Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adventures with Superkid

If you've recently stumbled upon my blog, you might have come for some of the sewing or craft ideas I've been posting (my goodness, I'm getting full of myself, aren't I?).  It's only been in the last few months that I've had the time, energy, or inclination to do that kind of stuff, and it is fun to share that on my blog.  My blog actually began as an extension of the CarePages I was keeping for my two daughters, Superkid and Lily.  (If you want to know about CarePages, click here.)  Today's post is an update on Superkid and some of her ongoing health no crafts today!  (But I did make that twirly skirt she's wearing.)

Some of you are aware that Superkid was born with a heart defect called mitral valve stenosis.  Her own mitral valve only worked for about a year, by that time it was causing severe enough heart failure that it had to be replaced by an prosthetic (artificial) valve during open heart surgery.  Superkid's new valve puts her at risk for blood clots, so she takes a blood-thinning medication called Coumadin.  (You can read more about that here.)  The other tricky thing about prosthetic valves is that they don't grow.  Superkid's prosthetic valve has to be replaced as her heart outgrows it.  She received her second valve in December, 2008.  It looks like this:

As if that weren't enough of a challenge for one little person, Superkid has had to deal with several others, as well.  

Her heart failure was severe enough prior to her first surgery that she had to have a feeding tube that went directly into her intestines.  We used this at the time of her initial heart surgery to help provide her with additional nutrition and calories that she didn't have the energy to ingest by mouth, both pre and post op.  We used it for several months after surgery to help her get extra calories she needed to catch up.  We also used it for a couple of years following surgery to administer her heart meds, until she could handle taking them by mouth.  All that remains of her feeding tube now is a small, closed hole on her tummy, which Superkid refers to as "my other belly button."  Up until last year, Superkid was followed by a gastroenterologist for issues related to the feeding tube and what was thought to be reflux.  (Turns out what everyone thought was reflux was actually discomfort that seems to stem from pressure changes in her heart and fluid issues.)

A few months after her first heart surgery, we started to notice that Superkid's eyes didn't always track together.  This was diagnosed as an eye-muscle disorder called intermittent exotropia.  Corrective lenses helped a little bit, but the only permanent solution for this problem is--you guessed it--surgery.  Taking a blood thinner makes even the most minor surgeries very complex, so Superkid's eye surgery in June of 2009 put us in the hospital for a good two weeks--longer than her open heart surgery six months prior.  To give you some perspective, the eye surgery that she had is normally an outpatient procedure.  We continue to see a pediatric opthamologist to monitor Superkid's eye muscles and vision.

And then there are the migraines.  Superkid gets migraines.  Severe headache can be a sign of a blood clot or hemmorrhage in the brain--two things that Superkid is at risk for.  She's had a litany of tests (from CT scans to sleep studies) with the conclusion being that Superkid gets migraines for no obvious reason.  They are awful for here, but fortunately they don't last more than four hours (so far).  We are getting better at determining what triggers them: chocolate, excessive juice, sugar, late nights, etc.  She only gets them in the morning, so at least they are predictable that way.  So, we started to work with a neurologist on those.  

Pneumonia is another issue.  If Sariah gets a cold, it more than likely turns into pneumonia.  I've become pretty reliable at knowing when the pneumonia is starting: sometimes I can catch it before there is even much indication of it in a chest x-ray.  She's never had to be hospitalized for pneumonia, although it has sent us to the ER a couple of times.  Anitibiotics and breathing treatments always clear it right up.  It's just that she gets it sooooo often: three times between the first day of school and the first of December, this last year.  This year, her pediatrician turned us over to a pulmonologist.  Everything that was easy to diagnose was ruled out: her pneumonia isn't caused by heart failure, lung damage, asthma, or any obvious immune disorders.  Our pediatric pulmonologist, at a loss for any easy explanation, is sending us on to a pediatric allergist, to see if undiagnosed allergies could be the cause of her frequent pneumonia.

In case you are having trouble keeping track of everyone, here is a list of all the medical specialties we've covered, so far:
Cardiothoracic Surgery
Infectious Disease (did I mention that Superkid is MRSA positive?)
Nutrition (went with the feeding issues early on)
Radiology (for all our xrays and assorted other procedures)
and we're about to add

and Child Development

because Superkid just isn't picking up reading the way I hoped she would.  The motivation and desire are there,  but Superkid's frustration is increasing exponentially as we near the end of kindergarten.  When she asked me one day, after a particularly difficult reading homework assignment, "Do the letters jump around on the page for every reader, or just me?" I could tell that it was time to get some extra help.  I've read about studies that show children who have been on heart/lung bypass have an increased rate of learning disorders, so we're going to have some educational testing done.  Whether or not they make a diagnosis, I'm hopeful that through the testing we'll get some tips for helping Superkid learn to read in a way that works for her and her unique learning style.

The other specialty that follows Superkid is 

genetics and metabolism.  

Ever since Superkids was little, and we were dealing with new diagnoses of eye muscles and reflux, I've been asking our doctors, "Is there something else going on?"  I was always told that this was typical for heart kids; many children with CHDs have accompanying other issues that most doctors blame on their hearts.  After all, inadequate blood flow or poor nutrition due to heart failure can cause so many other things to go wrong.  

When our daughter Lily was alive, she had a lot of feeding and digestive issues.  A very bright, caring third year resident was determined to find a way to improve Lily's digestion, so she called on the metabolic expert at our children's hospital, Dr. Brian Hainline, MD, PhD.  He special interests are Inborn metabolism errors, molecular genetics of fatty acid metabolism.   I've been told that Dr. Hainline is one of only about five experts in this particular area of medicine within the United States.  Don't ask me what any of that means; I already feel like I have to get a degree in Chemistry just to be able to converse with him.  Since our first meeting with Dr. Hainline, I've decided that he is one of the most caring, engaged physicians we've ever encountered--in his own, unique way.  Dr. Hainline was able to answer a lot of the questions that we had about Lily.  The answers weren't easy to get, but the knowledge made us better able to care for and comfort her during the remainder of her time with us.  

Dr. Hainline also told me that he'd like to meet Superkid.  He was the first doctor to agree with me that Superkid's various medical issues might not be heart related.  In fact, he believes that many of the children who have CHDs and accompanying health issues aren't necessarily correctly diagnosed: he believes many of them have overriding syndromes that caused their CHDs and the other problems, rather than blaming the CHD for everything.  The problem with this radical concept is that science has yet to discover most of those syndromes.  Dr. Hainline had been able to determine that Lily had some type of metabolic disorder but had not been able to pinpoint which one prior to her death.  He has been working with Superkid to discover if many of her health issues are a result of a metabolic or neuro/muscular disorder.  

We don't have any answers, yet.  Initial tests have been inconclusive.  After our last appointment with him, in December, Dr. Hainline said that he'd like to review how Superkid handled the winter.  Would she miss a lot of school?  (20 absences and 6 tardies, so far, due to illness.)  Would she continue to have pneumonia and migraines? (Yes.)  Would she have a growth spurt?  (Not a spurt, exactly.)  How would she do at school?  (Not as well as we hoped.)  These are the things he'll be reviewing as Dr. Hainline considers our next course of action.  And this will take some considering.  If Dr. Hainline feels that additional testing is needed to make a concrete diagnosis, that testing could get pretty invasive.  We're talking muscle biopsy in a patient on blood thinners.  Not fun.  Painful.  And it is doubtful whether or not an official diagnosis would be helpful.  Treatment for many metabolic disorders is somewhat behind the scientific community's ability to diagnose them.  It's a relatively new field of study.

So, that's where we're at: between a rock and a hard place.

It brings our list of specialists we've met up to 14.  Looking on the bright side, Superkid hasn't had to be treated by anyone in 

Plastic Surgery
or Urology.

Am I the only one who is disturbed that our list of specialists we've met is longer than our list of specialists we haven't met?  I'm afraid that I've reached a level of experience at which I am obligated to go back and get a nursing degree.  Seriously.

Well, if you've read this far, it's probably only because you are related to me or because you can relate due to your own ongoing medical challenges.  I have to tell you that the reason Superkid continues to consider all her doctor's appointments to be social calls and the reason I'm not yet completely insane is because we have such an amazing children's medical center.  It is staffed by some of the most caring, sensitive, all-around nice doctors, nurses, techs, and staff.  Yes, we've met a few people along the way who didn't make our list of faves, but they've been few and far between.  As homesick as I get for the mountains, I don't know how I'll ever be able to leave these wonderful people who have given our entire family such stellar care.  If anyone reading this needs a recommendation for any of the specialists we've seen and lives in the Midwest (or is motivated to travel to get care from one of them) feel free to leave a comment with your email address.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sewing Room Redo

Okay, so you know how I'm always talking about how I'm just about to redo some room in my house.  The laundry room....the girls' room....the kitchen....yadayadayada.  Yep, I'm all talk and no action when it comes to redos.  Lots of ideas, no elbow grease.  Rev the engine, fail to launch.  It is a bad habit of mine.

But my sewing room/spare bedroom is another story.  I'm actually in the middle of this one.  I'm really doing it.  Or redoing it.  Unfortunately, the before shots are currently inside the AWOL camera.  Oh, and they are the real deal.  As in, someone is going to call one of those hoarding intervention reality shows and say, "Have we got a show for you!"  That bad.  I can't wait to show them to you.  (Actually, I can.  If you are under the mistaken impression that I have it really together, then it might be nice for me if you continued to believe that for a while.)

The following are some of the elements of the room that I already have. 

1.  Old daybed, much like this:
The Bionic Man has firmly "suggested" that our daybed shall not be painted.  I shall not paint the daybed.  However, I shall unscrew those bright brass ball finials and spray paint those REDI think that shall be quite sufficient.  

Oh, before we do anything else, can we stop and laugh together over that phone in the corner of the above picture?  Are you old enough to remember thinking it would be so cool to have a phone like that in your room?  If not, then you can't appreciate the fact that my best friend and I used to argue over which one of us got Ponch and which one got John when we played CHiPs Girlfriends.  Hilarious!

2.  Old farmhouse style table, similar to this:
My mother-in-law donated her sewing table to us to use as our dining table when the Bionic Man and I were first married.  We have since replaced it, and just kind of have it hanging around for when we need more table space.  I've decided to move it upstairs and let it become a sewing table again.  I might, however, be tempted to make it look more like this:
3.  Particle board dresser, which I really couldn't find a picture of online.  Probably because it came from my very own bedroom, growing up.  Can you believe anything particle board has lasted that long?  To be honest, it hasn't.  It was nearly destroyed in several moves, only to be rescued and repaired by the Bionic Man.  (Once because I cried over it.  Seriously.  I cried over a particle board dresser.  Probably because I was pregnant at the time, and in my hormonal haze could only think that my baby would have no place to put its itty bitty onesies if the Bionic man couldn't fix it.)  I guess it looks something like this, without any of the architectural charm:
But it's a great place to store fabric!

4.  Soft-sided storage bins, turquoise/aqua:
Found these in the dollar section at the Bullseye Boutique (Target, to you) this weekend.  

5.  Also from the Bullseye Boutique, these plastic drawers on wheels, only my Target had them in AQUA!
These are just what I needed, because they fit perfectly underneath my little sewing table.  I can fit one on either side underneath the table, making accessible storage for me, just like an actual desk.  And did I mention that they are AQUA?  And that they were on sale?

6.  Kitschy wooden shelves that someone gave me.  Maybe a white elephant?  Maybe when Heidi moved?  They are already primed, and waiting for me to spray paint them red and perhaps modpodge them up a bit.  Once they are vibrant red and hanging on the wall, I think they'll actually be pretty cute.  You know the type, they were all the rage before Pottery Barns' molding shelves came along.

7.  Okay, I don't actually have this piece yet, but I saw it this weekend at Home Depot for $16.  So I can get it.  Check this out:
It's a very colorful, resin adirondack chair!  (They also have this chair in other happy colors like red, lime, lemon, and orange.  I'm going to throw this in the room because a) I really, really, really like the color and b) there is no way the Bionic Man would go for these on our deck (he's into neutrals) and c) where else can I get an occasional chair for $16?  Don't worry, I won't use this for my sewing chair--I'll find something more ergonomically correct for that.  This will just be the fun chair that sits in the corner that guests can throw their towels over and I can throw pieces of fabric over while I'm sewing.  You know what I mean.  Someday maybe I'll sew some pillows to go on it, like these made by Meg.
So, I'm off and running with this project!  I spent last Saturday rearranging the room, repairing the particle board dresser and filling it with my fabric, sorting through some of the piles, and emptying the bins of sewing and craft supplies that have been underneath the current sewing table.  Wish me luck!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Everything Happens at Once

It has been kind of crazy around here, lately.

For example:  we hurried and took down the Christmas tree this weekend, before we went out to breakfast for Endeavor's birthday.  To be fair, all the ornaments have been off of it since February.  And most of the lights have been off since March.  Now that it's April, we've been able to get the whole tree down and packed away to the basement.  Thank goodness it wasn't a real tree!

Can you believe that?  I can't, and I'm the one living it!

Also, I suddenly have an eleven year old daughter.  How did that happen?  She's going to middle school next year.  She gets my jokes.  She gives me fashion advice.  She helps me move furniture.  I adore her and I have so much fun with her, but where did my cute little preschooler go?

Not to lessen the seriousness of some of the other things happening in our lives, but Azul died.  Our beta fish.  Azul (say it "ah-zool", Spanish for blue) never quite got the attention he deserved after Hunter the Dog arrived.  He was fed infrequently, I'm afraid.  His small bowl wasn't always clean.  Truth be told, Azul was horribly neglected.  The children in our house were guilt-stricken when we found him floating belly-up.  None of us was exactly sure when we'd last seen him alive.  (I assure you, the children and dog receive much better care than the poor fish.)  We held a respectful moment of silence and I shared a brief eulogy, thanking Azul for his role in preparing our family for the responsibility of caring for a larger, more complex pet.  Then we gave him the royal flush.  It has taken a full week for Endeavor to be coaxed into using the burial commode, and Superkid has yet to use it.  ("It's the toilet where Azul died," she reminds us.)  Justone hasn't had any issues that way.  He's far less dramatic than his sisters.  

In our extended family, we've had some big events.  The Bionic Man's youngest sister, Cassandra, got married a couple of weeks ago.  (If you want to see some of the beautiful photographs Cassie's big sis, Kris, took on Cassie and Royce's wedding day, visit Kris's blog.)  Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues and the cost of flights, our whole family couldn't go--just the Bionic Man.  He was having a hard time believing his baby sister was old enough to get married (she's seventeen years younger than he is), so I guess it is good that he had a chance to witness the wedding.

Not long after he returned from Cassie's wedding, we got word that one of the Bionic Man's grandmas wasn't doing well.  Grandma Kitchen passed away last week.  I adored Grandma Kitchen.  We've lived far from home and our relatives during most of our married years, but I thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity I ever had to spend time in Grandma and Grandpa Kitchen's home.  Grandma Kitchen is one of the reasons I decided to marry the Bionic Man.  After I met her, I wanted to be one of her grandchildren!  One of the sweetest memories I have of Grandma Kitchen took place after our little Lily died.  Because we buried Lily in Utah, near our families, we spent some time visiting there after her death.  It was not the easiest time for me.  The day that we stopped to see Grandma and Grandpa Kitchen, Grandma took me into her front room and showed me the pictures of her own little boy who died before his first birthday, Larry.  She shared some of her memories with me about Larry, and wanted to know all about Lily.  After we heard that Grandma had died, I couldn't help but think of the joyful reunion she must be having with Larry, and be sure that she'd be looking around for Lily, too.  Death certainly is not the end of life, just the end of a body's time here on the earth.

Today, I'm waiting to hear from my family in Utah after my father comes out of surgery.  He's had some challenging health issues during the last few weeks, and hopefully this surgery will help alleviate some of those issues.  I have appreciated his good humor and bright outlook during his difficulties.  I have also appreciated that my siblings who live near our parents have been able to be so supportive of them.  It stinks to live so far away when I'd like to be available to help, too.  I'm a pro at late-night hospital vigils, already.  Wish I could be there to help with my nieces and nephews while some of my siblings get some practice in vigilance.  Or to drive my mom places.

I'm homesick.  I miss my families, and I miss my mountains.  Also, I wish someone I know would have a baby, because I miss having a baby to hold.  And there is a very good chance that I'm suffering from P.M.S., right maybe it is time to stop writing?

Something Special Saturday (on a Monday)

Ahem.  Yes, I am aware that it is not Saturday.  But don't you ever wish, when Monday rolls around, that is was still Saturday?  Mmmhmm, me too.  That's what we're going with, today.  (Although there are some Mondays, when everyone finally leaves the house, that I feel grateful.  Don't tell.)

First of all, I'd like to thank the wildly creative Jen of Tatertots and Jello for featuring my little recycled birthday outfit on her Earth Day post.  I am very flattered!
Jen's was one of the first blogs I encountered, and she never fails to showcase something beautiful she's made or discovered.  I have to admit, it is fun to be noticed by such a talented person!  Don't visit Jen's blog if you don't want to be inspired.  She comes up with some amazing projects to beautify her home and repurpose things she has on hand.  I think she has single-handedly revitalized the burlap industry.  Here is a sampling of what you'll find at Tatertots and Jello:

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is that I get to virtually meet some really neat people, thanks to the kind comments that they leave for me.  These comments often lead me to blogs full of great ideas.  This week, I followed Heather's comments to a blog that she and her sisters have, called La Bonne Cuisine.  Oh my goodness, it looks like they have some tasty, tasty recipes, there!  I am going to try making this one...
Santa Rosa Valley Salad
...and this one...
Bacon-Cheese Topped Chicken
....and especially this one....
very, very soon!

Hmmm.  Apparently the theme of this S.S.S. (Something Special Saturday) seems to be me talking about people who have flattered me or paid me compliments?  How embarrassing.  But, since I have a theme is one more.  

My other Earth Day project was redoing one of my favorite old shirts.  The after pictures and all the tutorial pictures are on the Bionic Man's camera, which unfortunately went out of town this weekend.  (Aren't we nice to give our electronics time off for travel?) So, you'll have to wait for those.  All I have right now is the before shot.  Anywho, I was wearing this jacket thingy I'd made out of my favorite maternity shirt (don't laugh, I'm not kidding) on Friday when I took Superkid up to our children's hospital for appointments.  We went to visit our nurse friends at the Heart Center while we were there.  One of our nurses complimented me on my jacket thingy, and told me it reminded me of a line of clothing she loved.  She told me I had to go check out the website.  If a nurse gives me advice, I take it, so I went online to meet Matilda Jane as soon as we came home.  Oh, my goodness!  Take a look at what I found:

They even make things in adult sizes:

And, they have a blog.

Hope you enjoy these sites as much as I have, and that you can get some great ideas, too! 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Fashion

It's a recycled outfit for Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day (today) and Endeavor's upcoming birthday (soon), I created this outfit using materials I had on hand.  Want to see how these old clothes
became this fresh, fun, new outfit?

Here we go, then!  This outfit began with the pillowcase top.

This was the only part of the outfit that didn't make use of existing clothing.  It did make use of some fabric I had on hand.   I found this darling fabric a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't wait to turn it into something.  When I decided to make Endeavor a pillowcase top for her birthday, I knew this fabric would be perfect. 

Love the way these two fabrics coordinate!  And that pink is just the way pink should be.

Pillowcase tops are so simple to make and have endless variations.  (Remember pillowcase dresses?)  I made one for me last month, you can see it here.  Endeavor had asked me to make one for her.  

I have no pattern for my pillowcase tops.  When I made mine, I pretty much cut a hole in the top of an old pillowcase, wiggled into it to see if it fit, and based all my measurements on that using the fabric that I had chosen.  Ha ha!  I definitely have some mad sewing skilz.  Here's a great pillowcase dress tutorial, I just add my own variations like the contrasting fabric band around the bottom.  Also, I'm too lazy to trim the armholes with bias tape.  

Once I'd made the pillowcase top, I started thinking--a dangerous thing.  I thought, "This top really needs a matching pair of long shorts."  

So, I grabbed a pair of Endeavor's jeans that had a hole in the knee, and went at them with the scissors.  I cut the legs off, just above where the hole was.  I measured the circumference of the leg opening, and cut two pieces of my fabric to that width.  The two pieces were each about 5 inches high.  I folded them in half width-wise, and sewed them onto the raw edges of those jeans, like this:
This created a perfect "cuff", or trim.  I'm so glad I bought lots of this fabric.  I love it! 
But the jean shorts still needed a little somethin'- somethin'.  I cut out one of the flowers from my scraps (no pinking shears this time, I used regular scissors), and whip-stitched it onto the jeans.  (I used a little stitch-witchery tape to hold it in place while I was stitching.)  Love the frayed effect--a happy accident!
Still, the outfit was missing something.  That knowledge (and my husband's allergies) kept me up one night.  Finally, I leaped from my bed with a stroke of inspiration: this outfit needs a cardigan!  I dug through Endeavor's drawers until I found an old shirt with a stain on it.  Again, I attacked it with the scissors, cutting off a good six inches above the hem, cutting off half the sleeves, and cutting the bodice in half.  Then I made my own bias tape.
I trimmed the raw edges on the bodice and the sleeves with this bias tape.  (It's nothing more than a 2" wide strip of fabric, folded and pressed so raw edges reach the center, then folded over the raw edges of the shirt and sewn.)
 This cardigan just had to have a ruffle.  I gathered my ruffle and sewed it onto the bottom edge, like this.
I loved the look so far, but still....something was missing.  Then I thought of all those cute little fabric flowers and yoyos I've been seeing attached to sweaters, purses, headbands......that was what I needed.  I googled "fabric flowers" and found this easy to follow tutorial for yoyos.  So easy!  I whipped these three up in less than 30 minutes and hand-stitched them onto the cardigan.  
I could only find two buttons in my sorry little collection that I liked, so I added that little pom-pom to the center of the largest one.  How fun is that?  Once the yoyos were on, I felt like the outfit was finally complete!

I can't wait to see how it looks on Endeavor.  Since I saved so much money using things I had on hand, I think I'll run to Target today and pick up a pair of these for her:
P.S.  Thanks for being patient while I look for a new camera.  No, I haven't replaced mine, yet.  Today's pictures were taken with the Bionic Man's underwater camera.  (No, he's not a scuba diver.  It's a long story.)  Not bad, eh?  I just can't figure out how to get that gigantic date off of the pictures.  Oh well, I guess this post is well-documented!

I'll be linking up to the following events:


 Transformation Thursday

Show and Tell Green

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How We Get the Job Done

This morning, I read a post by a blogger I admire, Shawni.  I really appreciate the insights Shawni has about the important role mothers play, the joy of family life, and facing challenges head-on.  She's a great example.  I really enjoyed reading what she wrote this morning about children, hard work, and independence.  I also enjoyed reading the comments others left; sometimes I glean as much from the comments as I do from the actual post--for some reason this is especially true on Shawni's blog. 

Anyway, thanks to Shawni for getting me thinking about some of the things I hope we've begun to accomplish with our own family, and about things that we have yet to accomplish.  So, without further ado, allow me to present.......

How We Get the Job Done in *Holland
*click here if you want to know about why I keep referring to Holland.

1.  First, I have to give you a little background.  My husband is the oldest of six children.  I am the youngest of six living children.  Our parents worked hard to provide not just the essentials for their children, but also tried to provide opportunities to learn and develop our talents.  That being said, neither of us grew up with designer jeans or received cars for our sixteenth birthday.  Both of us paid for college ourselves, without help from our parents.  My older siblings are convinced that I was completely spoiled....but nonetheless, the Bionic Man and I both learned the value of hard work.  By the time we married and began a family of our own, we'd had many discussions about how we wanted our own children to be able to enjoy the benefits of learning to work, whether or not our future income made that necessary.

2.  The Bionic Man is the one in our family who is really good at teaching the children how to work.  He is very good at thinking of ways to involve the children in projects.  He is equally good at recognizing that some tasks can be made very fun for children, and that fun is its own reward.  The Bionic Man is also good at providing fun activities to enjoy after the work is done.  Here are some things the Bionic Man taught me about helping children learn to work:
  • even very young children can be given simple tasks.  Letting them do these jobs gives them a sense of responsibility and pride in their accomplishments.  
  • start children out with jobs you know they can accomplish, based on their developmental level.  When they feel successful with initial jobs, they will be more willing to take on jobs that will be more challenging.
  • let children be nearby you as you work, even if they aren't actively helping.  Talk to them about what you are doing.  Give them opportunities to help you as needed, even if it is just holding the tape measure or opening the drawers as you put away the laundry.  
  • incentives, incentives, incentives.  A work incentive doesn't have to be monetary.  It can be an activity.  It can be a treat.  It can be the promise of playtime later.  It can be an opportunity for one-on-one attention.  The Bionic Man often starts a day of projects with a discussion of what we'll get to do after the project is complete.
  • give lots and lots of praise.  And not just immediately after the job is done.  Days later, remark about how glad you are that the child helped with a job, pointing out the long-term benefits.  "Wow, I'm so glad you helped me mop the floor last week.  It was so nice to have a clean, shiny floor when our friends came for dinner." 
Yes, the Bionic Man is amazing!  I found this footage in the family archives of Endeavor and Justone working with their daddy.  It is one of my all-time favorite family movies.  

3.  That video really illustrates one principle that I feel is key about teaching children to work.  If you really, really want your children to not just learn to work, but to value their own efforts and be able to enjoy working, then you have to have realistic expectations and be willing to sacrifice perfection.  I could clean my children's rooms in less than half the time it takes them, and do a better job, too.  But then they wouldn't have the opportunity to learn to clean their rooms.  

It took us a while, but the Bionic Man and I eventually had to learn that if we were really going to have our children learn to feel satisfaction and pride in their efforts, we couldn't come along after them and complete the task to our own standards.  We have come to the conclusion that it is best to have realistic expectations for the completion of the job, and then live with that outcome.  So, when they wash the car, we don't worry about the streaks.  If the vacuum lines are completely haphazard, I reflect on how nice it is that I didn't have to spend any of my time vacuuming.  Let go of perfection, and you'll find that you gain children who are more willing to help.

The above video was made during the time that we were renovating our Connecticut Cottage.  Those were the shutters that hung on the front of our cottage.  Endeavor was 4 and Justone was 2 years old when they helped paint them.  The transformation of black to blue shutters may seem minor, but it was a big deal to those little kids.  Because they helped.  Because they made a difference.  Four years after the shutters were painted, we were visiting our friends in Connecticut and drove past the cottage.  "There are the shutters that we painted!"  Justone exclaimed.  He could still remember the feeling of accomplishment that he had from completing that task.  

4.  Which introduces my next tip:  it makes children feel really, really important when the jobs they complete are visible or important to the family's well-being.  Like the shutters, it feels good to be able to see the task you completed beautifying the home or benefiting others.  Yes, there are mundane jobs that need to be done whether they get recognition, or not.  But give kids plenty of opportunities to handle things that get some attention: planing flowers in the front flower bed, organizing the shelves in the front room, decorating the Christmas tree. 

5.  Teaching children to work is hard work.  It requires a great deal of patience.  It requires creativity.  Sometimes, seeing them to the end of a task is much, much harder than doing the task yourself.  Sometimes, there are tears involved.  Sometimes, you'll feel like the meanest, most slave-driving parent EVER before a task is complete.  Persevere!  Remember, the long-term results of your efforts are worth far more than the extra time you spent giving your children the opportunity to see a job to the bitter end.

6.  Different children work (and learn to work) in different ways.  Endeavor will do almost anything if she knows there is a reward in store--praise, a special treat, money, or an activity.  Justone is a little harder to inspire, but does excellent work if we can find a project that appeals to him in someway.  (I once told him that the dandelions in our yard were an alien species that needed to be destroyed before they overtook the earth.  He dug them out with relish.)  Superkid.....I'm still trying to figure out.  

So, what are the benefits I've seen from getting our children involved in household chores and projects at an early age?  I can honestly say that the older two have become incredibly helpful.  (Superkid is getting there, too.)  Not only are they helpful, but they are appreciative.  As they take on household chores, they gain an understanding of what it takes to keep up around here.  As the years go on, they are getting better at preventing messes, because they recognize what it is like to clean up those messes.  

I don't think I completely realized how much my children had learned about work until we had to spend a lot of time at the hospital.  My children really pitched in and helped to maintain our home.  They were amazing helpers when we had our Li'l Angel at home, and she required a lot of my attention.

Last year, a minor surgery turned into almost two weeks at the hospital for Superkid.  I'll never forget how proud I was the night the Bionic Man called me at the hospital to tell me that, after working out in the yard all day, he'd come inside to find Endeavor preparing dinner all by herself.  She had resourcefully looked in the pantry and refrigerator to find ingredients for a meal she knew she could make: a baked potato bar.  Endeavor had washed the potatoes, microwaved them, prepared toppings for the baked potatoes, and made a salad.  By herself.  Without anyone asking her.  Endeavor had just turned 10.

Things like that don't happen overnight.  They are the result of hours of patience (and even frustration) as you, the parent, work to teach your child the value of work and contributing to the well-being of your family.  And, when you begin to see the results, they are so, so, so worth it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Funeral for a Camera

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to read of the passing of one who has served me well over the past four years. 

My Camera.

Most of you are only acquainted with My Camera through his faithful service.  He was instrumental in providing many of the images for this blog, Christmas newsletters, Christmas cards, and some of the photographs displayed in my home.  He served faithfully from the time he arrived in our home on the Christmas of 2005.

A R607 HP Photosmart, some would have called him a basic point and shoot camera.  But My Camera was so much more than basic.  Thanks to an exhaustive search by the Bionic Man for the best camera we could get for our money, My Camera was 4.1 megapixels with a 21x zoom.  He was compact, lightweight, and easy for a techno-doofus like myself to eventually learn to use. 

Over the years, as the Bionic Man's interest in My Camera waned, mine grew.  I became better acquainted with many of My Camera's more fascinating features.  My Camera taught me about Macro, and was just beginning to introduce me to Aperture Priority before his untimely death.  My Camera and I explored the joys of Picnik together, learning to extend his abilities with photo editing software.  We were getting really good at black and white sessions with the children, and improving our ability to shoot indoors.  Ours had become a very happy relationship before his untimely, recent demise. 

My Camera, simple as he was, was teaching me to enjoy photography.

My Camera's death was confirmed at 9:17 A.M. today, by an online HP customer service agent.  Cause of death is reportedly natural causes, the normal wear and tear.  (It is suspicious, however, that My Camera was fine until the Bionic Man took him skiing.  Not that I'm blaming the Bionic Man.....but I am suspecting foul play.)  The agent was less than respectful of My Camera's passing and my subsequent grief, carelessly asking if he could immediately put me in contact with a HP sales representative.

(As if.  That's like a funeral director asking the widow if she would like information about online dating services before she's even picked out a casket.)

My Camera is survived by a Sony Digital Handycam (video) and an obnoxious camera that the Bionic Man purchased before Superkid's Make-a-Wish trip because it could shoot photos and videos underwater.  Don't even ask.

Let us mourn My Camera's passing with a moment of silence.

(Silence ensues.)

Thank you.  In lieu of flowers, the bereaved (myself) request that you provide recommendations for a replacement.  (Since we've had a moment of silence, discussion of a replacement is now appropriate.)  Due to the confidence which My Camera helped me develop, I think I would like to move on to something a little more exciting than a point-and-shoot camera.  Something that will still offer the ease of point-and-shoot, but a few additional options for the (very) amateur photographer.  A camera for someone who doesn't want to invest in anything that would let her go pro, but does want to create better images.  Video capability isn't necessary.

Recommendations, please!  Oh, and I could use a casserole or two.  You know, to get me through the next couple of days.....while I take some time to grieve........and research new cameras.

Special Note:  pictures of the absolutely darling aprons I've been making (if I do say so myself) and an illustrated demo of the BEST AND EASIEST way to make ruffles will not be available until My Camera has a sufficient replacement.  I'm so, so sorry. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Something Special Saturday

Here are some things I discovered this week that are just too good to keep to myself.

Cassandra Design
I found Cassandra's blog several months ago, when I was first exploring the blogosphere.  She never fails to delight me with her creative ways of refreshing old pieces of furniture.  Every time she posts, she has pictures of yet another lovely thing she has made.  Like this polka dot chair:
Cassandra very kindly shows how she was able to put those dots on:
Look at this nifty message center Cassandra made using an old door:
Isn't that awsome?  Besides gorgeous refinished furniture, Cassandra shows how to do other fun seasonal decorating projects.  I really love this Easter grass she grew.
Again, Cassandra helpfully shows the rest of us how to grow our own Easter grass.
 I have got to try this!  Not only do I have cans and cans of wheat, but I think this is such a fun, fresh way to decorate for Spring.

If you have a little girl with a bedroom, or know a little girl with a bedroom, or if you are a girl with a bedroom, then you have to see this.  
 Isn't that beautiful?  Anna Sophia made that using an old frame and some scrapbooking paper.  She's a genius!  And she's a generous, caring genius, because she gives very clear directions so that we can make more of these little beauties for ourselves.

Katie is quite the crafty gal.  She's learning to quilt, apparently.  I call that brave.  This week she showed off these darling towels that she embellished. 
I guess I should have already figured out that you could do this kind of stuff with towels and cute scraps of fabric, but I hadn't.  Thanks for providing instructions so that I can make them, Katie!  Now I have a great gift idea for every wedding I attend over the next 50 years.

House of Smiths
This, you have got to see.  Words do not do it justice.
See, I told you that you just had to see it!  You want to know what impresses me about this beautiful bathroom that  Shelley designed?  (Besides all the light and soft colors and dainty glass knobs....)  That pretty blue damask is vinyl.  Yep.  Not wallpaper!  Shelley sells vinyl cut-outs, and if this is a sampling of her work, then I'm going shopping!  There are lots and lots of other pretty things to see at House of Smiths, including tutorials!

Playing Sublimely
I just discovered Amy's blog this week.  I'm not quite sure how I got there, but I'm so glad I did!  I think that Amy and I could form a support group.  She describes her husband as "an engineer who wishes he was a carpenter."  Hmm.....I think I could use that description for my husband.  Oh, but the things Amy's engineer/carpenter husband has done to their house--with her support and assistance, of course!
Exterior Before:
Take a look at the after.....with a porch designed and built by Amy's husband:
The master bathroom was a little dated before, to say the least.
But Amy and her husband worked their magic, creating this:
Amy's husband, in typical engineer fashion, came up with a way to make things more efficient.  Thanks to the TV he installed in the new bathroom, now he can catch the morning news while he's shaving!  
And the playroom they created for their children is just as magical 
as all of the other transformations in their house to home story:
Don't you love it?  Don't you want to see some more of it?  Well, Amy has a complete home tour for you at her blog.  Go visit, sometime!
Remember, Saturday is a special day.  Enjoy yours!

If your blog was featured today, make sure you grab a button.