A Minecraft Bedroom, part 1

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Kid Stuff | 0 comments

This Minecraft bookshelf is made from Ikea Kallax in green, plus the Kallax door inserts   in multiple different colors. The checkout guy thought we were a little crazy to be buying so many different colors of door inserts, but the finished product looks really good. I have had many fabric bins, and have seen a Minecraft shelf done similarly with fabric bins and fabric, but I have never been happy with the way the fabric bins hold up to use over time. I wanted this to last and look good for a long time.  This was not cheap, but it holds a lot, and it looks really cool. I used various square stickers from Polka Dot Wall Stickers to create the Minecraft faces.  On the bottom row is a Minecraft pig, Minecraft TNT, Minecraft Creeper, and Minecraft Steve. Top row is a Minecraft Creeper, Minecraft Enderman, Minecraft chicken, and a Minecraft Mooshroom. The kids did the Creepers mostly on their own. I ordered various sizes of stickers but the 1 inch squares turned out to be the best for this project. A good start for a Minecraft...

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Psst…the two secrets to teaching your child how to read…

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

The number one educational concern that I keep hearing over and over from other moms of young kids is this, “How do I teach my child to read?” It seems like this hugely complex process that should take years of struggle. It’s not. Many kids learn really quickly. It might take years for some kids, but at least they can be enjoyable years. It’s not about having a magical language arts program. I taught two of my kids to read without using any curriculum at all, both at 4 years old (and my oldest didn’t talk until he was almost 3, so it’s not like he was precocious in the language area or anything). I have a ton of books in the house already because I used to teach elementary school. Yeah, I taught kids to read for a living and have an extra certification in teaching literacy….but for most kids, the below method works really well and is painless. My mom taught first grade in the city for 25+ years, and she taught her students the same way and was known as the teacher that parents always wanted to get. The key is that when a kid wants to read, they will put immense effort into it. When they think it’s boring, or pointless, you can work your tail off to make them read, but you’ll get pitiful results.  So, focus on making them want to read, and on teaching them that they are able to learn how to read. Those are the two secret ingredients for teaching your child how to read. Doing these things take time each day, but it’s enjoyable as long as you decide to enjoy the process and forget about the progress. Let the child make the effort. You just make time to be enthusiastic about the time you spend reading together.    Teach the letters and sounds that they make. You can do this any way you’d like. Sonlight would be fine (it’s for homeschoolers), but there are many curricula out there. My own kids watched the Preschool Prep DVD  “Meet the Letters” because they liked it, and that taught them all their letters in about a week. The Preschool Prep DVDs are gold. They enjoyed the LeapFrog DVDs, too, but honestly I’m not sure how much they really learned from them. Then we read their favorite books over and over and eventually they joined in. Then we just read whatever books they wanted to read, and I pointed out that the sounds of the letters blend together, and showed them how to practice blending.” I See Sam” books are free to print out on the internet and are good leveled, easy readers.    Then, be sure kids are getting a good phonics base. Using stuff like Explode the Code, etc, is good. Pick a phonics program and stick with it, unless you hate it, in which case, switch and then stick with the new one.    Early on, do not get frustrated about “progress” and “levels” because as long as you are reading daily, when their brain is mature enough, it will click. Just enjoy the books and laugh about them, cry about them, etc., whatever your child likes. If you make reading a chore, they will be turned off, and that’s...

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15 minutes to a no-sew Tula Slipcover – the Disney Frozen Princess Dress Edition

Posted by on Feb 21, 2015 in Kid Stuff, mei tai pattern | 0 comments

  In Part 1 I had an idea to use some cheap princess dresses as slipcovers for our new Toddler Tula. My girls are almost 3 and almost 5, and they are tall kids. I don’t need a carrier for my older girl any more, but sometimes she tires out on long trips, and since I have a carrier along for my 2 year old, it’s convenient to be able to put my 4 year old up when she needs a rest. I absolutely need a carrier for my 2 year old – we are often on-the-go during her naptime, so she takes her nap in a carrier. As the girls have gotten older, they have gotten pickier about what carrier they want. I’m sure they would have loved a fancy wrap conversion Tula, but they are very expensive, and we already have our awesome wrap conversion mei tai (free printable pattern and tutorial here). I like our denim mei tai as much as the wrap conversion, anyway, so a canvas Tula is just fine by me. My girls are really into princesses and dressing up, so I did some searching and found some really cool Tula slipcovers – this is one on Etsy at Custom Kid Carriers looks really cool, and if the Tula were my only carrier and I were going to use it all the time, I’d go for it (well, or make my own, but something like this is a lot of work)  It looks great! This is definitely NOT the easiest Tula slipcover in the world. Nope. The easiest Tula slipcover doesn’t even need any sewing at all. It’s not a work of art, but it’s cute and we get compliments on it. My girls are like every other little girl out there, and they’re crazy for Disney Frozen, and wanted Anna and Elsa Tula slipcovers. To make the easiest Tula slipcover in the world, I started with this Anna dress on Amazon, and this Elsa dress on Amazon. When I ordered them, they were about $8 to $11 each, including shipping through Amazon Prime. That’s pretty cheap! I also considered using the short dresses that come in the Disney “doll and dress” combos – I have a couple of these dresses but now that my daughters are older, they won’t wear the shorter dresses so it would be no loss to us to cut them up. They came in boxes like this. You need your dress, your Tula, and some scissors.   Getting the dress onto the Tula as a slipcover means that you’re going to have to destroy the dress as a wearable dress. It’s only going to be a slipcover after you get down with it.  You won’t need to cut as much if you are using a standard size Tula. I’m using a toddler Tula, which obviously is bigger than the standard size, so I had to cut the dresses a bit more to get them to fit onto the larger size. If you wanted to experiment with this and make a slipcover for an Ergo or another smaller carrier, I think this would also work really well as a super easy slipcover for any soft structured baby carrier. Part of the reason why the Tula is more difficult to slipcover is...

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The Easiest Tula Slipcover in the World

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015 in Kid Stuff | 5 comments

Update: This is done, go here to see it!   I need a buckle carrier for my girls. I really prefer wrapping and find it the most comfortable of anything (although my DIY Mei Tai is a close second, especially with my 4 year old). When my 2 year old is fighting her nap, I need buckles. Buckles are quick to put on, so there is minimum fuss, and there is no “seat popping” issues like I get in my preferred Double Hammock (a type of carry done with a woven wrap). I have an SSC (Soft Structured Carrier) that I sewed out of a Didymos Linen Stendhal, which I have loved, but now that my 2 year old is almost 3, it’s getting to be a bit small for her to nap in. I had a kinderpack about a year ago, but unfortunately I had ordered a size that was too big for my littlest at the time, so I churned it (that means that I sold it to someone else). I’ve also had a Kanga and sold that when it was outgrown. This time, I’d like to try a Tula. I spent wayyyyy too much time debating about which print to get. I considered sewing slipcovers. I do not have time. There are some awesome slipcovers for Tulas over on Etsy, but they are quite expensive given that most of the time I still use woven wraps. With a 2 and 4 year old it’s really important that they like the carrier, so we looked at pictures together, but the Tula patterns we could agree on were out of stock. My 2 year old wants purple really bad, and I’m not big on purple. My 4 year old and I liked the orange and pink “Summer Love” Tula, but let’s face it…that’s going to be a hard resell in a couple of years. Finally, inspiration struck! My girls have a billion princess dresses….my girls would love a Disney princess Tula….I got it! I’ll hack the Tula slipcover together using a princess dress. I already tried it out on my current SSC and I think it will work really well. So in the end, after debating for so long about which Tula pattern to order, I finally ordered a plain old Cloudy. I love Heart Hugs, and I do not get any money from them for saying that I like them. The gal who runs it does a great job with customer service and she deserves a shout out, so I’ll give it here. My Cloudy Tula is on the way, and of course I had to order a few cheapy princess dresses from Amazon, so when they get here I’ll show you how to hack your own Disney Tula slipcover...

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Using Sonlight to homeschool multiple children

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

When I first started homeschooling, I had just quit my job and gone into private practice, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on homeschooling because #1, I wasn’t sure what to get, and #2, I *had* just quit my job and it takes a while to build up a business. Homeschooling and keeping my work hours to part time were my priorities, so money took the back seat to my kids (and always will). Sonlight was a bit confusing for me when I first looked at it. They sell packages by grade level, but I knew that I didn’t want that because I prefer different math programs. I also unschool quite well in science and social studies. I looked at many language arts curricula but I couldn’t find anything that fit the level that my son was at. I’m also not a fan of textbooks or traditional style teaching. Since I taught elementary school for 7 years and also specifically taught first grade, and my oldest was in first grade at the time, I decided to wing it last year. That worked out fine. We used a lot of Robinson Curriculum stuff, but I let him read a lot of books that I consider to be modern classics, and not only the books that are listed in the Robinson Curriculum. That also worked out fine. This year he’s in second grade, and unschooling has been much harder. I feel like it takes a lot, I mean a LOT of work to unschool and do it right. I also feel like unschooling went much better when at least twice per week I went to work and my younger children went to my mom’s house, and my oldest stayed at home with dad and worked quietly next to him. (Now, of course, I say we “unschooled,” but we used a math curriculum, he always had Chinese homework to study and was tested at Chinese school, and I provided work to be done. I mean unschooling to be that I really didn’t force anything and I didn’t do much of what people think of as “teaching”) I have been busy with work, and my mom can’t watch my younger children very often right now, and to top it off I signed up for way too many “extra curricular” activities like music, gym, and homeschool co-op. Our schedule has been off and I cannot stand the inconsistency. I took another look at Sonlight and realized that you do not have to buy an entire grade level package. You can order a “Core” and include Language Arts and Bible, but you don’t have to get their math, science, or social studies. Their language arts is flexible – meaning that you can order one “Core” with different levels of Language Arts. You can even order one Core and get TWO Language Arts packages with it. I had read about people using Sonlight with two or three children at different levesls, and they described hunting down alternative books. Look, I am not paying $$$$ to make my life more complicated. If I wanted to hunt everything down, I could do that for free. Because I could get different Language Arts sub-packages with Sonlight, I don’t have to hunt down anything. We can...

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Immigration Attorney Denied Hearing Delay Brings Baby to Court

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Immigration Attorney Denied Hearing Delay Brings Baby To Court This attorney’s baby was only four weeks old, too young to start daycare. Her husband is in trucking and was gone. She asked for a continuance based on her maternity leave, and it was denied. She went to court with the baby. She told the AP, “I was in a state of panic. I didn’t know what to do with my baby.” Immigration master calendar hearings can take hours to get through. The hearing is scheduled at a certain time, but so are many other people, and so even though you may have been scheduled for 9AM, you may not be heard until 11:30. Or later. Or maybe not at all. The baby cried in court. The last time I had a baby, I was working at a nonprofit clinic. I made sure to request continuances for some of the clients whose interviews or court hearings were scheduled during my maternity leave, and had several attorneys lined up to take my place at others. I didn’t have any problems when I asked for hearing continuances. I thought all would go back to normal after my maternity leave was over. Instead, I ended up with a baby who wouldn’t take a bottle. This meant that leaving her for more than an hour or so was really an impossibility. For the most part, I was able to find other attorneys to cover for me when it was necessary. After my baby started eating baby food, I was able to leave her for just a couple of hours at a time so that I could attend an interview with a client. When she finally started to take sippy cups at a year old, I heaved a sigh of...

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Switching to cloth diapers to potty train, part 2

Posted by on Mar 30, 2014 in Kid Stuff | 0 comments

Here is the problem with switching to cloth diapers to potty train: Upon switching to cloth diapers, my toddler immediately realized that being wet does not feel nice. It is very apparent that she feels a big difference when she pees in a cloth diaper vs. when she pees in a disposable diaper. The cloth diapers have microfleece and microsuede “stay dry” liners, but obviously she feels wetter than in a disposable. This is the good part. This is the big reason for switching to cloth at this point – to get her motivated to not pee on herself. She immediately wants a new diaper after peeing in one. That part has gone ok, she has gone from wetting 17+ cloth diapers a day to now actually hold the pee and not wetting nearly so often. Usually, she’ll hold it for a couple of hours, and then we go through this thing where she needs a new diaper every 20 minutes for like an hour+.  Ok, that’s pretty good progress. The problem comes when someone sticks a disposable on her (so far we are still using disposables at night). When she pees in the disposable, she immediately wants to be changed now, and that means anywhere from 25-50 cents just went in the trash. And then ten minutes later she’ll pee on another one. And another one. One day, I hadn’t gotten all the diapers washed and dried (since she is wetting pretty much all the diapers every day), and she had to go back to disposables for a day, and that was an expensive day at first…then after a few hours she must have realized that she wasn’t feeling “wet” because she stopped asking for changes. When we went back to cloth the next day she went right back to wanting to be changed immediately after wetting. I ordered some bamboo Kawaii diapers so that we’ll have enough to keep some at my mom’s house, some in the car, etc. I got the bamboo ones just because they’re different, and because I like having diapers that snap sometimes. I had ordered a couple of Alva baby diapers to compare to see if maybe I would order a bunch more, but I don’t really like the as much as the Kawaii diapers, so I went for more Kawaiis. I have kept disposables around for nighttime because I don’t think any cloth diaper is going to hold up to a two year old all night. I would like to get completely away from disposables because I’ve noticed that Jefe will happily just keep putting on disposables as long as they are there…even though I was saving the disposables for nighttime and had not planned on buying any more except for if we travel. At this rate I’ll have to buy some more, but I usually would buy the giant $50 box of diapers from Amazon because the price per diaper is low. Now if I buy the giant box we won’t use them before she outgrows them. All of this means that I’m spending too much brainpower thinking about...

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Kawaii Diaper Comparison and Review

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Kid Stuff | 0 comments

I’m using four different types of Kawaii cloth diapers on my 2 year old. Before I ordered them, I had a hard time finding a comparison of the different types of Kawaii diapers. The reviews that I found were mostly by people who have younger babies, and I’m using these on a 2 year old. She’s long and skinny, with skinny thighs. I can’t speak to any long-term use of these diapers, since I haven’t had them very long. We switched over to cloth diapers for potty-training, so I’m not dealing with newborn poop or anything like that. This is the “stash” of 17 Kawaii Diapers that I ordered:   There are  12″OS Heavy Duty in Velcro Closure (HD2)” with Aplix/Velcro, plus 1 “New Improved Original Cross-Over Squared Tab Snap (Square Tab Snap)”, 1 “One Size Snazzy Minky (Minky),” and 3 “April Baby Dual Closure One Size Cloth Diaper (April Baby).” So, all of them are One Size diapers. Here is the One Size Square Tab Snap diaper compared to a size Medium Happy Heiny (the pink diaper on top is the Happy Heiny): Here are the Kawaii diaper varieties all stacked on top of each other, lined up flush on one side and set as large as they will go. I don’t think there is really much of any real size difference. The April Baby seems like it will adjust t to the largest in actual use, and the Square Tab Snap seems to not go as big. HD2 is on top, April Baby is in the middle, the Square Tab Snap is on the bottom: General Quality of Kawaii Diapers: The initial quality seems fine compared to the Happy Heiny that I have, and I like them better than the Fuzzibunz trainers I have. Out of the 17 diapers I ordered, I think that 3 of them have some sort of flaw that another more expensive brand would have deemed a “second quality diaper.” I have heard other people complain that Kawaii diapers have flaws, but I have not seen details. Here are the details of the flaws on the diapers that I received: This diaper has elastic that is not gathered quite evenly along the leg: This diaper has elastic that is not gathered evenly along the back:     This diaper has unevenly sized double leg gussets. One side’s double gusset is about an inch, the other side is almost 2 inches.     I don’t think that any of these flaws will affect how the diaper performs. They’re just flaws that I noted because I am pretty sure that a more expensive diaper brand would not have let these go through Quality Control. If I had paid $25 for a diaper with these flaws, I would not be happy. I think the flaws reflect the very low price of the diaper. I paid just around $5 per diaper, including two inserts with each diaper. Some more expensive brands sell their seconds quality diapers at a discount, but I have never seen them for $5 each.  For the price, I’m fine with the flaws, especially considering that most of the diapers do not seem to have any flaws. Comparison Shape: The HD2, the Square Tab Snap, and the Minky diapers all seem to be the same shape. The Velcro closure...

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Switching to Cloth Diapers For Potty Training

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

When I looked in to cloth diapers for my oldest 7 years ago, the cloth diapering world was a lot different. It wasn’t nearly as big or trendy as it seems to be now. It wasn’t as mainstream and practical, either. There were only a few reliable choices, and everything seemed really expensive. Disposable diapers were cheaper back then, too. I did the math and it would have cost me more money to cloth diaper back then, unless I went with prefolds and homemade covers (and the prefolds that were readily available were Gerber). I had never head of a Snappi diaper fastener, flushable liners, or a diaper sprayer, either. The cost of a pocket diaper back then was at least $15, and still went up over $20. For one diaper. You need like 30 cloth diapers or you’ll be running out and buying disposables while you wait for the diapers to dry…at least if you’re like me. You have to factor in the cost of buying soap and heating and using water, and drying, too. Back then I could easily get a jumbo back of Pampers or Huggies diapers for around $3-$4 on sale, with coupons. I stocked up on cheap disposable diapers and never paid anywhere close to retail. If I had to pay $6/jumbo pack I thought it was insanely expensive. As time went by and I had more kids, the deals on disposables became harder to find, and I got a lot busier, and pretty much the best I can do is order diapers in bulk from Amazon and use our Prime membership. I think it works out to somewhere around at least $8 for the equivalent of a Jumbo pack. Back then, I was still in law school and I wanted to save money. I quit teaching when my oldest was born and we were down to one income until I passed the bar. Cloth diapers weren’t going to save me money back then, at least not the ones that would be pleasant enough for me, my mom, and my husband to agree to use. So why did I get it in my head to revisit cloth diapers? There are a lot of reasons for me to not cloth diaper. I don’t have time for cloth diapers. I already have way too much laundry. I prefer to minimize my close contact with poop. Here is the reason I am switching to cloth diapers: Potty training. Using some cloth diapers is what finally worked for the last kid, so we’re doing it whole hog for this one. Also, I switched over the cloth for swim diapers and they’re much nicer than the disposable swim diapers. I just want to contain the wet and minimize the amount of times I have to use my carpet cleaning machine. The children have seen the carpet cleaning machine enough times that they have named it “Big Boy.” I suspect that potty training when you’re a working mom is harder. I finally really pushed potty training with my oldest when I was on maternity leave with my second born, because before that it was impossible to have my oldest establish new potty habits because no matter how hard I tried, things were different with me than without me. My second...

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DIY Anna Frozen Cape

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

PrincessSpitfire pretty much wears a princess dress every day. My mom buys most of them at Goodwill. Seriously, people just donate these dresses that their kid clearly didn’t even wear more than once. Princess LIVES in these dresses. She wears several of them every day. I don’t really care what she wants to wear, except that these princess dresses do not provide much warmth, and it’s like 15 degrees outside. There is snow on the ground and she’s twirling around in a single layer of satin. She refuses to wear a shirt or pants under any dress, reasoning that real princesses do not wear pants or a shirt under their dress, and thus, neither will she. I bought her the Anna princess costume from the Disney store, and she firmly believes that since the dress kept Anna warm in the snow, it will also keep her warm in the snow. Daily, it disappoints her. She weeps when I am leaving for work on the days when I work out of the house, because this  means that she will have to put on something other than a princess dress so that she can go to my parent’s house. Before I became a mother, I could never have imagined the weeping over princess dresses. I was happy to wear hand-me-downs from my brothers, myself. Anyway, this has made leaving for work into a big production, with a lot more drama than I like in my life. All part of life as a working mom. When I left the kids with my parents 40+ hours a week, there were hardly ever tears…now when I leave them once a week, there is major weeping going on from PrincessSpitfire. Ugh. Finally, I found a solution to the dress issue, so that has provided at least a little relief. I was able to convince her that although princesses do not wear Land’s End purple jackets, they do wear capes. I copied the Anna cape from her costume and made a couple of long semi-circular capes out of blanket-type material and satin. I made sure to include the white fake fur, because Princess informed me that princess capes HAVE to have white fur. This cape was well received. I just finished a second cape that’s backed with satin and uses a rainbow blanket binding for the neck area…no white fur since I didn’t buy enough. I’m holding my breath that it will be accepted. Since I made PrincessSpitfire a cape (two capes…), TheBarbarian has decided that he also needs a cape/cloak/Jedi robe. Now I’ve got to make one of those post haste or have to deal with super jealousness. And this is what took up two evenings and an early morning, all time that I would have spent working if my sewing skills had not been urgently needed for some princess...

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