Sunday, November 04, 2012

Halloween 2012

It was Millie's third Halloween this year, and since she still doesn't have strong opinions regarding costumes, I was able to let my imagination go wild.  I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from, but I thought an ostrich would be kinda fun.  It didn't take long to get her excited about it, and when anyone would ask what she was going to be she'd say "A type of bird called ostrich!"  Try as I did, I couldn't find any ostrich costume patterns, so I decided to stretch my sewing abilities and create my own.  I'm not exactly adept at thinking out patterns, so trying to put my idea into a 3-D form was tricky.

Basically I planned the body shape I wanted to see from a side view, then cut those out with a seam allowance.  I created an elastic waistband out of two large pieces of fabric sewn together, did this twice and then joined them to create one long piece with two waistbands.  I then gathered the sides of this long piece to fit the two side-view pieces with the waistbands aligned top and bottom.  The gathering allowed for the bumpy hips you see, which really gives the effect I was looking for, and also allowed Millie to adorably waddle while walking.  I stuffed the whole thing using batting from some old throw pillows and created a tube to hold all the batting in using black knit from an old shirt of mine sewn to the inside of the top and bottom waist bands.  

At Gardner Village in Utah
Once I had it all planned out, constructing the body took me less time than expected.  I put it all together in one late night while watching the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (I really recommend that film, btw). The furry fabric is super forgiving which really helped.

The head piece was constructed using the hood from last year's toggle coat pattern.  The inside is flannel cut out of the 6-12 month sizing.  The outer furry part is the 3 year size which was then gathered at the bottom to fit the flannel.  I then stuffed it a bit at the top.  And since Halloween is typically freezing in our area, I sandwiched a layer of Thinsulate between the flannel and batting to keep it extra warm.  The hat is held in place with a band of Thinsulate-lined flannel held together with snaps.

My mom helped me a ton with this project, which made it go a lot faster.  We made the hat together in about 2 hours.  We constructed the eye shapes by stuffing the toes of Leonard's old socks and tying off the ends. She then added all of the finishing touches.  I especially love the thick eyelashes and the light reflection detailing.  I think the eyes really made the whole costume - thanks so much mom!

Millie and cousin Chloe
We certainly got our use out of the costume.  Between Halloween here and our visit to Utah last weekend to see Kyle's parents, she went to two trunk-or-treats, Gardner Village, our work party, and regular trick or treating.  She really loved Halloween, and it was so great that she was able to better understand what was going on, while still being little enough to have no idea how much of her candy we ate!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Life Is a Sitcom

Lately I've been impressed with the number of "Did that really happen?!" moments I've experienced.  Strung together, they make for one impressive sitcom episode.


I'm at work, in the hallway between seeing patients when my phone buzzes.  A text from Leonard.  "Hey Megs, I just taught Millie how to say 'toot' when she passes gas!"  I groan and open the door to my next patient.

"I'm here to see you about my toe" he says, pointing to his foot.  His second toe has an obvious hammertoe abnormality.  It's large and all bent up, and reminds me of the talon from a gigantic bird of prey.  I expect it to start tapping independently, or to lunge and quickly grab the pen from my hand.  I explain that unfortunately due to his condition being quite advanced, surgery is the only likely option and he needs to see a podiatrist.  I can't get that talon image out of my head.  "Our referral coordinator will contact you in a week or toe.  Two.  She'll contact you in a week or two."  Sharp intakes of breath followed by laughter.  "I'm glad you can find humor in this" he says sternly.  The laughter escalates.

The next day I'm at my friend Holli's house.  Millie is playing with her best bud, Holli's two year old daughter.  Holli is wearing latex gloves as she separates about 20 lbs. of chicken into bags to be frozen, and I'm keeping the girls out of her hair.  We're discussing a recent outbreak of a stomach virus among kids in the neighborhood.  With no warning, Holli's daughter throws up on the floor, one episode after another.  Millie thinks this is freaky, and is crying to be held while inching closer to the mess.  Holli, covered in salmonella, watches helplessly.  I run to put Millie in another room so I can help.  On the way back I see the toddler, walking toward her mom for comfort, slip and fall in the puddle of vomit, her white pants covered.  She tries to get up only to fall again and again.*  Shocked gasps and groans.

Later on I'm preparing dinner as quickly as I can.  Leonard has taken Millie outside to allow me to get everything ready, as his parents are due in from Utah any moment.  The doorbell rings and I answer, dishcloth slung over my shoulder.  "Hi guys," I state excitedly.  Ron and Irene are standing in the doorway, arms and shoulders covered in luggage.  They look at me indifferently.  "Where is she?" they state, referring to their only grandchild.  I explain the situation, they sigh disappointedly and move pass me to put their things in the guest room.  "Nice to see you too," I mutter under my breath as I shut the door.**  Roaring Laughter.

It's getting late and I'm rocking Millie to sleep in her nursery.  It's dark and quiet, and she's a little mass of jammies and lovey and blanket lying on my chest with her head in the crook of my neck.  Awwww....
We continue rocking until suddenly the silence is broken by a soft puttering sound.  Millie lifts her head off my shoulder.  "Toot!" she says proudly, smiling widely.  Raucous laughter which transitions into clapping.  Cue cheery closing song and credits.

*Holli's daughter was just fine.  We eventually cleaned up the mess and got her in the tub.  It wasn't until recounting the events that Holli and I realized just how sad but also humorous it was to see her slip around like that.  Oh, poor toddlers!
**It should be noted that my in-laws are the coolest, and I don't blame them for their excitement to see Millie.  I'm sure I've greeted them less than enthusiastically when visiting their home, as I excitedly rush to their candy stash.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: Beyond the Rainbow Bridge

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge
Nurturing our children from birth to seven
Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley

When Millie was around three months old, my neighbor let us borrow a play gym-type toy.  I was pretty much holding my girl all day and figured this might be a good way for me to do things that required bending over, like loading and unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  I laid Millie on her back under the arch, and upon kicking her legs made contact with a pedal that caused three brightly colored wheels to turn above her head while the toy simultaneously made a loud sound, like gears turning.  After the wheels were done the toy played a happy little tune.  Millie smiled and looked intrigued, which caused her to kick again, resulting in more toy movement and sound.  However, with each subsequent round she became increasingly agitated and eventually started to cry.  I put the toy away, thinking she was still too young and would bring it out every few weeks to retry, but it was the same each time.  This was confusing for me - weren't toys supposed to be fun?  I began to think more deeply about what constitutes a good toy.  I wanted her to be stimulated but not overly so, and as she grew I hoped she would experience imaginative play like I remember from my youth. This led me to do a bit of research on play in general which eventually led me to Waldorf education, where from birth to age seven children learn primarily through imaginative play.  

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge is written by a longtime Waldorf educator.  The book gives a good overview of Waldorf education and it's founder from the early 1900s, Rudolph Steiner. This is not an evidence-based or scientific book, rather it felt like sitting at the knee of a wise grandmother as she taught some really great principles.  Waldorf learning for young children focuses on learning through homemaking activities and work.  One of the best pieces of advice I got from this book was to not hurry and clean up the table so we can do an activity, rather to make cleaning up the table the actual activity, having Millie help and singing a little work tune as we go.  It also stresses unstructured play using natural materials like cotton fabrics, shells, wooden blocks, and baskets for filling and emptying.  Each of these toys are less "fixed" and can change their purpose depending on the situation the child creates.  Waldorf dolls are typically very simple, with their proportions equal to that of the child and with simple facial features which allows more input from the child regarding the doll's emotions, etc.  Rhythm is also stressed in this book - creating rhythm at home with predictable routines, as well as recognizing seasonal rhythms and allowing the seasons to dictate our daily activities.  The chapter on discipline showed that this type of approach is loving and child-centered, with adults encouraged to seek out their own self improvement as children see everything we do and are likely to imitate our moods, tempers, etc.  Keeping a tidy, orderly environment helps children stay calm, and distraction at this age is one of the best ways to redirect behavior (something I've certainly noticed with Milllie).  One thing I'll definitely take away from this book is the advice to avoid too many questions and choices as this can be burdonsome or overwhelming to young children.  I find myself constantly asking Millie: "Should we go outside?" (hey, Megs - she's 17 months old, she isn't going to say no!), instead of "It's time to go outside!"  The book ends with instructions on how to make simple Waldorf dolls, something I've found is quite common in Waldorf books.  Since reading this book I've watched a few You Tube videos of Waldorf preschools, where long-braided hippie-looking instructors gently guide children through their daily routines which involves nature, play, baking, and storytelling from memory.  Sadly we have no Waldorf schools in this area, but I hope to use these principles in our home.  Overall, this was an easy read with lots of good principles and something I'll probably re-read as Millie continues to grow.