Category Archives: parenting

A skirt for my horse-lover

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Sewing for my tiniest girl is easy, because thus far she’s never refused to wear anything I made for her, and because toddler clothes are all cute. Sewing for my tween is a little trickier. In addition to taking into account her numerous preferences I feel pressure to sew things for her that are appropriate to her specific age, which is in itself a tricky thing. She’s tween in truth–neither a child (though often childish) nor a full-fledged teenager (though she often acts like that too). She’s big and little, she’s responsible and flighty, she’s wise and naive, she’s precious and difficult, she wears pigtails and ratty friendship anklets until they fray and fall off. She’s into horses, so when I saw the Michael Miller Wee Wander Summer Ride fabric I thought of her. If you zoom in on the fabric you can see that it has an image of a girl with long, dark hair riding bare-backed, fast and free. It’s the perfect tween fantasy fabric–sweet and feminine, but with a strong, independent subject. Once I had the fabric in my stash and a girl who felt excited about it, I wasn’t sure what to do next. After some searching, I found this tutorial online for a piped-pocket skirt. Again, it’s a good tween pattern. It is twirly and fun, but it has sophisticated little piped pockets. Perfect! My daughter wears the same size as the model child in the tutorial, so I followed her instructions almost exactly. It’s in centimeters, so I had to drag out a tape to convert everything to inches, because none of my cutting rules show metric measurements! But it came together nicely, and most importantly, Dorothy loves it. She decided her pink hair extension coordinated with it better than any of her other hair extension color options. Who am I to say it doesn’t?

What a mess: One mother’s response to the latest mommy wars

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I think I need to weigh in on the articles and blog posts that have been circulating in the latest round of the “mommy wars,”–whatever that is. I’m not big on making sweeping judgments about other people’s lifestyle choices. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together working outside the home? Great! You’re a good mom, and you’ve probably got awesome shoes. Feel happy and fulfilled and like you’ve got your financial shit together while staying out of the paid workforce and raising your kids? Great! You’re a good mom too, but you’ve probably got less awesome shoes. (Like me.) Send your kid to public or private school? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine, and they leave your house for eight hours a day, which is clearly a good idea. Homeschool your kid? Great! They are probably going to turn out fine too, and I’m sure you have a reason for keeping them there that makes their relentless presence in your house worthwhile.

Now moving on to the details. Lately these so-called “wars” seem to have descended from these more obvious issues and into the petty realm of party and event planning, and whether or not you keep your house clean. I think these articles that bash a “culture” of Pinterest-obsessed mothers who plan picturesque birthday parties or set leprechaun traps are meant to make mothers who opt not to do these things feel better, but is that really the way to do it? Why are we giving other mothers a hard time at all? No mother is out there posting cupcakes on Pinterest or scrubbing her kitchen floor to make you feel inadequate, nor should they be asked to stop because of your negative response. What your house looks like is between you and the other people who live in it. It’s not about the articles or the bloggers or the playdate mamas. There is no vast conspiracy of military-industrial anything telling you to plan Pinterest holiday events or keep your mail slots beautiful. You do what feels right at your house, and let’s stop spilling ink on whether or not it’s a contest.

All the articles about how the Pinterest stuff takes it too far, and no one else’s house is really that clean, and every birthday party doesn’t have to be magical, and that’s not even really a holiday, blah, blah, undermine other mothers. Because mothers who plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who don’t plan elaborate parties love their children. Mothers who use Pinterest ideas to turn small holidays into big moments of wonder love their children. Mothers who would rather eat roadkill than handle glitter love their children. Mothers who are too up to their eyeballs in case work, or shift work, or depression, or a dirty novel to even notice this conversation is going on love their children. Making a plea to other mothers to stop doing whatever they are doing–whether it is icing gorgeous cupcakes, or cleaning their house before a playdate, or having a job, or not having a job–is not an act of sisterhood. It is trying to take another mother’s behavior and make it about you.

Maybe what we need is to stop talking about the behavior of other mothers. Maybe all the moms just need a nice shot in the arm of self-confidence and the space to get a grip on what is important to them and what is not, and then mind their own business. If you know you love your children, and you make your decisions based on what is right for you and for them, then what everyone else is doing is just not relevant.  And housekeeping, for pete’s sake, why is this a conversation in 2014? It’s not a ranked activity–it’s your own private thing. The dirty underwear on your floor is, quite literally, your dirty underwear (or to be perfectly honest it’s probably your toddler’s) and if it bothers you that much go and pick it up. And if it doesn’t then literally shut the front door and no one else will see it. No one on Pinterest or the blog world or uninvited to your house is going to know about it.

By the same token, if looking at photographs of “perfect” birthday parties or Hallmark holiday celebrations on Pinterest or blogs is some sort of trigger for you, why don’t you stay off Pinterest and the blogs? You are a grown-up. Read bodice-rippers or dirty fan-fiction in the time you would have spent “getting ideas” about how everyone else’s life is better than yours. That always puts me in a better mood, and I never end up spending $50 on new art supplies next day. But I’d like to point out that the problem is probably not that other people are posting blogs or Pinterest photos of parties and celebrations, but that you are responding to them by feeling inadequate. I doubt that anyone ever iced cupcakes just to make someone else feel bad. Get a backbone and say “I want to make these cupcakes” and then really do it. Or say, “I am never going to make these cupcakes, and I’m having a negative reaction to seeing other people’s cupcakes, so I need to work on my self-esteem. I’m going to remind myself that I’m a mother who loves her children, that quality mothering and cupcake baking are not actually correlated. Now I’m going to shut down this browser and stay away from cupcake photos. I will not resort to the middle-school coping mechanism of running down the mama who baked the cupcakes (who also loves her children) to make myself feel better.”

I’m a cupcake-baker. I have cute birthday parties for my kids. Sometimes I even have cute half-birthday celebrations for my kids and blog about them. Sometimes we totally forget about the kids’ half-birthdays, and if anyone happens to remember at the last moment we run to the corner gas station and buy packaged cupcakes. Or we don’t even bother. Sometimes my house is beautifully clean and my mail slots are worthy of Pinterest. Sometimes random piles of crap appear all over my house and there is no clean laundry and my mail slots overflow. Sometimes I like to browse ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes I like to read dirty novels and pay no attention to applesauce on the floor or the yogurt being dumped on the dog or the fact that yesterday was a Hallmark holiday I missed. And I LOVE MY KIDS. I don’t judge myself based on anyone else’s criteria because I am comfortable in my own skin. That is a gift, I realize, but it is also a choice. I honor that you are a good mother because you love your kids. I am not going to judge the choices you make about working or schooling or (the biggie!) crafty holiday decorations. I’m not going to ask you to lie about your house, or to lie about lying about it. Because you are your own person, and, like me, you probably keep your house the way it needs to be right now for you. And you love your kids.

Now I’m a little embarrassed that in a state where slightly more than a third of children live in poverty I have just spend an hour acknowledging any importance in the petty “mommy wars,” in which well-fed mothers argue over things that don’t really matter. Except that niceness always matters. And making some theoretically heroic summons of sisterhood for mothers to stop fussing over Hallmark holidays (if they enjoy it) or planning cutesy birthday parties (if they want to) or having a tidy house (or lying about it?) isn’t nice. It just isn’t about you. Take it or leave it. It didn’t become a contest until someone who felt like they were losing started whining about calling off the contest. You can decide what to look at it and what to avoid. Live you own life. Love your children. Go talk about things that matter. And if you have something to say to another mother let it be positive.

I’ll start. I honor you and the mother that you are. I don’t care what your house looks like, even if it is spectacular. I don’t care if you are baking picture-perfect cupcakes (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is lemon). I don’t care if you are picking up cupcakes from the gas station (though if you are and you have extra, my favorite flavor is that waxy orange with the white squiggle on top). I hope you are in an employment situation that feels right to you. I hope your children are in educational situations that feel right to you. I hope you have the self-confidence to look at ideas and tuck away what you like and discard the rest. I hope you realize how beautiful you are. I hope you realize that you are the right parent for your child. And I know you love your children.

Peace, Mama!

Beach outfits for the cousins and a lunch idea

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We’ve been on the move again. My awesome parents flew the whole family with them to Florida for some fun times at the beach. The last time we’d all been to the beach together was to celebrate my Mom’s retirement in 2010. I made Dorothy and her cousins matching dresses to wear on that trip, pictured below. They were so cute running around in their little coordinating beach gear that I knew I had to do the same thing for this trip, plus some shorts for Worth. I bought this fabric and used McCalls MP339 as a basis for the dresses and just improvised Worth’s little shorts. The pattern was simple and adorable and the sizing was right on except for the straps, which had to be shortened considerably from what the pattern called for. I added the ruffles to the top and bottom. The kids collected smiles and coos everywhere we went, and they liked their matching outfits so much they wore them for two days straight.

This was the 2010 picture, with sweet little Maggie just 3 months old and Worth only a dear hope!

I’ve been going through some photographs from the last couple months and I found these two that I’d taken this spring but not yet blogged about. This one above is a picture of our “toothpick lunch.” Dorothy and Worth are not the pickiest eaters I’ve encountered, but they aren’t exactly omnivorous when it comes to food either. One of the strategies I find very useful for feeding them at lunchtime when I know we may not have their favorite foods on hand is to declare that we will have a “surprise lunch,” and that they must play away from the kitchen while I fix it. For some reason the pleasure of having the table set with food laid out on their plates (like a restaurant!) is so compelling to them that they may eat food they would otherwise not have selected. One day I really couldn’t come up with much that looked like lunch in a just-bef0re-grocery-time refrigerator and pantry. I had some cheese sticks the kids rejected because they weren’t the right color (the horror of yellow cheese when one prefers white!), some crackers they didn’t like, some fruit. For some reason the line from the original Fancy Nancy book, about sandwiches tasting better with frilly toothpicks popped into my head. I sliced some fruit, cut up the despised crackers and smeared them with a little hummus, cubed the rejected cheese sticks, located a few other bite-sized goodies and arranged them on a breakable platter I wouldn’t ordinarily use for the kids, then I got down our cocktail toothpicks and set out an assortment of colors. The kids totally bought the “toothpick lunch” idea. They loved the colored toothpick frills, they giggled, and they ate every single thing on the platter. The color of the cheese or the substance of the cracker was never even mentioned. I’m absolutely going to use this idea again.

Finally, Dorothy has been into puppet shows lately. We have a small store-bought puppet theater but the game would be just as fun with a cut-out cardboard box. I’ve printed some scripts for her from a website I use as a resource to our homeschooling. She’s had a blast coloring simple paper doll forms into the characters for each script, gluing them to popsicle sticks, and then putting on performances. She can spend a long time doing this on her own, and I’ve also divvied up characters with her and participated in her performances. I love that she always dresses her narrator characters in black–how did she know? In this photo she’s holding Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.

A bird in the hand

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Before the puppy madness began I was spending some time working on our outside spaces. This is our side porch, and since we park in the back it the entrance we use primarily. I’d post a before picture but it would be too embarrassing to show you the messy jumble of miscellaneous junk I’d allowed to accumulate there as we were moving in. Sometimes it was easier to dump stuff on the porch than to find a better home for it. Anyway, I cleared off the junk and set up the grill. There isn’t room for chairs on this little porch but it needed something else on it so I potted some herbs in pots I painted, then let Dorothy and her friend next door paint our old, recently-replaced front porch mailbox a bright yellow color and set it out to use as an exchange spot for messages to each other. The girls loved this project. Then something was still missing–I thought the window looked like it needed curtains, but curtains on an exterior window seemed a bit odd so I thought of pennants instead. I made the little string of flags out of scraps from Aunt Stephanie’s room and I think they look very fresh and cheerful there. They tie in the colors of the pots, the little girls’ mailbox, and the mustardy-gold I painted on the exterior door. Why not?

We traveled over the weekend. We had campground reservations at Rough River State Park but they were cancelled by the park several days before our trip due to flooding. With a weekend already blocked off for travel but the weather unappealingly hot for camping we decided to move forward some travel plans we’d intended for later in the summer. Saturday we visited Kentucky Down Under where Dorothy got to pet an emu, a kangaroo, and encounter this beautiful bird. The park had the feeling of a place that is still up and coming but we enjoyed the several hours we spent there. If I had it to do over I’d have packed a picnic as the cafe food was not very good–let that be my tip if you go. After the park we drove on into Bowling Green where we dined at the surprisingly good 440 Main on the charming town square and stayed the night at a hotel. The next day we visited the National Corvette Museum which I think has my husband vowing to work harder and earn more money…for a Corvette. Oy. It was a fun weekend getaway just a car nap’s drive from home. On the way home we shared our favorite memories: Rob liked the Corvettes (go figure), Dorothy enjoyed the hotel pool more than either paid attraction, and I most enjoyed our dinner at the nice restaurant. What can I say?

Our puppy may now have a name. I really think she’s a Pippa, but Dorothy seemed wedded to her suggestion of Isabelle. I pulled some Mommy magic today and had her convinced that naming the dog Pippa was her idea. She’d totally embraced it, started calling her that, and even proudly introduced the dog as Pippa to the next-door friend, but then Rob came home surprised by her change of heart and totally foiled my plan. “Is that really what you want to name her? I thought you were naming her Isabelle?” not realizing I’d already carefully achieved buy-in and was not pressuring her to pick a name I preferred. Then I think Dorothy got the impression that her father actually preferred Isabelle and has firmly switched back to that. Sigh…
Bella, which would be my top choice for a nickname if the dog must be named Isabelle, is the most common dog name, according to this web site. No fewer than three people have told me that they know other dogs named Bella. This will drive my crazy. I don’t like to do things like other people. No amount of channeling good memories of the trip I once took to Italy will stop me from writhing at the idea that people will think I chose to name my dog the single most popular dog name currently in existence.  Rob and I carefully chose names for our children that didn’t even make the top 1000 baby names the years they were born. That was not an accident. I think we’ll call her Belle for short as opposed to Bella, with the one letter’s difference (and nod toward France instead of Italy) at least making the name slightly more “beautiful” (pun intended) to me. And if I show up at the dog park and can’t get my dog’s attention since all the other doggie owners are calling their pups by the same basic name, well, I guess I’ll just have to remember that allowing my 5-year-old to choose the name and venting my frustrations on the blog instead of in her earshot was the right thing to do. Belle it is.

Locked in the basement

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First a finished project. I made a super-comfy skirt out of a thrifted jersey sheet. It’s soft like pajamas! It’s casual but cute–a skirt to wear with flip-flops. I love wearing skirts in the summer because they are cooler than capris and don’t have all the thigh-rubbing (sorry, I’m just shaped like that) and burning-legs-on-leather-car-upholstery issues of shorts. I think this one will become a summer favorite.

Next a funny story. Dorothy has been a little high-strung lately, perhaps due to all the talk at school about final days and transitions. She was passive-aggressively “waving” a doll apron at her brother, in a way that just happened to involve whipping him with apron strings. I asked her not to, she told me she was just fanning him and continued to do it. I asked her to go to her room and settle down. She stomped off to her second-floor bedroom angrily. Then I noted that the baby seemed to be happy tormenting the cat (whipping him with apron strings, perhaps?) so this seemed like a good moment for me to run some Costco purchases downstairs to our chest freezer. When I came up the basement stairs I found that the baby had tired of tormenting the cat and had moved on to fiddling with the basement door–in a way that involved locking me in the basement. As I stood there on the steps he opened the tiny cat door and waved at me pleasantly, thinking it was some kind of game that I was staying on the other side of it. It had been on my mind that I should get a screwdriver and remove those old locks before something just like this happened, but of course I hadn’t had the sense to do it yet. So I had to stand there on the basement stairs, frozen turkey bacon in hand, and yell for my exiled daughter over the sound of Pandora on the Old Crow Medicine Show station. She finally heard me and came down, sort of puzzled by the very short amount of time she was required to spend in her room. I explained the situation as calmly as possible and gave thanks that she’s still young enough that she just laughed at what her brother had done and let me out without further torment.  Shew! Now I really will take off those old locks before she gets old enough to be vengeful, or is waiting to be picked up at preschool next time I get locked in the basement.

Finally, I just joined Twitter but I don’t know anything about it. What do I do next? I’m RenataHomemade.

There’s no place like…

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Worth met Santa this week!  I don’t like screaming pictures with Santa so I opted to be included after it was clear Worth would not willingly participate in a hand off.  I have a similar picture of Dorothy, Santa, and my arms from her first Christmas.  I have no pictures of Santa with Dorothy since then, what with the unwillingness on my part to hand a screaming child over to a scary stranger in a red suit, and her unwillingness to get anywhere near him.  (The picture looks like an old Polaroid because I downloaded this software and am now slightly addicted to using it on my photographs.  You should try it–it’s fun to watch the picture develop over the course of two minutes!)

And the packing continues.  Poor Rody Pony, getting squashed into a box!  We were sure we’d have the keys to the new place by now but we don’t.  There was a problem on the seller’s end with one of the repairs we requested taking longer than expected.  I’m trying not to feel excessively frustrated about it, but it is frustrating to have thought we’d have access to the house by now but not.  My plans to move everyday items (like most of the kitchen and closets) by tote and unpack them directly into their new spots have fallen through, so now we need many more boxes, much more packing paper and a lot more takeout than we’d thought.  Still, I’m trying to focus on the merry Christmas we’re going to have around our new hearth, and being glad our conscientious seller is taking care of everything at the new house.  I’m thankful for the Vietnam Kitchen down the street and for disposable diapers for one week only!

Sweet feet

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Most of the sweet baby booties I made when I was pregnant are no longer in use at my house.  Now that Worth can pull himself up he needs grippy-footed soft-soled shoes to keep him from skidding all over our hardwood floors.  This one pair does still work, though.  Since I’d made this pair to fit a bigger baby, I’d had the foresight to also do something about the slipping issue.  It doesn’t work perfectly well, but really neither do leather soles, and it’s too cold for bare feet.  I sewed a felt sole onto the bottom of these booties, then used rubbery puffy fabric paint to paint little paw prints on the bottoms.  The paint provides some traction on the floors and keeps Mr. Baby from whacking his head for any reason not related to his own nascent motor skills.  These booties stay on with the help of red leather cord laces and are very cutely U of L-y, but unfortunately I did not think to put them on him when he made his first trip to the new stadium last week to see his first basketball game!

The real estate project is progressing nicely.  We’ve taken care of our buyer’s inspection repair quests and our seller has responded positively to ours.  We’re hoping for a Merry Early Christmas closing in about two weeks.  In the meantime, *I think* (and I almost hate to jinx this by even blogging about it!) that our buyers are going to allow us to have a key very soon to start moving in some of our things.  I’m so excited!  I couldn’t resist popping in on Early Bird Thursday today at my favorite thrift shop to see if I could score some goodies for our new digs, and I totally did!  A yellow bed skirt for Dorothy’s new room, a little knick-knack shelf for our crafty studio, a vintage Christmas tablecloth, a rug for our studio, a mirror to hang over our dress-up box, and this little bell for my vintage Kentucky kitchen.  $18 well spent, in my opinion.

Looking ahead, I think Dorothy must have an owl pillow similar to these in her new vintage-floral bedroom.  I’m pretty sure there is a sheet in that pile just crying out to be an owl pillow.  How cute are they?