Month: February 2011

Dirty Laundry T-Shirt

I don’t sew. I like to dabble in crafts, I’m teaching myself to knit… but I don’t sew.  I wish I could sew, but that’s another matter entirely.  The other day I caught an episode of She’s Crafty – on, like, one of three channels we get now – and the guest was Teresa Findlay of Dirty Laundry.  She upcycled an old t-shirt (or a new one, if you prefer) using embroidery thread and felt decals, and I thought it was fabulous.  Especially since you don’t need to use a sewing machine.  Or complicated stitches.

I didn’t write the directions down, assuming I could fine them online.  I eventually found a tutorial for a recycled t-shirt based on the episode, and I cross-referenced this with the actual t-shirts on the Dirty Laundry website.

A while back I bought some plain white baby shirts and a fire truck decal, and thought this would be perfect for the project.  The shirt is small, I wouldn’t have to make my own decal, and I’d have a super cool new shirt for Josiah to wear.  Let’s see how it turned out…

embroidery thread
embroidery needle
straight pins
iron-on decal

Cut along the sides and arms, following the serged edges (simplified by turning it inside-out).

Use tons of pins to hold it together.

I found it easiest to start at the bottom and work my way around the armhole, then the bottom of the armhole, finishing with the neckline. I think it’s just a simple running stitch, and I suppose you should try to make the as uniform as possible.

Iron on decal according to package directions.

Ta-da! It’s size 18 months, and J’s only 15 months, but look at that pudgy belly!

It’s super-cute, but I’m going to consider it my practice round. Because of the infant-style cross-over neckline, it was a pain to stitch.   And made the neckhole considerably tighter. *sigh*

Then I tried one of Gwendolyn’s old shirts; it’s cute, but once again the neckline needs a bit of help.  Since there’s already a decal on this shirt, I didn’t have to do anything extra to it.

Because of the raw edges, the material is supposed to curl or fray with use. Uber-cool.


Thankful & Unafraid

Sometimes I’m afraid to be happy, truly thankful, when something good happens.  I’m painfully aware that I haven’t been joyful through the storm and I’m ashamed of the contrast.

I have often feared that God toys with me, uses me as His plaything, or if nothing else uses me as an example of what happens to disobedient children.  I cringe as I say this, knowing how silly it sounds; I know it’s not true, but there are times when I feel it.

When it felt like my marriage was falling apart shortly after Phil and I got married, when we couldn’t get pregnant year after year, dealing with a constant thorn in my side and pleading with God to remove the painful splinters I could feel all over.  There are endless reasons to feel that God doesn’t hear, doesn’t listen, doesn’t care.  He never promised that we would be free from hardship, and while He can see the Big Picture and knows what’s best for us, it’s easy to try and take control of the reigns and tell Him what He needs to do for me.

There are things I’m constantly struggling with, trying to improve upon.  I feel guilty for not taking the time every morning to spend time in the Bible, pray and talk to God.  My mommy check-list takes priority.  When things happen that make me question whether or not God’s really in control, I falter in my praise, my heart and hands are heavy and I don’t lift them in worship at church.  I know all about being refined by fire, but I balk at the process, not wanting to face one more thing that needs improvement.  I fail to keep it all in perspective.  As David Burchett puts it in his article on refinement, “There is no joy in the trial but there is joy in the knowledge of how God uses such events in our lives.”

When God “comes through” for us, I feel like, finally!  But then comes the fear, feeling that He will take His blessing away because I’ve handled the tough times so poorly.  I lost my one-day-a-week job at the end of December, and although Phil had been encouraging me to quit for a long time, I felt a little lost for not having made the decision when I was ready.  And really, I don’t know if I ever would have been ready to give up the security of providing financially for the family, even in the smallest measure.

Phil had been struggling with a bitter work situation, waiting patiently for God to open another door for him, give him a way out.  For a while now he has been trying to get on a paid fire department, taking courses, getting his EMT license, keeping his files up-to-date so he could apply when there was an opening.  Each time we got our hopes up, thinking this is it!  But each time the answer was no.  The last time the door was slammed shut in our faces, I took it hard.  My heart hurt deeply for my husband, knowing what a wonderful person he is and how hard he was trying to take care of his family.  I would get teary-eyed as Phil would pray at the dinner table, thanking God for his blessings and continued provision; he has always had big faith despite our situation, while I waver in the winds of doubt.  Even though my heart wasn’t always in it, I would insist God has something better, God has something better around the next corner – we just don’t know what or when it is. 

Much of life is spent waiting.  Waiting in line, waiting for dinner to cook, waiting for naptime and a much-needed break, waiting for a phone call or e-mail, waiting for an anticipated movie, waiting for love, waiting for more.  We were waiting on God, like we’ve done so many times.  He has proved time and time again that His timing is perfect (my children are perfect examples), and this was no exception.

Yesterday, Phil had his background check and physical for a fire department job he had applied for at the end of last year.  He had been “formally recommended” for the job last week, but was told it didn’t mean an offer for employment.  He found out the chief of the department had been trying to contact him to get his size for a new uniform even before all the paperwork was done, and I thought, doesn’t the chief have better things to do?  HE GOT THE JOB!!!

Phil has an official start date at the end of March.  He has been enjoying the downtime between jobs to focus on his own business as self-employed contractor and drum up side jobs, and this will afford him some time to tie up loose ends with current contracts.  He was also able to stay home and watch the kids a couple days while I was sick a couple weeks ago, something that wouldn’t have been a possibility were he working for someone else.  He’ll be on a paid fire department, we’ll have healthcare and dental! (we’ve never had dental), and he will have more time off to devote to his side jobs and spending time with the family.

We celebrated last night by going out to eat at a local pizza dive, and Phil was almost giddy.  He said he was most happy about being able to take care of his family in the long run.  Today, the kiddos are at Meme and Pepe’s for the day, and I’m in the unusual position of being by myself.  I made breakfast late, and I haven’t had to utter a single word since Daddy left with the kiddos left this morning.  Peace!  I wondered what to do today with all this free time, and decided to start with a couple devotional books.  I dusted them off the shelves, and read a few pages as I ate breakfast.

Phil gave me Hearing from God Each Morning last year, knowing how much I struggle with devotionals.  Gram gave me Fear Not Promise Book, and there were some verses about fear.  I like Phillipians 4:6-7:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When fear rules our lives we worry and yearn for safety in things.  Max Lucado expounds:

“The fear-filled cannot love deeply.  Love is risky. 

They cannot give to the poor.  Benevolence has no guarantee of return.

The fear-filled cannot dream wildly.  What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky?

The worship of safety emasculates greatness.  No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear.”

God is good.  His timing is perfect, and we are taken care of.  Today I am thankful and unafraid.

Chocolate Banana Tapioca Pudding

I. Love. Dessert.  Now that I’m eating more healthily and shunning white sugar, I need to be more careful in the desserts I choose to make.  Growing up, I couldn’t stand tapioca pudding, but when I discovered that Phil is a fan I decided to make it for him.  When I tasted it, I thought, this isn’t half bad!

Lately I’ve been making tapioca with a combination of coconut milk and almond milk, since I’m trying not to use milk these days.  I noticed a variation of chocolate tapioca on the side of the box, and decided to try and make chocolate banana pudding for the kiddos (and me, duh). 

Here is the basic chocolate recipe from the Kraft website.  I could probably tweak my version, but it tastes yummy as-is, kinda dark chocolatey.      

1 egg
2 cups  milk (coconut, almond, or a mix)
1/2 cup sugar (1/4c brown, 1/4c no-cal sweetener)
3T Minute Tapioca
3 sq./oz. dark chocolate 
1 ripe banana
1t vanilla
*optional: 3 T natural peanut butter

egg, milk, sugar and tapioca with wire whisk in medium saucepan until well blended; let stand 5 min. Add chocolate.

BRING to full rolling boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Mash in banana and add vanilla.  Stir in peanut butter, if using.

COOL 20 min. (Pudding thickens as it cools.) Stir. Serve warm or chilled. Stir before serving.

EDIT: This was so good the next day after it had been chilled, and topped with homemade whipped cream. Yum!  And I decided I like dark chocolate instead of the unsweetened, but you could substitute whatever.

Mommying in Small Doses

Almost every day, without fail, there is an incident that makes me question my ability as a mother.  If I had a sticker chart, there would be no shiny star stickers – unless my husband were doling them out, because he holds a rosier view of me.  I tell him it’s because he’s not around me during the day.

My heart connected with this passage as I read my friend Becky’s post about Drudgery: “I grappled all year with the tension between the work I wanted to do (writing, public speaking, working for pro-life organizations, getting more involved in ministry in the church, missions) and the work that was my actual day-to-day job (changing diapers, making meals, and cleaning the same things over and over and over again). My mind understood the necessity, and even the honor, of my vocation as a wife, mom, and homemaker, but my heart rebelled at the repetitiveness, the constant-unfinished-ness…the drudgery of it.”

I can’t relate to all those high ambitions, because really sometimes all I want to do is finish a knitting project, take a nap, try my hand at a new a craft, just be unbothered.  How many times have I bolstered myself with the knowledge that Motherhood is Hard Work, but the Best Job in the Whole World?  I’m raising frickin’ arrows for God!  Then I let a four-letter-word pass my lips, yell out in anger at something my three-year-old has done and have a mommy tantrum, and it feels like any good I’ve instilled has been erased.  For good. 

It occurred to me the other day that I do like to organize things; I don’t necessarily mind a bit of laundry, washing a few dishes, making breakfast… then why this same sense of dread at the drudgery?  Why the feeling in the morning that I can’t get out of bed and face the day?  I know there will be a dirty diaper awaiting me, I know there will be little-kid demands before I’ve rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I know I will have to tell my kids to get along and share and BE QUIET! and LEAVE HIM ALONE! for the thousandth time before 9 o’clock. 

I realized it’s not the tasks themselves, but the absurd amount of time and energy spent on doing them over and over.  And over.  Never finished, never perfect, never ever really crossed of the To Do list.  When three loads of laundry turn into six because suddenly every cloth diaper change contains poop, when my daughter has an accident at naptime and I have to change her sheets and blankets, when a drink is spilled at lunchtime and I go ballistic because I don’t want to wash anything else today! 

When I’m not throwing a load of laundry in, I’m probably in the kitchen… and whereas I like to bake the occasional treat, I loathe spending all of my time measuring and mixing and bending over the sink washing dishes and cleaning counters and barking at the kids to stay out of the spice cabinet and no don’t touch that!  Trying to come up with healthy meals that taste good and please everyone is no picnic; sometimes I feel like I constantly think about food because I need to plan ahead, defrost, put something in the crock pot, mentally take stock of what’s in the cabinet, do they want to eat pasta again for the third meal in a row?  All of the pressure is on me to do the shopping and preparing and make sure everyone is happy and healthy.    

Gwendolyn loves books, and while that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside considering the fact that her father gets dizzy if he steps foot in a library, there are limits to how many times I can read Amelia Bedelia Plays Baseball.  For one, Amelia Bedelia takes things way too literally, and while I understand that’s the point, Gwendolyn doesn’t get that that’s the point… and I don’t even like baseball!  And why can Amelia Bedelia bake so well?  Surely she would botch the recipes like everything else she does.  But I digress, and though I myself love to read, I would not necessarily choose to curl up with a book from Gwendolyn and Josiah’s library.  Finishing a novel is a luxury these days.

Did you know that every day is Gwen’s birthday?  So she can have cake and ice cream, of course.  Luckily, pretend cake and ice cream.  And a picnic (usually consisting of salad and lemons), after a breakfast she may or may not have eaten and after which I may or may not have yelled at her.  Her pretend play is very cute and very important… but more so on an observation level. 

I am constantly catching myself, wondering why these things bother me… and I realize it’s because I like a Balance. A little bit of work here, a little bit of rest there; and playtime with a toddler does not count as play nor does it count as rest.  I could seriously go a whole day without talking; I hate the sound of my own voice, and adjusting to having to constantly talk and plead and referee and boss and soothe can be quite draining.  I prefer Mommying in small doses, with a good measure of down time where there are no domestic demands on me and my sanity.  But since this is not realistic or attainable, I suck it and drink the pretend tea, eat the pretend pizza, read Curious George in a slight monotone, give Josiah a bath in the sink because I couldn’t scrape all the poop off his bum, pick up the same books and toys I picked up before and honestly can’t ever remember being without, fret over the Perfect Lunch and end up making PB&Js, throw the kiddos down for a nap when the clock tells me the time is right, and as soon as they’re awake query Is it bedtime yet?

I love you, Mommy. I love you on Thursdays.

I had a baby calendar for Gwendolyn when she was born, recording all of her firsts, and then some.  I decided to keep putting up new calendars to record any special memories, and ended up writing down lots of funny things she has said through the year.  Here are some highlights from  2010:

“Sh sh baby, I getting dressed”

“Oh my goodness!”

“What’s happened down there?”

“Where did baby brudder go?”

On her play phone: “Hello, I’m making eggs for Mommy, bye-bye”

To Daddy hugging Mommy: “No, that’s my sister!”

“This Genolyn’s table. NOT Daddy’s, NOT Mommy’s, NOT Josiah’s.  Genolyns.”

“I want to go in the nude.” ?!

“My curtains falling off!” Very upset – nightmare?

“That’s Mommy’sJosiah!”

Cashier: “You’re one smart ticket!” Gwen: “I not a chicken. I a GIRL!”

On the potty: “I can’t push the pee out.”

“He’s not a child, he’s Josiah!”

“I love you, Mommy. I love you on Thursdays.”

Mommy: “Grandma gave those to you.” Gwen: “That was nice of her.”

“When I grow down I used to play with it.”

“Mommy’s pants are on her own bottom.”

Eating lunch: “I don’t want to get my lips sticky.”

Mommy was running away from Daddy’s truck; Gwen says “Have to be careful in the street.”

Mommy: “You could bring your pony.” Gwen: “Actually like a unicorn.”

Gwen: “Guess what I’m making!” Mommy: “What are you making?” Gwen: “I don’t know!… It’s gonna be good guys!”

“I want to play with you Daddy. And that’s the end of the story.”

[sing-songy voice] “I am the princess, and Daddy is the queen.”

“I will be safe in the dark with you.”

To Daddy, going outside – “not in the ocean, though.”

“He’s so happy, Naughty Boy.”

“I ate a bite of candy & it went down my throat.”

“Daddy’s got to go and get some money and when he comes back he will give me some money” (hand outstretched)

Mom to Dad: “don’t leave me with these monsters! Gwen: “We are not monsters, we’re kiddos!”