The saying “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” originated in New England and became popular during World War II. In theory I believe in it. However, we live in a disposable culture. Replacements are cheap and easy to obtain. Often, I don’t take the time to fix something myself. Sometimes that’s based on a dollars-time analysis. For example, my kids wear through their pants at a spectacular rate. Do I patch the knees on four pairs of pants for an hour, or do I spend that hour grabbing four more $2 pairs of kids’ jeans from the thrift store? Usually my instinct is to mend more expensive long-term adult clothes, and replace the kids’ clothes I bought for fifty cents with new (used) fifty cent items. The blog Thrift at Home has me rethinking that approach lately. Even if it hadn’t, there are certain things that are irreplaceable. Exhibit A: Annie’s beloved and tattered bear.

We give each of our kids a stuffed Jellycat animal and a board book for their first Christmas. Annie’s bear has led a rough and tumble life since then. She chews on his nose and paws for comfort, drags him from room to room, and pillows her head on him every night and nap. He’s been rolled in the mud, splattered with food and hair products, crammed in small spaces, poked with sharp instruments, and dropped in the tub, toilet, and sink.

One evening last week Annie let loose a howl of despair followed by wails of “Mommy! Mommy! MOMMMMMYYYY!” Bear’s much chewed paw had finally given way, followed by a significant chunk of stuffing. Somewhere between our last home and this house my box of scraps went missing so I let Annie pick between The Man’s ink-stained khaki pants and an old stained and fraying shirt from the outgrown basket. She picked the floral shirt. I restuffed bear with old pantyhose and handstitched a new paw in place. I also grabbed a skein of brown embroidery thread and restitched Bear’s chewed-off nose. I had to make it a little wider than the old nose thanks to the width of the chewed off area.

I haven’t done any significant sewing since the move. It was fun to do a little something with my hands. And, of course, Annie is delighted to have her best buddy back in her arms.

 

Halloween 2015

 

Advance apologies to all the grandparents for the low-quality photos. We were trying not to lose four kids in the crowds, and everybody pasted on a stoic look every time a camera appeared.

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Our town hosts a downtown Trick-or-Treat the day before Halloween during the afternoon. It’s ideal if you have young children. We took the kids out then so we wouldn’t have to juggle walking the neighborhood, handing out candy, and getting over-sugared kids to bed in one evening. Annie kept politely trying to give a piece of candy to each person who offered her one. Jack literally started shaking in terror when he saw a preschooler dressed as Spiderman; it never occured to me until then that he hasn’t seen a mask before and didn’t know what had happened to that kid’s head. After a couple stops they got the idea and started having fun. On Halloween proper I baked oatmeal-raisin cookies to make things a little special. The Man and the twins raked up the maple leaves in the front yard (or rather, the Man raked and the twins “raked”). We handed out candy and the kids loved standing at our door watching the Trick-or-Treaters after dark. Once we’d packed everyone off to bed the adults sipped hot cider and read while the last of the candy hunters headed home outside. We never did carve the pumpkin, but there was just enough special in the weekend to make it fun for everyone.

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This year the twins were old enough to get that something special was in the wings. A huge part of my childhood pleasure in holidays was the anticipation, not just the actual day. As a child your birthday party may only last two hours but you revel in the weeks of buildup planning games or food or picking party plates and cups at the store with Mom. Advent and weeks of making and baking build up to Christmas. Lent and Holy Week set the scene for Easter. Grocery shopping, pie baking, and washing the best dishes precede Thanksgiving. Trick-or-Treating is over in an hour or two but as a kid I spent weeks brainstorming, sketching, and pulling together Halloween costumes.

Did you make your own Halloween costumes when you were growing up or did you buy them? It feels like Halloween costumes have shifted a lot in the last couple decades. In my kindergarten class’s pictures almost every kid wore a homemade costume – some handsewn just for the holiday, some in a sports uniforms or odds n’ ends from the dress up box. This year about 95% of the kids who came to our door wore store-bought outfits.My husband tells me he always had premade costumes back in the 1980s, though, so perhaps it’s just a regional difference. We very nearly joined the storebought ranks this year because I thought about costumes but took no action until the day before Halloween. At that point the only ones left in the twins’ size at Walmart were superheroes (they have no idea what those are yet), Disney princess costumes (also no idea), or devil temptress outfits (FOR TODDLERS?). I grabbed $6 in supplies from Walmart’s tiny sewing section and threw together simple costumes with an hour of quick snipping and hand sewing; that homeschooled childhood spent in quilting circles finally came in handy! In the end it was surprisingly fun to use the creative part of my brain again and the twins had fun watching the process and loved wearing their costumes.

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Robin Hood: Jack has been pretending he’s Robin Hood (“Wobin Hood”) since we watched the old animated Disney Robin Hood movie for a family movie night. I folded a piece of green cloth in half, cut it to his width, snipped a neckhole at the fold, and cut the bottom edges in a zig zag. We wrapped it with a brown belt. He wore a green shirt, his sister’s green leggings, and his brown church boots. I quickly handstitched a simple Robin Hood hat out of two sheets of green felt and added a red feather from construction paper. I stitched together a quiver out of a sheet of brown felt and some twine, but decided against a bow since I wanted his hands free while we walked around.

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Bear: Annie loves bears but does not like being bogged down by extras and accessories so I kept her outfit simple. She wore brown pants and a brown shirt from her dresser. I painted a bear nose on her face with one of the $1 Halloween makeup kits. I looked at a couple pictures of bears for ear shape and spacing, folded a piece of brown felt in half, and cut out the right shape for ears at the fold so I could bend it over a pipe cleaner and sew each ear together for double-thickness and stability (too long and floppy and the ears would say “puppy”, too big and round and they’d broadcast “mouse”) ). In retrospect I should’ve just sewn them over a headband. My original plan to twist the pipe cleaner into her hair didn’t hold, so I ended up just wrapping it around a headband anyhow.

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Cowgirl: We weren’t going to dress Jenny up but realized at the last minute that her birthmom might like a costume photo. Jeans, a handmedown shirt, pink cowboy boots we’d received as a baby gift, and a fabric scrap for a bandana did the trick. No hat, but she hates hats anyhow.

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Baby: This one was complicated. We dressed the baby as a baby.

 

 

 

 

Satin Crib Sheets for Hair Protection


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(Pretty quilt by Lauren)

Many African Americans with longer hair wear satin or silk sleep caps at night to protect their hair from breakage and preserve complicated styles. Ideally, they also use a satin or silk pillowcase for a double layer of protection. With proper maintenance a hairstyle can last for weeks at a time. At 21 months our daughter is not very interested in “proper maintenance”. About 90% of the time we find her sleep cap on the floor in the morning. Her styles only last a few days at best thanks to rubbing on her cotton sheets, and her hair easily dries out and breaks. Like many toddlers, Annie wiggles laps around her crib at night, so there’s little likelihood she’ll keep her head on a pillowcase either. Satin sheets seemed like the next best option. No local stores carried them and online options ran around $30-$40. For a toddler? No, thank you.

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I grabbed a few yards of navy satin from the JoAnn’s (on sale for $2.99/yd, not including the two additional coupons I used) along with a pack of quarter inch elastic. Two crib sheets came together quickly following this tutorial. The measurements are perfect. Many fitted sheets only have elastic at the four corners. I like that this pattern calls for one piece of elastic all the way around the hem. It holds the sheets snugly against the forces of thrashing toddlers. Next up, a pack n’ play sheet and some pillowcases. I’m also stitching up a few Christmas gift bags while the machine is out.

Lest you think the kids’ room always looks that pristine, let me show you what happens when I think “Oh, they’ve been doing so well playing alone in their room lately. I’ll give them an extra ten minutes.” This:

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