Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February sewing...

This has been a very frustrating month for me in the world of sewing.  I seem to have lost my mind and keep doing really dumb things over and over and over.  For example, I sat down when I had a free 20 minutes to "make" some fabric squares I can work with in a scrap quilt I have in mind but I managed to spend 10 minutes sewing scraps together with NO thread in the bobbin.  I've yet to figure out how I spent so much time sewing without noticing that nothing was actually being sewn together.  And then I left my power cord at quilt guild last weekend. :(  I haven't been able to sew since then and it's been frustrating but I do know who has my cord and will be able to get it back so at least I have that comfort.  :)  The whole month has been full of little, annoying, frustrating sewing mistakes so I think I must give up for a little bit and stick to making EPP stars.

I did manage to get a good start on cutting and sewing a quilt top for my friend Beth.  It's all blue and white and probably the most modern quilt I've ever done.  I'm excited about it but I can't really post pictures because I don't want her to see it in advance so here it is all cut up:

I also finished my February Project of the Month with time to spare (Dominic's 2 year photo album - well, technically I still need to go through it and spell check everything and double check it all for red eye but everything is in place so the hard part is done).  But, since it's a photo book I can't really share pictures with you until I order it and then it probably won't be that interesting to see a picture of a picture book.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The ugly pink blanket...

This is my ugly pink blanket and it means the world to me.  It's warm and special.  My Great-Grandma Ruby crocheted it long before I was born as a gift for either my Mom or my Grandma (both of them insist she made it for them and both of them have "owned" it as some point so I'm not really sure who it was made for but it doesn't really matter because now it lives with me). 

I always remember this blanket being there in the background of life.  It could be draped across the back of the couch, covering up my Grandma when she was watching tv, or laying across the foot of my Mother's bed.  It's funny how such a simple thing can be so present in your memory.  I have lots of memories of being covered up with this blanket when I wasn't feeling well (again, both at home on our couch and at my Grandma's house on her couch) and I want to hold on to that special feeling and keep it around for my kids.  Dominic and Romeo both make frequent use of it already so I think it will happen for them over time too.

When I look at it I think it's ugly and yet is is very beautiful too - I really don't like pink and it doesn't go with any of my decor but the fact that it was made by hand, by a loved one as a special gift makes it beautiful and amazing.  I find it inspiring too since it has held up so well after all these years of use and frequent washings - I only hope that the quilts and blankets I made will do so well and be so loved.  What special objects exist in your life?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Toddler lessons

Do any of you out there plan lessons or home school your toddler?  No, I'm not crazy here, I mean it seriously.  I don't sit down and try to teach my 2-year old like he was in school - I mean it more vaguely that I have activities and "lessons" planned for him.  Slowly over the past year I've found myself planning "lessons" for Dominic.  At times it feels strange since he is only 2 but it has been helpful to me to have a weekly plan and keep him on a regular schedule.  And, I fully believe that as a parent I am my child's first and most important teacher.

It started by accident when he was a little over a year.  I found that we were going to the library every week for story time and that he liked to take books home afterward but I didn't like just wandering around and randomly picking books off the shelf.  So we started picking "themes" for our books.  Usually I'd have him pick an animal and we'd find stories that involved that animal that we would read at bedtime for the week but it slowly evolved into also picking out non-fiction books about those animals.  We keep the books in a drawer in the kitchen and he pulls them out on his own all the time to "read" them or ask me or Will to read them to him.  He's picked up a lot of information this way and we can't go to the library without checking out new books now.  It has developed over time into picking "topics" for the week and finding books about our "topic".  (For example, since Valentine's Day is next week we picked out a bunch of books about Valentine's day when we went to the library this week or the week in December that we went on the Santa Train we found a bunch of books about trains). 

Mostly my plans involve going to the weekly library story time, reading the books we checked out, going to our weekly Kindermusik class, a weekly craft, and doing some sort of playgroup.  But, I'm finding that the older he is the better off he behaves when I have activities pre-planned for him.  I can tell him at breakfast that today we will be doing X after he naps and he looks forward to it and asks to do X when it is time.  Mostly, these planned activities are special craft projects (we made Valentine's to send to the Grandmother's this week and the week we went to the aquarium he was so fascinated by starfish that we made a bunch of starfish and hung them on the wall in the kitchen) or trips to various local parks.  I try to incorporate things that are educational into the activities to make them "lessons" (discussing colors when we paint or make play dough or asking him to point out letters and numbers on signs when we are out for a walk)  But, I think it's time to expand on my options of what to do with him that is fun for him, easy for me, and also educational (especially since we will have #2 coming soon I want to have a bunch of options around the house).  So, what do you all suggest?  What type of activities do you do with your toddler/preschoolers?

I have ready lots of craft kits and craft supplies (finger paints, coloring books, simple maze and puzzle books), sticker story books, and new puzzles to open.  Will will be taking him to his regular music class and story time for the first month or so after Sweet Pea arrives so he'll be getting out of the house a little bit.  I also printed off the words to a bunch of kids songs that I'm going to try to teach him and the "rules" for a bunch of simple games to teach him that will involve physical activity for him (like teaching him to sing "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" or play Simon says) but I think I need more.  A lot of these are things we already do a lot so I want to have something different for him that will challenge him a bit so he's not bored and "getting into trouble" when I'm trying to adjust to having a new baby in the house. 

Thanks in advance.  =)

(On a related note, what are your kids favorite toys?  Dominic plays with his legos and wooden trains on a daily basis and loves them both.  I generally believe that "less is more" when it comes to toys but I know with two in the house things are going to multiply and I'd like to have ideas to share with the Grandparents (they are asking what we want) that will be successful and not just accumulate more stuff to have sitting around.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

January PotM

My January project of the month was to complete Sweet Pea's baby quilt and I mostly finished it on time.  I forgot about adding a label to the back until I was about to finish the binding!  I had to unpick a big section of stitches and so had this small section in the corner unfinished until the second day of February when I had time to add the label and finish off the binding.  It's funny how it doesn't really look how I thought it would - it's a bit too busy.  I found a huge panel of the squares in the middle and thought they would look nice with simple blue and red borders and then the busy print as the outer border.  I like it and I'm happy with it but if I had to do it again I think I would make the inner borders bigger and maybe not do the outer border or make it a bit smaller by cutting off one (or both) sections of wording.  I've never really worked with huge panels before so it was a new experience for me.  =)

I really like how the quilting turned out on the back - very simple but it ended up really even with almost no puckering at all!  Quilting without puckers is my dream - no matter what I do there is always something wrong on the back of my quilts.  :(  I think part of the problem is that I don't quilt a lot so I'm just not that practiced at it but I also think that maybe I should take a class how to baste a quilt.  The more I read on the internet about quilting the more I think that I might not be basting my quilts enough even though they seem like they have a ton of pins in them when I'm done.  Or it could be a combination of factors - I would just like to get better at it sooner rather than later.  =)

My February Project of the Month isn't something I can easily share on a blog so I won't have any nice pictures at the end of the month but it will be a creative endeavor.  I want to finish Dominic's second year photo album - I'm creating it on Shutterfly.com and it's super easy.  I'm already finished up to the month of June so it's half done.  I love the photo books on Shutterfly and have made a bunch of them (our wedding, Dominic's first year, gift books for others, etc).  They are super easy to make and turn out great.  And, they have some really nice sales so if you're not on a deadline you can create it and save it until they have a good sale and then buy it.  Ideally, I'll finish it soon and have time for some sewing fun in which case I want to finish up baby Jerrick's quilt.  I have it all ready to quilt and bind so it should be another easy and quick project.  Of course, this will only happen if Sweet Pea doesn't come early - if that happens then who knows when things will settle down (but I don't have any high hopes of an early baby since Dominic was a week and six days late!).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First quilt of 2011!

I finished my first quilt of 2011 last Friday!  It was exciting to finally get it done since I started the quilt back in March 2010.  It was one of those frustrating UFOs I had sitting around forever because I ran out of matching pink thread to finish off the binding.  Once I finally got around to getting more thread it took less than 30 minutes to finish! 

It's a one-block wonder pattern based on this book.  I took a class on the technique with my friend Megan and her mother and had a lot of fun - in fact, on Saturday morning I started my second one block wonder quilt.  This one will also take about a year to finish but that's because I expect to have my hands full soon with Sweet Pea's arrival this month (hopefully!).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TV for toddlers

Our "experiment" of no tv has gone super well for me but not so well for Will.  I do not miss having tv at all (although I must admit that if we didn't have Netflix I would probably miss it).  I watch about one Netflix movie a week with Will and the occasional tv show on the internet but I feel a lot better not having to "keep up" with the shows I was watching before.  The only thing I really missed was not being able to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade!  Since then we have acquired an antennae for the tv to be able to watch the free broadcast channels so that Will can watch "real" tv occasionally and so we won't miss the holiday parades and firework shows. 

Depending on which study you read, the average person watches somewhere between 3 and 5 hours of tv a day.  I can't even figure that one out - how do people have that kind of time to waste?  Our no tv "experiment" might be working so well for me because I was never really into in the first place - I never really got into tv shows enough that I had to watch them every week.  It was always easier to wait until they were in reruns and watch when I had time.  The weird thing about it now is that I think I might be missing out socially because I don't watch tv.  I can't participate when others are talking about the shows they watch and I have no idea what movies are playing in the theaters since I don't see previews anymore.  It's a bit awkward at times when I can't add my input to the conversation. 

When I say that I don't watch tv and that we don't have cable people tend to react weirdly but I think that it's fine since it's a choice we made for the benefit of our kids.  The best thing for our kids is what we will stick with since they are our priority.  But, that does bring me to the topic of today: tv for toddlers.  We were adamant that Dominic not watch tv before the age of 2 - too many research studies have show that it's just not a good idea and that kids benefit so much from not having it on to watch  (not to mention the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no tv at all before the age of 2 and limited exposure after that).  But, now that he's older we didn't want him to be that weird kid who doesn't know what tv is and at times it can be a helpful distraction (like the cross-country plane flight to Florida we take twice a year - watching Blue's Clue's on the laptop really saved us this last trip!). 

But, this doesn't mean we want to throw him in front of the tv and let him watch whatever he can find.  I firmly believe that he should only watch when we can sit down and watch with him and that we limit his tv time to 2-3 hours total a week (about 3-4 child length episodes a week).  We want to be able to interact with him about what he is watching and not let him think/accept that watching tv should be a passive activity.  So far it's gone really well and he actually seems to be learning from the tv at times (he learned to say paw-print and clue from watching Blue's Clues and backpack and map from Dora).  So here are the few shows we have tried out with Dominic and why (or why not) we will continue to watch them:

Blue's Clue's - Very well done and fantastic show for a 2 year old!  Dominic loves it and is always asking to watch the "doggie on tv".  The show is about a dog named Blue, who is also colored blue, and the game it plays with it's human friend, Steve.  Steve asked the viewers questions and for help all the time which Dominic does his best to answer.  He likes to run up to the tv to point out the clues when he sees them.  It's a slow paced show but has simple puzzles and games to be answered throughout that is wonderful for the 2 year old level.  They have real educators helping them with the show to write plots that can actually teach your child something and not just have them sit and zone out for a while.  There is a lot of repetition of the theme in each episode which is great for the age level of the show but it does make it a bit tedious at times for the adults watching.

Thomas the Tank Engine - I hate this show and Dominic is NOT allowed to watch it.  The stories seem like they are teaching moral lessons about life but it's done very badly.  The Trains are really mean to each other, they are always making fun of each other, they often seek revenge on each other, and "curse" a LOT.  The cursing isn't real - they say things like "bust my boiler" - but it teaches children that saying things that resembles cursing is okay when you are angry/upset/frustrated.  And, if you can't be a "useful engine" you get sent to the scrap yard to be junked.  What kind of message does that send to kids?  Not to mention that there is Thomas merchandise everywhere - it's a marketing machine that I don't like and don't want my son to become so obsessed with.  Yes, some marketing and commercialization is okay but I really hate seeing young kids who are obsessed with collecting the next Thomas item.  The problem is that Dominic recognizes the trains and really wants to watch them - he does have one Thomas and one Percy train that were gifts.  I don't mind him having them but when he's asking to watch the "choo-choo's" on tv it makes me worry since this show is a bad influence on children.

Dora the Explorer - Another show that Dominic really likes and is great for his age and development level.  You follow Dora and her monkey friend, Boots, on a three step adventure to find something or help someone in each episode.  It teaches words in two languages and has lots of simple games and puzzles like Blue's Clues.  This show is a lot more repetitive than Blue's clues which is good for the kids and helps them pick up what the show is trying to teach but it's hard to watch as an adult. 

Word World - This show is rated for an older audience (about 5 years and up) but Dominic really loves it and I like it too.  It's the adventures of a bunch of animals in Word World and it's another show that is backed by real educational research!  The animals and many of the objects in the show are made up of letters that spell out what they are and the stories involve finding/making objects out of letters.  They talk about the different words you can make with the same letters, sound out words, spell words out, and spending a lot of time talking about letters and how they function in different words.  It's nice because I can ask Dominic to identify the different letters he is seeing on the screen and he will also frequently point out letters that he knows already.

What show's do you watch with your toddler and preschoolers?