Wednesday, January 26, 2011


When describing how to find a balance between available resources and their children's needs and personalities, parents commonly use all kinds of circus metaphors: a balancing act, walking a tightrope, juggling. They are all good metaphors, I think. But for me, parenting is like walking on ice. Sometimes the ice is solid and gritty; you can walk across quickly and safely. Sometimes the ice is fragile and slick, but with care and a little luck you can make it across. Sometimes we can't see the condition of the ice. Or we know the ice is thin and slippery, but we are in a hurry and see no other path.
Of course, as in all things in life, some people have better boots than others. I'd like to think my husband and I have pretty good parenting boots, and a careful tread, but I am always aware of the ice down there. And hoping that if there are any slips and falls across the way, that they are the kind we can get up from and finish our journey.

As Valentines Day approaches each year, my oldest child always gets excited to make her Valentines. She looks at her back issues of Family Fun magazine for ideas, and she and I brainstorm things to do. In past years she has made Smarties Bugs and Sweethearts mp3 players (from Family Fun). Last year she took blank Shrinky-Dink paper and designed and shrunk 28 heart necklaces, each personalized for the kids in her class. (The boy who liked Percy Jackson got a lightning bolt; the girl who is on the swim team got a blue heart filled with waves.) This year she plans to hand out tiny stuffed hearts, which I will sew on the machine, then she will stuff and hand-sew shut. (Yeah, we'd better get started on that.)
My son, on the other hand, is not interested in making Valentines. He is not even interested in picking out the Valentines at the store, although he doesn't mind labeling once they are bought and sitting in front of him.
Our youngest has not yet gotten to the age where she needs to label Valentines. But last night she sat down and glittered up seven wooden hearts to mail to her cousins. It will be interesting to see where she falls on the spectrum of homemade Valentine gifting. (And once I go back to full time work next year, it will be interesting to see how much time I have for helping her...)
Is it fair for me to spend hours with my oldest each year, working on Valentines? Should I urge my son to make his Valentines too, even if he doesn't want to? For me, the answers have been yes, it is fair. And no, I shouldn't make him.
I remember coming across an explanation of 'fair' vs. 'equal', back before we had children. The idea was that equal means each person gets the same things as another, while fair means each person gets what they need. It might be equal to make sure all three children wear glasses, but it would not be fair (that is, if they didn't all need them). The explanation of fair vs. equal seemed so simple and clear cut, back when it was theoretical.
The slick ice comes in when one child seems to be needier than another, or (in the case of my son) where one child skates through this world not seeming to need much at all. My husband and I regularly take the kids on individual dates so that they get one-on-one time. Each time the girls get a date, they know where they want to go, what they want to do, and which parent they want to invite on the date. My son has ideas of which places he'd like to go, but doesn't care which parent takes him. And most of the time, when getting ready to go, he tries to invite at least one of his sisters to come along. He gets his homework done without extra guidance or cajoling necessary. He does his jobs on time and (generally) with few reminders. He's a sweet kid, a kind brother (usually), sensitive, smart and a homebody. But he doesn't get as much as his sisters do. The attention our youngest gets would drown the poor boy, I know. She is a bit of an attention hog at the moment, that girl. Time-wise, discipline-wise, expense-wise he's just a low maintenance kid. I am aware of it and always keep in mind that the day may come when he needs more than the girls.
But for now he is not a squeaky wheel, and sometimes that worries me. I tell him that no, he cannot invite his sister on our date, that I just want to spend time with him that day. I try not to mindlessly hand him the small tasks around the house which I know he will complete quickly and without complaint, where I will have to drag his sisters kicking and screaming through the process. I make sure to sit on his bed every night and read to him. So I am paying attention to him, trying to make sure that he gets what he needs, and trying not to suffocate him either. But yesterday I picked up his shoe and saw a hole worn right through the toe. They are his only gym shoes and he wears them every day. (They were washed last week and had no hole. He drags that foot when he stops his scooter.) How many days was this boy walking around in the winter weather with a hole in his shoe? You can bet that if his sisters had a hole in one of their many pairs of shoes, they would be telling us about it.
With this boy, the ice seems so firm and solid. I don't know where his thin patches are until the holes gape through.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Diapers for all...all little plastic people, that is.

I have an adorable little niece who carries her baby dolls around all day long. She loves to take their clothes off, but her little fingers aren't quite ready to put the clothes back on. And since she has a lot of aunts and uncles who encourage her baby habit by buying her more babies... Well, let's just say that is a lot of little bare plastic bums.
So when gift giving time rolled around again, her brilliant momma suggested that I make some diapers. I made some with Velcro and some with snaps so that those little fingers would get practice with both kinds of fasteners. I had a lot of fun sorting through my fabric stash for diaper fabrics, and several hours later I had ten diapers ready to be shipped off. (I almost didn't send the purple Tinkerbell diaper. Due to a miscalculation on my part she ended up upside down with her head twisted where no self-respecting fairy would want to be. I mean, we all know what diapers are used for, right?)
My sister reports that her girls had fun with the diapers and even tried to put them on each other and on their tiny baby sister. Nowadays the crowd of dolls are dressed, at least in diapers, most of the time. The new request is for girl-size diapers for dress up. I'm not sure if my sister was serious about that, though...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Three Peas in a Pod

These cute little peas were a gift for my youngest niece. They are from a pattern in Ana Paula Rimoli's book, Amigurumi Two! The author also has a previous book and a forthcoming book, as well as an Etsy store with some great patterns for sale.

The peas themselves are quick and easy. The pod was also easy, but not quick. It took a couple of days. Still less of a commitment than a sweater, but more time than I'd expect to spend on amigurumi. If I were to make this again, I would think about making the pod out of polar fleece. It might not be quite as cute, but could be sewn up in fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cupcake Stuffie

This little cupcake was made for a stuff-your-own stuffie swap.

Normally I would make the top and bottom and then sew them together, but because this was supposed to be easy for another person to finish, I sewed the top and bottom together and left a small portion of the blanket stitch at the bottom open to stuff the little guy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Faux Postage Swap

Here is a picture of the stamps I sent to my partner.

Fabric Faux Postage

I recently participated in a swap where we were required to make four faux postage stamps to send to our partner. I made some self-adhesive stamps following the links provided by the host, but I also wanted to do something extra.

I came up with the idea to make iron-on fabric stamps.
It was my first time using Wonder-Under. I love it, but I think I ruined my ironing board cover! Make sure that you place an old scrap of fabric under your work to avoid the same fate.
Here's what I did.
Cut a small square of decorative fabric (about 4"x4") and a slightly smaller square of Wonder-Under or other paper backed fusible web. Following the directions that came with your web, attach it to the wrong side of the fabric square. Leaving the paper on the fabric, cut the fabric neatly into rectangles. I used a quilter's square and rotary cutter to cut mine to 1"x 2" and 1"x1 1/2".
Peel the paper backing off and fuse the rectangles to a piece of plain white fabric (damp cloth, high heat). Now fuse an appropriately sized square of web to the back of the white fabric. Leave the paper on and use decorative scissors to cut closely around the fabric rectangles. I used Fiskars paper scissors in a stamp pattern for this.
You are finished making your iron-on faux postage!
To attach to clothing or a backpack (or whatever), peel off the paper backing and place onto the item. Place a damp cloth over the stamps and fuse. If you place these onto an item of clothing or something else that will get a lot of use, you may choose to sew a quick zigzag stitch around the edges. Transparent nylon quilting thread is virtually invisible and would be a good choice.

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