Teaching Sewing to Kids

I’m a mom first, writer second.  I dream of being that kind of fabulous mom who comes up with all sorts of crazy and memorable activities for my kids.  Problem is, making up crazy and memorable activities takes lots of time and energy.  And, well, writing just takes lots of time.

Needless to say, when I find an activity to share with the kids I’m really excited.

Not too long ago I had this brilliant idea that I would start teaching my kids about how to use a sewing machine.  I learned how to sew when I was a kid and have been grateful for the skill all my life.  I had a simple project, a tote bag, and all the materials on hand. Showing my kids something new, where they actually make something useful, how cool is that?  Mom of the year, here I come!

Step one, cut out the pieces.  Simple enough, right?  I thought so.  All the pieces were squares and clearly marked.  I had looked forward to some quiet time while they sat and worked on this step.  However, Mr. T couldn’t manage to cut even close to the line and was zigging and zagging all over the place.  Miss K was determined to cut on the line but couldn’t get the scissors to work.  Baby D was determined to give the scissors a try and nearly cut big holes into sister’s project.  After a whole lot of whining, their’s not mine, I ended up cutting out the pieces while holding off baby and sending the other two off to play.  Now that we’ve started I’m committed to finishing, but I’m having a sinking feeling that I might need some chocolate before this is over.

The next step is to pin the pieces together.  The idea of sewing pins and kids is a bit dicey, especially with Baby D roving around stealing whatever he could get his hands on.  Miss K loved the idea of pinning so much she managed to get forty pins in the one foot section of cloth we were working on.  Mr. T, on the other hand, couldn’t get the hang of pushing the pin in then back up again. Since it’s a straight line it’s not a big deal for me, but for beginners those pins really help do keep everything organized.  Six demonstrations of how to pin later and no progress on his ability to do so, it’s time to move on.

At last we sew!

Cutting and pinning will never measure up to the golden trophy of getting to use mom’s awesome sewing machine.  And boy, were they excited!  I sat Mr. T in my lap and showed him the pedal and the needle and how it moved up and down.  His job was to gently push the pedal while I guided the fabric through.  So, naturally, he jammed his foot down on the pedal as fast and hard as it would go.  He thought it was the funniest thing in the world.   Repeated encouragement to knock it off didn’t help and after a few minutes I had to ask him to go off and play or risk turning his bag into an mangled mess.

Miss K, on the other hand, demonstrated much more control and was thrilled to watch the different sides come together as she pushed the pedal.  By the way, guiding fabric with a gazillion needles in it and a kindergartner at the pedal is far more exciting than it sounds.

In the end, the project took much longer and much more patience than I had imagined. It’s going to be a long time and take a lot of convincing, and perhaps some more chocolate, before I teach another sewing lesson.  For now at least I can say that I’ve exposed them to some of the process of sewing and it will be more familiar – should there be a next time.

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Two tote bags, finished!

Salt Dough Gone Wild!

It was one of those long stretches of summer afternoon when it was too hot to go outside. The kids slid around the house, skulking, with nothing better to do than pick fights with each other and in general, drive me nuts.

Days like these scream for distraction and that day a movie wasn’t going to cut it.  I scanned through my “Gonna try this” folder on Pinterest and saw a post about salt dough. Perfect.  It’s creative, it’s quiet, it’s unplugged, and even better, I had all the ingredients.

My kids, like most kids, love play dough.  When they play it’s a whole body sensory experience.  The dough ends up ground into their clothes, hair, crumbled all over the floor, and mushed into the carpet.  If it were cleaner, I would do it more often.

So, we made salt dough and I set the kids to the task of making dough people.  Soon the house was filled with laughing once more as they posed and dressed their creations.  One of the perks of salt dough is that once it dries it can be painted. Usually this process takes several days of air drying, or several hours in a warm oven.

I’m not that patient.  Plus, I read that salt dough can be speed dried in the microwave. Dough boy got nuked and turned out great.  Once he had cooled off he was indeed dry and ready to paint.  Dough girl was a different story.  She was long and thin with narrow delicate limbs. Dough boy was stocky and thick.

It wasn’t until I smelled the panic inducing smell of smoke that I realized my mistake. Dough girl was on fire.  I grabbed the plate and ran her outside, hoping to minimize the amount of smoke that filled the house. But it was too late.  The whole house reeked of burnt flour, which is oddly similar to the smell of burnt popcorn.

Dough girl was toast.

I braced myself for the tantrum that was sure to follow. It didn’t come. Instead, I found my daughter doubled up in laughter.  She thought the whole incident was hilarious!

There was enough dough for her to make another, and this time I made sure not to light it on fire!

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They say this is good for you…

It’s hot.  It’s at least 95 degrees with 100 percent humidity and no breeze.  The air covers me like a wet blanket, clingy and persistent.  I know my hair has reached new extremes in the frizz department making me look the equivalent of a fluffy red troll doll.  No, you cannot rub my tummy for a wish.  People pay good money to sit in the heat and let the sweat roll from their skin.  It’s healthy, they say.  It’s good for the skin, they say.  It purges the body of toxins, they say.

The second I can leave I’m getting a Coke.

“They” probably aren’t at an indoor pool for an hour and a half wrestling a one year old while the other two children are learning not to drown.  While they call these swimming lessons, we are still at the “how to keep alive” stage.  I suppose in time they might learn how to propel themselves through the water but for now, first things first.

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There’s no amount of explaining that helps a youngster realize that these lessons are for their own good.  In their eyes the teacher is doing her best to kill them.  She pushes them into deep water where they can’t touch bottom, forces them to flail to stay afloat, and calls the exercise “treading water.”  Then she holds them by their heads and insists they can float on their backs.  All they can think about is that their breathing bits are mere inches from going under and the only thing keeping them afloat is the same gal that pushed them into the deep water.

I have seen improvement in my kids not drowning skills, so it’s all worth it.  As for me nothing sounds better than heading home.

Happy Summer!

 

Being a Mom and a Writer

I’m a very creative person.  I’m so creative, I create people.  Three of them to be exact, and each enough different from the other that there is no user’s guide, no “What to Expect When…” book, that covers them all.

I’m not talking about fictional characters here, although I’ve created dozens of those as well.  I’m talking about walking, talking, screaming, whining, hugging, cuddly little kids.  They are the reason I get up in the morning, and the reason I’m so happy to get back into bed at night.  They fill my every waking hour with surprises, challenges, and messes.

                         My Groupies

I love my little monkeys, from their toothy smiles to their dirty feet.  Every minute of the day they are there, reminding me how needed I am in their world.

I remember when I came home with my first child.  Leaving the hospital, I had this weird paranoia that a nurse was going to stop us at any minute and tell us that we weren’t qualified to take a baby home with us.  And as first time parents, we probably weren’t.  Qualifications are measured in spit up stains, diaper changing speeds, and being able to find lost binkies in the dark.  No one comes with those skills built in, they are gained with experience.

Being a mom means finding solutions.  Everyday there are countless questions and problems to be solved.  What’s for lunch? Where are the keys? How do you remove crayon from tile? Where did the baby go?  It’s a relentless task that refuses to be put on hold, even for a potty break.

On the flip side, being a writer means long hours in thought finding the best way to present a scene, or construct an essay.  Many of these hours are spent in front of a screen typing in these fragile thoughts that are likely to shatter when disturbed.  Sometimes it takes a while of churning out text before we find what we really want to say.  The rest of those hours happen in our heads as we work on everything else from driving to sleeping.

Being a mom and a writer is an impossible situation.  Children, especially young children, require endless immediate intervention to keep them from harm’s way.  Writing while they are awake ends up being an exercise in frustration.  Writing while they are asleep is unpredictable.

Although it is impossible, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  If I didn’t have my kids I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  They have taught me confidence, humility, and grace. At the same time, being a writer brings an added dimension to my life.  It’s a challenge and a reward.  One day I would love my kiddos to hold up a favorite book and be able to say, “Hey, my Mom wrote this!”

Writers and fad diets don’t mix

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I’m staring at a blank screen, it’s hard to think.  Images of sandwiches and pasta won’t leave me alone.  Writing an emotional scene between characters doesn’t really work when all I want them to do is sit down and enjoy a nice supper. Fantasy world food is always enticing, think of thick stews, juicy roasted meats, soft warm breads with fresh butter, and hand aged cheeses.

This is day two of attempting a three day detox diet and the only thing that I can think of is how much I want to just chew on something.  It’s odd really, I’m not that hungry.  I just want to chew.  This particular diet is three days of blender disasters. Kale, spinach, coconut oil, avocado, and an endless parade of fruit all get pulverized to a multihued sludge that reminds me of vomit.  It doesn’t taste that much better.

One of the sad truths of writing is that it’s a sedentary affair.  It requires lots of time in front of a screen thinking and for me, snacking.  Over the last few months I’ve amped up my writing goals and with it the pounds have started to sneak on.

Fad diets are not a solution to this problem, lifestyle changes are.  There are standing and treadmill desks to keep moving while laying down text.  There are the snacks we choose to munch on, choosing grapes instead of chocolate chips.  There are the other hobbies, I know many writers that are runners as well.  In the end it has to balance out.  

As for me, I’ll be so glad when this diet is over.

Soccer and Herding Cats

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My favorite shorty

The battle lines are drawn, the players are ready.  Well . . . almost. One of the players is swinging from the goal post, and another won’t leave his mothers lap.  Half the defending team has their backs turned to the ball because the ice cream truck has driven by, three are already making a bee line to their parents screaming to get a treat.  Several players on offence have tackled each other to the ground in fits of giggles and screams.  And we pay to be a part of it.  Every year.

Coaches for preschool soccer have a tough job.  First, they must keep all the children on the field.  This is harder than it sounds. Children move like a group of cats, running in every which direction the wind takes them.  The children that the coaches manage to get on the field then must be herded towards the ball and convinced to kick it in a specific direction, namely, the goal.  There are always one or two that understand how the game works and will dutifully run and usually kick the ball out-of-bounds.  Other duties of the coaches include tying shoe laces, scooping downed children back on their feet, removing children from the goal posts, and being endlessly positive and perky.  They make nowhere near enough for all that.

The only thing that might be more amusing than watching the game is to listen to the parents in the side lines.  At the beginning of the season expectations are high and parents shout and cheer for their little one to kick goals or steal the ball from the other team.  As the season progresses these cheers change to more practical goals like not throwing fits when they don’t get a turn, or when someone breathes on them.  If you closed your eyes you might almost imagine you were at a dog park.  “Where’s the Ball Baby? Get the ball, get the ball!  Good girl! Way to go!” 

At times as a parent it is necessary to make a few ridiculous rules to preserve some family dignity.  My #1 rule to my daughter – There is no crying in soccer.  She believed me for about the first five practices before she realized she’d been duped.  Another ridiculous rule – keep your shirt down.  For some reason soccer jerseys only come in one size for the little kids, super large.  The temptation of pulling the circus tent like shirt up and over the head for some is too hard to resist.

In the end, the pictures are taken, the trophies are given, and we all cheer that the season is over.