Friday, September 26, 2008

Kid - made quilt swap, anyone?

Andrew has started making his first quilt. He pulled out some fabric today and informed me he was making a quilt, and making a swap package to go with it. He said it needed to have chocolate (since his partner wouldn't be allergic to chocolate) and nice ribbons. I was pretty amused by this, but we've started making the quilt anyway. He picked out four fat quarters, so its probably going to be about 30 x 36 or so. Its pretty fun sewing with him, but I'm kind of dissapointed he wants to give the quilt away. And it tells me something that he didn't even consider that we should keep it. Quilts aren't for keeping, silly mom. We never keep any of ours, after all.

Anyway, if there's anyone interested, Andrew would love to swap with another kid who wanted to make a quilt.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something on Andrew's Walls

My, I have a lot to say tonight. As my art teacher used to say about my answers to his introspective self-analysis questions (you asked, Dr G.), I do tend to be prolific.

In any case, now that Andrew's in playschool we are getting more and more crafts sent home with him. Not to mention the things we do around here. So I decided that it needed a home other than my refrigerator, where Aaron tears it down and drags it all over the house.

I got this idea from The Creative Family, written by Amanda Soule . She has a great blog -- lovely photos and inspiring writing. Its nothing fancy and cost about $5 -- some leftover hemp from my hemp jewlery making days, three nails and a few clothes pins.

It is hung ridiculously high up to be above toddler height for now.
I think we may do another one and hang pages from our favorite demolished children's books on it.

Andrew's 4th birthday

ndrew's 4th birthday
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
I was looking back and I realized that I didn't blog about Andrew's birthday. It was a few weeks ago, and it was small but fun. This is one of my favorite photos from the event. I love how all the kids are riveted by the new toys.

Sept fabric and chocolate swap

This was my haul from the Sept fabric and chocolate swap. Nicole sent these goodies all the way from Denmark! All the fabrics are totally to my taste and everything else was great, too. The brown strip is velvet trim. I have to get me some more of that, and put it on something just for me. Also, the amazing paisley one is coudoroy! I think that makes it the ultimate Jill fabric -- both paisley and cordoroy. Amazing. The fair trade milk chocolate is also fabulous. I wish you could get non-stale fair trade chocolate here. But that is about as likely as getting non-perished organic vegetable.s

Shopping in the Basement

At the change of every season in our household, we do what I like to call "Shopping in the Basement". This means we go down to the storage room and pull out all the boxes marked "Boys: Age X" and see what we can find for the coming season. I am very lucky that my main source for older boys clothes (Sharon's son Edmund) also has a fall birthday, so his clothes are usually the right size at the right time. And since Aaron is a little taller than Andrew was, I can usually get away with most of the clothes that Andrew wore, with a few additions here and there. And since that's where all the toys we're not using at present also reside, Andrew usually drags up a million toys (all the cluttery ones I stashed last time I decluttered the house) and plays with them for two days.

Today while I was doing the seasonal sort, Andrew made a grand discovery:

Thats right. Two years ago at the annual library book sale, someone had unloaded their entire collection of Peanuts Encyclopedias and the entire set of Golden Book Illustrated Bible Stories. And a series he's not big enough yet full of collected classic children's literature (think Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Nursery Rhymes, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Robin Hood, etc).

Andrew decided that he and Aaron were going to do some basement shopping of their own, and promptly spent the next 20 min. hauling all the books upstairs to Andrew's room. Aaron had this idea that he was going to take the whole stack at once, and I kept hearing these frustrated wails. But all I had to do was shout "Take them one at a time, Bubby!"and he would grab one and leave stacks of them just outside the door for Andrew to carry later.

Andrew then spent a good hour - almost unheard of for him -- by himself in his room, looking through the books.

At bed time he had picked out the two bible story books with David and Goliath and Sampson destroying the Philistine temple with his bare hands. Of course.

Attempts to welcome Fall.

This past weekend we had a Fall Bazaar at our church. It was a lot of fun, and included silly treasure hunt games, face painting, a bouncy castle, crafts, baking, guess the weight of the pumpkin type games and a fresh produce table.

Since I have this idea that it would be great to do something fallish (like use some of the apples I have sitting in my garage, maybe?), and I wanted to support the bazaar, (our first one) I bought each of the boys a pumpkin. We chopped them open and cooked them yesterday morning, with plans of making pumpkin pie together.

But then Andrew wanted to go on a LONG bike ride. So we embarked on a 2 hr (with stops) bike ride. And since the boys are sick, they both slept all afternoon. And then it was supper, and I had two cooked pumpkins in the oven a little boy who had been promised pie after supper.

So instead of this idyllic, charming moment I had planned, full of much measuring and stirring and rolling together, I made the pie during supper. While the boys and Dave ate. And then baked it quickly so that Andrew could have the promised piece before bed time.

You know what? Andrew ate the crust. And informed me that he doesn't like pumpkin pie. You'd think I would have remembered that from last year .

On a related side note, though, you can make a dairy free pumpkin pie. Just find a recipe with Evaporated milk, and substitute slightly evaporated (on your stove top) coconut milk.

Done Stash Building

When I first got into quilting, one of the things I thought would be great was that it would be a thrifty hobby. Quilting is all about scraps, right? Sure, your first few quilts cost money, but then you get lots of scraps and make lots of scrap quilts and then its thrifty. Right?

This was my theory. Then I went and bought the fabric for my first quilt. Locally. At $16 a metre, it was pretty painful. I wondered if this was a hobby I could afford. Perhaps I could just make one or two quilts a year.

Then I discovered online fabric shopping. It started innocently enough with buying a few fabrics to make a quilt that I liked in a magazine. And then a few metres of fabric (on sale for $5 a metre -- surely I could buy a few more . . .) for a baby quilt for a friend. Then some charm packs and two half yard cuts for another quilt, but since I was already paying for shipping, I might as well also get . . . Well, you get the idea. It was actually the idea of Andrew's I Spy quilt that took me right into full fledged fabric obsession. I went on a hunt, people. A hunt for a little bit of everything for that quilt. And discovered a lot of really funky fabrics. And the fabric / crafting blogging world. And Flikr. And more really cool fabric. And more ideas for quilts, which required . . . you guessed it . . . more fabric.

Now, I have eight quilts in potentia (plus the two twins I'm working on right now) worth of fabric, plus extra odds and ends (well, okay, fat quarters and half yards and yards) for baby quilts and softies and the like. That means, at my present rate of quilt making I have at least two years of quilts to make before I need to buy any more fabric, except a few solids (mostly white and cream) and some quilt backs and batting. And after that, I'll have all the scraps to work with, which was the original point of all this.

So, considering that I have three balls of hemp in various thicknesses and an assortment of wooden beads, two sets of watercolour paints and assorted half-finished watercolour sketchbooks, a drawer of seed beads for making daisy chain necklaces . . . and assorted other craft supplies, I think its time to stop stash building. I need to use up the fabric I have now, and the scraps of that fabric before I continue blithely purchasing more and more fabric.

To that end, I have one more shipment of fabric on the way, which includes backing for both of the quilts I am working on right now, and fabric for a wallhanging that will be my next project, and various odds and ends that fill out supplies for projects I was already planning. After that, friends, hold me to my word -- no more fabric for a while.

In the short term I am saying no more fabric until Christmas. But I am actually thinking that I should set a quilt limit -- say, 4 or 5 big quilts, not including the two I am working on right now.

Ironically, since I decided to do this a week ago, I have received a %15 off coupon offer from Fat Quarter shop, my fall/winter catalogue from Keepsake Quilting, a newsletter from Fabricland full of their fall sales . . . the pressure is on. So now that I have posted about this, I will keep myself accountable. You heard me say it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is It Really Worth It?

I'm feeling pretty frustrated by my attempts to be a more ethical consumer these days. I think a big, unmentioned factor when people talk about poor consumer practices is location. Here's a few examples of my frustration living in a smallish, isolated community:

1. Organic Food is rotten by the time it gets here. Seriously, by the time that more expensive, organic produce is shipped from California to Central Saskatchewan, it has travelled for serveral days. Because it does not have all the chemicals and waxes on it, its often already moldy or too soft or otherwise decomposing when it gets here. Or on the other hand, it was picked so early to prevent this from happening that you can't get it to ripen when you get it home. So I have given up buying organic produce.

2. Thrifting for wool is too expensive. I haven't done the math, but its pretty much just as cheap to order wool felt online as it is to drive an hour to Value Village to find sweaters to felt. The local store only has acrylic sweaters, usually and . .

3. Going to a thrift store is equated with being white trash. Yard sales are a socially acceptable place to find something, but the thrift store is frowned upon. Not only do thift strore finds meet with uncomfortable silence at playgroup, but the volunteers chronically treat me with disdain. It really doesn't encourage me to shop there -- if I can find anything.

4. Finding good used furniture is difficult. I get so frustrated when I look at Canadian Home and Country's Flea Market issue every year and they show these amazing things people have picked up at Flea Markets or just off the street corner. In Ontario and Quebec, where the country is older, it is really easy to find old, good, solid wood furniture. But here, its hard to find anything thats not pasteboard. We have second hand drawers and one of the drawers is broken. Our cheap wardrobes - a door hinge already fell off after two months. Our solid wood table and shelves we brought from British Columbia are a total rarity among people our age. Everyone buys their furniture from The Brick or Extra Foods.

The boys are fussy, so I won't even mention the lack of store options -- I hate going to the dollar store, but its the only place you can get some things in town. Presently, unless you have $50 to spend on kids shoes, you're stuck with the Bargain Shop or Extra Food for a pair of $12 Made In China specials. Unless I were to make everything myself with things ordered online and shipped here (thus totally undercutting the local economy) I would not be able to boycott poorly, inethically made products. And if this isn't all bad enough, I can no longer support my local bookstore, because it closed this month.

I don't know. I start to understand why people think my non-Walmart-in-the-city shopping and attempts to buy second hand or organic are crazy. Its because they kind of are. I'm feeling like maybe I should just give up until I get to a bigger center where I could join a fresh organic food co-op or actually have more than one thrift / used store to go to, and a flea market that happens more than twice a year. Ug.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A New Word!

So, lately I've subscribed to Bloglines to keep up with my blogs without having to click in to each page every day. Although I actually miss seeing people's entire blogs (I love the photos at the top, the sidebar features . . . even online I"m a clutter bug I guess), it is convenient. I also subscribed to the word of the day, and I"m excited to say that this week I actually got one that I didn't know:

Tinntinnabulation: a tinkling sound, as of bells.

Use it in a sentence, everyone: "I could tell I was late for church; tinntinnabulation resounded through the air."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

quilt progress sept 15

quilt progress sept 15
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
8 done, 32 left to go!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Margit's Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I loved fall as a teenager. I loved waking up and walking to school in the crisp, clean air. It woke me up and prepared me for the day ahead. I loved going back to school, seeing all my friends, and getting back into the action of schoolwork and lunch hour / after school / in class socializing. I also loved fall because of the zucchini.

To most people, this might sound odd, because zucchini is a highly underrated vegetable. But you see, my mother hated zucchini, so to me it was an exotic adventure. An exotic adventure that could always be found at my best friend Lisa's house in the fall. This is because Lisa's dad believed in sustainable living, and so he grew almost all of their vegetables. In the fall, this meant that there was a LOT of zucchini at the Shaver's house. I would often saunter over around the end of my supper time (we lived about 5 blocks apart) just in time to witness Lisa, nose turned up, still at the table, staring at her zucchini. You see, having been forced to eat large quantities of zucchini every fall all her life, she hated zucchini. Which is why we were both perfectly happy to have me show up, eat her zucchini while her mom's back was turned, and get on with our regularly scheduled evenings. In other words: read comics, draw comic book characters, and invent our own universes full of quirky but fashionable talking animals.

As well as the supper time zucchini adventures, Margit, Lisa's mom, made the best zucchini cake ever. Next to her Pumpkin pie (which I generally managed to consume in large quantities in late October), Margit's chocolate zucchini cake was my favorite thing to eat at the Shaver's house. And yes, in case you're wondering, I was (and still am) one of those people that shamelessly arrives at people's houses, rummages through their fridge and cupboards, and eats their food. The compensation for feeding me, however, is great. Not only do you get my undying loyalty and friendship (whether you want it or not), but you also get strange and fabulous handmade stuff (depending on what I"m into at the moment this could include softies, quilts, housewares, headless stuffed animals, jewelery, poetry, masks or drawings of comic book characters).

However, I digress. Lisa's mom's zucchini cake is great. For years I wished I had the recipie. I had her pumpkin pie recipe and Lisa's Grandma's doughnuts recipe, but I did not have the zucchini cake recipe. So two years ago when I grew a garden and figured I couldn't mess up zucchini (I did, by the way. Three plants produced four zucchini.), I got the recipe. And now I offer it to you:

1/2 c margerine
1//2 c oil
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c cocoa
2 c grated zucchini
1/2 c buttermilk or sour milk

topping: 2 tsp grated orange peel, 1/4 c nuts or 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Blend margerine, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix flour, soda and cocoa seperately. Alternate adding flour mix, milk and zucchini, then second half of flour. Stir until just blended. Bake in 9 X 13 pan or ring pan at 325 for 55 min.

I suggest the ring pan. I don't have one, and I find my cake is never quite as moist as Margit's was. But the, I've only been making it since I lived on the prairies and this is a Northern Ontario recipe, so the extra dryness in the air might also be to blame. You can tell I was bored in this photo, because I'm cutting the cake horizontally instead of vertically, which is the opposite of how I usually cut cake. I only diverge when I'm in desperate need of novelty.

In any case, make this cake. Make it often. And then invite me to coffee. I'll help you eat it.

Mini Quilt Swap - Aug -- goodies

This is the quilt I received in the Aug mini quilt swap. Isn't it cute? Its in these wonderfully cheery, bright colours, and is completely hand sewn (that was the Aug. challenge). The backing is red and the perfect white quilting shows up nicely against it. Abi, my swap partner, also sent along two fat quarters of peas and carrots fabric, which made me feel extremely spoiled, and this fantastic post card that is originally made by Hillary . Which just goes to show how the whole Flikr / blogland quilting community really is, since I am actually making a quilt with these fabrics AND Hillary is the Wee Wonderfuls designer who has brought me so much joy with her robot and spaceboy pattern.

Anyway, there I am going on a tangent. Thanks so much, Abi, for the fantastic little quilt. It is happily sitting above my dining room table now and shall soon be pinned to a wall somewhere.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dead Tree

There are two parks within walking distance of our house. The one we usually go to is the "kids" park. It has an open field for assorted scurrying around and chasing games, a wading pool, some mysterious metal climbing / crawling equipment left over from the 60's, and a newer park area with modern, safe, clean lined equipment, safe for children ages 3 - 5, under adult supervision, who are not wearing clothing with drawstrings. Seriously, there are warnings on the play equipment. Everything is developmentally appropriate and has surely been tested on a battery of small 3 - 5 year olds under parental supervision using two way mirrors before it was allowed out into the real world (Quick, Jonny can get his head in between those bars! Make a note!).

The second one is a park that I am guessing dates back to the era of Participaction. Those of you who are younger, or not from Canada, would not be familiar with this movement. But in the 70s and 80s, there was this huge government push to get kids moving and active so as to later save on health care costs. This, of course, included something that has always amused me -- tv ads about excersise -- as well as swimming programs, skipping competitions and other weird non-competitive sporting activities. This park, for example, is basically a big plot of land with two artificial hills, and some strategic plantings of trees to encourage games of hide and seek and the like. It has a board as you enter that describes the fitness walk / run you can do around the park. You run, stop at the monkey bars, swing across them, run, stop at the sit up board (seriously, in the middle of a copse of spruce trees next to a park bench), do sit up, run, navigate the balance beam, run, do pull ups on the wood frame thing . . . you get the idea. Its a very silly park, which only gets used by my youth group on Friday nights when we're doing some ridiculous activity or wide game.

In our present circumstances, this park has a few advantages over the safe for 3 - 5 yr olds park. First, it has paved pathways, and surrounding those paved pathways it has trees, hills and open spaces. This means I can let Andrew bike around on the pathways, while still keeping him in my view (except when he is hidden behind a copse of strategically planted trees)and let Aaron run up and down the hills, play with sticks, and basically muck about without either slowing Andrew down or wandering into the oncoming traffic. We tried it for the first time today and it was a great success. We spent about an hour and a half meandering around. Andrew biked around on the pathways, and Aaron found a rare discovery: a dead tree stump.

Not only was the tree stump dead, but it had dry rotted to the point where he could pull it apart. Inside, we discovered, an abandoned insect colony had taken over the tree. Aaron spent about 20 min. pulling it apart and examining the stump. Andrew joined him, and the two boys spent an additional 30 min. pulling off pieces, checking out the tiny tunnels, trying to climb it (ok, only Aaron wanted to climb it - this has replaced "can I put it in my mouth?"test of earlier days), and generally mucking about. They were really sad when I realized it was 12:30 and we had to get home so I could feed them (though not as sad as I was when I realized Andrew was too tired to ride his bike home and I would have to carry his bike and tow both boys in the wagon).

This made me laugh, and think about how weird our culture is sometimes. Most parents wouldn't even let their kids touch the tree stump becuase it wasn't age appropriate or specially designed for playing with. It might be dirty or infested with bugs, or get a stain on their new Gap toddler jeans. They would have shooed their kids away and insisted instead that they walk the balance beam ( in order to properly develop their gross motor skills) or participate in a parent-led game of catch. We so carefully design and co-ordinate our children's play these days that we forget that we don't really have to do much at all. Play is actually what kids do naturally, with very little help from us.

It reminded me of when my friend Colleen and I (at age 4.5) spent a whole week melting snow into this puddle to make a giant "lake" puddle. Or when I used to make doll clothes for my Strawberry Shortcake dolls out of lilac leaves, feed them poppy seeds off of lilac plates and make them tiny stick tables and chairs. What great, imaginative times these were. I'm so glad I had so few toys that were specially tested and carefully designed to meet my developmental needs.

What is your favorite memory of playing with next to nothing?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What do you think?

I'm thinking of painting the kitchen this colour. I will remove the wallpaper from the bottom half of the wall and then I need to decide: do I want to paint the whole wall green, or paint the top half green and the bottom half cream? The wall behind the appliances will definitely be this green. I love this colour, but I can't decide wether I"ll like a whole wall of it. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

First Day of Playschool

Here he is, my big four year old (as of Saturday), all ready to go to Playschool. Note the look of slight concern mixed with steely determination. We have been talking about this since July -- "First we will go on holidays, then we will come home and the apples will be on the trees. We will pick the apples and then it will be your birthday. And after your birthday, you will go to playschool." I don't know how many times I have repeated this little litany over the summer. Enough times that Andrew had the time he needed to mentally prepare himself for playschool.

Today, I told him to get dressed in comfortable clothes that he could take off himself, becuase it was playschool day. He picked all "new"clothes (Sharon, are these all Edmund's or just the shirt?) since he is a big four year old boy now. We looked inside of his backpack and checked out the change of clothes and the snack bag that were there, so he would know what was inside. He packed Soxul Furry, in case he needed her. We put on our socks and shoes, got in the car, and went.

As we had visited last week, we knew which hook to put our coat and backpack on. We hung our stuff on the hook -- opening the backpack a bit so Soxul Furry could peek out and check on Andrew -- moved his name from the home to the school pocket, tried out the bathroom to make sure we could use it, and said goodbye. Andrew gave me a kiss, turned towards the kids and was gone.

When I picked him up three hours later he told me, "There were too many things to enjoy, mom". I'm not sure wether this meant that he was a bit overwhelmed, or that he was having a lot of fun. But in any case, he did fine. He liked the toys, and the story and apparently only needed help to open his snack bags, not for anything else. He was a bit dissapointed that the slide was hidden away, but told me that it only comes out when it snows. He also told me that some of the other boys had to be warned to be careful and stop climbing things, but he didn't need to be talked to, except when he couldn't open his snack. These things came out over the course of the day, as he processed the various things that had went on.

In the afternoon he went on a giant bike ride. Dave thought they would maybe go around the block, but they were gone for two hours and went in a huge circle around town. Andrew told me he didn't need any more of me, he needed to go on a bike ride with Dad. This was a little sad, but again, its his way of processing being at playschool by himself.

I was really proud of how poised and confident he was going to school. I was proud of him, and proud of myself for the choices I had made leading up to this. Some of you might remember here when I decided to go to the older kid library time with Andrew. At around the same time I decided not to put him in three year old playschool. I didn't think he was ready for 3 hrs of separation yet, and I didn't want to push him into it.
Instead, we went to library story time, which was only 45 min. He slowly adjusted to being there with the other kids, and really got to know and love Mrs Duncan, the librarian who does story time. I also decided to use the money I didn't spend on playschool to hire a teenager to play with the boys for an hour and a half once a week so I could get my youth group work done with less hassle every week. So he also became more attached to his babysitter, and cried when summer time came and she got a summer job. Around February or March he decided that it was okay to go to Sunday School without me.
I could have decided to just put him in Playschool, and let him learn to cope with the seperation anxiety. I don't know how many people I had give me sceptical sidelong glances of the "over-anxious possesive parent"variety when I told them he wasn't in playschool. I don't know how many times I felt foolish and over protective and defensive when I told people that he just hadn't been ready to go in September, and I didn't think I needed to push him. I know the general attitude around here is that seperation is good for kids. Throw them into babysitting or lessons and let them deal with it. In the end its good for them to be with other kids and be without mom and dad. And for some kids, maybe this is good for them. But I knew it would not be good for Andrew. So I waited and suffered the sceptical glances and critical looks, the same as I do for wearing my babies in a sling and breastfeeding my toddlers and letting my kids play with cardboard boxes and old tea tins instead of buying them toys. And today, when I saw my son walk into that classroom with confidence and courage, happy to tell me, "I met new friends today, mom. A whole bunch of kids are my friends now", I knew that I had made the right choices for us. And I was terribly proud to watch Andrew let go of my leg and the back pocket of my jeans and make his way into the wide, wide world.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Dirt Fairy

We have almost hourly visitations from the dirt fairy at this time of year. This magical little creature carries a little plastic shovel and pail. As your child leave the house she places a little present in their boot. That's right. Its dirt. Maybe mom will be lucky, and the little child will haplessly empty their boot outside. More likely, the dirt will spread all over the floor as they kick their boots off . . (Boots OFF at the DOOR, AARON!). Or, even better, the dirt will stay inside the boot until your toddler decides to take them INTO THE LIVING ROOM and upend that lovely pile of sand all over the carpet. Oh the joys of the fairy kingdom.

And this is the back.

Originally uploaded by Beaty Family Fun

Mini Quilt sent -- Aug 08

Originally uploaded by Beaty Family Fun
Once more I forgot to take photos, but here are my swap partner's photos of my cute little mini quilt. The theme was hand stitching, so I had to hand stitch and quilt the whole thing. It is about 8 or 9 inches.

Originally, I was thinking of appliquing the birds on top of the muslin, but I knew I had to get everything prepped before I went away on holidays, and in the midst of the rush (and my ridiculous decision to make the picnic quilt), I couldn't get the circles to work.

So, plan number two was born: have the chickens peeking through the fabric. Which I did. And I love.

The funny thing was that I didn't get any further in the planning before I left, so at first I was just stitching around the chickens, and people would ask, "What are they looking at?"and I would say, "I don't know."

But as my vacation continued, this quilt became a symbol of the stuff I was working through individually. The chickens in their holes became other people, peeking out and possibly criticizing or gossiping about the one chicken who has broken free of the coop. And so that one chicken was born, and placed looking off hopefully into the distance, representing me. So this little mini is a reminder of what is most important -- not what other people think of me, but what God thinks of me. It is important to be who I have been made to be and to do the things I think are right, not to do what I think people expect of me or want me to do.

So, anyway, its a silly little quilt with a lot of meaning. And Abi says she loves it, which makes it all worth while!

Friday, September 05, 2008


Last year, Andrew had a three wheeler big wheels type thing. Try as I might, I could not get him to pedal it. He would try and try to pedal and steer at the same time, but he just could not seem to do both at the same time. He would either pedal and steer off the sidewalk or steer and push with his feet. He could not seem to master doing both things at once. This June, he finally started to be able to pedal, but he still couldn't seem to master doing both activities at one time.

Although I know I should be patient and understanding, I found this particularly irritating. His friend Bea had been buzzing around on her trike since the previous summer, and she is only ten days older. His friend Lewis, who is an entire year younger, was already riding a bike. Why could my son not just get it?

So, although I liked the idea of getting him a bike for his fourth birthday, I was a little nervous. I wondered how long I would be holding onto the handle bars, practically dragging him around the block. But becuase I didn't want my anxiety to rub off on my child, I went ahead and agreed that we should get him a bicycle.

Four days later, we can ride all the way around the block. Although he's not a fast rider, he pedals and steers independently after only a few days of practice. He can operate the brakes, steer well enough to run over an apple, and get up to a speed where I almost have to jog to keep up.

This had me thinking today about development and readiness. I used to get frustrated with Andrew and think he was being stubborn when he wouldn't do things that I could see all of his friends could do. But then I looked closer, and I noticed that in some cases he didn't have the co-ordination to do it yet. The internal wiring just hadn't hooked up, and so it didn't matter how much I cajoled, yelled, threatened or argued -- it wasn't going to happen until his body and brain were ready, and until he was calm enough to follow instructions.

Our culture has so little patience for children. As babies they are subjected to endless checklists and developmental comparisons. As children we demand that they learn a certain rigid set of skills in a very limited, time frame, in an environment that often gives advantage to those kids who are practical minded, action oriented, and able to block out a lot of stimulation. Then we wonder why so many kids are being "left behind". Are they? Or are we just trying to drag them ahead of where they are ready to be?

I know it would take a whole shift in culture to do things differently than we do now, but sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be worth it to have a culture that is just more understanding and compassionate to children. A culture that is not so obsessed with performance and accomplishement at an early age. Then maybe we as parents could relax and enjoy the stage our children are at, and our children could relax and enjoy their childhoods.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What I did on the rest of my Vacation.

I spent the rest of my vacation in Winnipeg. A lot happened, and it was kind of stressful. My mom had lung surgery, my car was broken into, my sons caused all kinds of mischief, I visited lots of people and places, and my parents'50th wedding anniversary party was held on the proper day, but in Winnipeg instead of in Thunder Bay. We did get to stay at my brother's really nice house for half of the time (the after our car window got smashed part of the vacation), and we enjoyed the company of many friends and relations and the boys liked the zoo and their cousins (especially their trampolines and action figures and other big kid toys). Then we came home. Somehow I got lost on highway 16. I know, its really hard to get lost on a highway that just cuts straight across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but you would be amazed at where I am capable of getting lost. Anyway, we found our way back again, and it only added about an hour to our trip.

If you want to see some photos there's some on Flikr. Just click on the Flikr side bar thing to see them. I could regale you with the full scale dramatic Jill version of all that happened, but I would be posting about my vacation well into Sept, and I'd rather go and make a snack bag for Andrew for playschool.

Complicate! Complicate!

I have this problem. I can never make or do anything the simple way. I can always think of a more "interesting"and often much more complicated way to do everything. I usually come up with this just because I hate doing something the same way other people are doing it, even if that way works fine and is easy and, well, uncomplicated. Why is this? Is it my innate desire to make everything chaotic and dramatic? Is it my pride, assuming I can come up with a better way to do everything than anyone else can? Why is it, exactly, that I have such a problem doing things the plain, simple, every day way?

Don't answer that. It was rhetorical.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New bike

New bike
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
Andrew will be 4 on Saturday, and so we got him a bicycle. He has been so anxious and squirrely the last few days, and Dave was so excited about it himself, that we gave it to him early.

Andrew is not the most co-ordinated kid, and he never did master pedalling his big wheels motorcycle. So I was so proud to watch him slowly making his way down the street. I had to come into the house because I was getting all teary eyed. My tiny baby is riding a bicycle. And going to playschool next week. He is finally finding his wings.

It was cute because he spent all day warming up to the fact that it was his bike and he got to keep it. Dave said that for about two hours they would go outside, open the garage, get on the helmet, knee pads and elbow pads, get on the bike, ride down the block and walk the bike back. Then they would take everything into the garage, take it off and go in the house. No sooner would they get in than they had to do it all again.

Finally in the afternoon he rode it the three blocks to the park with me and Aaron. He was getting pretty good at that point and he was pretty pleased with himself. At the end of the day, after we put it away he asked, "Do I get to keep it?"

Quilt progress - Sept 3

Quilt progress - Sept 3
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
Four finished, 36 to go. I was hoping to get to go to the quilter's guild meeting this Thurs and so I had pulled out the fabric to make 6 of these babies in the 4 hours they were meeting. Unfortunately, Dave has an important meeting on Sat (thanks, Richard) and so he can't watch the boys.
So I started in on the blocks and discovered that I really like doing them two at a time. It means I wind up with two almost identical blocks (except the four light squares in the corners) but since I"m making two quilts that doesn't really matter. Actually, no one that was not as pattern obsessed as I am would notice which blocks were identical in a quilt with 20 scrappy blocks anyway.
Also, I have more of a sense of accomplishment than I would cutting, ironing and trimming three hundred and some half-triangle squares all at one time. I love it when I can see progress!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Have I showed you this yet?

In a typical bout of over confidence, I decided to make a picnic quilt the week that Dave was gone on his motorcycle read and ride retreat. The quilt we had been using as our park / picnic quilt last year had become Andrew's bed quilt this year, so we had been operating without a good place to sit on our many summer visits to the park. This wasn't crucial this year, since we didn't have a tiny baby to deal with, but I do like to have somewhere bright and happy to sit while the boys rush around, or a place for them to sit and have a snack when they need a break. Also its nice to have something to lay overtop of your tarp at the folk music festival, or to wrap the boys in while they're sleeping, or to play on at the campsite. So I really did want to have a quilt before we went on holidays, but no brilliant, quick ideas had presented themselves.

I was following sew mama sew 's summer sewing month, however, and they just happened to feature a fantastic tutorial for a picnic quilt with rock pockets ( designed by Erin at house on hill road ). The original is made all with half yard cuts. The day I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it, and that I could easily make it in a few evenings. Not only that, but I had some Amy Butler half yards laying around that I didn't particularly like (am I allowed to say that? Is it sacrilidge? Am I now going to be shunned by crafty bloggers across the world wide web?). I loved the pattern on them, which was why I bought them online as a lot on ebay, but when I received them I wasn't thrilled with the colour. Too kaky brown for me. I was hoping they would be more green. Same for almost all the other fabrics in this quilt -- I love the patterns, but hate the colour. I found that I had almost enough fabric, but I was short one half yard. Then I remembered that I had bought this fabric (which I totally love) on a whim at a quilt shop close out:
I thought it had enough blue in it to match, and would make me happy about the rest of the quilt. Also, if we were somewhere and the boys were bored, they could always daydream about who the people were and what they were doing.

So in two very late nights I threw the quilt together. I was really happy that I am now at the point in my quilting skills where I can throw something like this together and not make a disaster of it. All that was left to do was to topstitch and tie it. For some unknown reason I thought it would be logical to do this while the boys were awake (this is what happens when I have no one around to give me a reality check every once in a while -- anything seems possible. I have no clue of my own limitations). Just a tip for anyone else: never try to tape a quilt flat and tie it with a big, sharp needle while you have an awake 18 month old in the house. What could be more fun than a) tearing pieces of green tape off the capet, b) getting chased around by mom and c) trying to steal that fascinating sharp metal thing your mom keeps playing with? After an aggrivating hour of chasing the boys around, then finally sending them outside to "play"(ie leave mom alone for 5 minutes) I finally finished it. It was super useful on our trip. We did wrap the boys up in it, use it at our campsite, sit on it at the folk festival, picnic at the park on it with our friends and, incidentally, keep our laptop stashed in it in the back of the station wagon.

The back is a vintage sheet I picked up last summer at Value Village. It has a few frays, which I may go back and patch eventually, but for now I'm just as happy leaving them be.
And as I suspected might happen, the quilt is growing on me. I still wouldn't use these colours in my house as decor colours, but I do like the way it looks in the sunshine. I love the blues and bright greens, and I love having something fun and happy to sit on while we're at the park.