coach: Yep.
Boss: Well her birthday's not until the 8th, which is...
Coach: Yesterday.
Boss: Oh. Oopsie! You'd think Halloween would have clued me in that October was coming to an end. I'm an idiot.

To make this true story even more ridiculous, two days ago I was just thinking, "It's been a while since I've done a birthday blog. October is long." Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Dum!

I'm sorry I'm such an idiot dear Carolioness. I hope you know that I love you, even though I don't know how to read a calendar. I will post a REAL birthday post for you very soon.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another problem with medicine

I apologize for interrupting Boss's fun posts with my pensive tirades about medicine (that I'm sure nobody is too interested in, but are cathartic for me...).

My current rotation is outpatient internal medicine. I see patients who have lots of chronic problems and they usually take lots of medications. Most of my patients are uninsured or government insured and have no money for healthcare. They are typically not compliant with the treatment regimens they are given and that just makes all their health problems worse.

I've seen it over and over--the patient can't afford the drug, but instead of telling the doctor, they just don't buy it and don't come back. At least, they don't come back until the serious complications kick in.

There's a good case made for the economics of the drug industry--if certain drugs weren't so expensive there wouldn't be any research and development funds and we wouldn't have certain great drugs available to us at any price. I recognize that our free market has lots of injustice, but it has successfully produced the most innovative drugs in the world.

So, after seeing a docket of patients complaining of the personal sacrifices necessary to take the drugs we prescribe, I reconciled myself to the frustration as I left the clinic for noon lecture.

At noon lecture a drug representative welcomed me with fancy promotional materials for a powerful antibiotic (she didn't mention that it's one of the most expensive ones available). And then I helped myself to the fully catered lunch, most of which I knew would be left-over and wasted, provided by the drug company representative.

Should I abstain at times like that? There are some who do (not here, but around the country), with no effect whatsoever. The companies can market their drugs the way they see fit, and that has historically been spending obscene amounts of money on physician gifts and "educational" conferences. The conferences usually consist of a meal at a fancy restaurant with a presentation about one of the company's drugs (which they pretend is objective). Regulations now make it illegal (I think) to give out any gift with a value of more than $2. So we get a lot of fancy pens with drug names on the side. Some residents collect them. I'm ambivalent. Writing with those pens feels completely innocuous at times, but at other times it feels like I'm writing with patient blood.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stash Reduction: Everything but the kitchen sink

Well, maybe that too.

My latest foray into reducing household clutter:

I realize this isn't really a reduction of clutter so much as a relocation (i.e. from the sink to the counter), but still a pile of clean dishes on the counter is much less unsightly (and smelly) than a festering pile in the sink.

I'm giving myself 27 points, one point for each item, plus 10 points for finally getting it done already. I may even award myself points for putting the dishes away. In a few days.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Extra Credit

I have a confession that you may find alarming: I'm kind of a nerd. It's true. I like school. I like being graded. And I especially like extra credit. The trouble is, since I'm not in school right now, I'm feeling a little un-graded. I've tried asking Sam to evaluate my performance, but his estimation of my work is too closely tied to the quantity of sugar I allow him to consume in a day. Not entirely objective.

Anyway, while bouncing around the Internet a few weeks ago, I happened upon this blog. The author is a professional costumer, seamstress and designer who makes really beautiful stuff. I'm talking gorgeous. I know how to thread my sewing machine. That is where the similarities in our talents end. But I LOVE (love!) her Stash Reduction Contest, wherein she awards herself points for using materials she already has on hand to create cute stuff. It saves money, reduces her junk pile, and gives her daughter all kinds of fun, unique costumes and toys. When I realized that I too have a stash I'd like to reduce, (turns out a little bit of junk survived my careful editing before we moved) it occurred to me that this could be just the thing to fill that craving for extra credit.

This comes at a good time for me because, thanks to the fetus, I'm going through some kind of nesting phase that has me in super project mode. So the points are going to just pour right in. Until my nesting phase is over, that is. Or until I get hungry. Whichever comes first.

I'll admit upfront that my procedure for awarding myself points is not clearly established. And don't expect me to be objective. I'm going to grade myself according to my own arbitrary whim. And I've decided to give extra grading weight to frugality, cause there's nothing like the thrill of being crafty on the cheap. Also, a finished project is better than a perfect project. So if you come to my house (and really, what's keeping you?), be sure not to inspect anything too closely.

My plan is to continue reducing my stash until (and maybe even after) the baby arrives. And posting about it will keep me motivated. And also give me a chance to brag about my extraordinary (self-awarded) marks.

To all my crafty associates out there: (I'm looking at you and you and you and you and you, and all the rest of you too. And you. Plus you. And the slackers who haven't jumped on the blogwagon.) Join me! Reduce your own stash! It'll be fun to do it together and share what we're working on. And you can take 1000 bonus points just for starting! No, make that 10,000. 'Cause you can do that when you're grading yourself.

And now, with the introduction out of the way, here's my first entry in the SRC: Throw Pillows

When we moved into this apartment a few months ago, we decided it was time to do something about our threadbare, cigarette-burned, ostentatiously floral hand-me-down couch. (See Exhibit A, above.)

So we bought a couch cover. (Actually, we bought five, and ended up sticking with the first one we tried on.) The trouble was, our couch is oddly sized. All the sofa covers were too big and the love seat covers were too small, so no matter how we tucked and pulled we couldn't eliminate the sagging and wrinkling. I decided we needed pillows--lots of pillows!- to camouflage the poor fit. After all, all the decorating books say throw pillows are an easy and inexpensive way to update a room. But when I got to shopping, I discovered that "inexpensive" meant $20-$30 a piece--definitely outside my budget for the giant pillow pile I envisioned. I didn't even want to pay $6 each for pillow forms. So instead I used some old flattened bed pillows, bought a couple throw pillows from thrift stores, and covered them in fabrics in my color scheme.

And voila!

Here's how the points breakdown:

I'm giving myself 50 points for the leopard print because I've had that material a long time, and because it's two layers, so it's practically like two pillows in one. Twenty points for the fuzzy brown one (made from scraps left over from recovering the rocking chair), and 30 for the brown and beige blocks because I've had the beige fabric forever.

I only get 15 points for the black pillow, because that fabric is fairly new to the stash, and the stitched-stripe pillow is worth 10 because I bought the fabric specifically for this project (only $2 a yard, though). The beige and brown is another 25 points to make the addition easy.

I'm giving myself 100 bonus points for frugality because my total spent on new fabric and old throw pillows was less than $5.00.

I should probably take off points because the seams are horrendous, the stuffing is lumpy, and the corners don't line up perfectly, but I'm sticking by "finished is better than perfect." So there you have it.

The bottom line
One couch stacked with pillows=250 points

And all those points (and pillows) feel so good.