Yet More Tie-Dye

I dyed a couple more things for Mica just recently. One was a skirt which was mid-calf length on the (older) child model in the picture, but they clearly didn’t scale down the length for a two-year-old, because she looks like she’s wearing a floor-length tie-dyed petticoat. But the other items fit better, and she’s cute in all of them.

I also did another tie-dying session at Village Free School. This is always an adventure — the questions come thick and furious once we get going on the project — but I think I’m getting better at managing in that environment. Everyone seemed pretty happy, at least, despite the fact that I continue to be unable to answer six questions at a time. And, wonder of wonders, Ryan even decided to join in. (I suspect that he was pretty bored at the time.)

Kindness Rocks

Recently I made some Kindness Rocks with Mica. This project had everything I look for in A Project To Do With A Two-Year-Old. It had paint — but only a little. It had rocks. And it fit nicely within the window of a two-year-old attention span.


Mica chose pink and purple paints for the base coat. (I think she’s been influenced by popular culture.) We did the painting at Free School, and then I squirreled the stones away for a few days until I found a chance to put words on them. Any kind of art that requires fine motor control is not the sort to do with a toddler.

After that it was just a matter of placing them. I dragged all three kids out for a quick walk to the park, which we managed to squeeze in (mostly) between rain showers. The boys especially seemed to enjoy finding places for the stones. Then it started to hail and we came home.

Rocket Stoves

It’s always entertaining to leave Dave and the kids for half a day; I never know what I might return home to. Just recently I came back to find that Dave had invested in a pallet of fire bricks and was busy testing out designs for a rocket stove.


If you are not familiar with rocket stoves, the basic idea is to create a stove that uses small amounts of fuel, burns it very efficiently, and produces surprising amounts of usable heat. A handful of twigs in a suitably designed rocket stove can be used to fry an egg. (At least, in theory. So far we have not tested this on actual eggs.)


Why does Dave want to build one? I could say that it’s to replace our rock-shard-spitting fire pit, which it would, or to have on hand in case of Zombie Apocalypse. But I think it would be closer to the truth to say: Because it’s cool. Or, equally: Why wouldn’t someone want to build a rocket stove?!


Dave has experimented with a couple of variations so far. The coolest part to me is that Nathan has been interested enough in the process to build his own — first a small stove of his own design, and later he built his own version of Dave’s latest. He did an excellent job on it, and we even fired it up one night to roast marshmallows. I can’t vouch for an egg, but it fried marshmallows like a champ.




Once I starting tie-dying onesies (wow, was it only two years ago?) there was no stopping. There’s something about those little baby shirts and tie-dye that get me every time. Although I haven’t posted pictures every time, the truth is that my go-to solution for Mica outgrowing her current clothing set is to pick up a pack of onesies and see what colors I have left in my tie-dye box.

This time around, for the first time, I did it while Mica was awake. I’m not even sure why; I didn’t plan it exactly. She was busy playing, and I suppose the process has become so routine to me that I didn’t even think about it. But naturally she saw that I was doing something messy with bottles and wanted in. And once I stripped off her clothes, I had no problem with that.


This is why she now, at the tender age of 21 months, has her very first self-decorated shirt. Okay, Dave and I helped a little — but honestly, not very much. Squirting colors onto a shirt seemed to be right up her alley.


Bee Houses

On my (vast) mental list of Household And Garden Projects has been, for a long time, making bee houses. We have a reasonable native bee population in this area — at least, I think we do, since I see them around all the time — and I’d love to encourage them. I’d love to encourage anything that increases the yield of my garden.

Bee houses for cavity dwelling wild bees are supposed to be crazy easy to make, and I mentioned this to the boys one day while we were talking about various kinds of bees (specifically about how the wild bees are unlikely to sting you, or even in some cases incapable of it). To my great astonishment they wanted to make the bee houses right now.


So we did make one — a rougher, not-quite-ideal version than the sort I have in mind long-term, but one that could be made in the moment. We had a log too crooked to split for firewood; we drilled a scattering of holes in it, with both Nathan and Ryan helping; and now it remains only to see if anything will take up residence this year.

This skill, by the way — of choosing an easy version of the project rather than the more elaborate one I have in mind — does not come easily to me. But, as more than one person has pointed out, our children are our best teachers.

Easter Eggs

Last year there was much hiding and finding of plastic eggs filled with candy for Easter, which was fun except that I was always the filler and hider, and after a while that felt like a lot of eggs. I remember thinking that I needed a way to make this holiday a little simpler for myself. Which is why it is so inexplicable that this year I made large paper mache eggs filled with treats.

This project was an excellent learning experience — in particular, I learned to do at least a couple solid layers before popping the balloon. so that the thing wouldn’t collapse under its own moistened weight. Also I learned never to do paper mache while the baby is awake. And probably I should have stopped at three layers total, because those things had some real strength to them. Belatedly googling for paper mache eggs ideas, I discovered someone doing smaller, more delicate eggs along a similar vein. Tissue paper sounds much easier to manipulate than newspaper. Maybe next year…

But I have to admit that hiding the eggs was easier this year — all I had to do was find one spot big enough for an ostrich egg, and done! We did one at a time, I let each of the boys help me with the other one’s egg, and the whole hiding and finding process took only about fifteen minutes. Then came the real challenge: getting the eggs open. Stomping them was eventually determined to yield the best results.





Happy Easter!


Nathan wants a suit. He says he’s willing to hold off on a full-scale tux for the moment, but he at least wants a proper suit and tie (and the tux would not be turned down). Not much interested in running out to have him properly fitted for formal clothes, I was not averse to browsing at a thrift store, where we found a reasonable shirt and pair of pants.


But not a tie. Perhaps ties for small boys don’t tend to show up in thrift stores, or perhaps I just missed them. Fortunately it turns out that ties are small and almost trivially easy to make. With a free pattern for a velcro-fastened tie found online, Nathan and I were able to produce a tie for him even in a leisurely, much-interrupted morning.

And now I want to take this moment to brag about my eldest son.

My previous experience of sewing with a small child centered around one of the neighborhood kids, a girl about Nathan’s age who occasionally expressed interest in doing a project (especially when the boys didn’t want to play). I quickly found that I couldn’t make any assumptions about her knowledge or skills. When I used the word “rectangle” and she stared at me blankly, I caught myself, backed up, and explained the concept. When she seemed to have a lot of trouble mastering how the ruler worked I thought that maybe I was mistaken about how early that skill is learned. But it was the fact that, while sewing with my machine, she freely admitted to being mostly interested in making it go as fast as possible that discouraged me. Of course I didn’t expect her to sew beautiful straight seams — these things take practice. But I did expect some effort.

So when I recently tried a sewing project with Nathan (a billfold, as he had actual paper money for a change), my expectations were low. And I was astonished by him. Not only did he seem to quickly grasp the concept of measuring his money to see how big the billfold needed to be, but he designed the billfold himself, incorporated my suggestions (I was careful not to offer too many), and, to my utter astonishment, sewed beautifully even, careful lines of stitching. Seriously — did someone sneak into the house and teach this kid how to sew behind my back?

I don’t want to read too much into this — there are a lot of differences between the two situations, not least of which may have been their respective levels of interest. But still, I was impressed. So I tackled the tie project with utter confidence, and he did the majority of the sewing, and the whole thing felt quick and happy. So much so that over the next week, we made three more.

Posted in Kids, Making. 1 Comment »