OCD and Cats and Getting What You Want

This post is for Carol because she asked for it. (You can blame her.)

Here at the Cooper household, we've been doing a lot of iron beads, AKA Perler beads. As in almost every day since last October or something. Are you familiar with them? They are those little rubbery beads that you arrange on a form and then you put wax paper over them and iron them and the beads fuse together, making these pretty little... things. I don't know what they are called-- those finished iron bead... things.

We have roughly three hundred thousand finished iron bead... things now. (Wow, and to think that it had been YEARS since I'd used my iron!) Think I'm joking? Here is a picture of MOST of them: (That, by the way, is my front hallway, to give you some idea of scope.)

Jane, 6 and ever the overachiever, was christened Queen of the Iron Beads by her Kindergarten teacher and that just doesn't even begin to describe her. While Ana (9) went to horseback riding camp over Spring Break, Jane and I made iron bead... things. MY job (lucky me) is to pick out the beads in the color that the Queen currently demands. And woe to me if I can't find them fast enough for her highness –gosh, but she's a taskmaster!

Here's a close-up of one so you can see both how amazingly complicated the patterns can be, and also an example of Jane's fine motor skills. She really is a phenom, I, her completely unbiased mother, think.

The truth is that there is something meditative about the whole iron bead process and also, it's a chance to do something with my kids that allows me some really great conversation with them. To work beside them, or just to hang out and listen to them as they talk to each other – on a good day when they are talking versus a bad day when they are screaming. (I guess that goes without saying.) (Did I mention it's summer vacation?) Last year, we built a walkway of stepping stones together.

This year, because of my limited mobility (which just drags on and on and on) we've been doing some iron beads. A lot of iron beads.

A lot of beads, which you can buy in enormous bulk on-line or at Hobby Lobby.

Plus, I learned a big lesson from these tiny beads, you know?

I've written about how resigned from my job at the beginning of this summer. I had this whole epiphany, thanks to my cousin-by-marriage Leslie, about how the small moments of life are what MAKE our lives. What DEFINE our lives. Anyway, I resigned to spend more time with my kids and to have more time to do stuff like making these iron bead... things. LAST summer I spent the whole summer resenting my work for taking me away from my children and resenting my children for not letting me work. It was awful.

This summer I've been blogging and trying to figure out how best to get the word about about all this incredibly talented writing I'm doing over here. (Oh, work with me, people! Do you want me to sit here making iron bead... things the whole time the kids are in school? You thought I was pathetic making CANDLES!)

So one day, Ana and I spent like, three hours looking for one last blue bead of the exact shade of blue she needed to complete a pattern. We could not find it--we simply did not have that color in one more bead. Finally, she said, "I don't think we're going to find it and we've looked and looked and looked. Could we maybe just go to Hobby Lobby and BUY some of that color?"

Um, that's a great idea! Nothing like getting so caught up in the stubbornness of how you've always done things to make you lose sight of other solutions, right? So, we went to Hobby Lobby and bought that color. And I ironed the finished design and it was beautiful.

So, here's my life lesson: You can stay home searching and searching for the right color. But sometimes, when you know exactly the shade of blue you want, you just have to go out and get it.

Speaking of that, my cat Edward has been missing for almost 24 hours now and I am about to coat myself with bug spray and go out and FIND HIM. I was sitting here crying and now I realize that it's like looking for an iron bead that you just don't have. Sitting here crying in this house will not find my perfect orange fuzzy iron bead kitty.

And then I'm going to submit some of my writing... um, somewhere where people who aren't related to me (and you wonderful, wonderful readers) can read it.

(Thanks, Carol.)


Candy said…
Sorry about the kitty. That's a LOT of bead things.

How can you stand those things? I don't have a steady hand and they drive me completely crazy. I'm good for about 10 minutes and then I start to go mental.

I go in each year with a group of local friends and we buy a ton of Oriental Trading craft packages, then split them up between us (they come like 12 crafts to a package - all the same craft). Anyway, I cheat and look for the stuff that won't make me crazy.

You made stepping stones?

I officially SUCK as a mother.
Barb Matijevich said…

Last I looked, your kids were WAY younger than mine and you worked full-time to, you know, feed them. I can barely feed my kids and I don't have to work right now (except this blogging thing--does that count?) AND I never sleep so I have lots of time for stuff like this.

(Plus, honestly, the crafty stuff really only works with girls. I've tried to do it when the girls have had boys over and they are just not interested.)

Eddy V hasn't shown back up. The vet called (she's worried, too) and I actually burst into tears on the phone. Nice.
Anonymous said…
I hope you find your kitty soon! If it helps, mine stayed away for three weeks once, feckless thing. It was no fun at all waiting for her to show back up. (((Barb)))

I did those beads for a summer as well. I had heard that they helped with fine motor skills, which would help my son with his handwriting. His handwriting still sucks, but that's okay, because he uses the computer to take notes now. I later took the beads to my homeroom class, who had a blast with them. Yea for iron beads!
hokgardner said…
Ah if only I could figure out just what I'm missing so I could go get it.

And I almost bought some of the perla beads last week at Hobby Lobby. Seeing how obsessed your girls have been with it makes me glad I didn't get any. We're already drowning in paint-them-yourself suncatchers and woven potholders!
Anonymous said…
We are all completely and totally impressed at our house. We've done beads for years and we don't have anything like the volume you've produced. I was just looking at the drawer of bead stuff the other day, wondering if I should get rid of it since they haven't used them in a while. I think since seeing your gallery, my kiddos will be at it again soon.

I laughed at your description as the color finder for the Queen. I've served as bead digger and color finder, myself. Very impressive patterns she's made. There's must be some special sort of genius there, if you can just channel it.
ckh said…
Thank you so much for writing about these beads! You're so good at satisfying my curiosity. My kids can get obsessive about their art, too. They're currently having separation issues with any scrap of paper that they've made even a line upon.

My original comment disappeared into the ether. I have no idea what happened to it. In it, though, I know I said something about being happy that you always include pictures.

I'm sorry about your cat. I hope that Edward shows up soon.
Sarah Sin said…
Hi there! I just came across your blog as I was perusing google looking for these ADDICTIVE BEADS! I am 21 years old and upon a trip to Michaels last night saw them and thought to myself "these might be fun" but didn't get any as my fiance was buying drawing pencils.

Later that night I found myself in walmart buying an iron, an ironing board, perla beads (2 packages) and a frozen cheesecake (gee I wonder who got what ;)).

Anyways, I came home and have been NON-STOP making coasters for fiance to use at work to brag about!

He is super obsessed with Nintendo as its been a huge part of his life forever and ever and so I have made super mario brothers mushroom coasters (which look good if I do say so) anyways, upon reading about your missing kitty it made me sad being that I have a hooge orange fat that I would go crazy if he ever got lost.

I hope you found him! Your blog cracked me up being the bead finder (fiance tried to help me last night and I yelled at him when he bumped my creation and messed it up LOL).