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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Heart-stopping panic

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If you have little kids, you know the feeling:  The house is suddenly perfectly, eerily, forebodingly silent.

What are the kids into and how did it happen so fast? Weren’t they just underfoot, yelping and screeching,  seconds ago?

The realization that the house is too quiet is usually followed by the discovery of mischief of one kind or another.  I have hidden the scissors, the markers, the glue.  All outlet covers are blocked with safety plugs.  I enrolled the dog in self defense classes.  And yet, I still panic with memories of the last Silent Time – 87 puzzles all dumped (silently?  how was that even possible?) into a mountain range of pieces.  I. Hate. Doing. Puzzles.  That was a very dark day for me.

So when the house got quiet, I dashed out of the kitchen and checked the puzzle shelf first:  in order.

The bathroom:  empty.

The stairs:  no kids.

The back door: closed and locked.

And then, the dining room, where I found my boys reading books on the floor, looking up at me as if to say, “What’s the matter, Mom?  Haven’t you ever seen us quietly entertain ourselves?”

No.  No I haven’t.  And I took a picture, because I probably never will again.


trying to do something here

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Last week, when something was spilled on the floor, I overheard Pia tell my husband that “it’s okay, mommy will clean it up”. It was at that point that I realized that things were very much not okay. It was time to commence upon the journey known as responsibility. Or I will find myself in 14-odd years being summoned to a dorm room to pick up a load of laundry. Enter the Clean Up chart. A chart with 5 to-do items in a plastic page protector. She can cross off items as she does them and then wipe the slate clean the next time she has to clean.

Her tasks? 1. Put clothes away. 2. Re-shelve books. 3. Make bed. 4. Put toys away. 5. Throw away trash.

Yesterday we did the tasks together so that I could show her how these things are done. The making of the bed is pretty easy as she never sleeps in her own bed. Re-shelving books is a tad more difficult as we have waaaaaaay too many books (though I view this as a good thing, even if it does mean overflowing bookcases). Putting toys away involves tossing toys into a bucket or her doll cradle. Relatively easy. Throwing away trash was entertaining as many things were viewed as trash just so that she wouldn’t have to put them away. I made a mental note to always check her wastebasket before emptying the contents. As for the putting away of the clothes, we attempted to make this a tad easier by putting labels on her drawers:

These labels clearly are not foolproof as they confused my husband, but they should help a bit in aiding Pia in at least putting away her shirts and pants. I will report back and let you know how operation self-sufficiency goes. There is much on the line.

a valentine-making party

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After spending much too much time thinking of fun valentines for Pia and I to mass-produce to give to her friends and classmates, I decided to make the whole process more open-ended. On Saturday morning I told Pia I needed to set up our “valentine-making party” and told her she must not peek until I called her in. While she and Jim played in the basement I busily prepared a table full of crafty goodies to make valentines with: markers, glue, buttons, puzzle pieces, fake flowers, paper scraps, paper hearts… all in red and pink hues. The red and pink thing is serious. I am a stickler for official valentine colors.

Pia’s eyes opened wide when she arrived at the ‘party’ and saw all the crafty possibilities in front of her, but at first she stuck with her bread and butter: crayons and glitter glue. Massive amounts of glitter glue.

Pia’s first card was for her best school friend. As she explains it, she drew a house (the two boxes) and wrote her friend’s name, then glued on some flowers. I think there is something sweet about her thinking up and creating a card all on her own with no input from me.

The beautiful thing about school valentines is that you don’t have to worry about them being flat enough to send in the mail. So a pink pom pom monster glued to the front of a card? Totally works! I think his sort of crazy haircut adds to his charm, don’t you think?

Since Pia is in 4-year-old kindergarten and her classmates can’t  read we didn’t worry too much about writing much inside the cards other than having Pia sign her name. On the puzzle ones we wrote “you’re my missing piece” and on the one with the bite out of the corner it says “you are so cute i could just eat you up”, but other than that they are blank inside. It was fun to let the supplies guide the project and to see what we could create with what we had in front of us. (The blue card? Made by Jim. Clearly he didn’t get my pink and red memo.)

I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t go with valentines inspired by Robin’s darning post. “I love you so much I’d darn you” written on tags attached to hole-y socks? It would be a history lesson and message of love all in one. Maybe next year.

Darn it

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Sorry about the title.  I couldn’t help myself.  I blame the blizzard.

While I’ve been lacking in creativity lately, I have been feeling a bit “domestic”.  I washed a few dishes (until my husband rescued me and finished the mountain), did a little laundry, and then, during nap time, I saved a favorite pair of wool knee socks from the garbage can.

I never thought darning was worth the effort to figure out.  Isn’t it something women did 100 years ago while rocking in front of the fireplace at night?  I also don’t usually knit socks or maybe I’d have come around sooner.  But today for some reason (dirty dish avoidance), I felt compelled to look up instructions online and give it a go.  It was surprisingly easy.  Within 10 minutes, the hole in my sock wasn’t visible anymore, and my foot no longer feels the bottom of my slipper.  I didn’t have a darning egg, so I used a round wooden ball from Tea’s toy box.  I don’t know if my mending will last past a washing or two, but it looks much sturdier than it was.

Why sweep your floors when you can use Photoshop to erase the dust balls?

The instructions said to use a contrasting color to make it easier to see your work, so that’s my excuse for the ugly yellow yarn.  I fear that these socks are so well loved, they’ll soon have holes in the heels and other parts of the toes as well, and I’m not sure just how much darning you can do before a sock is no longer a sock, but a criss-cross of yarn holding bare threads together.

Even if the socks don’t survive, it was strangely fun.  So fun, I started thinking about what else I might be able to darn while I had a needle handy.  I found a mitten with two holes and fixed it up as well.  Since it won’t be hidden in a boot, I used a matching color, and you can barely tell it’s been mended.

If only darning worked on the knees of little-boy pants.  I should have been focusing my efforts on patches.

after school surprises for my personal creativity trainer

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After winter break I started doing after-school surprises for Pia to ease the transition back to school. And by ‘ease the transition’ I basically mean bribing her to go to school and trying anything to stop the flood of tears. This seemed like a good idea at the time. It has since turned into a bit of  monster, but I am trying to see it in a more optimistic light. As anyone could have seen coming (except, apparently, me) Pia now demands an after-school surprise every day. And a Pia demand is nothing to make light of. So, instead of viewing this as “I am creating a spoiled, stubborn daughter who expects to get things every day after school” (which would be totally 100% accurate) I am choosing to view it as having a personal creativity trainer. My head is always abuzz with things I want to make, but never make time for. But now that I have a personal creativity trainer who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but also doesn’t really care what the ‘surprise’ is, I find time for crafty creativity every day!! Win-win-win!!

Yesterday I got out the paints and made this for her. It is two birds, the mama bird is made from a map of Wisconsin and vicinity (where we live) and the baby bird is made from a map of Thailand and vicinity (where Pia was born). I slathered paint on the canvas, cut out the two birds, stuck them on the canvas using the paint as a glue and then when things were dry I painted an outline around the two birds, and added beaks, legs and eyes. Voila! I had creative fun for a half hour and Pia got an after school surprise!


Another day I took an old bird coloring book we had gotten at St. Vinny’s which had some pages already colored in. I ripped out the pages that had been colored in so all that was left were the clean pages. Then I added a felt cover with velcro clasp and embellished it with a felt bird that I cut out. It made the old coloring book seem new and special. Now when we see a bird outside we identify it and then color in the picture of that bird in the book. The whole thing took all of 15 minutes for me, though I had been thinking of recovering the book for ages.

It is possible that if Pia knew I was having a ball making these after school surprises she might stop asking for them. In the mean time, though, I am loving having my very own personal creativity trainer.