Babies: Some Assembly Required.

I have a new baby nephew!!!! Well, not so new any more….he’s almost 2 months old.

He got off to a bit of a rough start. “Some assembly required,” my brother joked. We can joke about that now. We couldn’t make that joke then – and you know things are bad when there are no jokes, because that’s what my family does in difficult situations. It was over a week before the first one came along – the first picture of the baby in a hat inspired his first nickname: “Master has given Dobby CLOTHES!”

Sometimes it's not that easy: When your baby is Some Assembly Required

So little Dobby had a rough start, but things got better. The word “miraculous” was tossed around, always modified by “almost” because we don’t like to risk overstating the situation. That’s another thing we do. Along with ironic sound-effects when we show physical affection or back into parking spaces and M*A*S*H references.

Oh, and sudden changes of subject, expecting our audience to just keep up. That too.

Continue reading

Black and Orange Day and #FirstWorldProblems

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Black and Orange day and #FirstWorldProblems - Why it doesn't matter if a school bans Halloween costumes and why you should care anyway.

What a short, strange trip it’s been! I had my first ever viral post this week when the news of North Ward School in Paris banning Halloween costumes broke. I was *almost* on Canada AM but was bumped at the last minute for a “breaking news story.” (My guess was something that started with “J” and rhymed with “misogynistic creep-omeshi” but, y’know, we’ll never know for sure what really happened, right?) Continue reading

Everyday Elsa: One-hour DIY Elsa costume tutorial

Okay, brace yourself because I know this will come as a shock, but this summer Molly was obsessed with Elsa (I know, right? You never would have guessed!). I decided to earn some preschooler brownie points and get in some sewing practice at the same time, so I designed up an all-season Elsa costume.

At the time I was doing this, Frozen costumes were only available by lottery through Disney stores and on Ebay if you had a spare $600 lying around. As Halloween quickly approaches, they are much more widely available and super-pretty, but nothing beats the feeling of IF I CAN DO THAT I CAN DO FREAKING ANYTHING NOW WATCH ME BUILD A HOMESTEAD AND LIVE OFF THE LAND SKINNING ANTELOPE WITH MY TEETH FOR DINNER that accompanies making your kids’ costumes from scratch. Besides, it’s cheaper and your kids will totally think you’re a superhero. Continue reading

7 Reasons Why This School is Banning Halloween

Here’s one for the “What is the world coming to?” files.

7 reasons why a school is banning Halloween (and it's not what you think)

This gem scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday: A friend’s children’s school has decided to forgo Halloween this year in favour of…I don’t know…Friday, I guess. The decision was attributed to the “staff” and the reasons behind it were given as follows: Continue reading

Who’s really sexualizing our daughters, anyway?

The fabulous Stephanie Giese of Binkies and Briefcases wrote a viral post about her disbelief at the sizing and coverage in Target’s clothing options for young girls. She had been noticing what seemed to be a distinct reluctance to include…y’know…fabric…in items like shorts for girls as young as 5. Her post received a mostly positive response, but also a fair bit of backlash (One standout was a commenter who posited that she should put her “fat-ass kid” on a diet if she wanted clothes to fit her better. Way to keep it classy, interweb.).

Quite impressively, Target reacted almost immediately, reaching out to her, doing their own research, and promising an overhaul of their sizing practices including feedback from “real” moms like her, which is awesome – we should be able to find clothing for our children that fit with our own tastes and values without having to pull out our sewing machines and make or modify them ourselves.

But…(you know me…there’s got to be a but)…I don’t agree with the reasoning that we need more modest clothing options to avoid sexualizing our young daughters. Children are not sexual. Exposed skin is not sexual. Children with exposed skin are not sexual.

Children are children. Continue reading

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…

First day back at school for Ben and Molly, and I’m holding my breath in anticipation…

Miss Molly? No worries there. She’s back to the same routine, same Montessori school, and was pretty much out the door with the car started for me honking the horn in the driveway before I could finish saying, “Time to…”

Preschooler fashion tips: Stripes ALWAYS match other stripes! www.picklesINK.com

You heard it here first: Molly says stripes are a Fall 2014 fashion DO.

And besides…it’s Molly. I could drop her in the middle of the jungle and she’d have the gorillas dressed in ball gowns and tiaras enjoying a rousing game of “Magic Fairy Princesses Dragon Battle Tea Party” before you could say, “Gee, I didn’t know Rapunzel had a sword.” Continue reading

Backyard food gardening: If I can do it, ANYONE can!

Embarrassing confession time: I’m a little obsessed with the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Maybe a lot obsessed. Obsessed enough to know that for the most part they aren’t her writing at all; they were essentially ghostwritten by her daughter Rose, who was a far better and more prolific author, though largely unknown today, and a much more interesting character – an early feminist and globe-trotting journalist who died in her 70’s the night before departing for Vietnam on assignment. Vietnam! On assignment! IN HER 70s!! But I digress.

From a young age, I loved reading stories about “the olden days” and wishing that I too could pick fresh pieplant, whatever that is*, bake vinegar pie for my family, and hand-sew a perfect shirtwaist. Continue reading

Why a newspaper “Ethics” columnist thinks 7 year-olds in competitive dance are akin to sex workers.

Good news, everyone! I’ve decided to feature an occasional anonymous feminist advice column. Please feel free to send along your submissions and tell your friends!

Dear Sylvia,

I just read this article in an online newspaper, and it left me deeply troubled. It called itself an “ethics column” but really seemed much more like a “patriarchy judge-o-matic.”

A concerned party wrote in with a question about a 7 year-old girl involved in competitive dance; apparently this person’s colleague showed him/her a photo of the colleague’s daughter in dance competition costume. Rather than respond with a socially acceptable, “That’s nice,” the letter-writer, judging that in his/her opinion, the girl in the photo was made up to look like a sex-worker, said something along the lines of, “Hey, I don’t know much about you or your family, but based on this single picture of your daughter about which you were obviously excited enough to show me, a work colleague whom you clearly don’t know all that well or you might have expected such a tirade, but I feel that your parenting skills are inadequate, your judgement is lacking, and if left unchecked, your daughter will probably grow up to be a whore. You should be ashamed.” Continue reading

Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Part 2

Subtitle: Or that time I threw my kids’ stuff all over the family room to prove a point.

One of my biggest “mommy meltdown” triggers is mess. Not so much the mess itself but the attitude that accompanies it. I can live with a bit of clutter, but the lack of concern that the other residents of my house seem to show their personal belongings and our shared space by carelessly leaving everything everywhere, happily stepping over the “stuff” in their paths going about their business drives me batty.

I have a tendency to lecture and of course I’ve found that this is not particularly effective at getting my point across to two hyperactive kiddos. (Read about the last time this happened here). So WHAT THE HECK DO I DO??

Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that they have no trouble getting their kids to pick up after themselves? Who never finds themselves sighing and tidying it all up yet again, deciding it’s just not worth the fight today? Who has found the solution to the age-old problem of their kids (and spouses too…and heck, probably themselves also) always letting the chips, not to mention the Cheerios, markers, Legos, and dress-up, stuff fall where they may?

If there is, for goodness’ sake, please drop me a line and tell me HOW YOU DID IT…but for the rest of you, let us take a moment here to commiserate…

As a parent, it seems like my life is a constant battle against a slowly encroaching mass of clutter. No matter how often we cull our “stuff” and deliver carloads to Value Village – and vow not to buy any more crap to replace it…No matter how many times we lecture Ben and Molly about picking up after themselves….No matter how many times Ian and I both vow to turn over a new leaf ourselves, find a place for everything and everything in its place and THIS TIME WE’RE REALLY SERIOUS.

Garbage Depot

M*A*S*H fans will get this.

And by virtue of being the adult who spends the most time in the house, most of the time when something needs doing around here, including picking up the clutter and cleaning up the messes, I’m the one who winds up doing it.

This weekend Ian tackled a “Honey-Do” list of yard work while I took a break from house and kid stuff and concentrated on work stuff. He stepped up and exceeded expectations – the yard looks fantastic, we ate like kings, and the kids even got bathed! He figured he was on a roll, I guess, and while cooking dinner, he directed the kids to tidy up their craft corner.

Ben and Molly are very fortunate to have an incredible craft corner – a table and chairs in the corner of the family room surrounded by shelves and drawers full of craft supplies; heaven for a couple of creative kids like them. The only trouble is that whenever they emerge with the products of their creative process, the corner looks like a battlefield upon which pixies mounted on My Little Ponies waged a war to the death armed with pipecleaners and tapeffiti.

Oh, the humanity…

So when Ian issued his directive, the kids launched into their usual laundry list of complaints: “I don’t FEEL like it!” “I don’t LIKE tidying up!” “I wasn’t the one who MADE the mess!” “It’s TOO MUCH work! There’s TOO MANY things to pick up!”

With much prodding and reminding and at least one time out (Molly, natch), they got on with it, and fifteen minutes later Ben came to tell me they were done.

I went to inspect and found…less chaos, but still chaos – the bulk of the craft supplies had been put away, but the table and floor were still littered with scraps of paper, the odd pencil crayon, and pieces of torn cardboard packaging destined for the recycling box…and I kinda snapped.

In my defense, this is not a new issue. Ben and Molly are now 7 and 4. They have each had years of schooling in a Montessori classroom where they are responsible – from the age of 2 – for putting back every single item they take out before they start another activity. They are both ever-so-slightly nearsighted but I have no reason to believe that they are incapable discerning the difference between construction paper and carpet from a distance of 4 feet.

Cue the mommy tantrum: I ranted. I raved. I lectured. I self-pitied. And then I picked up a handful of papers and yelled, “This is what you guys do. You just toss stuff around, and then you say, ‘Oh well, I don’t want to pick it up…'” and tossed it in the air.

Ben and Molly said, “Hey!”

And then, just as suddenly, I became utterly calm. I slowly and deliberately picked up the rest of the pile of papers and I tossed it as high as I could in the air. Ben and Molly’s jaws dropped as it slowly drifted back down in soft construction-paper flurries.

Ben admonished, “Mommy! We JUST cleaned that all up!”

A slight smile playing at the corner of my lips, I said, “I know.

Ben demanded, “You did that on PURPOSE!! WHY did you do that?”

With a shrug, I said, “I don’t know. I just felt like it.”

Utterly indignant, Ben cried, “But we JUST cleaned it all UP!”

Nodding sagely, I said, “I know. And now you have to do it all again.”

Molly shouted, “NO!” stomping her foot for emphasis.

I smiled. “Yes.”

Ben argued, “But that’s not FAIR! We didn’t make the mess! We JUST finished cleaning it up!”

I agreed cheerfully, “That’s true. You did. Now do it again.

Molly countered, “NO! You do it!”

I grinned broadly and replied, “Nope. I don’t feel like it. I don’t actually like tidying up. It’s too much work. There’s too many things to pick up. You guys can do it for me.

Ben and Molly stared open-mouthed, and I walked away.

As I passed through the kitchen, Ian high-fived me and grinned. “Well played.”

Kids art station - all their art supplies in private corner for them to create.

The craft corner, post clean-up (#2).

 

By the time dinner was ready, the craft corner looked great. Over bangers and mash, we discussed why I had done it and how it made them feel. We talked about how we all like the house better when it’s tidy, because it looks nicer and we always know where to find our stuff. We discussed how no-one likes cleaning up messes, especially someone else’s, and about how putting things away as you go prevents  messes in the first place. And after dinner we had a family race to put 10 things away each – winner got to choose dessert.

The real problem is, Ian and I are as much to blame as the kids – if not more so. We tell them we expect them to pick up after themselves, but we don’t do a very good job of setting the example. We walk around leaving stuff behind too – the only difference between us and them is that we *really* mean to put it away where it belongs at some point; just not right now. 

Admitting we have a problem is the most important part, of course, and we are both trying to reform. It’s a vicious cycle, though – the more we try to pick up after ourselves, the more frustrated we get at the messes that remain, the more discouraged we get, and the more likely we are to backslide.

But we’re all going to work together as a family to keep each other on track, and hopefully it will make the difference.

Teach your kids to pick up after themselves with this ONE easy trick from www.picklesINK.com #parenting #organizing

Teach your kids to pick up after themselves with this ONE easy trick! At least that’s what I captioned this so people will want to Pin it. But seriously, it’s easy – easier said than done, that is.

I’ll keep you posted…

~ karyn

Emergency T-shirt refashion!!!

You know those times when you’re just minding your own business, trying to convince yourself to stop procrastinating and start working, when suddenly your best friend calls you up and is all, “So I just scored free tickets to the grand opening party for the new rock and roll exhibit at the Science Centre with Q107 tonight. Wanna go?” And you’re all, “Well, I really have to work and look after my kids and be a good wife and mom but uh HELLZ YES.”

So. Annoying.

Then I said, “What the hell am I going to wear?”

And she said, “Something rock and roll. Like a concert tee.”

But I was like, “The only concert tee I have is my Bowie shirt and it doesn’t fit.”

So she was all, “Too bad, SUCKAH!!!”

And I was totally, “OH YEAH? YOU WANNA GO? RIGHT NOW, BEE-YOTCH?? THAT’S RIGHT!!”

Then she was all —

All right, fine…that’s not *exactly* how it went, but it pretty much captures the essence of the conversation.

So there I was, faced with a fashion emergency, and there was only one possible answer: “Hie, my good steed – we must away to the land of PINTEREST,” and off I went to my handy T-shirt refashion board for inspiration. One pin was not quite what I was looking for but pointed me in the right direction (see what I did there with “pointed”?), and it was off to the races, or at least the sewing machine…

…and now I’m back to share my simple t-shirt + jeans refashion with you, dear readers!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert Tee + Jeans 30 Minute Refashion

(or more like 15 if you’re more experienced than me!)

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

T-shirt + Jeans = 30 minute refashion

Step 1: Find that one too-small t-shirt that you have kept in your pajama drawer for 10  years even though it has never actually fit because they only had small when you bought and you haven’t been an adult size small since you grew boobs in grade 6 it so it’s wishful thinking to imagine that it will ever be wearable even as PJs because there is basically nothing in the world less comfortable than a too-tight, too-thick long-sleeved t-shirt but you never threw it out because BOWIE, amiright??

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

David Bowie concert tee – would ANYONE throw that out??

Step 2: Find the ripped jeans that your big brother was kind enough to donate to your collection of random fabric and other assorted sewing crap.

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

Every pair of my brother’s jeans for the last 30 years has wound up looking like this.

Step 3: Either using a shirt that you like the neckline of as a guide, or just winging it, depending on your comfort level, cut a more flattering neckline than the cross-between-crewneck-and-noose that the shirt came with. Again, using a shirt that you like as a guide if you wish, cut your choice of sleeve (or leave as is). I cut down the long sleeves to a short flutter sleeve. Finally, laying the shirt flat and making sure the sides are even, cut the sides of the shirt open up to just below the armpit seam.

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

I winged it. I like to live dangerously.

Step 4: Okay, there’s 2 ways to do this next part:

EITHER

Measure around your hips (adding as many extra inches as you would like if you want the top to be flowy). Divide that number in half. Measure the width of the shirt, subtracting 1/2 inch for seam allowances (2 x 1/4 inch) Subtract the width of the shirt from the first number. Divide *that* number in half. Flatten the legs of the jeans with the inseam on the edge (I used the inseam because it was more visually interesting). Measure your latest number along the cuff of the jeans from the inseam edge towards the middle, add 1/4 inch seam allowance, and mark it. Measure the length of your cut from the bottom of the shirt to the armpit and add 1/4 seam allowance. Measure along the inseam of the jeans from the cuff up, adding 1/4 inch, and mark. (Are you confused yet?) Using a ruler, draw a line between your two markings and cut along the line. You will now have a right-angle triangle of folded fabric that will form a triangular insert on one side of your shirt. Cut the other jeans leg to match.*

OR

Lay a shirt that you like the fit of (I used a flowy one) on top of your t-shirt. Lay the folded jeans leg, cuff lined up with the bottom of the good-fit shirt and outside seam edge along the edge of the good fit t-shirt, and draw a line on the jeans from the bottom corner to the armpit of the t-shirt you are refashioning. Cut about 1/4 inch outside of that line for seam. Repeat with the other jeans leg. (My sister the quilter is currently going “EEP! EEP! EEP!” at my reckless disregard for exactness.)

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

I think we all know which method I chose.

Step 5: Pin the insert  into the shirt, good sides together.

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

Jeans, meet shirt. Shirt, jeans. You might as well get comfy with each other.

Step 6: Sew the insert in, starting from the bottom. The t-shirt will probably get a little gathered up in the armpit and that’s okay. I did both sides up to an inch or so below the armpit – it gets a little tight in there with the sharp turn, so I finished the rest of the sides before I tackled that, and I went over it a few times for strength.

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

Sew, sew, sew your shirt, gently down the seam…

Voila! Attempt to take a flattering selfie that shows the whole shirt, fail miserably, and ask your neighbour to do it for you.

Too small t-shirt + old ripped jeans = simple 30 minute refashion #DIY www.picklesINK.com

On the left, my super-flattering, Instagram-worthy selfie that sadly doesn’t show the whole shirt. On the right, less flattering but more complete. Can’t win ‘em all, right?

 

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

~ karyn

*This is not the method I used, so I apologize if it makes no sense at all. I’m making it up. If you are using this method, you are probably better at this than I am and can probably figure out what I meant. Either way, good luck to you. If you do get hopelessly screwed up because of my screwing instruction, please feel free to comment, “You’re a complete jerk, Karyn,” and I will reply with a heartfelt apology.