Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday, Monday

Mondays are long days for me right now.  They start out as usual, feeding the kids breakfast, Jordan leaving for work, coffee.  But then.  Oh boy.

I have to get the kids ready for our homeschool co-op while Robert runs around being a little wild man, making messes and going through cabinets he's not allowed to touch.  Today I changed his diaper and got him dressed just a few minutes before time to leave, and it was in those few minutes that he decided to poop.  I discovered this as I was buckling him into his car seat.  I was already running late and still had to take Jordan's ID card that he forgot by his office.

Today I brought a craft for everyone to do--cute little felt acorns out of wool roving and acorn caps I found in the churchyard.  It was fun.  In Mrs. Megan's class, the girls painted with pine tree branches and decorated a little Christmas tree.  The kids and I love the homeschool co-op.  It's just getting there and then getting back home that's hard.

Then I fix lunch and wrangle the kids down for a nap.  Thank God for naptime!  It's a small but welcome break from having to constantly chase, stop, redirect, and clean up after Robert.  This is when I get to do laundry and watch Days of Our Lives, very quietly.

Now, just before 3:00, Robert is awake.  I will pretty much be holding/nursing him or chasing him until dinnertime.  Jordan gets home an hour late because he has a class.

Finally, I have roller derby practice, and I should be leaving before Jordan even gets home.  It's 30 minutes away so I have to get myself ready while trying to keep Robert out of trouble.  Sometimes I just can't do this one more enormous thing at the end of my day.  I feel awful when I stay home, both for missing out on the exercise and practice and for flaking out on the team.  But it's not like going to book club or something.  It's lots of fun, but it's freaking hard.  It is absolutely the last thing I get to do all day because by the time I get home it is 10:00 and I will be asleep within five minutes.

Things will be better soon.  In a couple of weeks we'll be having practice twice a week for only two hours each time.  Jordan is almost done with his class, too, and next semester his class is during the day.  I am so spoiled by his dependable, early arrival home from work.  How do military moms with deployed husbands do it?  How?

I am going to roller derby practice today.  I'm getting over a cold and it's been a Thanksgiving break withdrawal kind of Monday, but I'm going to power through.  I know I'll feel so much better when I finally do get to go to bed tonight if I make it to roller derby first.

I'm really looking forward to putting my skates on tonight.  It's been too long.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Enjoying the rest of our Thanksgiving break together

1)  Me:  I love you!
Robert:  I yuh woo!
Me:  You love me?
Robert:  Mmm hmm!

Enjoying a s'more

2)  Sweet Bob.  After at least a month of calling our dog, Dixie, he finally started saying his sisters' names a few weeks ago.  I love hearing him say Chuji and Iwee.  And if you ask him what a lion says, he does this rumbly little growl way down in his throat.  It's adorable.  His vocabulary is growing!  Here's his children's church project of what he is thankful for.  Cook-cook means anything sweet to eat, and is really pronounced "guk-guk."

3)  As I blog, I am watching The Neverending Story with the girls.  It's an old movie (made in my birth year) and I loved it when I was a kid.

4)  Jordan and I went on a wonderful date Wednesday night.  He took a half day at work, and while the girls were with my parents, we took Robert with us for a little thrift shopping and to buy a small Christmas tree.  Then we dropped him off with Grandma and Grandpa as well and went out to dinner.  Shrimp and grits with my Jordy, with no one yelling, crying, or acting out.  Then we went to see the last Twilight movie.  I love our dates so much.  My parents and Robert really wore each other out, though!  It was so sweet of them to keep all the kids, but especially him.

5)  Most of our Christmas shopping is done.  Our gifts for the kids have mostly been a mix of thrifting/fixing up and shopping on Amazon Prime.  I love Amazon Prime.  I have to admit, we were on a free trial and then forgot to cancel before it charged us the renewal fee.  I was annoyed at first, but now I am glad we forgot.  Free 2-day shipping on items that are usually cheaper than I can get them in a store, and our credit card gives us 3% rewards when we shop on Amazon.  The only thing that could possibly be better is if they magically teleported our purchases instantly into our living room.

We got Ivey this scooter and I sewed her the little velcro pouch to hold rocks and other small items

6)  We got the cutest little 4.5' Christmas tree, and put it on top of our nature table so Robert won't be able to mess with it.  It's artificial, but I like it and I think we'll enjoy it for a long time.  The girls helped me decorate it last night.  I love decorating our tree, because I get to go through all the little ornaments Jordan and I got when we got married.  Our anniversary is December 18th.  Oh, how different it felt to be childless newlyweds.  It's been almost 8 years!

7)  There are also a few sweet little ornaments Jordan and I have made for each other for those anniversaries in between.  It's become our tradition.  I'm so glad, too, that three years ago I thought to make clay handprint ornaments with the girls.  I need to do it with Robert this year!  Might try salt dough this time.

8)  Got our tickets for the Nutcracker!  It's going to be a girls' night out with Suzi, Ivey, and my mom.

9)  I am drinking coffee and feeling a little decluttery.  I love it when I get like this.  Maybe I'll go give our dining room a makeover in a minute.

Update:  Dining room done!  Cleaned off the table, took one leaf out of it (so we can walk around), moved a bunch of stuff out of the corner, and organized my craft supplies in the china hutch cabinet.  Still need to finish decorating and get some gifts wrapped to put under the tree.  But yay!  That is so much better.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Old toy makeover: A Barbie for Ivey

I had this little problem.

Ivey, 3, wanted a Barbie for Christmas.  I knew how this would end.  We'd buy a new Barbie, she'd take all the clothes off and get the hair snarled into one disgusting dreadlock, the Barbie would fall into the bowels of a toy bin, and we'd repeat this process in a few months.  I don't judge her for wanting a Barbie, and I don't mind having Barbies.  I had a ball playing with them when I was a little girl.  I do mind spending money on a brand-new Barbie just as we place our old, tangled, naked ones into the Goodwill donation box.

I hate that Barbies and many other toys have become disposable.  I hate the waste.  I hate knowing that thousands of Barbies are trickling from Wal-Mart to homes to Goodwill to landfills while we continue to buy more shiny new Barbies.  They don't stay shiny and new for five minutes!  I wanted to stop the cycle.

So here is what happened.  The other day I went to a local holiday consignment sale.  I knew Ivey wanted a Barbie, so that was one of the things I planned to look at.  There were a few expensive collector's Barbies new in the box.  Then I saw this unusual-looking big Barbie.  I thought Ivey would like her.  It looked like her hair could probably be brushed out and restyled, and she was only $2.  She was also a jointed, posable ballerina, and Ivey had requested a "dancing doll."  So I bought her.

Upon closer inspection after I got home, I realized the Barbie's cheap, flimsy clothes were ripped and stained.  I knew they wouldn't survive being washed.  Her hair was really tangled, and she smelled a bit smoky.  Yuck.  After a bit of research, I learned that she was one of these fancy dancers, separated from all her high-tech accessories.  (Please note the crappy reviews.  Less is more, toy designers!)  I thought about throwing her in the trash and ordering the plain, inexpensive ballerina Barbie I'd seen on Amazon, but it'd been a hard day and I was in need of a fun project.

I asked Jordan to watch the kids for "a few minutes" and got to work.  First I had to remove all the tiny rubber bands--you know, the ones they use to style the hair so it looks impeccable on the store shelf but then, after your child touches it, never ever looks good again?  I tried brushing her hair with an oversized Barbie brush, but it was too tangled.  To help things along, I wet it and smoothed some rich peppermint lotion I happened to have into it.  I brushed and brushed, starting at the ends and working my way up.  It took a long time.  Then I washed it with a small amount of gentle bar soap and conditioned it again with lotion before rinsing it out.  I brushed it several more times between these steps.

Barbie had a few scuff marks and dings on her face and body, and I thought they might be permanent, but they came right off with a Norwex cloth and water!  I love Norwex.

I really wish I'd taken a before shot of this 1998 Barbie in all her tangled-up, dingy, raggedy glory, but the makeover was honestly a last-ditch effort and I didn't know it would work!  So here she is after her day at the spa, leaning against my serger and telling me her troubles while I sew her a new outfit.  If you look closely, you can probably see that her old dress just wouldn't do.

"I mean, seriously!  After all that tireless dancing and smiling I did, they put a $2 tag on me and threw me in a box!  Can you believe that?  Really hurt my feelings.  Glad I met you, though.  And by the way--pink is my favorite color!"

Well, anyway, pink is one of Ivey's favorite colors and was the primary color worn by the Barbie she pointed out and asked for.  It was a picture in a National Geographic!  I give my kids Nat Geo to look at, and they pinpoint the one plastic toy pictured in a story and ask for it.  Funny, huh?  Anyway, I had this delightful hot pink sparkly remnant that just spoke to me in the fabric store about four years ago.  It was stretchy and perfect!  I certainly didn't have a pattern, but all I needed was a simple leotard, so I laid Barbie on the wrong side of the fabric and traced around her body with a pencil.  Leaving a bit of room for seam allowance and to hem the top edge, I came up with this:

I sewed right sides together, except for the crotch, which I left open,

And I tried it on her.  She really liked how it was coming along.

I decided that I didn't really need to trim the crotch and sewed it closed.  Because this was a stretchy, non-raveling fabric, I didn't have to hem the leg holes.  I knew they would be hidden under the skirt I was about to make, anyway.

I did hem the top edge, though, to give it a more finished look.  This is how it came out.  Easier than I thought!

I thought it needed some sort of strap(s) to secure it at the shoulder.  To make things simpler, I decided on one halter-style strap made out of a tube of some of the plain hot pink fabric on the selvage of that same remnant.  It was a little aggravating to turn that tube right side out because I have misplaced my bodkin, but I got it done.

I sewed it to one side just to the front of the side seam, and briefly considered sewing her into the leotard by doing the same thing on the other side, but ended up putting in a snap instead.  Now Ivey can undress her.  And probably will.

 The hardest part was over--now for the skirt!  I already had some tulle left over from Suzi's first birthday party tutu, so I pulled that out.  I tried doing a sewn skirt, but it didn't work out like I wanted at all.  It's tied tutus for me from now on!  I sewed a stretchy band out of another little selvage scrap and slipped it around Barbie's waist.

Then I cut some strips of tulle and made the tutu while she wore it!  So easy.  In this picture you can see the rectangular hole where she would've plugged into her dancing stand thingy.

After a few minutes of tying strips on and a quick trim to make it all the same length, her fancy new outfit was done and Barbie was starting to feel fabulous again!

She just needed a few finishing touches:

1)  Arm warmers (to cover those joints).  I just made two little tubes out of rectangular scraps and turned them right side out, no hemming necessary.

2)  A new hairdo.  I was a little nervous over this.  It's not like I have any Barbie-sized bobby pins, and I'm terrible at hair!  It worked out okay, though.  I pulled back the top and sides and braided it, then parted the rest into two pieces and twisted it around the braid, pulling it into an updo and securing it with one of those tiny plastic bands (same ones I used on my girls' hair).  Then I cut a strip of the hot pink fabric, tied it around the whole thing, and trimmed it.

I am sure Ivey will dismantle her 'do, but I can fix this one again!  Ha!

3)  I took some hot pink metallic acrylic paint and a tiny paintbrush and painted her ballet slippers to match.

Yeah, I know it all seems a little obsessive, but once I get started on a project it's hard to stop.  This is how I do arts and crafts.  Some people knit, some people quilt, I do random stuff like this!  And I do love the way she turned out.  The best part is that the entire project only cost me the $2 I paid for the Barbie, because all my materials and tools were things I had on hand or were left over from other projects!

The moral of this project:  If you want your child to have a lovingly handmade toy but you're not quite that crafty and don't have enough money to buy handmade, why not make over a toy instead?  It's a fun option that comes in many forms and at varying degrees of difficulty.  Have you ever tried this and have some ideas to share?  I think I'll post again later with some of my ideas for pre-loved toy makeovers!

Tip Junkie

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The fun we had this fall, in photos

My mother-in-law drove us down in the woods in their golf cart to find a little tree to make Suzi's Robin Hood bow with.  Jordan made it when we got home, and it's great.  I bet it really could shoot an arrow, if we had any!  

We went down to see Jordan's grandmother and family last weekend, and my grandma lives just a few minutes away but was busy all night working at her church's pumpkin patch.  So we dropped by to visit with her for a while!

Reading my favorite Halloween book to ALL the kids.  Yeah, Robert sat there for about ten seconds. 

 His name is Roscoe and Jordan inherited him from his late grandfather.  After about 20 years over his grandfather's recliner, he is now over ours.  We brought him home after our visit.

 Playing with dry ice after our Halloween party

 Going into our homeschool co-op.  See how my life has gotten a bit easier these past few months?  They all walk right in, and all I have to do is carry our stuff!

 Witchy fingers!  If you're getting any at all, buy ten per kid (plus a few for yourself and a couple to get lost under the couch)!

 "Patterson Pumpkin," named by Ivey, designed by Suzi, carved by Daddy.

We went to the Montessori School's fall festival and had a great time!  The girls spent most of their time bouncing and sliding.


While Daddy took the girls to ride the ponies, Robert and I looked at pumpkins.

Our homeschool co-op had a little Halloween Party, and Grandma came to play pickpocket lady.

 Robert got some guk-guk, which is his word for cookie, candy, or really any dessert-type item.

 This picture makes me want to pinch Ivey's cheeks.  She was just the cutest little bat!

 Jordan took the day off on Halloween.  In the morning, we went to a Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia performance of "Guess How Much I Love You."  We thought we'd take an extra-awkward family self-portrait (minus Robert, who was with my mom) while we waited for the show to start.

 Then we carved the pumpkin Mama Susie bought for us at her pumpkin patch, so he was nice and fresh for Halloween night!  I carved this one.

Everyone except for me, all dressed up!  We have Robert the cat, Daddy the wolf, Suzi as Robin Hood, and Ivey the bat.

 Fishing at the downtown trick-or-treat

Jordan says Ivey swung the pole and whacked the volunteer in the head with the clothespin.  But it looks like she caught something good! 

Since I'd lined everyone else up for face painting except for Suzi, she felt left out and I agreed to give her a mustache and beard.  She loved it.

This is the best picture I have of me as Red Riding Hood and Jordan as the wolf.  I think my mom has a better one of our whole family.  I made his hat and my cape, by the way!

Stopping for a candy break at Grandma's, but we weren't nearly done yet.

We were swimming in candy by the end of the night, especially after going around our own neighborhood.  The Great Pumpkin came to collect the extra candy and leave gifts--Littlest Pet Shop animals and a bit of money for the girls, two flashing bouncy balls for Robert.  The next day we took down all our fun decorations.  It was a good Halloween and I'm already a little excited for next year  :-)