Monday, August 31, 2009

Alert!

I've been remiss! Forgot to let y'all know that my friend Camille is giving away a free homeschooler T-shirt of your choice on her blog. My favorite for kids: "Warning: Unsocialized Homeschooler. Contact at your own risk!" My favorite for adults: "Homeschool Mom: Just Add Coffee!" If you want to enter, better make hay while the sunshine. The drawing happens early Tuesday morning.

Also, must tell you that my kids have really been enjoying jackonpollock.org . Hint: to change colors, just click once with the mouse.

Now we're off to watch my FIL receive yet another award. I think it's been maybe a whole two weeks since his last one. He's so clearly slackin' in his academic endeavors that he's offered to built me a bookcase. Which is essentially the same as offering to buy me the Hope Diamond. So he's a keeper and I will cheer loudly this afternoon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A snicky-snack

I highly recommend putting the butter in your larder to good use with this fabulous shortbread cookie recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

You can even make them gluten-free by using this instead of flour!

But the cookies are only the beginning. Once they're cool, melt a dark chocolate bar in a double boiler. Or just do like me and stick it in a saucepan over a pan of boiling water. Same difference.
Then drizzle the chocolate on top. You're aiming for a Jackson Pollock effect, folks.

Okay. Then. If you have something to celebrate, like your daughter successfully passing her first tae kwon do belt test, by all means stick those babies in vanilla ice cream and eat up.
For a more sedate afternoon snack, spread peanut butter on top. There, see? Protein from the PB, antioxidants from the chocolate. You're officially a health nut.

You're welcome. I'm happy to help.




Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friends and neighbors

I knew y'all would have important things to say about the social circle issue. What kind of surprised me was the people who related their own feelings of being excluded, even as adults, in settings foisted upon them by their children's activities. Been there done that, feels like junior high all over again.

It made me think. If enough of us feel that way, there are others out there in the same leaky boat. I like what Stephanie shared about getting up the gumption to reach out, even to someone who initially seemed to have nothing in common with her. I challenge you to find someone like that this week (or next time you're in a group). Look for someone who's lonelier than you and go out a limb to say hello. Or march up to the one of the "in" crowd and see how intimidating she really is. Maybe we'll all be surprised.

So today my kids and I tried our hand at ikebana, a Japanese form of flower-arranging. Since we live in Austin (a word which here means "a city stricken by record-setting heat and serious drought"), our quest for fresh flowers in our own yard and that of our next door neighbor proved fruitless. Time to push farther afield.

Around the neighborhood we went, my son cringing at my proposal to ask unknown neighbors for a twig of blossoms. One must model this kind of boldness. He allowed that it might be acceptable to ask the one lady who actually had some kind of color running riot in her front yard for a small donation, since she was outside working among her tenacious blossoms. She was a bit stand-offish at first, but warmed up enough to give us a bougainvillea and a small smile.

Wow, I thought as we straggled along, Eliza clomping in her Hello Kitty rain boots. I really know so few of my neighbors. We have a few good friends, a few acquaintances, but mostly, I couldn't pick the inhabitants of these houses out of a police lineup. The folks I see passing by or occasionally, in yards, tend to be elderly or childless couples. No one, with the sometime exception of us and the family next door, hangs out chatting in the driveway. (In fact, across-the-street and next-door have something of a blood feud going on.)

In our former neighborhood, we had this kind of relationship with our neighbors: Five of them brought us baked goods and welcome notes within two weeks of our move-in. On our block alone, there were four other boys exactly my son's age. When we arrived home one afternoon to find water pouring through every orifice in the ceiling, flooding the first floor from the second, it was a matter of seconds to deposit two kids unceremoniously at the Goodwins' house and return an hour later. My kids' favorite (okay, only) babysitter lived three houses up. The Tazumas across the street knew exactly when Eliza and Caroline were born (and when to bring casseroles) because they saw the midwife's Suburban in the driveway. And once, during a weekend away in Charleston, we received the following call from Gwenn next door: "Hannah? Are you guys out of town right now?... Yeah, I thought so. Did you mean to leave your back door wide open? No? Okay, good, because I just sent Bill over to close it."

Clearly, we needed the help.

On the other hand, we can raise chickens in our back yard now and no one particularly cares. There's no neighborhood president to cite us for pets that squawk in the morning and invite midnight four-legged prowlers. So I guess it all comes out in the wash.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

But it ain't all Kum-ba-yah either

I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that where there are two or more homeschoolers gathered together, there will be the Camp David peace accords.

Mostly, yes, it is all fun and games. Like yesterday. Our American Girl doll club met for a birthday party for all the dolls. We discussed historical birthday celebrations. We let the kids decorate cupcakes.
We provided them with tote bags and loads of decorative material to make presents for their dolls.

Even the brothers participated. Here's Ian, MANning the glue GUN:

The highlight, for me, was watching my shy middle child sitting with other girls and interacting, smiling, mostly thanks to the American Girl Trading Cards she and others brought along. I think having a structured springboard for interaction really helps her, versus entering a room of semi-chaotic play (the kids' equivalent of a (shudder) cocktail party).

And I totally get that impulse. Maybe that's why I actually managed to be a La Leche League leader for a few years, and did not too shabbily at it. Even led a bunch of meetings. Survived. Thrived. Made friends who brought my newborn baby milk when I was in the ICU for three days after her birth.

Following our return home, I noticed a Facebook discussion started by a local friend about the book You Can't Say You Can't Play, about a school community that decided to make it illegal for children to exclude one another from play. To say this is a subject that tugs the heartstrings might be kind of an understatement.

Raise your hand if you've ever a) been excluded from a group, intentionally or otherwise; b) been part of a group that excluded someone, intentionally or otherwise, and failed to notice that fact because you were just so content to be inside those cherished walls; or c) been part of a group, noticed someone being left out, and empathized enough with her dilemma to want to reach out?

OK, I'm now raising two hands plus one leg. Isn't it amazing how I can still type with the toes of my left foot?

The Facebook discussion, my daughter's morning experience, and her negative experience with not wanting to rejoin our homeschool co-op because she feels like there is a club that excludes her and those girls (generally children of a tight group of parents) ignore her, really have me thinking. My first impulse when my child, or any child, is feeling left out is to intervene and ask the excluders to take notice. I usually keep my trap shut and stew about it, but there's definitely some blaming going on. And I WILL intervene if my own children are doing the excluding.

On the other hand, though, I do believe it's doing children a disservice to try and make their world a place of sweetness and light, especially if that precludes helping them develop the muscles of resilience and persistence. It's that fine line we parents constantly walk between protection and sheltering, between coaching and hovering. We desperately want to provide them with a safe haven where they can retreat when the world seems too much with them, and on the other hand, we want to give them wings.

What do you all think about the excluding issue? Do you intervene when you see kids excluding or being excluded? Do parents and teachers bear a burden to help those on the inside become more aware and compassionate, or is our job more to help those outside toughen up and either persevere or find another outsider to bond with? Or do you favor the Lord-of-the-Flies approach, believing that kids should sort it all out among themselves?

Don't be excluded! Speak up and be heard. :-)

Monday, August 24, 2009

But what about socialization?


The Not Back to School Pool Party -- an annual tradition among homeschoolers in Our Fair City.

As I may have hinted, I'm really not a big-group kind of person. In fact, large groups of people make me wonder if I suffer from sort of clinical anxiety, or if it's just shyness at play here. But anyway. This party is a once-a-year thing, it's practically around the corner from our house, and it reminds my kids that as homeschoolers, they not only have the privilege of swimming while "everyone else" is skipping or trudging back to the halls of learning, but also share that lifestyle with oodles of other families. And I get to catch up with a few mom friends I haven't seen in months, since the people I like best seem to live, mostly, at opposite ends of the city from me. In all four directions.

I watched my son gamely join a group that included a couple boys he used to play with once upon a time. After a few minutes, though, he made his way over to me and murmured that he didn't really think they were the best kids for him to hang out with, because they were digging up the paint on the bottom of the pool.

Then we spotted his best friend. Like a Patriot Missile headed for Baghdad, my guy was off, homing in on his quarry. I watched as he arrived under the tree and, arms and legs flying every which way, appeared to perform some sort of exotic ape-like greeting dance. Something a documentarian might film for inclusion in Planet Earth.

The friend, of course, saw nothing unusual about this exultant form of self-expression (apparently, neither did any kids around them, which reminded me to chuck my dreams of Trapper Keepers and be thankful that there's really no "cool crowd" or "loser kids" in the world of homeschoolers). Within minutes, they had hatched plans for themselves and a mutual friend to spend the afternoon at T's house, where they whiled away the hours by sword-fighting and playing a video game.

There may be some of you who, now or in your reproductive future, have a boy who stars on the soccer team, wears polo shirts without complaint, buckles down to his studies, and fist-bumps his pals as a maximum show of emotion. And that is fine. But in case you don't? In case you bear a child who strays from the central lane of what's commonly considered normal or socially acceptable by the mainstream, who might be called an Intense Child or a Quirky Kid? Who just needs extra time to be a BOY?

Just pray for him to find a friend. More than one is lovely, but even just one likeminded soul, one kid who couldn't care less about Cool or Uncool, one who thinks nothing of saying exactly what comes to mind, one who finds warts to be beauty marks ... that's golden.

Oh, and then make friends with that child's mom. Chances are, she's been eating humble pie for years and will be quite happy to pass the whipped cream.




Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Five: Confessions

Five Hard Truths I Simply Must Face:

1. Around this time of year, I start wishing my kids went to school. Why? Because I start idealizing the whole Back To School Shopping thing. New clothes (even though, seriously folks, it's still hard-core summer around these parts for another six weeks, and why buy new shorts?), new pencils, new backpacks, new Trapper Keepers.

Do they still make Trapper Keepers? For me that was the nirvana of BTS shopping as a sixth grader. Have Trapper Keeper, will travel in style for the school year, knee socks and jumpers notwithstanding.

Oh, and Family Fun magazine dangles all the cool BTS traditions in front of my nose, and moms like NieNie throw these adorable BTS feasts for their kids, and ... um ... well, we're going to the Not Back to School Party at Northwest Pool with other Austin homeschoolers!

2. Speaking of clothes, I bought a nice little stack of cooler-weather clothes for my older daughter and two nieces at a yard sale this morning. Really nice stuff. But here's the confession. I purchased a dress at my daughter's heartfelt request, gritting my teeth because I try hard to not to foist my own clothing preferences onto my kids ... and displayed front and center on this dress ... oh I can hardly type this ... were three ... yellow ... chicks.

There. I said it. I bought my kid clothing that contains cutesy animals. The earth spins on.


3. Also on the subject of clothing, have I ever told you that I organize my side of the closet in ROYGBV order? And my shirt drawers, too? Yes. I do. It is one of the tiny parts of my life that I can control, and opening the door to see my tops lined up in colors of the rainbow gives me a daily jolt of aesthetic pleasure.

4. And now back to school-related topics. (I almost said, "And now back to school," but we already talked about how that's NOT in the cards for us so why beat a dead horse?) I still have not decided on a curricular path for us this year. I have ordered NOTHING. Nothing from Rainbow Resource, nothing from the usual suspects (Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, etc.) in which we dabble. Mired in a morass of indecision about our approach this year -- you'd think I'd have picked something and stuck to it by now -- I'm simply keeping us all busy with our daily forays to Japan. Apparently we're too busy painting paneled screens, learning to eat with chopsticks, making carp kites, and counting in Japanese to worry about the 3 R's right now. But leave your name and number at the sound of the beep and we will get back to you. Maybe.

5. I realized the other day that my youngest child, age 3.5, does NOT KNOW ALL THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET. OR her numbers. Y'all. This is a matter of grave concern. I learned to read at three years of age, and skipped kindergarten accordingly. My oldest child had his letters and numbers comfortably under his belt way before this time (was that more important to me then? You bet!). I can't remember about my second child (a bonus confession!). And I've just been humming along, thinking Caroline is so brilliant because of the witticisms that pour from her mouth, and the six zillion ideas she spews out like molten lava every day, and the fact that any imaginary play that occurs in this house has her as its director and life-force, and the knowledge that if I can't provide materials for one of her projects, she'll simply make do with something she scavenges from around the house, and the vague certainty that by age six, she will have figured out to use a credit card and will be booking all of us vacations to France with detailed itineraries.

Silly me, wandering about in some blissful fog. I'd better start ejucatin' this chile.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An evening in the park

Reason #99 to love the city we'll have to leave in a few months: A plethora of free entertainment!

Here's my take on our picnic at Zilker Park Hillside Theatre, followed by a delightful performance of "The Music Man," this year's version of the annual Musical in the Park:


Here's Ian's take. A nice thing about a point-and-shoot camera is that you can hand it off to an eager child and not worry about some fragile piece falling off and costing you the equivalent of a trip to Disney World to repair. A nice thing about said camera being digital is that you never have to say, "That's enough pictures, honey. We don't want to waste film." I'm a firm believer in letting my kids discover their inner photojournalist. And then, in reviewing their oeuvre, I gain some insight into what exactly their eyes absorbed and found important.


video

Of course, he had to end with a Port-a-Potty. Of course.

(Digiscrapping credits: Americauna Paper Pack from digiscrapclub.com; Template from chrissywdigital.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In rest shall be your strength

The clock read 9:05 p.m., past the time when all good little three year olds should be wandering the halls of dreamland. Sitting with my back up against the sliding bathroom door, I held my book in the shaft of light the gap emitted and stroked some curls the color and texture of cornsilk. The last sniffles, a remnant of her reaction to being told that no, she could not fix my hair like Princess Leia's tonight, that would have to wait until morning, softened into slow breathing as the head on my lap grew still and heavy.

I suppose that if I were a good American mommy, I would have trained my daughter long ago to fall asleep on her own, to self-soothe without needing my presence. And sometimes, she does. But most nights, she still wants me with her, wants me guiding her up the gangplank onto her ship of dreams instead of plunking her on the dock with a brief wave goodbye. She wants to share the final sparks of the day's ideas with me, even when I wish I could fine the mute button. She wants to sing good night to all the relatives. She wants tender caresses on the back of her small head.

Watching my children fall asleep, and then sitting with them for a few minutes more to soak in that look of utter contentment, has been one of motherhood's great joys for me. Oh, sure, there have been nights, especially with children #1 and #3, whose brains have trouble winding down to a catatonic position, when I imagined more convenient ways of going about things. But this is an apparent sacrifice I've chosen to make, and the rewards are hidden and tender.

By midafternoon today, the truth glared back at me: I'd done too much "doing" for/with my kids (nieces included), and not nearly enough "being." In a burst of creative energy, I'd stuffed their little brains with a lesson on silk worms, lured them into Japanese costume-making, and enlisted their cooperation on won-ton soup for lunch. I'd dealt with a shattered connection in the hose outside that caused water to inundate the yard and my clothing (how did I deal? After ten minutes of frustration, called The Husband, of course!).

But when my niece complained a bit about the flavor of the wontons, I nearly snapped at her, barely keeping the sarcasm from my voice. I'd been busy busy busy, providing, preparing, teaching, cleaning, not maintaining my blood sugar, not connecting with my spirit, not truly just BEING with the kids. My hems were starting to fray, and it showed.

I needed to slow down, to let go, to reconnect with my power source and then with these human beings who need a happy mom/aunt more than they need another great learning experience.

Have enough of those epiphanies, and those moments of nighttime parenting, the chances to sit in the quiet, whispering, breathing deeply and holding a hand, become not simply a habit or a tradition but a way for two weary souls to whisper "I love you" without even needing words.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Announcement

I've just been contacted by Kate of Katie J Designs, who sponsored the doll dress giveaway a couple weeks ago. She so enjoyed reading everyone's reminiscences about favorite dolls, and wanted to offer everyone who submitted a comment a 20% discount toward anything in her store! Woohoo! She's going to be starting on holiday dresses soon, too. Just email her at katiejdesigns at ymail dot com with the item(s) you'd like to purchase, and she'll make the necessary adjustments to your purchase price. Discount is good through December 31, 2009. Sweet!

In other, less exciting news, I had a Ma Ingalls moment yesterday. A dress of Eliza's had a couple of very noticeable chocolate stains (oh, did I say chocolate? I meant wheatgrass) right front and center. My stain-fighting tactics were no match for these unsightly flourishes. So, snip snip snip, I cut that dress right up and made a muumuu gown for Eliza's doll, Elizabeth. With ruffles on the sleeves. Oh, and a couple stretchy headbands for the girls. Now don't get all excited on me. The workmanship leaves puh-lenty to be desired. But Eliza, originally a puddle of tears over the butchery of her dress, found the outcome delightful. That's the good thing about tears, you know. They blur a girl's vision, and make love quite blind indeed.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Off to Japan

So we're sort of ramping up, starting this week, to some semblance of "school" around these parts. Inspired by a Konos unit that I downloaded from homeschoolmentor.com, we've zipped across the Pacific to explore the country of Japan for a few weeks.

This is how I operate, when I'm firing on all cylinders: I almost NEVER come up with my own ideas out of the clear blue sky. But give me a little gas in my tank (i.e. some "starter" ideas from another more clever, creative source), and I'm off and putt-putting along. In this case, the Konos curriculum's suggestions got me to start looking around us at the amazing resources our beloved city has to offer (a Japanese garden at Zilker! An origami exhibit at the Wildflower Center! the Austin Bonsai Society! Restaurants galore! My friend who knows how to make sushi!). I also hit two different nearby libraries and cleaned out their Japanese folktale section and any other books on Japan I could scrounge for, as long as they looked interesting. No dry facts, please. I know what will make my kids' eyes glaze over.

So yesterday, I had a few minutes while the kids were at tae kwon do to run by our nearest Goodwill store, where the lingerie section yielded two silk Victoria's secret bathrobes which I fully intend to upcycle into kimonos for the girls. Maybe I was just high on dark chocolate. Or maybe Camille slipped something hallucinogenic into her pool water that morning. Because you know me and sewing. A more appropriate word for this project might turn out to be "downcycling."

Ian and his friend Truman were playing some video game over here this morning that was seriously about to give me an aneurysm (it doesn't take much). Normally, I tend to let things run their course and not micromanage these guys (once when I was tempted to, I held off for a few minutes and they came up with the idea of leaving each other a trail of written clues all over the house, leading to themselves in a hiding place. Brilliant.).

"Time to turn it off, guys!" I chirped. "We're going to do school!"

"Hooray!" cried Ian, "a learning opportunity I can share with my friend!" "I just love how you enrich my every visit with educational moments!" chimed in Truman.

Okay, not really. Maybe in a galaxy far, far away. On this planet, what actually transpired was more like: "But Mo-om, I have a friend over!"

Bravely, I soldiered on. Gathering my pupils around me, I asked who knew what the Ring of Fire was. Eliza and Caroline were sure it was something through which trained lions jumped at a circus. Truman, whose older brother is a geography genius, knew it had something to do with continents surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Ian was too busy indulging in what I call verbal diarrhea.

So we discussed the Ring of Fire and how it relates to Japan, I showed amazing pictures of Volcano National Park and Mt. St. Helen's from National Geographic magazines (how does anyone homeschool without National Geographic?), we used the magazines to dramatize tectonic plates shifting under the ocean, we ogled photos of cars buried by Mt. St. Helen's, we defined "magma" and "lava syrup" and then each child got a jar of baking soda to take outside. They set up their jars in a "ring of fire" around the tire swing" surrounded them with mud to look like mountains, and Caroline poured in vinegar tinted with red food coloring.

Mud, explosions, weird photos, words like "eruption" and "BOOM!"
Class dismissed.

Oh, and we did a bento-style lunch. That was a huge hit (I found the tray and bowls on clearance at Pier One the other day). It also made clear to me that I need to return to Anthropologie for more snack bowls. You know, for the sake of homeschooling. These are sacrifices we must make.


P.S. Any ideas, resources, or sewing skills you want to throw my way are most gratefully accepted. Gotta keep that tank gassed up. Sayonara.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society


"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books."
- Isola Pribby (p. 53)

This is turning out to be a red-letter summer for the kind of good books to which Ms. Pribby, a central character in The Guernsey Literary Potato-Peel Pie Society. First, there was Three Cups of Tea. Then, Expecting Adam. (I'm just sharing the highlights.) Then, over vacation last week, Guernsey.

All three passed my "I laughed; I cried; it was better than Cats" test with flying colors.

This is a book whose title alone attracted my attention one day in a bookstore. Then, Nicole read and recommended. Then Melissa Wiley, one of my favorite book recommenders, chimed in. Then, I saw it priced under ten dollars at Costco. I was a goner.

The book is entirely composed of letters among its characters, the principal of whom is Juliet Ashton, a British writer emerging, with her compatriots, from the terrors of World War II. Actually, although Juliet is technically the main character, she has a shadow doppelganger in the form of a character who could also be called the protagonist but (spoiler alert!) never actually appears firsthand in the book.

The story, and the community created by the Islanders drawn together by peril and tragedy, becomes so irresistible to the reader that it's almost impossible to believe that they don't truly exist. One roots for them, in all their collective and individual idiosyncrasies, from the very beginning, and can only close the last chapter with the fervent hope that the one surviving author will put forth a sequel. This book manages to be both gritty and tender, to be charming without in any way cloying -- all because of the way the magnificent cast of characters speak (write) for themselves.

If there is one fly in the ointment, it's a very personal one for me. I quote:

"... [Sir Ambrose] doted upon her in a way that encouraged her besetting sin: lack of humility. The decay of standards is the cross of our times, and nowhere is this regrettable decline more apparent than in Elizabeth McKenna ...
Yours in Christian Consternation and Concern,
Adelaide Addison."

Elizabeth, of course, turns out to be the heroine everyone else worships in the story, and the message is clear: Elizabeth is far away the moral superior of the pious, hypocritical, Miss Addison. Who of course, is the one self-proclaimed Christian in the book.

Sigh. This proclivity of writers of otherwise captivating, splendidly written books, to present us with the token "Christian" as a narrow-minded religious freak, a Pharisee with nothing better to do than expose others' moral faults and browbeat them with Scripture does grow wearisome. It's a trick as old as the hills, I can assure you from my background as an English major. There are some of us who, as Christians, steer as a wide a berth as possible from casting stones and endeavor to live in a manner that genuinely reflects Christ's love and grace for people. We realize, more fully each day, that our own imperfections outweigh the faults of anyone around us, that we're able to forgive because we've been forgiven, and love because we're so wholly loved (as are our friends and neighbors). Is it just possible for someone to believe in the Bible and ALSO be a fairly cool person? According to a wide swathe of modern and Victorian literature, apparently not.

So give us a break, already!

OK, that said, I think I'd still give the book four and a half stars.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Parenting with Humor Redux

So, next time you and your spouse are enjoying a few stolen moments of Private Conversation, like maybe while preparing dinner or hurtling down the highway, and your kids decide to help themselves to the conversation? Along the lines of, "What are you guys talking about?"

[Why can they hear the murmured word, "surprise" or "ice cream" but not "please find your shoes and get into the car immediately?" Just wondering.]

Here's what to tell them:

"OUR PLAN TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!"

For added color: "With catapults and Jell-O!" or "With chocolate-covered Smart Bombs!"

It's about fifty times more pleasant than a lecture on not butting into personal conversations.

But amazingly, just as effective. Maybe more.

Oh, and just as with all parenting techniques, consistency is key. EVERY PRIVATE PARENTAL CONVERSATION concerns the plan to take over the world. It's a plan that obviously requires great mental energy and tactical strategizing, none of it interesting to the short foot soldiers in your midst. Go for it!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We have a winner

And her name, randomly drawn from a hat, is ...

Stephanie, who said, "Baby Bean Bag. My absolute favorite and I still have her. She was dressed in hot pink (not really 'dressed' - she's a bean bag with arms, legs and a head) and the only place where the hot pink remains is on the bottom of her tushie, which was not exposed to years of sunlight. Her face is a little smudgy and she is missing fingers (don't ask), but I love her!"

Can I just tell y'all that I absolutely loved reading about all your dearly beloved dolls and childhood memories with them? Seriously, it was a real treat. I would gladly give out gift certificates to everyone if I could! Hopefully I'll be doing another giveway in the next couple weeks or so, so stay tuned!

As consolation prizes for the rest of you, I offer you two things:

First one is this new website. Start zipping your cardigans, ladies. Here at our house, we're currently obsessed with watching how guitars and fortune cookies are made, thanks to the fine Misters Rogers and McFeely.

Second one is a roadside treasure from our vacation. Ready for a chuckle?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's a Giveaway!

So remember when you were a child, and the most exciting thing that could possible happen to you, more or less, was to get a package in the mail that was actually addressed to you??? Or when the UPS truck stopped at the house and the Big Brown Man shimmied up to the door and -- o heaven! -- deposited something with YOUR name on it?

Oh, what's that? You still feel that way? Oh okay, me too.

So imagine Eliza's delight when the adorable dress and matching hairband she had purchased for her American Girl doll arrived, amazingly fast might I add, in the mail the other day. This girl was one happy customer.

It was such a joy to work with Kate of Katie J Designs, and I so love supporting purveyors of handmade goods, that I invited Kate to do a giveaway here at A Quiet Spot. Which means that one of YOU will win an outfit of your choice for your daughter/son/niece/goddaughter/owner of an 18-inch doll. Go ahead and check out the current selection -- inventory will also be expanding soon.

All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me, just for kicks, what your first or favorite doll's name was, all those many years ago. Or teddy bear. Or significant other beloved object. (I suppose you could, of course, just leave your name.) I'll do the drawing this weekend, when I return from vacation, and email the winner with the gift certificate.

To start us off, I will tell you that my oldest and most well-loved doll was named Polly, was made for me by mother, and after multiple surgeries, still exists. I'm still not entirely convinced she's not a real person.

Helping Kids Pack for Vacation

Step One: Download this lovely PDF from House on Hill Road:

Step Two: Print one per child.

Step Three: Fill in quantities of each relevant item. (Optional, for reusable potential: stick in page protectors and write quantities in wet/dry-erase markers.)

Step Four: Hand off to each child and send them on their merry way.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hannah Bandana


Because I have the sewing skills of, like, an octopus, I was super happy to discover this recipe for super easy, super cheap, and -- according to my child-size models -- super stylin' -- bandana pants.

Eliza got the first pair. Total cost of materials: $2.00. Total time: 45 minutes.

Ian became mildly jealous and requested a pair. You got it, buddy.

(Caroline is still waiting for hers.)

So then my niece really, really wanted a pair. And she's about a size 12. So I started pinning about three hours before her birthday party, and realized I needed to run to Hobby Lobby and buy a third bandana. Of course, HL was out of that particular pattern, and I decided to kick things up a notch and go for a combo of fuschia/white polka dots and yellow bandana print (cooler than it sounds, I promise). I hurried home, washed it out in the sink, threw in the dryer for preshrinkage, and began hastily cutting and sewing, not really pausing to consult the directions on how much of a, um, crotch to cut out (yikes, that sounds like it belongs on another kind of blog). Got all the stitching done save the elastic waist, held up the shorts, and ... PERFECT!

... for an Oompa Loompa with saddle sores, that is.

If only I had a photo of this particular masterpiece. Or a photo of me rolling on the floor laughing at the sight.

I think we'll be sticking to the basics from now on.

Now go forth and sew!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I want my babyback babyback babyback ...



The Dixons are coming for dinner tonight. We love them, and they love meat!

So, I think I will prevail upon my own personal grillmaster ...


...to prepare some babyback ribs. We are Texans, after all. Here's a super easy recipe from Real Simple that y'all might like, too. Oh, and some Italian potato salad.

After that, I'm thinking blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

There's still time if you want to join us. I'm getting hungry already.