Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Kool-Aid Mom

Most of you probably don't remember the Kool-Aid commercial from the 60s (do they even advertise Kool-Aid anymore?) but the most popular mom in the neighborhood was the one who had the Kool-Aid in an ice-filled pitcher on a hot summer day, ready to serve all the kids who all flocked to her house. Her children were so proud to have such a wonderful mom. 

When our older two children were little (in the early 90s) we lived in a small town in Kansas - population 300 (had a school, a post office, a bank, a library, and six churches). It was the kind of town that was reminiscent of neighborhoods from the 60s. It was a pretty safe place and families let their children roam. Now I was a protective sort so I did not want my children roaming. But one day a neighbor boy came to our house and asked to play with Ben (this boy was about 5 but Ben was only 3 years old). I said sure, they could play in the sandbox out back. I was doing housework inside, but I could hear them right outside the window. After a little while, I realized I wasn't hearing anything. When I checked on them the two boys had disappeared. Naturally I panicked. I ran to see if they went to the neighbor boy's house. His mother was inside painting and said she hadn't seen them. I was a bit shocked that she wasn't panicky like me. She just said, "Oh I'm sure they're somewhere in the neighborhood." I ran outside and looked in other people's backyards, calling Ben's name. Finally I heard Mrs. Ewy, the kindergarten teacher, calling my name from the grade school across the street. She had her class out for recess and discovered Ben and the neighbor boy playing on the playground. She stayed with him until I came for him. I was soooo grateful. That's when I decided to be a Kool-Aid mom.

You see, the Kool-Aid mom doesn't worry where her kids are because they love to stay home. Their friends come to them and want to hang out with them. The Kool-Aid mom's home is a happenin' place! Kick ball games, bike ramps, rope swings, sprinklers, and of course ice-cold pitchers of something tasty (not the nasty colored sugar water, but you get the idea) make happy kids and happy neighbors. Now, my twenty-something kids still think of our home as a happenin place - we're talking slip-n-slides with grad students, and big Easter dinners with 14 people around the table! I love it.

And something else I love... refashioning.
Here's one for you...

This is a Laura Ashley dress from the 80s. I've had it all this time and wore it many times. But it's time for an update!

First I took off 10 inches from the bottom, cut off the sleeves, and took in an inch or so from each side seam.

In case it's not obvious, the dress is inside out to make it easier to fit to my life-sized dressform.

I took in the sides just behind the original side seams so as to keep the pockets intact.  And here's the finished product...

Friday, March 18, 2016

When is a Good Time for a Pet?

Most of us have probably grown up with a pet. We have such fond memories of beloved Fido or fuzzy Fluffy, who gave us the cuddle right when we needed a little lovin'. We want our children to experience the same, but if we're going to approach parenting proactively, we ought to consider a few things first.

When my older two were toddlers, a generous friend gave us a puppy. Now I never had a puppy before but we agreed to this gift because we thought it would be nice for the kids to grow up with a dog. I envisioned lots of giggles, cuddles, and special playtimes. I was wrong.

Reggie the puppy was cute and adorable but soooooooo much work for me. Here I was trying to potty train a two year old and a puppy at the same time. Yeah. The  puppy was chewing everything, including the kids and instead of giggles I was getting screams. We gave the puppy back.

Now a cat was more our speed, so we had cats for many years. But my youngest longed for a dog. We did a lot of research this time around, and considered a few things carefully.
* Can we afford a dog? Dog people say you should plan on a budget of $500 to $1000 per year or more for food, vet, vaccinations, training, treats, etc. That doesn't include the cost of the dog to begin with.
* Are my children prepared to help care for the dog? We realized the initial excitement of walking the dog or taking it out to do its business would wear off and there would either be major resistance  or I'd end up doing it myself. 
* Is this a pet I'm willing to live with when my daughter leaves home, presuming it outlives her teenage years?

We made the decision to get a puppy when the youngest was twelve years old. We reasoned that her older siblings were all leaving home and she'd miss them so much and a dog would help. Anna was amazing with Dutchess. I agreed to do the early morning walk but she would do the afternoon walk. And she happily fed the dog each day. Anna never once complained. She and Dutchess had so much fun together. She would dress her up, teach her tricks, and cuddle with her at night. Dutchess was company for all of us as we missed the college kids. Dutchess truly was a blessing for our family. And now, Anna is in college herself and Dutchess keeps me company when Steve is at work. I know Dutchess misses her - she sleeps on Anna's bed at night.

And now for a refashion...

Remember that pretty dress I made for myself from Sew Different's asymmetrical dress pattern? It turned out too small for me and so I gave it to Anna, thinking she'd like it for Easter. However, it looked too much like her older sister's nursing scrubs, she thought, and politely told me she probably wouldn't wear it. I said that was fine... but would she like it if I made a skirt out of it? She said yes. So I a-hacking did I go.

I cut off the top portion and cut out an identical piece from another cotton fabric that would the skirt's lining.

 I sewed the lining along the top of the skirt and then would flip the lining over, sew up a place for elastic, and wah-lah... a skirt for my beautiful girl.

Blessings! And have a very blessed Resurrection Day!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Raising Book Lovers

"I just don't have time to read", said a coworker to me one day. I was totally shocked. How does a person get to a place in life without books in hand? I am wondering if it comes from a childhood where books were about school requirements, rather than enjoyment, or from a lack of parental modeling. Perhaps it's from an inability to read in short spurts - you know, needing a huge block of time to do a book in one sitting. Who has 6 hours at a shot to read a book in its entirety? A love of reading comes from a lifetime of listening, observing, cuddling, encouragement, discussion, and challenges to read on our own.

When my son went off to college, I was amused to find out that one of the first things he did was go to the public library to get a card so he could check out books. Apparently textbooks weren't enough. He really did have a social life! He was on the ultimate frisbee team and also enjoyed hanging out with friends, but always enjoyed a good science fiction.

Books take you places. Books challenge you to think beyond your own universe. Books increase your knowledge, your vocabulary, your overall intellect. How sad to stop reading when you are an adult! So how do we teach our children to love books?

By reading aloud to them every day! I am convinced that reading aloud is crucial to proactive parenting. Infants enjoy board books so have plenty of them around. Toddlers enjoy nursery rhymes and other books that they can grab and plop in your lap. If you have an antsy toddler that just won't sit still you can read to them in short spurts as they are eating lunch in their high chairs, or in the bathtub, or right before they go to sleep. My son, at 18 months, loved the Richard Scarry books, especially Cars, Trucks and Things That Go. He had it totally memorized and would sit in the window of our Kansas home and name the farming vehicles that would go down the road. We read that book until it fell apart. Every time I'd go to sit down, plop - that book was in my lap. I was so sick of that book!

My one daughter was a reluctant reader but she became interested in the Little House on the Prairie books. So I would read a chapter aloud to her and she'd say, "Read the next chapter, PLEASE!!" I would say, "No, you read it to yourself and then I'll come back and you can tell me what happened." So because she was dying to know what happened next, she would read it and tell me what it was about. I'd reward her by reading aloud the next chapter. Pretty soon she was reading the whole book to herself.

My friend, Heather Woodie, homeschool mother of four and popular blogger, has written a couple of posts that you might find helpful on this subject:

If reading aloud to your children is a daily thing in your home, I guarantee you will have young adults who love to read and love to learn. I read aloud to my kids until they left for college. Yes, even at age 18 they still enjoyed being read to. Their ability to listen was way past my skill at their age. I remember checking out when my sixth grade teacher was reading The Boxcar Children out loud to the class. Everyone laughed at one part and I jolted out of my daydream wondering what was so funny. As a young adult I had trouble totally tuning in to a preacher's sermon. Gradually I've learned to increase my auditory skills by listening to the radio more, but thankfully, my young adult children are better listeners.

Probably the best thing that happens when you read out loud is the relationship that develops between you and your children. You snuggle, you laugh, you talk together. Now as a family with young adult children we talk about the latest books we've been reading.

And now....
This week I don't have a refashion for you. But if you're interested in viewing my latest project, check out my pattern review page.