Monday, December 17, 2012

A Little Glimpse of Christmas Gifts + Links to Tutorials!!

I have been busy working away on making handmade Christmas gifts for the family, friends, and teachers.  I'm not sure I know who is getting what just yet, but I at least have some ideas and finished products that I can share.  We will see where it all ends up.  

I mentioned these cute coasters in a previous post, that I made from scrap Christmas fabric last year.  I don't think I finished them until after Christmas.  This year, I sent most of them off to D'Boutique, the little shop in downtown Manhattan Beach that carries a few of my products.  These are super cute.  You can use any kind of fabrics.  It is a great way to use up scraps, but don't kid yourself ... it takes a lot of scraps to make these bad boys!  I haven't decided if I am giving these out to the neighbors or teachers yet, but I'm leaning toward the neighbors.  I was planning on making homemade peppermint patties for the boys (who may not be to interested in cutesy Christmas coasters).  I will share that recipe if it turns out good.

I also found a cute idea for handprint coasters.  I'm not 100% in love with these, but I do like them.  I guess I prefer a little more cushion to my coaster, but they work just fine and I like that they have a personal touch to them, since they are each a handprint from my children.  I feel like these will be a cute gift for the teachers, since they had a "hand" in sculpting their little minds.  I added some stitching around the edges for a little more durability and color pop.  Each one is reversible with a different front and back fabric for contrast.

We gave a set to Aubrey's piano teacher.  :)  I love this sheet music fabric.  

I wanted to make her piano teacher a little something extra special.  He is great with both my kids.  It's Aubrey's piano teacher, but he also teaches drums and whenever Bayne is with us he gives him a lesson, too.  He even has me playing drums and bass!  I hope to get Bayne signed up with his own drum lesson soon.  I've been very pleased with how well he works with Aubrey.  She requires a different level of patience and he seems to have just that.  He goes over on time with us a lot, too.  I knew I was going to get a good experience at Dietz Brothers, since I loved taking guitar lessons there years ago, but we are getting much more than I could have imagined with Rich.  He inspires all of us and I know that he will have a tremendous influence on the direction of Aubrey's life.  Music is so important to me and I can see talent in Aubrey and I believe that with all she has to deal with in her life, music will help her heal, grow, thrive, cope, and survive.  She definitely has it in her to do great things with it and with a teacher like Rich behind her, I believe she will.  Either way, he deserves a little some of my extra time, so I made him a fabric folder.  I thought it might be a nice way for him to carry music sheets or whatever fits his fancy.  I used a nice heavy organic hemp fabric I got from the remnant box at Hemp Traders a while back.  The inside fabric is more of my favorite sheet music fabric that I had left over from a pair of shorts I made for Aubrey.

Aubrey has been having a great time making cards for everyone.  I love seeing what she comes up with.  This one, for Rich, is so far my favorite.

It says "I <3 - and there is a music note which stands for - music"  I thought that was so clever.  Then below the red guy (which is Rich) is supposed to be a check (it's backwards and half green) with plus signs following it.  He always gives her a check on her music if she plays it properly and if she can play it with chords, or sing along, or play in tempo, etc he gives her a check plus, check plus plus, or a check plus, plus, plus if she's super cool.  :)  Apparently, by Aubrey's standards, Rich deserves a check plus, plus, plus :)

I had so much fun making that fabric envelope that I decided to use that idea for another person.  My upstairs neighbor, Kevin, recently gave me a bunch of his old jeans and shirts.  I like to refashion clothing, especially jeans.  Kevin is a great guy and he's become a good friend of mine.  He likes to play guitar, too, so we've bonded over that and finally started  hanging out and jamming together instead of listening to one another play alone through the ceiling/floor of our apartments.  He also deserved a little something extra special because ... well, he's my favorite ... (sorry other neighbors!)  :)  I made his fabric envelope from a pair of his own jeans.

I used the leg for the envelope.  Cut a pocket off and sewed it onto the back for a little extra storage space for pens or whatever fits his fancy.

I lined it with a nice green fabric I had.  I took one of the buttons off the other back pocket and sewed it onto the front for the closure.

I remembered to sew the label on BEFORE I put it together (forgot to do that on Rich's!  OOPS!)  I prefer it on the inside.  I like how this one came out, too.  

 These are so easy!  I just want to keep making them .... and I probably will.  I did mine a little different from the tutorial.  I added a 1/2 inch to the pattern, so I could add a lining.  I just cut the lining the same as the outer fabric, added interfacing, pinned them right sides together and left a turning hole at the bottom of the flat edge (that will become the front of the envelope).  I stitched the top of the triangle flap and the top of the front of the envelope before I sewed the sides together, so it had some stitching around all the edges.

I also made a couple shirts for the kids.  Bayne is obsessed with Minecraft and he REALLY wants me to make him a Creeper shirt.  I love that he loves the clothes I make him.  I could only find this weird green at Target.  Hopefully he will like it.  It was easy enough that I can make him a new one when the short sleeve shirts get stocked again.

And whatever Bayne loves, you better be sure Aubrey loves, too.  I don't allow her to play Minecraft just yet, but she loves to watch her brother.  She had this plain green shirt hanging in her closet left over from a preschool field trip where she was required to wear green.  She'll never remember the shirt and now it has a new life!

She also had this plain long sleeve black shirt hanging in her closet.  I had bought it for Halloween, to go under her costume, so she wouldn't be too cold.  I added a heart made from my favorite sheet music fabric.  She has a tank top just like this, but now she has a winter version for the cold months.  I am sure she will like this and I doubt she will remember the shirt was ever in her closet.  :)

I have a few other handmade gifts I could share, but I wrapped them before I thought to take pictures, and anyway ... a couple are for Grandma and she may be reading, so we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.  I will try to to remember to take pictures after we open the gifts.

I think I am mostly done with all my handmade gifts.  I was going to make a couple more handy coasters.  We see Aubrey's Cardiologist on Thursday.  He, for sure, deserves a gift.  Please say a prayer and think positive thoughts for Aubrey this week.  I am hoping for good news, but the reality is she is getting older and each year drawing nearer to her next heart surgery.  I anticipate that it will be this summer, but I will hold my breath until we get a good look at her beautiful ticker on Thursday.  Fingers crossed!  

Good luck with all your Christmas gifting and crafting!  Remember it's not how much you spend, but how much love, energy, and thought that goes into what you give that matters.

Happy Holidays!!

Coal Jar

How many of you find yourself at this time of year pulling out the whole Santa threat and using it to try to keep your kids in line near the holidays.  You know the one ... "Santa is watching!  You better be good or you will get nothing but coal in your stocking!"  I can't tell you how many times I have used this increasingly ineffective and (honestly) empty threat at this time of year.  It's pathetic, really.  

This year has been rather challenging.  My daughter has had some behavior issues.  She has always been a bit of a spit fire.  She beats to her own drum and has a will stronger than mine, which is saying something.  This year I swore I would take my threats of coal more serious.  I was exhausted.  Her behavior was seriously wearing me down, so I decided to take my threat to a new, more palpable level. And dammit ... I am going to follow it through if need be.

I created what I call the Coal Jar.  

You may call it the Mean Mommy Jar.  I'm okay with that.

It was super easy.  I bought a bunch of black pom-poms, which are the "coal".  I used a couple mason jars I had on hand.  I started this back in September or October, so I used the big mason jars.  I place them up high, but where they can easily be seen every day.  If their jar gets full of coal by Christmas Eve, than that is all they will receive in their stocking.  They know that Santa will be checking their jars when he shows up on Christmas Eve.  This has been surprisingly effective!  I like it because I finally have something to back up my words.

Bayne, as you can see, is a pretty good boy.  My biggest issue with him is getting him to do something when I ask.  Lately, I have to ask several times.  I hate having to nag him to do things.  I swear, he won't move unless I've asked it 3 times and am hovering over him.  I don't have time for that kind of nonsense and he is 8 years old (tomorrow!) now, so he needs to listen and do what he's told the first time.  Now if he doesn't go on the first time, he gets a warning and then BAM!  Coal in the jar.  Ha!

Aubrey, as you can see, has had a little more trouble :).  She has a whole bunch of behavior issues.  Talking back, not listening, not doing what she's told, screaming, fighting back .... the list goes on and on.  The coal jar was more helpful for my behavior, than hers.  It helped to have something to do when I got upset, rather than get sucked into an argument with her.  Instead, I could give her a warning and if she doesn't respond BAM!  Coal in the coal jar.  HA!  Such a satisfying feeling.  I know that sounds bad, but she has been wearing me rather thin over the past few months.  I believe her kindergarden teacher feels the same way, so I know it's not just me.

The good news is, we haven't had to add very much coal to Aubrey's jar over the last month and a half.  I discovered that Aubrey has an intolerance to gluten.  It took me a while to put this together.  She has had bowel issues most of her life.  She has abdominal pain, bloating, constipation.  The doctor had me giving her Miralax regularly.  She is fatigued and foggy often.  School has been especially exhausting for her.  She was unable to complete her work.  She has issues with behavior.  She gets very upset over trivial things (i.e. making mistakes on her school work, water in her eye in the bath, etc) and when I say upset, I mean insane crying fits.  I came to school at pick up time more than once hearing her screaming about something and the teacher would have to take her into the bathroom and shut her in because she will not calm down and it is a disruption to class.  She takes a long time to calm down when she does have these fits.  She was recently diagnosed with migraines.  She has had dizzy spells, that I thought might be seizures, but they diagnosed them as migraines and placed her on deprokene / valporic acid.  Towards the end of the summer she had a persistent rash around her mouth, that I assumed was from the heat, but it would not go away for 2 months.  I had the doctor look at it and she said it was from licking her lips.  Finally, while doing a post on my friends Facebook page (she makes the amazing Elemental Superfood Seedbars that are gluten free, organic, and raw - I do her page) I posted an image I found about gluten sensitivity vs celiac disease and almost every one of these health issues was listed on there.  Not to mention, muscle and joint pain, which she constantly complains of and was recently hospitalized for toxic synovitis of the hip.  The light bulb went on.  Immediately I went out and got a book on gluten sensitivity called The Gluten Connection byShari Lieberman.  I felt like I hit a jackpot.  This was SO my daughter.  Almost every symptom she had.  I placed her on a gluten free diet right away and almost instantly I saw changes.  The rash around her mouth disappeared!  The rash was the final symptom that really tipped me off.  I noticed that it would flare up at times and recede.  After breakfast one day it was flared up and I checked the ingredients of the food she had ate.  That morning I had given her a veggie sausage link .... main #1 ingredient .... wheat gluten.  HELLO!  

Now we are almost two months into this diet and it has been amazing.  Her teacher can't get over it.  She says she is doing so much better in school.  She is able to be reasoned with and talked down when she gets upset.  No more insane tantrums.  She is playing with others more, rather than isolating.  Has more energy, is getting her work done, not foggy or as fatigued, though she still does get tired with activity, but she still has a special heart, so that is to be expected.  Other parent volunteers in her class have noticed the change in her as well.  Just the other day one of the mom's told me how well she was doing and what a difference she has seen in her behavior.  She hasn't had a rash since we discontinued gluten.  She isn't complaining of muscle and joint pain.  She still has large stools, but the bloating and abdominal cramping have gone.  She use to sit for a meal, take a bite, then have stomach pains and need to use the restroom, never really finishing her food.  Now, no more interruptions at dinner time.  No more miralax either!  Very happy about that.  I hated giving that to her.  And even better than that ... no more anti-seizure meds (deprokene / valporic acid).  SOOO happy about that.  Her neurologist believes we may have found the answer.  We go back in February, so hopefully she will be migraine/dizzy spell free when we see him again.  I can't believe the difference.  I am just so happy.  I am amazed at what a simple diet change can do.  Here I was pumping all this nasty medication in her, doing God knows what else to her system, when really the answer was to ELIMINATE an allergen from her diet.  Oh boy I can't wait to chew the ear of her pediatrician.  Hopefully, her story will help one of her patients in the future.  I try to be grateful we found out when we did, rather than frustrated that it wasn't suggested sooner.  You live and learn, I guess.

Aubrey seems to love being gluten free.  Fortunately, she thrives on being different.  She had no trouble giving away the gluten filled candies at Halloween time.  She is fine with not being able to have some of the foods she use to order when we go out.  She doesn't seem to mind that she can't eat the same cake or cookies at parties.  I make sure to have a gluten free cupcake in hand when we do find ourselves in those situations.  I like to think that SHE feels the difference, that she FEELS better, and that is why she is embracing the diet.

Looks like no one will be getting coal in their stocking this year.  Which makes me happy for sooooo many reasons.  I think I will still do this again next year, just because .... it's one more tool in my Mommy tool belt.  

Maybe you need a coal jar in your house, too?  
Can't hurt!