Tag Archives: kidblog

Sewn: Worry Cat

worry cat

A couple of months ago, I saw a “Worry Eater” stuffed monster in a catalog. The idea is for kids to write down their worries and “feed” it to the monster so it can digest them while the child can get to sleep. I liked the idea, but also thought I could make one myself. I asked my son (who has anxiety) if he wanted to draw his own monster to be turned into a worry eater. He thought maybe but then didn’t, and anyway, he’s doing well with managing his anxiety, for the most part. In the meantime, the inspiration, which I’d clipped from the catalog, remained taped to the wall of my work area, and I realized I really wanted to make one for my daughter.

The past year hasn’t been the easiest on her. We moved, and her new school was so very different from her old school, with a different culture and different rules that seemed to leave her compressed and anxious and smaller than she was a year ago. She’s got more worries, and more thoughts that make her feel bad. I started sketching ideas and ultimately came up with Worry Cat. She (my daughter informs me this cat is a she) is my first attempt and a little odd in places. I used knit fabric for cuddly-ness, but it does pose a challenge, especially with inserting a zip. Worry Cat doesn’t need to be perfect, though, because nobody is perfect. My daughter has permission to get out of bed to get pencil and paper and write down any plaguing thoughts. In the morning I can take them and tuck them into a box for safekeeping, leaving Worry Cat’s pocket ready to take on more negative thoughts.

Worry Cat isn’t a substitution for professional guidance, if necessary, and isn’t meant to suggest that one stuffed animal can solve a child’s anxiety. It’s another tool in our toolbox though. And instead of being ordered from a catalog, this one was thought out and sewn by Mama, with love and hope for a happier girl through the whole process. That makes it all the more special.

Worry Cat stuffed doll at amyhoodarts.com

Sewn: Music Box Jumper

oliver + s music box jumper at amyhoodarts.com

At the end of the summer, Oliver + S had a sale, so I sat at my laptop with my daughter and had her pick out a couple of patterns. She chose two, and said she’d like me to make this one, the Music Box Jumper, first. While it’s rated lowest in difficulty by Oliver + S, I disagree. It was going to be a skill-building pattern for me, and I’ve been sewing for more than seven years now. So when the pattern arrived, it sat. I ordered fabric for it (Lizzy House Chasing Butterflies in Forget Me Not), and still, it sat. I sewed many, many other things, organized my fabric a few weeks ago, and decided it couldn’t sit any longer.

I had not done a yoke with facing before this.

amyhoodarts.com

Yoke with facing, check.

I hadn’t done pleats, at least, not carefully measured box pleats and such. I’ve gathered skirts to a shirt to make a dress, but that’s not quite the same.

pleats. amyhoodarts.com

Pleats, check.

I have sewn French seams before, and I used them on the skirt of this dress, because after hiding everything in that yoke and facing, why leave any raw edges in the skirt? I had not, however, made buttonholes on my machine. I practiced, a lot. For days. The dress was in a holding pattern until the kids went back to school after a week of snow days and I could fully concentrate on those darn buttonholes. Red Panda (who gets lonely in my son’s room while he’s at school) lent his support.

button. amyhoodarts.com

Buttonholes with buttons, check. G chose the butterfly buttons. She chose well.

A view of the back of the dress, with six, count ’em six, buttonholes and buttons.

Music Box Jumper, back. amyhoodarts.com

And another closer view of some of the buttons because BUTTONHOLES.

buttonholes again. amyhoodarts.com

My daughter, at this point, mistakenly believes it’s just the normal thing, to have most of your clothes made by your mother, out of fabric and patterns you chose. Having her is a handy excuse, I guess. Look at the skills I’m gaining by sewing for her!

Spate of Sewing

Besides my weekly quiltlets, I’ve been sewing other items as well. Before Christmas I ordered a bunch of knit fabric to make some things for my daughter. I began with brightly colored leggings.

oliver + s leggings at amyhoodarts.com

I use the pattern that comes with the Oliver + S Playtime Tunic + Dress collection. G usually wears leggings and a dress or skirt, and she loves bright colors. It’s fun to make her leggings. I got a bit sidelined by the holidays, but then I began again with a tee shirt and leggings out of aqua polka dots.

oliver + s tee and leggings at amyhoodarts.com

The tee pattern is also Oliver + S, from the Family Pack. The skirt she’s wearing isn’t handsewn, it’s purchased. She decided to go for a monochrome look here. We bought a couple of yards of the same fabric in pink; she asked for a tee and skirt from that.

tee + skirt at amyhoodarts.com

I’d like to see her pair the pink skirt with the blue tee and leggings, but she’s in charge of what she wears, so. She wore this set with the multi-color polka dot leggings in the first photo and it looked adorable. The tee is the Oliver + S pattern again, and the skirt is just a basic skirt with an elastic casing.

Finally, I bought some Cloud9 knit fabric on sale at Joann with a coupon to make a wearable muslin of Seamwork’s Mesa pattern for me.

Mesa at amyhoodarts.com

This is a size small, lengthened five inches because I wanted it to work as a dress. I’d like to make another version out of one of the Charley Harper Maritime Knits, and I think the next version will be lengthened by only three inches, extra-small neckline, small torso, and medium hips. Because while this one is definitely wearable, I’d like it a bit smaller along the neckline and a bit looser around the hips.

I still have two yards each of green and purple knit to make more leggings, tees, and/or skirts for G (I forget exactly what she “ordered”). And I’m sure there’s enough leftovers of various knits for me to make myself a long-sleeved shirt (maybe?). I reorganized my fabric earlier this week or maybe last week (days ran together; I had a sick child at home) and rediscovered a few yards of Tammis Keefe cats that I think should be a Dress No. 1. I’m also working on a sampler quilt in Lizzy House Natural History, but that needs its own post. In other words, I’m whipping through bobbins like they’re snacks over here.

In non-sewing news, we’re under a blizzard watch, which is hugely annoying as former, more northern home is only expecting 2-6″. Snow doesn’t make me anxious, but not knowing what to expect as far as power outages and infrastructure in a brand-new place that doesn’t seem to handle snow well does make me anxious. We had a two-hour school delay this week due to a dusting that didn’t even completely cover the pavement, so I don’t have much faith these folks know what to do with two feet of snow beyond flail in panic. Which is fine, you know, as long as we’re not freezing without heat in a rented house where it makes no sense for us to buy a generator. If the power goes out, I can’t sew, but I can knit until my fingers freeze. So we’ll wait and see.

Knit: Momoka

This was intended as a surprise Christmas gift for my daughter, who began ballet lessons this past fall. But I wrapped it up and gave it to her without sleeves, because the pattern was absolutely eating yarn and I had to order another ball and I wasn’t sure I’d get the same dye lot (I did, thank you, Jimmy Beans Wool!), so just in case I’d have alternated balls on the sleeves. But it’s just as well, because it was much easier to knit the sleeves with periodic tryings-on to check them. Anyway, let me back up a minute. The pattern is Momoka, and it’s knit in Classic Elite Song (in Ballerina, of course), and here it is, on the girl. (Ravelry notes here.)

Momoka ballet sweater at amyhoodarts.com

Front view

Momoka ballet sweater at amyhoodarts.com

Back view

I admit to some frustration with this pattern, which was written in a bit of a wordy way and didn’t give an accurate estimate of how much yarn to buy (I bought more than listed, was on gauge, and still needed to get another skein). I changed the sleeve decreases too, from every 7th round to every 4th, so my girl didn’t look like she had wings. I’m glad I have the know-how to adjust patterns when necessary but more and more often I find I need to do that with a pattern I’ve purchased, and it annoys me every time, because if I’m buying a pattern, it’s because I didn’t want to have to think much about what I’m doing. I have the ability to create a sweater pattern, but I just wanted to knit one. Ah well. It’s done now and she’s happy with it, even if she’s only wearing it to class, not in class, because she’s a warm-blooded girl.

Working with Klee’s Intention

Materials: Watercolor paper, watercolors and brushes, oil pastels, copy of Paul Klee’s Intention as well as other works (as available) to discuss.

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate some art-making with a group of fifth graders. My daughter’s elementary school has a program called “Guest Artist,” in which parent volunteers come into the class for forty minutes to present an artist and lead a project. Sadly, by the time I gained access to her classroom’s online signup, all the slots were taken, but I let the coordinator know I could fill in if other classes had empty slots. I really kind of love talking with kids about art.

Forty minutes for set-up, discussion, art-making, and clean-up is quite short, so that influenced this project. I also wanted to engage this age level, which is why I settled upon presenting Paul Klee’s painting Intention.

amyhoodarts.com

Page spread from Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry

We began by looking at some of Klee’s artwork in general and I invited the kids to comment on what they noticed. There are no right or wrong answers here, of course. They observed that his lines were simple, he bordered on the abstract, and he didn’t seem too concerned with mistakes or perfection. He’s not one of those artists painting so realistically that it looks like a photograph (how freeing!). Then I talked to them about Intention (seen above), using Sike Vry’s book as a guide. We talked about how the shapes and symbols stood for things; what did we see? The figure separating the color blocks is a person. Everything behind the person is in the past, a memory or something left behind. Everything in front represents future plans, or intentions. I hung up a sheet with some definitions of the word from the dictionary:

Intention, n. 1. A determination to act in a certain way: RESOLVE
2. IMPORT, SIGNIFICANCE
3. What one intends to do or bring about
(Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition)

I then explained the art-making.

Process: Each student received a 12″ x 18″ piece of watercolor paper and a black oil pastel. I showed my sample and explained they’d be making their own piece in the style of Klee’s Intention, with a figure representing themselves and symbols of both memories/past experiences and future plans.

sample of Klee activity at amyhoodarts.com

My sample artwork.

I encouraged them to make marks with intention as well, to think about their symbols and make them confidently. Pencils weren’t allowed, both because it wouldn’t erase once the pastel went down, and because pencils encourage hesitant work (because of the option to erase and start over). Once the black pastel symbols were down, other pastel colors could be added for emphasis. Finally, the background colors could be painted in with watercolors, which would be resisted by the oil pastel, leaving those lines pure and vibrant while easily filling in the background.

students at work - amyhoodarts.com

students at work

It was a great class to work with and I had loads of fun. The kids took to the process, thinking carefully about what to include and sharing with me the things they’d left behind. Getting to work with a group of kids in this way is a joy!

The Middle Years {And Adjusting}

creating space at amyhoodarts.com

Quiet time together, creating a space for whatever needs to be shared.

“Can you pick us up after school?” my sixth grader asked. “I like to tell someone about my day right away.”

What parent would pass up that chance? It’s not really a hardship to drive ten minutes down Route 2 to pick them up. My middle child gets in the car and goes through his day period by period, telling me everything. My daughter, who just turned seven, often has me to herself when she gets off the bus, since her school releases earlier than her brothers’. My oldest has always been more reticent, but he, too, will share about his day, especially if he learned something he found interesting. We often critically analyze different ideas together. He’s been my main supermarket companion for several years now. He’s a really good helper, and it’s an opportunity to be together without any younger siblings around.

Parenting these children, not surprisingly, is no less involved than it was when they were babies, but instead of changing diapers and being attentive to signs of hunger or distress, I’m quietly monitoring the undercurrents and making sure I’m available when they need or want to talk. I’m making sure we’re not overscheduled, so we have space in our days for connecting. The boys participate in some after-school activities right at school. My daughter plays soccer and just began dance lessons. All of these are their choices. We still eat dinner together just about every night, because eating dinner together has always been a priority.

Last week my daughter complained of a headache and a stomachache. I looked closely and saw a tired-looking, overwrought child and decided she could stay home from school. We sat on the couch together, she reading, me knitting, the cat purring between us. Bit by bit, into the quiet space we’d created, she told me some of what was troubling her. Her new school is very different from her old school. Some of these differences are wonderful: a library, an art room, a room for PE and for eating lunch. But some things are harder to adjust to. The behavioral management charts—nonexistent in her old school—are causing anxiety. I learned details that concerned me. I spoke to guidance to get more information. I met with her teacher, which led to a meeting with the principal. Perhaps these concerns will spark change in the school. I believe in honoring children’s humanity, in believing they are doing the best they can, in helping them to feel invested in the success of the community, not shamed because their clip has moved backwards instead of forwards. I’m glad my daughter felt she could talk to me. I’m grateful we have the time and space to create the quiet necessary to talk about troubling things.

Meanwhile, my boys are getting letter grades for the first time. Our previous school didn’t use letter grades and, of course, my middle child has been homeschooled for the past three years. How does a homeschooler-at-heart adjust to grades, anyway? We’ve talked about them, how they’re not the be-all and end-all, that I don’t want them getting A’s but not engaging (which is certainly possible, as any smart student who’s figured out the game of school can attest). How I hope they’ll connect with their learning, go deeper, get involved. How if their best effort equals a C, that’s fine, but now that they’re in a system that uses grades, they can’t just ignore them, because they might need them for something. (My oldest, for instance, would like to apply to a high school magnet program, which requires minimum grades.) Honestly, A’s and B’s should be no problem for them, but I don’t want them in it just for the grades. The grades are a byproduct. We talk about this balance so they know: You are not your grades. Your grades are not your learning. But assess your goals, and be aware of what you need to do to reach them.

Which is all to say, being mother to these three children is a different sort of engagement than it was when they were small, strapped to my body or constantly by my side. It’s knowing when to step in and when to step back; when a stomachache is a stomachache and when it might be a symptom of something else. Being around and involved but not controlling. Being aware. I am so proud of these children, how they are adjusting, how they are conducting themselves. I am honored to hear their stories of school, to be allowed access, to hang with my boys at the bus stop when most middle school parents have been ordered away. I want each of them to feel they have me when they need me, with no distractions. It’s a sobering responsibility, to be present for these growing people, truly, wholly present. But what, really, is more important?

Emergency Adventure

My sweet boy waiting, waiting, waiting in the ER Tuesday night.

My sweet boy waiting, waiting, waiting in the ER Tuesday night.

When I chose adventure as my word this year, this past week wasn’t quite the type I was thinking. We spent eight hours in the ER with our middle child Tuesday night/Wednesday morning after he cut his foot so badly he needed 20 stitches. He’s on crutches now. He’s doing much better and his foot looks like it’s healing well, but I wanted to mention some strategies that came in useful.

  • The medical center had a child life specialist. Obviously this was out of our control; we just lucked out. She visited several times while we waited, provided an iPad with games, answered his questions, showed him the material used for stitching so he could see the size of the needle and the type of thread. While anything was being done to his foot–application of numbing cream, cleaning, and the stitching–she sat right by his head and gave him her complete attention. She engaged him in conversation, let him know what was going on, and helped distract him from the pain. She said that medical center (which has a separate pediatric ER) has three child life specialists, all donor funded. This was our second experience with them. At one visit to the asthma clinic in RI, a child life specialist was available, but it wasn’t common. They should be a staple in pediatric ERs. I’m grateful.
  • Even with the numbing cream and an injection of extra numbing medicine, a few of the stitches were very painful. I reminded N to take bear breaths, something we recently learned about thanks to Yoga Pretzel cards. He knew just what I meant, and he took the deep breaths in, held them, exhaled, and held, and got through those painful stitches. The visualization cards were also very helpful the first day. He’s a very imaginative person and took right to imagining a happy, calm place in detail.
  • When the pain got bad those first 24-36 hours home, I mimed pulling it out of his foot. Sometimes I had to pull really hard. Then I formed it into a ball and asked him where I should throw it. Outside? No, it might be found by an animal. He decided it needed to be thrown out, and so I opened the trash can and clanged it in. I did this whenever he needed me to.
  • He’s an active kid, with a buzzy sort of energy, and he’s not allowed to put his right foot down for at least two weeks. I realized pretty quickly that sometimes when he was yelling, it wasn’t so much out of pain but as a way to get that energy out of his body because he has so few outlets to do so. It can feel good to just yell.

He’s doing better every day. It’s good to know that, as a family, we all are pretty good in an emergency. I was at soccer practice with our daughter when the injury happened, but I heard N applied his own direct pressure and V was steady, calm, and extremely helpful. (“He was a rock,” our neighbor told me. “Exactly the kind of person you want in an emergency.”) It’s been an exhausting week but we’re getting through day by day, as you do.

Field Trip: Baltimore Museum of Art

Living in Annapolis, we are close to both Washington, DC, and Baltimore, which is pretty cool. Turns out Baltimore has a really nice art museum–and admission is free, everyday, for everybody, always. This should be shouted out and celebrated from rooftops because it is amazing. Providence’s art museum, RISD, was free on Sundays, which is great. Boston’s MFA has open houses twice a year, but otherwise, it cost nearly $100 for us all to go. Yesterday we paid $7 to park in the BMA’s lot. (I also contributed to the donation box on our way out.) I feel about museum art collections the way I feel about beaches–they shouldn’t be private, gated off, accessible only to a privileged few. (I can’t remember if I’ve ranted about private beaches in this space; I don’t think so. I despise the practice of “owning” access to the shoreline.) Art is part of our shared humanity. All the praise to the BMA for managing their budget in a way that prioritizes free admittance to all.

The drive to Baltimore was quicker and easier than I anticipated, even factoring in some Orioles traffic. We drove right by both stadiums (football and baseball) on our way. I had a couple areas I wanted to make sure we visited–the Crazy Quilt Exhibition and the Matisse collection. The Cone Collection was fabulous. The 20th Century American gallery included three O’Keeffes, among other little jewels, such as this Joseph Cornell box.

Cornell box from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

Joseph Cornell box at BMA

We learned so much about Joseph Cornell while preparing Art Together Issue 4, but I’d never seen a box in person before, so that was really special. And over in the Modern Art collection, they have a small, perfect Mondrian, only the second time I’ve gotten to see any in person (the other was at the Yale art museum last fall). I just stood there and grinned at it like some crazy person.

I’ll leave you with some photos from the crazy quilt exhibition. The handwork was stunning; the time commitment and dedication truly impressive.

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail from BMA at amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

crazy quilt detail at BMA from amyhoodarts.com

detail from crazy quilt exhibit at BMA

I hope we’ll get back there often. It’s good to have an art museum close by.

Adventuring

adventure talisman at amyhoodarts.com

When I thought about 2015 last December, in terms of choosing a word to encapsulate the year ahead, I immediately thought Adventure. So much of how we experience life depends upon how we frame it. I knew this year would involve selling a house, packing it up, and moving out of state. Was I going to treat that as a trial to be slogged through? No. It’s an adventure. I made myself a word charm necklace as a reminder, and I’ve been wearing it a lot lately.

So much is going on this month that I’m struggling to even write about it. To say the schedule is hectic right now doesn’t even begin to describe my days and nights, or my husband’s. In the past two days I’ve napped in a waiting room once and the car (while various kids were in activities) twice. (Moms do what we have to do, you know?) But my overall feeling, along with excitement, is gratitude. My husband and I are handling all the various things coming our way as a team, and it’s good. We’re also reminding each other to do the things that keep us balanced–bike rides for him, runs for me. I’m grateful for running and the way it takes me out of my head and into my body. More than once I’ve been stressed about something related to selling this house (by far the most stressful part of this entire enterprise), and I left it on the road, coming back with my perspective restored. I am moving through these hectic days, not always with quiet and calm, but fairly capably and with huge amounts of positive attitude. This is a great adventure, and I’m excited to get down there.

Yesterday my kids and I all had ophthalmology appointments. These were originally scheduled for later in the month, after our move date, and they were able to reschedule on short notice and still get us all on the same day, although with two appointments in the morning and two in the afternoon. Since the office is 45 minutes from home, we packed a lunch and had a picnic in between, as well as updating my son’s glasses and going to the library and post office. It was a long day. We left the house at 8:15 and had been in the car but ten minutes when my middle child told my youngest, “There’s a spider directly above your head.”

Oldest child: “Wow, it’s huge, too.”

Youngest child: *Hysterical screams and cries.*

Me: “Thanks a lot, boys.”

You just have to laugh. They tracked that spider until it disappeared somewhere under my seat, while I maneuvered through rush-hour highway traffic, determined not to be distracted when I was notified it was right above you, Mama! It’s on your seatbelt! It’s legs are so spindly! Middle child felt it was a poisonous spider in disguise, which led Eldest child and I to muse on a spider in a trench coat and hat (and four pairs of sunglasses, as he pointed out). Adventure. Seriously, it’s everywhere, if you care to frame it as such, and I do.

How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity. amyhoodarts.com

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam. amyhoodarts.com

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image. amyhoodarts.com

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate. amyhoodarts.com

pressing the image onto the flag. amyhoodarts.com

finished foam-printed hope flag. amyhoodarts.com

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.