A New Shirt for M

I’ve been really good about not buying new clothes for M for a while now. I got a few things (a dress and two cardigans) at the thrift store, so I could cut the sleeves off when she had her cast, but that hardly counts. Clothes had such a rapid turn-over when M was young, but she doesn’t outgrow things quite as quickly anymore. Actually, there are some shirts and pants that she’s been wearing for over a year now! They were big when she started wearing them, and now they fit perfectly. There’s one yellow sweatshirt that I really like, and she wore it to her 4mos check-up — and she also wore it a few days ago (at 17mos). I can’t believe her head still fits through it! She definitely doesn’t need the sleeves rolled up anymore.

Anyway, I haven’t started buying warm-weather clothes, as Minnesota isn’t quite there, and I’m also not sure yet if I should buy 18mos or 24mos sizes. But I thought it would be fun to sew something this morning, and I came up with this little shirt. I used a raglan tee pattern I have, and the 18mos size has seemed a little big on M, so I was hoping I could use a woven cotton instead of a knit. I made a slit a few inches long at the back of the neck, so it would fit over M’s head, since the material isn’t stretchy.

After getting the seams sewn up, I tried it on M, and it went on just fine — but would NOT come off again. Whoops. I’ve had that happen even with store-bought clothes made from woven materials. I don’t understand how things go on without a struggle and then become almost impossible to remove. At any rate, I had to cut this shirt off M. I went right down the center of the back, as I figured that was the only way to salvage it. Some bias binding and a couple of snaps later, it actually turned out cute! I like how the open back lets the shirt flare out at the bottom instead of being so straight through the body.

This was one of my first ‘real’ projects that I made with my serger (I got this one for my birthday). I comes threaded with different color threads, and I’d had to re-thread a couple of them while working on test projects, but this was the first time I replaced all of them (with all white) from scratch. I couldn’t believe that it worked on the first try! I still have a LOT to learn about using a serger, but I already really like it for sewing clothes. It’s so nice to have finished edges inside. I used my regular machine for the binding and the hem at the bottom, but all the seams (including sewing the sleeve cuffs on) were done with the serger. It definitely makes homemade clothes feel a little less ‘homemade’!

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Seventeen Months (and Play Dough)

I made some play dough for M yesterday. I looked at a bunch of different recipes and now can’t find a link for the exact one I used, but it was…

– 1c flour
– 1/4c salt
– 2t cream of tartar
– 1c hot water
– 1t vegetable oil

All in a saucepan, over medium heat, stirred until it started clumping together and looked like dough. I split it into two pieces at that point and carefully kneaded in a few drops of food coloring. It’s really nice, soft dough, and M had a good time sticking pegs (and cows) in it.

Also yesterday, M turned 17mos old. Almost a year and a half! For a while, it was like, ‘A year ago, M was soooo tiny!’ — and now, a year ago, she wasn’t SO tiny. We were in Galveston when she turned 5mos, and that was right around when things started to get a little easier, in terms of sleeping and her general attitude. For this month’s update, I thought I’d make a list of some of M’s favorite things.

– Goldfish crackers
– black olives
– scrambled egg
– pesto noodles
– green juice

– Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes
– Kitty Cat Doll (the cat from Moulin Roty’s Les Zazous collection)
– Schleich animals
– Learning Tower (not a toy, but definitely a favorite)

– Dancing!
– Wrestling/cuddling/tumbling. She definitely needs her doses of physical contact throughout the day. She plays well on her own, but she loves when I get down on the floor with her. ‘I Bet You Can’t Push Me Over’ is a favorite game (that she always wins).
– Water play. This is a good one for when she’s in the Learning Tower, since it keeps her (and therefore the water) contained.
– ANYthing in the Learning Tower. What a great investment this has been! She just adores being up at the counter with me.
– Being outside. It’s been hit and miss lately with the weather, but she’s definitely realized that there’s a lot to explore out there!

– Cats and dogs, obviously. She says, ‘GAT!’ if she thinks Bear is doing something she shouldn’t, and she’ll also say ‘doggie’ from time to time, usually when we see somebody else’s dog(s).
– Birds. We went to the Audubon center last weekend, and it was WAY more interesting to her than the zoo had been. I think it helps that birds are more her size. There are a lot of animals that she likes seeing pictures of, but she’s not so keen on the real thing.

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M’s Interests

At almost 17mos, M is getting clearer about her interests. Or maybe just staying focused on stuff over longer time spans. The moon has been a big deal for a while now. I don’t know how she links all the different versions of the moon together — the bright, glow-y one in the sky, drawings in books, and the grey, hi-res Wiki-Commons photograph I printed out and stuck to her closet door — but she loves them all.

She adores animals, and it’s always exciting to see wildlife outside, but birds are the best. (And the most common, I suppose.) We actually don’t see many birds over the winter; it’s been only the last month, maybe, that we’ve started seeing crows again. M can spot a tiny crow that’s waaaay up in the sky, and she realizes it’s a bird. Today, we saw the first two robins of spring, and M spent a good 15-20 minutes watching them hunt for worms. (That’s what she’s pointing at in the second photograph.) She was just tickled by the chickens at our neighbors’ place last week, so when I saw that the feed store was having a chick-ordering event on Tuesday, we went along and put in our order for four Buff Orpingtons and four Rhode Island Reds. I had planned to get egg-layers at some point, and knowing that M will enjoy watching them made now feel like as good a time as any. I have until the end of May to figure out where they’re going to live!

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Block and Pegs

Most Montessori activities are designed for children over three years old — definitely for 2-2.5+, at the youngest. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t younger kids who are capable, but in my Montessori community reading, I come across a LOT of people saying, ‘My fourteen(/sixteen/twenty)-month-old toddler isn’t interested in [activity]! She just wants to put everything in her mouth!’ Many of the experienced Montessorians say to let the little kids be little kids — the activities just aren’t meant for such young toddlers. I get the excitement and impatience, though. It takes a little work to remember that following M’s interests is the most important thing — not how cool it would be (to me) if she could pour her own glass of water or dress herself, or whatever.

M is most interested in gross motor skills. When we go outside, I’m amazed at how she just trundles around, happy to be walking along and not needing anything more interesting to do. Her favorite activities are whole-body ones: transporting objects from one place to another, dancing, and WRESTLING. I found out yesterday that we won’t be able to enroll in the nearest toddler tumbling class until the fall, and I was so disappointed — she would have loved it NOW! A lot of her toys and activities sit untouched these days. But she does like fitting things together, so I had an idea for an activity that would be quick(-ish) to put together.

Last week, I posted (on my Instagram) a photo of the bundle of hardwood offcuts I’d bought while we were in the cities. I used the end of one of the bigger pieces for this block. I don’t know what kind of wood it is, but it’s so beautiful now that it’s been sanded and sealed with beeswax. I should have used a drill press to get the holes spaced exactly, but this was just a super quick weekend project, so never mind. The pegs were a cheap wooden dowel from the local hardware store.

It’s not a TIGHT fit, but the pegs do have to be placed in the block just so, making it a nice challenge for M. If she tries to just force the pegs, the block will tip over. So it’s a perfect activity for developing her fine motor skills. It’s fun to see her realize she has to be careful and then try her hardest — I think it’s an activity that will keep her interested for a while!

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M’s Little Chair

Here’s a small project I did in bits in pieces. I found this old school chair at the thrift store, back in January. A cute little thing from 1956 (if you can read that blurry label I found on the bottom), just the right size for a kindergartener. It was nice and sturdy but very much in need of some TLC. My best guess is that it had spent some time living in somebody’s garage / workroom, given the smudged house paint on the seat and what I’m pretty sure are accidental saw marks on the front corner (don’t ask me how I recognize such a thing).

It took a lot of sanding, but the chair was nice under everything! It’s not quite as perfect and smooth as the photos make it look — that’s the magic of Instagram filters — but the wood is very pretty. The seat still has a fair amount of ‘grime’ worn into the wood grain. I scrubbed it with soap and water once I’d done as much sanding as I was comfortable doing (it’s plywood, and I didn’t want to go through the top ply!), and everything that remained is there to stay. I gave it a light coat of ‘maple’ stain to bring out the honey color, and I sealed it with beeswax furniture polish.

After I scrubbed the legs (SO much dusty, gunky grossness), I gave them a few coats of black satin spray paint. The rubber feet weren’t in terrible condition, so I just painted right over them; if the paint starts to wear off, I’ll get new feet for the chair. I was going to replace both the nuts and the bolts, since I couldn’t get the nuts to thread back on after everything. Happily, the new nuts fit the old bolts, which are a little more subtle and match the chair better than the new ones would have. Here’s a before and after side-by-side, since that’s the best part.

So now M has a new-old chair! I didn’t think she’d be able to use it much until she got a bit bigger, but she’s been able to climb on and off it herself, when it’s pulled up to her desk. Success!

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Seeds and Things

– I started putting M down for two naps again after her surgery, as she was sleeping so poorly at night. It did the trick. But she’s started skipping some of her afternoon naps here and there again — we’re definitely in a weird transition period. Anyway, I put her down this afternoon and listened to her sing and roll around in bed for about half an hour (I don’t go in unless she gets upset), and then she finally conked out. Victory!

– Yesterday, we planted some seeds. Just a few things, mostly herbs, which should be able to grow indoors for a while if they have to. I also planted some kale (from seeds that are now ancient, but they keep coming up each year), as I’d like to build a cold frame and see if I can plant out the kale a little earlier than usual. That’s assuming the garden is in any sort of state to host plants before the end of May.

– If you’ve been wondering where all my Great Decluttering of 2015 updates have been… well, you can probably guess what’s happened. Not decluttering, obviously. Actually, I looked back at the past several weeks, and I haven’t missed much that I hadn’t already done / have no intention of doing. I sorted out the recycling a while back, and coupons are easy to declutter, since I don’t have any. I should probably go back and do some of the other tasks. Last week was ‘Mail’, and I definitely need to sort something out for the mail. Rob’s set a very good example by creating folders for each type of utility, each car, insurance, etc. I need to make a few more everything else, which I typically just shuffle into stacks, which I then transfer from room to room until I get sick of looking at them.

– It’s supposed to be ALMOST 70˚F today! And then rain tomorrow and back into the 40s for the foreseeable future (aka the next ten days). This past week has been such a nice respite from our usual winter/spring temperatures. I realized today that one benefit of rarely buying myself new clothes is that I don’t get over-excited and wear a sleeveless shirt and capris (and flipflops!) when it’s only 55˚F. I assume that’s what was going on with the young woman I saw outside today. Then again, it’s Minnesota, so you sort of expect to see that when the temperature gets above 50˚F.

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The Great Outdoors

We have certainly been enjoying the warm weather around here! Above 50˚F for the past few days, with plenty of sunshine. We tried going out a couple of times in the snow, but M was never impressed. So this is the first time she’s properly getting her feet on the ground outside.

We went out yesterday, and at first, she was not enjoying herself. Then she saw how much fun the dogs were having, and suddenly she DID like it, after all. I think the biggest appeal is that the dogs require extra bossing around when we’re outside (making sure they don’t run too far away, and then trying to get them to come back), and M loves policing the pets. (Her first ‘official’ word — said on her own and in the correct context — has been ‘CAT!’ when Bear does something naughty. Today, she started saying ‘DOG!’ when the dogs run away.)

Today, we went over to the neighbors’ place for a visit. M was NOT impressed with their horses (too big and friendly), but she hit her stride when the chickens and guinea fowl came out. They’re SO disobedient and needs LOTS of management. She never tried to chase them, but she patiently followed them around, trying to get them to come back. Guineas can be quite loud, but she was absolutely tickled by them.

We went out again right before dinner, so I could have a look at (the ruins of) the garden. I moved a few boards and things onto the drive we don’t use — I had started taking down the fence last year, but I kind of left everything lying around. My plan is to make the garden slightly bigger and to replace the posts with taller ones, so I can use tall deer fencing this time. Basically, anything I do that isn’t just letting weeds grow will be an improvement on last year.

(By the way, her furry vest, which is always a hit with people we meet, was a gift from Rob’s mum. Not many of her ‘regular’ clothes fit over her cast, but the vest does, so it’s become M’s signature piece since the weather started warming up.)

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M’s ‘Bike’

What a day! M woke up earlier than usual and seemed upset on the monitor, so I went to get her out of bed. I sat down and had a brief moment of ‘something’s not right here’ before I realized she had pulled the cast off of her arm! I had been warned by other parents that this could happen, but I was hoping it wouldn’t. I wrapped her hand and arm up to protect it, and we were able to get a morning appointment down at the hospital. So we spent a lot of our day in the car, but at least M’s back in a cast.

When we got home again, a delivery man came by with a new little ‘bike’ for M! A gift from her grandma. M was excited about it from the moment I opened the box. She helped me put it together, and as soon as it was ready, she swung her leg over it and sat down on the seat. She knew just what to do! It’s a push bike (no pedals), and for now she stands up and walks with it between her legs, but she’s figuring it out. And she’s a pro at ringing the little bell, of course!

Doesn’t she look like she’s about four years old in the photo of her sitting on the bike? But it’s just a tiny little thing — the perfect size for her to scoot around on and feel comfortable. We’re having a warm spell, so we might have to try it outside! Well, maybe we’ll wait for the mud to dry out a little first.

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M’s Table/Desk

I made a little table for M! It’s actually going to be a desk, once I build a small ‘hutch’ for the top, and it’s not finished — still have to sand it and stain it. But I took some photos of the process, and I wanted to share how I made it. The construction is very similar to the sink table (I’ll point out the main difference in the instructions). Both are quite easy to build, but I’ve had a few requests for instructions, so here you go!

Continue reading

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New-New/New-Old Dresser

M has a new (old) dresser! Another new dresser. I’ve just been unhappy with that IKEA one ever since I put it together. The pine is low-quality, and after only a couple of months, one of the drawers doesn’t stay in its tracks. Ugh. Live and learn. So, with my pal Ann in town, we went to the antique store today — just like I originally meant to do (and obviously SHOULD have done).

And they had the perfect dresser! For not much more than the IKEA one, to be honest. It needs a little work, but it’ll be worth it. I’m not sure yet if I’ll refinish it — I’d definitely like to (the color is okay, but I think stripping/sanding it down and restaining and sealing would bring out the wood grain), but the finish is actually in quite nice condition. One thing I do need to do is replace the bottoms of the drawers. They’re hanging in there for now, and I lined them with paper to freshen them up a bit. But the big drawer bottom is starting to sag a tiny bit, and it’s just kind of grimy. I’d also like to replace the (metal, not-original) pulls with little glass ones.

The dresser came with a nice mirror, like many of these old dressers. I like it, but I’m not 100% sure I love it in M’s room. It’s much curvier (sort of tulip-shaped) and doesn’t really work with the look of her room. But I still haven’t settled on a bed frame for M, so you never know. Either I’ll decide it’s okay and put it back on, or I’ll store it away in the barn until M is actually tall enough to see herself in it. I really like the height of the dresser — the overall dimensions aren’t really child-sized, but it’s shorter than usual, so it’ll be perfect for M as she grows.

So hopefully I’ll trust my gut next time and not buy new — and hold out for better quality. The IKEA dresser is currently in the work room, where I’m sure I can put it to good use. Oh, and the green block on the dresser in the photo above? That’s M’s contribution. First, she wanted to help me scrub the dresser, and then she needed to do her part with the ‘decorating’!

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