Log Some Lap Time, Even if Your Kids are Grown

The people in my program are nice people. I don’t think that they would purposefully hurt anyone. And yet I find them generally scared, anxious, avoidant, lonely, apathetic, cynical people. Why is this? What is the difference between how I was raised and how they were raised? They are only 5-10 years younger than me.  I grew up in a mostly white suburban upper-class school. Yet, I came out of that environment compassionate, outgoing, empathetic and optimistic.

              I think about what I was taught in school and it’s mainly the same as what kids are now taught. But that’s just it – the WHAT is the same. The HOW is what is different. There is a Charlotte Mason quote that says something along the lines of, we shouldn’t be asking “how much do our children know?” What we need to be asking is “how much do our children care?”

A child that goes to a school that her parents hand picked because it has a perfect amount of diversity and is ranked perfectly on its school report card may very well become a child who can rattle off facts and tell you about the abolition of slavery, for example, when it happened and who the important figures were. But a child who learned about African culture on the lap of her parents, reading beautiful books like Jambo Means Hello, has had a chance to “eavesdrop on the soul” of someone in another culture (Katherine Patterson).

This child doesn’t see African culture as far away, unimaginable, and unworthy of consideration. She sees it as an imagining of excitement – can I cook my meals by fire and can our family sit around a fireside and chat about stories of our family’s past? Can we hunt our own food, make our own pottery, build our own houses? She delights as she walks alongside the characters in books, seeing their drastically different world through their eyes and experiencing all the common humanity that she shares with these “friends”. She doesn’t think “Africa” and see it on a map or as a collection of memorized facts. She sees the joy between people of that culture, the things that bring a place or a belief system to life. She laughs with them, cries with them, wonders with them, and explores with them. She learns empathy by living for a moment in the thoughts of another.

I was at Barnes & Noble today with our daughter. There was a mom there with her child, likely a few years older than Ava. The mom was horribly frustrated because the child was excited about books that she deemed to be “not her level” and her attempts to redirect the child to the books she thought appropriate were futile. It was a little heart breaking for me. Here was a child, clearly in love with books, but with her own identity and relationship with them. Her mom, completely well-intentioned but pressured to make sure her daughter becomes a “good reader,” was missing the mark despite her best efforts.

A child who falls in love with books will learn more than you could imagine possible. It just may not be on the arbitrary timetable we feel pressured to follow. I think there is a C.S. Lewis quote where he says that a book that is “good” for one age but cannot be enjoyed by an adult, was never a good book in the first place. A good book is full of universal truth, and beauty in words and/or pictures. And a child who hears exquisite language will inevitably develop a taste for beautiful words and experiences and will learn to reject the ugly.  Teaching children was accomplished through stories for many generations. The idea was to develop their character and prepare them for creating beautiful, meaningful lives of their own. Children learned from the most respected elders and longed to live lives that would make them as wise and experienced as the oldest among them.

Currently, education translates to downloading information to kids that they can consume and reproduce. This is a process they know very intimately. They wander somewhat aimlessly because they have no sense of belonging, only a want of belongings. They were never taught how to belong, how to develop integrity or meaningful relationship. Only how to keep driving for more. The unquenchable thirst they develop is no longer for the wisdom and stories of their ancestors. Their purpose no longer to grow their relationships and become a respectable elder in their culture. Why would they want to do that? Mom and dad are afraid of getting old. I used to complain that my parents were workaholics and were never around. But I now realize how blessed I was. I was lucky enough to have very involved grandparents, who I respected as elders. One of whom was a teacher and avid reader.

Our children still thirst for that initial joy of connection, which was replaced early on with a ladder to climb. Some get so high in the air, they see no connection to the earth below. How can we expect them to connect with what they cannot see? How can we expect them to enjoy togetherness if they’ve logged more time in front of a screen than in our close company? We have to move away from this idea of climbing higher and higher and getting ahead. It truly just creates a fear of falling. Instead, we can view growth as an inclusive outspreading of nesting circles. Life can’t be boiled down to surviving your past and driving a future (if you’re lucky enough to have not burned out already). We need to keep our connections and build out from them. Even if your kids are grown, you can reach out, you can share some beautiful words together. 

Empathetic humans and good citizens are made on the laps of their parents, not behind touch screens or through rigorous testing. Something got left behind when our lives got uploaded. Something very important, I think.              

Snow is Falling

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I still find it hard to believe that many of our friends both locally and out of state have NOT received snow this winter. We have a lovely abundance of the softest glistening snow, eager birds at our feeders, and the most beautiful assortment of watercolor snowflakes adorning our “big window.”

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We did a bunch of snow play last week, but this week we’ve slowed with sickness in our house. Ava has really just wanted to be snuggled and wrapped up in blankets. It’s such a rarity with her to not want to just “go go go” so I really have savored this slow time of drinking tea together and creating inside. I must say the results of it have been gorgeous.

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These snowflakes are a very fun, easy and beautiful project for little ones. We bought a 100 ct package of coffee filters from our local grocer for $1.59. Then simply laid out a place mat, taped one down and let Ava get to it with her watercolors. We have the cheap cake palette watercolors that you can get at the dollar store.

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Then you simply hang them to dry. This takes less than an hour.

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Once they are dry, you gently fold them in half and then again and again until you have a small cone shape.

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Then just cut small shapes into the edges as your heart desires, just as you would for the paper snowflakes. We taped ours to the window. You could probably also iron them in wax paper to hold their shape and make a garland. We may send some as winter valentines to our family and friends. The possibilities are endless!

I love watercolors so much. They blend perfectly and their colors are smooth and gentle. We hope you get snow if that is your winter wish. If your wish is to be without shoveling this year, I hope you have no snow but enjoy these simple decorations in winter celebration!

Stay warm.

Cynthia

Winter Wonderland

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A while back when I was making Ava’s birthday dress, I mentioned that the buttons for that dress came from an old felted wool sweater. I also mentioned that the rest of that sweater was destined to become wool mittens. A set of upcycled mittens is a fairly quick and easy sewing project on a budget. These mittens were a 100% wool Lord Chesterfield sweater that I found at a local thrift store a while back, for a couple bucks. I wore it a lot, but it was only a matter of time before one of us accidentally threw it in the wash.

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This easy accident makes for a very nice pair or pairs of mittens for wee ones. The pattern I use is from the book Oliver + S Little Things to Sew. This is the second winter that I’ve made these. The first time, I forgot to reverse the pattern and ended up with two right hands! Ava didn’t mind; they are very warm regardless. But alas, this winter, she has a pair that fits both left and right hands.

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The design of these is really great for little ones. The way the thumb is constructed just works for little hands much better than most mittens out there. The accent fabric is a designer fabric I picked up at JoAnn’s a very long time ago. I honestly can’t remember the name of it. You could easily use scrap fabric for this part and put together a pair of these for the cost of a small amount of elastic for the wrist gatherings.

We are really soaking up all the winter happiness to be had today. Sledding, snow girl aheem… I mean flying “Giston,” the super snow girl making, and one very very excited puppy who loves digging her face under inches upon inches of this glistening snow. “I like being cold, mom.” We are true Northerners at heart it seems.

Happy snow days!

Cynthia

 

Christmas Magic

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It’s been a gift factory at my house for some weeks now. Sewing, crochet and knitting. It hardly seems like Christmas without snow on the ground, but I’ve been a little elf nonetheless. The brief snow we had last week was perfectly timed with our scheduled visit to Country Lights Festival. I think we may have been some of the only visitors whose carriage ride included snowy landscapes. It was pretty magical and heart warming.

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This year, Ava decided to build a sparkly “Dory” fish. Last year she made a sweet little rocking horse. It is always so fun to watch her take pride in her elf work. She naturally takes to creative work like bees to honey. We tried a new tree farm this year and they had exactly ONE tree for us to choose from. Luckily, I was in LOVE. I’m pretty sure we found the world’s most perfectly plump white pine. I’ve got a gaping grin just thinking of it. I couldn’t stop giggling as the dignified tree farm guy prepared it to ride home with us.

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It is SO plump in fact, that we are going to have to get more lights this year and perhaps some garland to do it up. I’m thinking I will add a bunch on Christmas Eve around the house. We are going to take Ava’s doorknob cover off and tell her she can wake us in the morning to see if Santa came. She told me she wants to sleep on the couch. She REALLY wants to open the presents under the tree.

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It helps that now she knows that we can’t open gifts until the morning she wakes up with her Christmas pajamas on.

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For this set, I used Oliver + S’s Sleepover Pajama pattern. I am so happy with how these turned out! There is something magical about Oliver + S patterns. Stitching and turning out the accent pieces on the garment is sort of like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. When it begins to look like a finished outfit and the hems are impeccably clean,  you really start to feel the magic of creation.

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I highly recommend buying the paper pattern if you are interested in making these pajamas. I purchased a digital copy and I have to say that printing and assembling 8.5 x11 pattern pieces is quite an undertaking. This project had so many pieces.  Not quite the 16 for the Penguin Backpack, but 10 is still a lot to cut out. Once that is done, the pants come together fairly quickly. The top is a bit more involved, but the instructions are SO detailed and easy to execute. The way that the facing on the neck/button placket and the pockets is finished is absolutely brilliant.

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Ava is generally off the charts for her age and wears a 5T in most things these days. I made these pjs in 5T and the pattern appears to be sized very generously. Not a bad thing for pajamas, I happen to think. The cuff on the pants is also designed to accommodate vertical growth. Right now, these pants are about an inch long on Ava and next year I will be able to just snip the tacking stitches on the cuffs and add an extra 2 inches. That makes these a very worthwhile investment of my time and money. Cozy PJs  that will last thru 2 winters? Yes yes! Further, these pajamas are so well made that they will be handed down at least 1 or 2 more times to another sweet little one.

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The main fabric for these is a snuggle flannel from JoAnn’s. I used a polka dot calico cotton for the accents and finished it with some white suspender buttons. As I was stitching them yesterday, I was thinking about potentially sneaking in and putting little mini candy canes in those sweet little polka dotty pockets some day. Ava still loves loves loves pockets. Convenient, fun, and very good at toting Abominable Snowmen around in winter

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I added a little Christmas tree “15” tag to the pants, folded and tied them with a little bow of ribbon to place them under the tree, where they will await little hands on Thursday night. My heart sings every time I look under there and spot these polka puppies.

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All in all, these were very straightforward and really fun to see come together over the course of several late nights watching Christmas movies. I’ve expressed my affection for Oliver + S patterns so many times, but I have to say that the instructions for the Sleepover Pajamas are perfectly and expertly written. There’s so many added tips and pieces of advice to go along with the basic instructions. I surely appreciated  Liesl’s expertise around 3 am a few times this week when my judgement was getting a little foggy and I really needed some hand holding thru the details :). I’m hoping these become an annual tradition – the pajamas, not the late nights!

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We sure wish you a Merry Christmas. Or as Ava says, have a “hungry, jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year.”

Christmas with a 3 year old. Sigh. Truly magical.  Friday is undoubtedly going to be one of my favorite days in life. A day I will wish to last forever.

 

Third Year

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This week we celebrated A’s third year with us. I don’t think we could have packed much more into 2. She mastered her balance bike, learned to swim, started gymnastics and was introduced to soccer. She became independent at the playground and barely needs help with the monkey bars. We pitched a tent and camped for the first time. We ran a couple 5ks. Learned how to use a knife to make a sandwich, to brush one’s teeth and do all other bathroom things. You know, sort of learned how to survive. It was challenging, astonishing, and so very overflowing with love.

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A’s birthday banner was a great sewing project pre-birthday. It was fun and, of course, had a very special end product. The pattern is from a book called Stitched in Time by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy. I fell in love with the idea she mentions in the book of taking a picture of A every year with her birthday banner and watching her grow beside it. This book is a little treasure chest of thoughtful and timeless gifts. I highly recommend it.

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The fabrics for the banner are a collection of quilting cottons from JoAnn’s. I used a number of polka dots and florals and added in  Rainfall from Cloud 9 Organic’s “Sparkle in the Rain” line. I just love those raindrops and gold sparkles. I originally thought the floral prints were too busy but they really added a nice variability to the banner. I used quilt binding in navy for the line and although the book calls for 3 yards, in order to have 18 inches for the ties on either end, I had to add a little extra to my first 3 yard package. Keep that in mind, especially if your child has a long name!

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The weekend before her birthday, as I’m tucking her in one night, A tells me she wants a birthday crown. OOPS! I have made her one for the last two years but somehow forgot to add that to my list of pre-birthday projects! Thank goodness for her incredible memory. As in the past, I used the pattern from Heidi & Finn, which is free and easy. Just be sure to measure your kid’s head and make sure you size it appropriately in elastic length. I used some pink and grey felt from my stash for this and trimmed it with some lace left over from a blouse from long ago. Easy peasy.

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It’s pretty cold in these parts already, and I wasn’t feeling quite adventurous enough to self-draft sleeves for A’s party dress. Instead, I decided to make it big enough to wear with a shirt underneath. This year’s  birthday dress is a modified Geranium. I have made so many tops and dresses with this pattern over the years and Rae just never lets me down.

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This time, I did modify it slightly because I was interested in a high-low version. I have seen this style before and really like it for little girls who are playing on their hands and knees a lot. This dress falls perfectly so that A doesn’t kneel on it when she is playing. I hemmed it in a strange envelope fashion to accommodate the length change. It seems to work with the geometric style of the triangles fabric. Anyone who knows where to find a tutorial on hi-low styles please let me know!

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Both fabrics are from the quilter’s showcase at JoAnn’s.  As soon as I saw these I knew exactly what I was doing with them. I used three mother of pearl buttons for the closure that I repurposed from an old felted wool sweater. The rest of that sweater is becoming mittens, by the way.  I will be posting those very soon! All in all, this dress was fast, cheap and very pretty. I can say without a doubt that we are both happy with it.

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I think a month ago my mama heart was pretty torn up over this milestone of turning 3, but now I’m just excited for all that 3 can be. Greetings from our newest family member, Bartholomew Bear. Happy holidays!!

 

-Cynthia

 

 

Falling Leaves Swingset

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As promised, here is A’s skirt that I completed for the Oliver +S Swingset Sew-Along. Recently, O+S reissued their Swingset Skirt pattern as separate from the tunic and added a wider range of sizes. It really is a staple for a little girl’s wardrobe, so I’m glad to hear I can count on it for many more years to come!

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We started this photoshoot in a fall jacket, but the temperatures around these parts have dropped substantially overnight and we decided the wind alone warranted a winter coat and hood.

A was so patient and tolerant with me. I am not the best photographer. A lot of my photos end up dark because I haven’t thought about the direction of the sun or which way shadows are falling. Honestly, most of the time when I shoot for these posts I am too preoccupied thinking about how cute my kid is and what new curious thing she’s up to. I can mostly make up for my lack of skills with taking an abundance of candid photos. Eventually there’s at least one keeper in the bunch!

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I hadn’t planned on sewing for this event per se, but came across it when I was checking the fabric requirements for another O+S pattern on their website. Lucky for me, I was looking for something to do with this falling leaves corduroy before Thanksgiving et voila! A match made in autumn.

I don’t think I’ve ever sewn with corduroy before, but it is perfectly heavy for fall and much less wrinkly than all the quilting cottons that I normally use. I think that this was a JoAnn’s purchase, but it’s been so long that I don’t know for sure.

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The lining is a Kona cotton from JoAnn’s. I still really love the weight and opacity of Kona cotton. Many of the solid cottons in their selection are pretty transparent, but Kona never disappoints. I followed the pattern for the most part, except for the lining.

I cut the lining about an inch and a half longer than the pattern calls for, and I also hemmed it toward the inside instead of toward the main fabric. The corduroy was so heavy and saturated in color that I wanted the lining to be a light accent that brightened it up and outlined the flow of the skirt.

The selling point of this skirt to little girls is how the skirt is cut in such a shape that facilitates exuberant twirling. To this day, I have no idea how or when A developed an affinity for  spinning , but the behavior is apparently coded somewhere on the second X chromosome and kicks in around the 2nd year of life.

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I chose a muted yellow satin ribbon for the drawstring and had this idea after I finished the skirt to make some leaves for the ends of it. We were playing in the backyard oak leaves (Oh my how many leaves can one tree have?!) when I started noticing all these little perfectly domed encapsulations on the leaves and little trails from critters past. My leaves are cut from felt in speckled brown and magenta. I had some tiny gold discs in my stash from making doll bracelets that I sewed on with French knots. The little critter trails are made with some pink embroidery floss also from my stash.

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I am planning to pair this skirt with the green top (above) and this knitted heartwarmer that I’ve been working on for A to wear on Thanksgiving. The pattern is the Bless Your Heartwarmer pattern from Sweet K.M.. I was a little bummed that I didn’t finish it (or even come close!) before having to take photos for the sew-along, but I did just teach myself how to knit this week, after all. This seems like a very good beginner pattern if you are interested in starting to knit. It’s very simple and repetitive. I am not usually a pink person, but this deep raspberry color is just warm and yummy, isn’t it? I can’t wait to see the whole thing!

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The falling leaves skirt is actually the second time that I’ve made the Swingset pattern. This one was the first skirt and it has become a favorite of A’s. I loved the one Gail made a long time ago for Lila and decided to order some Arrows in Navy by Cotton + Steel to make my own. It is almost an exact replica of Gail’s so I’m not entering it in the sew-along. I followed the pattern to the letter for this first Swingset and (no surprise) it turned out perfect! Gail likes to add a contrasting waistband to hers, which looks very nice and adds another component to the skirt to break up the one-noted nature of the pattern or integrate another color into an outfit. You can see hers here.

Since the frigid conditions this morning didn’t really inspire much twirling, we shot the photos for the arrows skirt indoors and caught the magic of the Swingset Skirt in action.

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In fact, even Ellie, our pup, joined in on the fun. “Spin” is (of course) A’s favorite command that Ellie knows and she was falling over with giggles as Ellie spun next to her. Now that it’s A’s job to feed Ellie breakfast and dinner, commands spoken by her are now on Ellie’s radar. And, of course, A is pretty thrilled to have a minion to give orders to.

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Eventually minion had had enough and it was time for a break.

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The work is hard but the benefits are pretty great.

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And even while you break, your boss just keeps on moving along without you. This maneuver here is actually part of the “stretching” she does at the start of every gymnastics class. A few months ago her balancing muscles wouldn’t have had the stamina for all that twirling!

I can’t really say enough about the Oliver + S patterns. They are without a doubt what has taken my sewing to a higher level of professionalism, but what’s more, is that they’ve given me confidence. I’m now starting to feel comfortable straying from a pattern and going with my creativity. I’m starting to actually think about creating “looks” or “outfits” instead of just focusing on completing a project. I’m also starting to really fall in love with the rhythm of creating, doing and telling my story here. So in the coming months, you’ll hopefully be seeing some changes to the blog format and design as well as an increase in the frequency of posts.

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Next in line are some Sleepover Pajamas because somebody is turning 3 in less than 2 weeks!! I’m starting to feel excited about 3. 2 was definitely a challenge, but 3 seems to be ushered in with a whole new level of wonder and magic. This little curly girl is quickly becoming a vast personality of beautiful attributes and cast iron integrity.

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Oh and I just realized that my last post was lite on sewing details. The kitty pillow for A’s room is from a book called Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor of ByBido. I haven’t sewn any of the other patterns but this one was super easy, quick, and adorable.

The blue dots fabric is a quilting cotton from JoAnn’s. The eyes and nose are made from felt. Most patterns I’ve come across for little things seem to call for wool felt blend or 100% wool felt. Wool felt is awesome, but expensive. I haven’t had any problems using the cheap EcoFelt from JoAnn’s for this project or A’s penguin hat. The best part is that they wash in the machine and dryer and come out like new!

The kitty pillow is just a cover and you can take the round pillow insert out to wash the fabric cover. Convenient!

I will be making more (accessories, not kitties) for A’s room in the coming weeks. Painting over those pink walls from the previous tenant was quite the undertaking, but we are well on our way to a lovely little girls room!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

-Cynthia