Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A most untimely upset stomach

On Saturday, Jordan was participating in a rowing competition fundraiser.  Different departments and community groups could put together teams and compete against one another with the help of our local university's rowing team.  We took the kids to see Daddy row.  I was nervous about it because I didn't know how hard it might be to manage all three kids myself, how crowded it might be, or how long Jordan would be busy, but we decided to take them and hope for the best.  Suzi took a pen and wrote "GO DADDY" on a piece of cardboard to use as a sign.

As I stood out at the lake with my girls happily finding rocks in the sand and Robert on my back in the Ergo, resting his head on my shoulder, I thought, this isn't bad at all.  It's a beautiful day and we are having a good time!  What was I so worried about? 

Not so fast, Jenny.

From the right, he's the second orange shirt.  Stayed out there about an hour.

As Jordan was out in the boat with his team practicing, I heard rumblings of regurgitation behind me.  I tried to get Robert off my back, but there was no time.  He'd had almost an entire pouch of berry applesauce, and he puked it all over the front of his outfit, down my back, into the Ergo, and into my hair.  I keep spare clothes for the kids in the van, but we'd taken a shuttle to the lake.  I had to take my shirt off and stand around in just my nursing tank top.  Since Robert's clothes were covered in puke, I asked Suzi to take her shirt off and zip her jacket up so Robert could borrow her shirt.  I had no way of wiping my back off.  None of the other spectators came to help me, but I didn't really blame them and was kind of glad.  I had to hold Robert for the rest of the time, had no Ergo to use, and Jordan was out in the boat with no phone so we couldn't even take the bus back to the van.  To top it off, some of Jordan's coworkers were there to witness our sticky situation.

Luckily Jordan was given a new t-shirt for participating, so I got to wear that home.  It was an extra large, but it covered the purple vomit nicely as we waited for the bus and then rode back to the van.  I was really happy to get in the shower, and the weekend only got better from there.  Also, it was only an isolated incident and not a stomach bug.  Thank God.

It's really hard sometimes to think of any good reason I should take the kids out in public by myself.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to sew a candy cane table runner

I love decorating for holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas.  I do not, however, love to spend a lot of money.  This year I decided to try making table runners out of my favorite crafting material that I always have on hand:  upcycled wool!  For this project I used a pair of red wool pants and a white wool blazer, probably both found in the clearance section of Goodwill.  I chose these fabrics because they are thinner than sweaters and woven rather than knit, so they don’t stretch much.  I’m sure you could use a wool sweater, but I’d be careful about substituting synthetic material such as fleece for this project.  If you do try something like polyester fleece, skip the ironing—it’ll melt.  You probably already knew that, but I learned it the hard way.  Yuck!

Once you’ve found some material that will work, you’ll also need your scissors, a sewing machine threaded up in red, and preferably a cutting board, clear ruler, and rotary cutter.  You’ll also need your iron at the end.

I decided I wanted my table runner to be 7-8 inches wide, so I cut a piece of folded fabric to that width with the rotary cutter.  The fold is at the bottom.  

I then used a piece of chalk tied to a string to mark off a curve for the two end caps of my candy cane table runner.

After cutting along that curve, I used the clear ruler and rotary cutter to cut the end cap at an angle.  Now we are ready to cut the pieces in between!

I laid them next to the first pieces and used the clear ruler as a guide to be sure I was cutting them to the right width and at the right angle.  

Once I had enough in red and white, it was time to sew!

To properly position the pieces so that they are right sides together for sewing, simply grab the lower piece and flip it up onto the piece above it.  But WAIT!  You can’t sew them together with the edges matched exactly, or the whole thing will be a little bit off.  What’s important is that they align on the seams once you’ve sewn them all together, and there's about a 1/4 inch between the edge of the fabric and where you are sewing.  Line it up with the edge of the presser foot.

Perhaps a better way of explaining it is that you should leave a pointy little cat ear poking out each time you sew two pieces together.  You want the needle to start sewing just to the left of the cat ear.

And hopefully when you come out on the other end, you’ll see something like this!

Once you have all the pieces together, it should look something like this.  It doesn’t look its best yet because we still have a couple of steps to go!

It's time to warm up your iron and iron those seams open.  (Remember to be careful with this if you are using a substitute material such as fleece!)  Ironing the seams open will help the runner lie flat on the table.  Finally, once you're done ironing, trim off all those little triangles that are poking out and while you're at it, even out any areas that might need it.

 Done!  No need to hem.  Lint roll it or wash it by hand if it gets dirty.  It shouldn't fray too much--you can always trim the edges a bit if needed later on.  Just place your favorite holiday decorations on top of your table runner and you're good to go!

P.S.  Because it is cut at an angle, this table runner is a bit trickier than the table runner I made for Halloween.  If you wanted a faster, simpler project, you could skip the candy cane motif and sew one like this in Christmas colors instead.

A snowman inspired by the penny rug

I first came across the concept of the penny rug on Pinterest, and it was love at first sight.

Have you ever approached Christmastime with a longing to give each of your loved ones a special gift, yet had very little money to do so?  Have you ever thought about making gifts, only to find that the cost of materials may also be beyond your budget?  Here is what I believe about gifts:  An investment of time, energy, and love can yield a special gift in the absence of money, even if you are not particularly crafty or artistic, and even if you do not have expensive machinery at your disposal.

That is why I *heart* penny rugs.  For a delightful assortment of examples, do a Google image search.  A tradition from the 1800's, the penny rug was a hand sewn craft intended to use up the smallest of wool scraps to create something beautiful and warm.  I have read that the penny rug is so named because women used coins as templates for the small wool circles.  I have also read, though, that coins were sometimes sewn under the pieces of wool to ensure that the finished project would lay flat.  For more on the history of the penny rug, visit this page at Rag-a-Muffin Collectibles and this one at Layers of Meaning.

So, to review, this is a craft that:

Has inspiring historical roots
Allows a crazy sweater lady (me) to use up wool scraps
Costs practically nothing
Fills small bits of spare time
Allows me to get creative and play with a rainbow of wool

Yes, I knew immediately this was the craft for me!  After spending some time online admiring some beautiful penny rug designs, both antique and modern, I was inspired by an adorable snowman (which I unfortunately can no longer find, or I would link to it) to make a table runner/chair decoration for a snow lover on our Christmas list.

Want to try to make a penny rug for someone on your Christmas list?  The most commonly used stitch is the blanket stitch.  This is what I used for my snowman project.  It was frustrating at first, because while I knew how to blanket stitch on the edge of material, I quickly realized that blanket stitching for applique in the middle of a piece of fabric is different.  This Patchwork Interactive video explains it beautifully.  She is not working with wool, so you can skip to about 2:45 for the relevant part of the demonstration.

Other than the ability to blanket stitch and some very basic hand sewing skills, you will need:

a decent pair of scissors
a large-eyed needle
embroidery floss
various felted wool scraps
something (like a coin or cup) for a template, or material (such as a cereal box) to make your own
one large piece of fabric for backing

For my backing, I used a piece of wool blend storebought felt I already had, but there are lots of things you could use.  Centuries ago, women used things like burlap sacks!  In a truer, more traditional penny rug, the backing will not show much anyway.  My project is more penny rug-inspired.  I cut my backing about 10 inches wide and 30 inches long, with a point at each end.  I was thinking it could be used as a table runner or to decorate the back of a chair.

I then used a large jar lid as a template for a dark blue circle, which I blanket stitched to my backing.

It only took a small handful of scraps to cut out the basic shapes for my snowman!  All that was left was to blanket stitch my snowman onto the background circle and add some details.  I did secure the bottom of the head and middle snowball with matching thread, since I did not blanket stitch that part--and I did the same with the bottom edge of the hat.

The process of stitching it all together and adding details such as snow and twig arms was a relaxing while-watching-TV activity.  It was what I'd imagine knitting or crocheting feels like for some people.  Also, I should probably mention that I have no formal embroidery experience.  I watched that blanket stitch video and have applied embroidery to several projects in a trial-and-error sort of way.  You can wing it!

Again, this snowman project is really only inspired by the penny rug.  I am currently working on a more traditional project for someone else's Christmas gift, but it'll be a while before that one is finished!  The general concept can go wherever your imagination wants to take it, and can be personalized for almost anyone on your Christmas list.  I think it would be so neat to find an old, unusable article of family clothing, such as a moth-damaged coat that belonged to your grandmother, and use it as material for this historical craft.  I definitely see several variations of this technique in my crafty future!  I hope you like it, too.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Skating with our homeschool friends

There was a homeschool skating party a few weeks ago, but it was far away and I had some other stuff going on, so I didn't get to take the kids.  I'm so glad a couple of my friends organized a closer one--at our same favorite rink where we have roller derby!  It was so much fun.  I thought I'd spend the whole time pulling the girls around the rink, but as you can see, they took off with their friends!

It's wonderful to see them spend some time with other kids.  I got to talk to my friends, too!

 Ivey and her friend Delaney spent a lot of time off the rink, just socializing.  Kind of like half the teenagers do on Friday night!  I guess in a few years we'll be dropping them off, too.  Weird!  At least I get to skate with them right now!  A little, anyway.

I was so glad to find out they're doing this again next month!  It's such a nice break to be able to skate with the kids for a bit during a busy week.  Can't wait.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I got a glimpse of something wonderful and promising yesterday.  It was Suzi's third dentist appointment, and my parents were keeping Robert and Ivey for me to be with her.  After we were done I'd told her we'd go to Target so she could pick out a little toy and some ice cream to eat since her mouth was still numb.  But on the way there, as we were passing the mall, I remembered the Halloween store and asked if she'd rather go there.  Going in that shop is one of my favorite things to do around Halloween, and Suzi has gotten to be as crazy about Halloween as I am!

So we skipped off hand-in-hand to the Halloween store, and talked about decorations and costumes and what would look good on whom.  We really talked.  Usually this dynamic between Suzi and me is drowned out by her boisterous siblings.  I am forever chasing Robert around or cleaning up a mess (see yesterday's post) or breaking up a fight between Suzi and Ivey.  But when I'm alone with Suzi, or even alone with both the girls, I can see that things are going to get better.  Maybe in just a year or two, as soon as Robert is able to comprehend and follow instructions.  Maybe in a few months when he begins to use the potty.

These wild babies do turn into unique, thoughtful little people who are a pleasure to be around.  I always knew it was true, but recently I've been seeing it.  They go from sweet babies, to hilarious, experimenting, mess-making toddlers, to children who are beginning to understand and contribute.  Five and a half years ago as I sat in a hospital bed with my heart up in the clouds holding my little newborn Suzi, I had no idea that she'd turn out to be so different from what I'd envisioned.  I had no idea she could turn out to be so much better than I'd envisioned.  Because I didn't design her, inside and out, God did.  She is so much more than I could ever imagine.  All children are.  It's not only easier with older kids.  It's such a gift to watch and facilitate as their talents, styles, and personalities unfold.

This is what I have to look forward to.  It will get better.  It will be amazing.  Soon, relatively soon.  That is going to be my mantra as I pick up toys and mop up spills and Robert follows me around messing things up again.  Overwhelmed doesn't begin to cover it.  But it will get better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Didn't have any paper

We went shopping tonight at Party City, and the girls found these adorable ballpoint pens with rolly eyes.  Of course they both wanted one; heck, I kind of wanted one for myself!  So we bought them.  Suzi got a Frankenstein and Ivey got a vampire.  It got dark while we were out, and by the time we had arrived home, this is the situation we had.

It wasn't her fault.  I mean, she had a brand-new pen and no paper.  She had to improvise.  Duh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A complicated zoo trip

Today was our homeschool co-op's zoo field trip day.  Just me and the three kids, driving for an hour to get there by 9 AM.  Sigh.  I made it, about 15 minutes late, but I won't be trying it again anytime soon!  It's field trips with Daddy for us from now on!

I showed Robert a baby alligator in the reptile house and he said "alligator!"  I think the girls had fun visiting their animal friends, especially Baby Bob the orangutan, and I love sharing field trips with my kids.  Not everyone gets to do that.  It wasn't a bad day at the zoo, it was just a one-thing-right-after-another, nonstop, hectic kind of day.  The kind that's easier with another adult along to help.

Autumn the giraffe.  She is pregnant, although it's harder to tell from this angle, and the baby could come any day!  They have a giraffe cam set up so everyone can watch.  They've had the camera up for weeks.  No pressure, Autumn!  I wonder if she is tired of people asking if she's had that baby yet.

 They love the lion statues.

And the bear.

Also, you know what is awful?  When you are just a singular person driving down the road and you have to pee, you pull into a Hardee's and use the restroom real quick, right?  Of course.  It's easy. But when you have three kids with you, and are running terribly late for the oldest one's homeschool zoo class, and you made the mistake of drinking just a little coffee because you didn't want to fall asleep at the wheel on the long drive?  No pee break for you!  It would take at least ten minutes to herd your crew in and out of the bathroom, struggle with three car seats, and get back on the road.  You will be nearly in tears by the time you reach the zoo, wondering if you will make it in time, but you will still have to run your oldest child to the classroom with the toddler in one arm and the diaper bag in the other.  The kind and helpful zoo employees will probably wonder why you seem so grumpy and anxious.  Then, finally, you get to use the restroom while telling your three-year-old to please hold the door shut and watch her little brother.  Ahhh.

Seriously.  Zoo trips with help from now on.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Big day at the fair

My in-laws took us all to the state fair today.  We loved it.  The lights, the smells, the food, and the rides.  The rides are my favorite.

My mother-in-law with Suzi and cousin Michael on the ferris wheel

We spent most of our time riding.  The only thing more fun than riding a butterflies-in-your-stomach, whirling, diving, jerking fair ride is watching your child's face while she rides with you, and then running off hand-in-hand to get right back on again because she didn't want it to end.  Suzi loved it.  Ivey loved the rides she was tall enough for, too, and so did our nephew Michael, who is a few months older than Ivey.  Jordan and I had a great time with the kids.  I think my favorite was when the five of us piled into the Tilt-a-Whirl!  Poor Robert had to sit in the stroller and wait for us, but at least he got to spend some time with Nana and Papa and eat some fair food.  He didn't seem to mind too much!

Sand sculpture!

The kids slept all the way home and I would have too, but I wanted to help keep Jordan awake.  Now it is really time for bed.  Zoo day tomorrow!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Suzi wants to do when she grows up

The other day as part of a social studies homeschool lesson, we talked about a bunch of different ways one might make a living as an artist.  Suzi wants to make things to sell in a tent at a craft fair.  In case you can't read the sign, which she dictated and asked me to add to her drawing, it says "SUZI'S TENT--Filled with toys, gifts, boy toys, and decorations, Halloween decorations, anything you need--all made by Suzi (and a few helpers).

Last year I enjoyed selling some of my crafts at our town's Christmas Market.  If I find time to do it again this year, I'm brainstorming several ways for Suzi to try her hand at crafting for profit, too.  If nothing else, I'm sure she'd sell a few items to friends.  Isn't that how we all start?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Smartphones, finally!

Jordan and I finally got smartphones today!  I have an iPhone 4 and he has a Droid Razr M.  After all these years seeing our friends use theirs, but not having them ourselves, we are having a great time discovering all the things they can do.  I can check the weather, and it automatically tells me the forecast for where I am!  There's a Pinterest app to keep me entertained when I'm stuck waiting somewhere, along with Facebook, of course.  The ability to take pictures and share them on Facebook easily is exciting, and if I forget my camera when we go somewhere I can use the phone as backup.  We now have unlimited texting, and I was pleased to find it's not that hard to hit the right letter on the on-screen keyboard.  When we went to the homeschool conference in August, the #1 product recommendation from one of the unschooling presenters was a smartphone with internet access, so you can research things on the spot.  What's that, Suzi?  You'd like to know what kind of lizard that is?  Just a second, I'll google it!

It's overwhelming, but wonderful.  I am glad we waited, but now I'm also glad to finally have them.  Hooray for technology!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Daddy Day

Jordan took Friday off.  Since we'd read a book on Johnny Appleseed and watched a little video about him, we thought we'd take the kids apple picking.  Field trip!  But when we got there, all the apples had come in early and there were none left to pick.  We picked muscadines instead ("muskers," as Suzi calls them) and bought a few apples for our slightly disappointed daughters.  They enjoyed eating them on the way home.

Then we stopped at a little pumpkin patch in a churchyard and let the girls get some little pumpkins.  As we checked out, the girls had a big fight over who would hold which 50 cent pumpkin on the way home.

Then we went home and had PE in the yard with Daddy.  The girls each got a squishy ball and bat at one of our favorite local education supply stores, and Jordan helped them figure out how to hit the ball.  Robert wanted a turn.  He's a little short, though.  You can probably tell he's saying "ball."  The boy loves balls! 

He's saying "cheeeeese."  He does this all the time when I pull the camera out, thinking he is making a pretty smile for the picture.

Great weekend so far!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10th Kissiversary and a Halloween table runner

I am actually posting this Friday morning, cheating by dating it the 11th.  But the reason I didn't get to post yesterday is that Jordan and I were celebrating our Kissiversary.  Ten years ago we had our first kiss! Who would've guessed on that October night when we were both 18 and watching a movie in his little college apartment that in ten years we'd have three kids together?  Three!  Wonderful kids!  It's kind of amazing.  And my Jordy is amazing.  I love him so much.

Also, I made this table runner.  The dining room table really needed a little something, and I think this does the job.  I used upcycled wool I already had, and it was so easy!  I just sewed a bunch of rectangles right sides together, pressed the seams open, then cut waves up the sides.  No hem needed because it's felted wool and as a seasonal table runner, it won't get used or moved around much.  I do think it looks better in person.  Hard to get a decent picture of the whole thing!