Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back to Basics Sewing, Pt 2

When purchasing patterns for my guys, I look at the same things as I do for myself and Little Miss.  How many ways can I use the pattern?  Are their multiple size ranges?  Can I wait and buy it on sale?

For the guys, I have a few basic patterns only.  Sleep pant patterns often come with a t-shirt pattern included.  With Little Man, I have the option also of making him elastic waist pants from the same pattern for him to wear during the day.  Just that one pattern can provide Little Man with nearly any clothing need he may have.  The sleep pants can be made long or as shorts. 

Shirts are a pattern that I am getting from Buckaroo Bobbins for both Joe and Little Man.  They have western shirt pattern packs with multiple styles in both the men's and boys' sizes.  The size range within the pattern packs are complete for most sizes.  A boy's pattern pack would carry nearly all the sizes needed until the boy grew old enough for a small men's shirt.  For about $20 you would have both the boy's and men's pattern packs to add to your collection.  They also carry vest, jacket, and outer coat patterns.  One of our favorite patterns that I still have to purchase is the "Ranger" coat.  It is a very long length duster type coat with a double layer at the top to protect in the rain.  For little ones, they have the "Little Ranger" that is a duplicate to the men's version.

One of the cautions that I like to extend to those considering making their family's clothing is to pay close attention to the style.  Don't invest in styles that are fleeting or trendy.  These will not save you any money.  Instead, go for the timeless styles that you can work with for years to come.  You can easily take a basic pattern and through the fabric choices that you make, you can turn an every day style outfit into one that can be worn on special occasions.

One example of dressing up a pattern for a little boy would be the sleep pant pattern.  Using flannel they are comfortable sleep pants.  Using fleece they become a winter weight sweat pant.  If you make the exact same pattern with an elastic waist in a nice poly/cotton fabric they can become a pair of church pants.  From a heavy linen or broadcloth, the pants would make a nice everyday wear pant to play in.  The trick is to sew the front seam so that there is no button closure and use elastic only instead of the drawstring elastic.

The next, and likely the greatest, expense to sewing is the fabric.  For each of my patterns, I have an index card with the fabric amounts needed for Joe's & my current sizes and the next size up for the children.  When summer weight fabric goes on sale at the end of the season, I could take these cards to the store and know what fabric amounts to buy for the following summer.  The same applies to buying winter weight fabrics.  By knowing the amounts for the next size up, I won't be short on the fabric when time comes to make their clothing.  Some fabrics are used more than others.  Muslin is always in supply here.  Next to linen, it is likely the fabric I would find the most use for. 

Sewing for the home is treated the same as clothing.  I buy one pattern pack that contains as much as possible to meet the needs of that particular room.  Whenever possible, I would consider checking second hand stores for old blankets, table cloths, etc., before buying new fabric.  An old quilt in need of repair usually has enough area in good condition that you can cut it into pieces to use for other things.  Placemats, hot pads, changing table pad, are a few ideas.  If the old quilt has a cotton or wool batting, you can use it to make "momma pads" or the soaker pads to place inside of a cloth diaper to increase absorbency.  Old linen table cloths can be repurposed to make linen napkins.  Those old decorative bed sheets can be made into curtains, aprons, or furniture scarves.  Never discount the idea of using repurposed fabric for making quilts!  You can save a tremendous amount of money doing that alone.

When tossing out worn clothing that cannot be repurposed, carefully cut out the buttons, pockets, zippers, and any other notions that you can reuse in another sewing project.  I remember my Grandma's old button box.  I had many hours of fun in my childhood simply looking through them.  She saved any notions that she could possibly use again.  Sets of matching buttons were strung together on thread to make them easy to find.  I learned much from observing her habits in this.  Today, I find that prudence to be a money saving idea that serves me well.

The last tip that I have is one that I recently began doing.  Little Miss wants a cloth doll for Christmas.  I went to Mardel's Christian Book Store which has a very large selection of curriculum and teaching supplies.  In the back of the store, they have a self-service copying and laminating machines available for a very low cost.  I took the pattern pieces for Little Miss' doll and laminated them.  This pattern is a discontinued one and I wanted to preserve it so I can use it often in the future.  I wouldn't do this will all of my patterns, but those that are often used or no longer available would be good candidates for it.  For a multi-sized pattern, simply trace off the pattern pieces in the size needed.  If you will be making many of that item, you may want to laminate the traced off copy.  Crafting type patterns are most likely the ones I would use this idea for.  If you are making crafts to sell at a bazaar or craft show, certainly having a laminated copy of the pattern would be a benefit.

In closing this topic, I would mention one more thing.  Always have a written record in a little notebook of what patterns you have and their size ranges.  This will prevent you making a duplicate purchase later on.  If there are other patterns that you are wanting to purchase, have a list and make note when you buy each one.  Watch the sales.  Most fabric store chains will have all patterns from a manufacturer on sale once every couple of months, alternating pattern companies in each month.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back To Basics Sewing, Pt 1

This is a topic that I have talked about before but wanted to revisit.  Many times, I hear people say that it is expensive to sew your family's clothing.  They are right and yet they are wrong.  It comes down to how you go about it.  If you buy patterns often and expensive fabrics, the costs can be much higher than store bought.  One factor to remember is that typically homemade clothing will be more sturdy than the cheap clothing bought in discount stores.  There is always a way to cut the costs however.  In these next couple of posts, I will explain how you can make sewing for your home and family more affordable.

One of the best ways that you can cut costs is to be prudent in your pattern selections & purchases.  When I have to buy a pattern, I always plan ahead and wait for a sale.  I have been able to purchase patterns for $1.99 each that were sold at up to $16.99 at regular price.  In all, I have purchased over $120 in patterns for less than $30. 

The second thing that I have done to keep costs down is to be creative in my pattern choices.  Buying pattern packs that contain several options  are always best.  Let me give you a couple of examples.  I bought the "Frillies" pattern from Buckaroo Bobbins.  The pattern is one that I have spoken of before.  It contains 2 versions of a camisole, 2 versions of bloomers/pantaloons, and a petticoat.  At first glance, you can easily see that made in a plain muslin or linen fabric, the clothing is old west period underpinnings for ladies.  Take a second look though.  Omit the wide ruffle on the petticoat and you have a half slip.  With the petticoat ruffle omitted and the straight line of the petticoat extended to the length of the finished petticoat, it becomes a full length skirt.  The bloomers, ruffle omitted, can be made into wide leg capri pants or extend to full length for slacks or sleep pants.  Cut a shorter length and you can have shorts of whatever length you prefer.  The camisoles can be made of any fabric to become a pretty summer top to add to your skirt.  The options are nearly endless!  All from a simple pattern pack for old west styled underpinnings. 

The second example is that of Little Miss' dress pack called "Nicole's Dress" which also came from Buckaroo Bobbins.  In the pattern set there is a simple plain dress with pinafore.  What I love about the dress pack is that you can make it with the long sleeves or with short.  The best part is that the single pattern pack, containing girl's sizes 4-12, only cost $7.95.  Add to that the underpinnings pattern pack that I had bought from McCall's patterns before it was discontinued.  When I bought the McCall's pattern, I got it on sale for $1.00 and bought it in all sizes available.  So, for under $10.00, I have underpinnings, dress and pinafore for her in all sizes up to size 12.  Being that she is currently in size 5, I won't have to buy a pattern for a long time.

The point is, I try to get as much out of the patterns as possible.  I never buy a single purpose pattern.  The only exception may be if I ever buy an apron pattern.  Then it is only because the apron wasn't a part of a pattern pack I used.  Even with that situation, I would only get an apron pattern that has options in how I make it.  By holding down the number of patterns purchased for each family member, I can hold down costs.  I buy can watch for sales on the fabrics.  Buying winter or summer weight fabrics when they are off-season and on sale is a bonus.  One added perk to using only a few patterns is that you are able gain skill in making the clothing.  With experience, the construction gets easier and faster. 

The last issue on this that I want to mention is that many people overlook the free sewing patterns available online for making clothing accessories.  One case in point.  A hooded scarf pattern I saw at the fabric store cost $11.95.  I found free directions for making the same thing online.  Be resourceful and do a Google search for any accessories you want to make.  There are many available if you take the time to look at them.

Christmas & Fabric Gift Bags

Less than a week until Christmas. Oh my. I look around the house and there is little signs of the upcoming holiday. So, this week, the kids are making decorations as well as some little gifts. They are doing great with the homeschooling. Grandson is loving his new school materials and Little Miss is enjoying the materials that she is using. She was surprised to notice that she has earned 2 badges in her Little Keeper's program. We won't have them until after the holidays, so I am thinking of saving them until the next time Daddy is home and then making a special event out of it by us taking her to dinner at her favorite place "Growls", which is pronounced Golden Corral by the rest of us. For those who don't know, Golden Corral is an all you can eat buffet. If given a vote, Little Miss will choose her "Growls" every time!

I have been busy in the evenings working on gifts. Mainly finishing up smaller projects. It is such fun to be able to make the gifts, with a house full of people, and no one know what you are doing. Requires a few late nights sometimes, but it is worth it.

I still have to finish making stockings and Little Miss' doll. If I can, I will sew up a few fabric gift bags to use instead of paper gift wrap. I am considering making a batch of the fabric gift bags later after the holidays to have a supply for during the year. I hate the idea of spending so much for paper wrap. With the fabric gift bags, I can make them to use with Joe and the kids. Once used, they can be saved for another time. If giving the gift to someone outside your home, the bag can be reused by them or they can fill it with a potpourri to make a nice scented bag to display in their home.

If you do much sewing, you know that there is often fabric left over. Sometimes, you have pretty fabric from an article of clothing that is out-grown in size. The fabric can be repurposed into the gift bags. The bags can be made of an assortment of sizes to fit nearly any wrapping need. I love the ones that are about lunch bag size. Those would get used more often than any other. A few bags made slightly larger would round out the set. If you need to stiffen up the bag bottom, place a piece of poster board or cover a portion of a cereal box cut to size into the bag bottom. Coordinating ribbon makes a nice closure.

In being conservative in the spending not only of our finances but in the natural resources the Lord has blessed us with, fabric gift bags just makes sense to me.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why a Small House Plan?

As readers have known, we have been wanting to build a smaller home
further back on our property. The old homestead will be then used for
other purposes. Possibly a small shop or store. We have been looking
at house plans and I was disappointed. The plans available today are
all for very large homes that are far from being practical when using
alternative energy resources. So, I have spent the last week designing
my own floor plan for a 3 bedroom home.

The plan started from a 28' x 30' (840 sq ft) log cabin design that I
found online at a college website. It is one of many that are free to
print out and use. The cabin was the same dimensions. The rooms on the
floor plan included 2 bedrooms, kitchen, and living room. No bathroom.
Guess it is a camping style cabin that utilizes an outdoor privy.

The first thing I did was to redesign the bedrooms. In the original
plan, the 2 bedrooms are side by side on one of the 28' sides of the
plan. I changed the orientation to make 3 bedrooms, 10' x 10' each,
along a 30' wall. The bedrooms may seem small by today's standards, but
they fit our lifestyle. We homeschool our children and live on a small
farm property. We believe that bedrooms should be for sleeping or quiet
time. Most of the day, the children are doing their schooling, playing
outdoors, or doing some other activity as a family. There is no need
for large bedrooms.

Next to one bedroom, I drew in a 6' x 8' bathroom/laundry. I remembered
how my in-law's single-wide trailer's bathroom looked. It was small,
but very functional. I based the bathroom on that. Again, it is not a
room that people spend a lot of time in, so only needs to be functional
in size.

The kitchen area is next to the bathroom so that the water pipes can
share a wall area. The kitchen is in the smaller portion of the living
area, which is completely open. No walls except those that separate the
family area from the bedrooms & bathroom. Ample windows in all rooms,
along with the front and back doors, are aligned so that there will be
very good air circulation from cross breezes in the summer.

There are a reasons for the size of this home. The first has already
been mentioned. When you are using alternative energy resources, you
need to scale back. I realize that is not the popular or desired
response. Many who complain about solar or wind power do so because
they want a system that is outrageous in price to be able to keep their
current lifestyle. They have so many TVs and other electronic gadgets
that a smaller system would never be able to keep up. We have managed
with only a small solar panel system for a year now. The only complaint
that I can think of is that if we have too many overcast days in a row,
the cell phone does not charge well. We plan on adding a bit more to
our system so that I can also use my netbook while it is charging. This
is purely for convenience though.

When you depend on cross breezes to cool your home, an open floor plan
with fewer walls is a benefit. If you keep the doors open to allow the
air to circulate from one room to another is a great way to stay
cooler. We notice in our current house that when you open it up and a
breeze is blowing, the house stays much cooler. On the other hand, in
the winter a smaller home that has an open floor plan will be easier to
heat. A centrally located wood stove or a well placed propane wall
heater will be able to heat the entire home without any trouble.

I often have mentioned the time Joe and I toured a museum's rebuilt
period home that was sparsely furnished. That is my dream. To have a
home that contains only what is essential for the lifestyle of our
family. Having a smaller home encourages you to be sensible in how much
stuff you hang on to. If storage space is an issue, you are more likely
to use discretion in what you choose to keep. This in turn will make
maintaining of the home easier.

It would not be difficult to add a pantry onto the home. Adding on a
back porch and enclosing one end to make a pantry beside the kitchen
would be easy. We have wanted a 4-season porch anyways. This would be
a good option.

Joe still has to look over the plans and see what he thinks of them. He
may have ideas for adjusting the plans. That would be great. He always
has wonderful ideas. This is a step closer though.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding Calm in the Chaos

What a day!  Finally have made major headway in reorganizing the house again.  A couple of months ago, my eldest daughter's family moved in with us after a job change.  Finding room for 2 families in a single small home has been interesting to say the least.  I am so happy that I had already purged so much of the excess that we had.

Today, they helped me move my treadle sewing machine and a dresser into the bedroom.  The sewing machine had been in the front room, but the space is now needed for my grandson's school desk.  The next thing to be moved will be my antique desk.  Still need to make room for it in my bedroom though.  With a small amount of more work, that will be easily done.  Well, preparing the room will be anyways.  Need to wait for my beloved to be home to help move that heavy desk!  Having the antique furniture is a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that they hold up over time very well.  A curse when you have to move them about.  I sure don't know how they did it back in the horse wagon days.  All I can think of is the poor horses having to haul the stuff  - even if only from town to the homestead.

One of the most noticeable factors of having purged the excess prior to the household changes is the space we have.  At first, it seemed like barely organized chaos.  We have been organizing everything gradually and now the house is regaining it's open areas again.  It has required a bit of creative thinking, but everything is finding a place in such a way that you would never realize that so much is actually being stored in the home.

The return to a more open feel of the home has led to Little Man being more calm.  Chaos in the home, whether it is clutter or activity, often brings about more meltdowns and sensory problems for him.  I can relate to some extent.  Clutter gets to me also.  I need the calm of an organized house.  Too much mess or clutter tends to overwhelm me.  I lose focus easily in that environment.  I can only imagine what it does to a child with sensory issues.

In thinking about all of the changes that the household has been experiencing, I relate it to our spirit.  If our lives are cluttered with the unnecessary things or chaotic with overly ambitious schedules, where do we find the calm that our spirit needs to commune with the Lord?   Just as a person feels more at peace in an organized home, our spirit feels more at peace when there is a lack of clutter distracting it from the Lord.  Think of it this way.  If you were reading your Bible and praying, would you feel at peace in your surroundings?  Or would you be distracted thinking about the cleaning or schedule that you need to give attention to?  Are you able to truly focus on the Lord and His words that you are reading?  Or are you distracted by chores that need doing?  If you were reading the scriptures and really enjoying the passage, would you be free to continue reading longer than usual?  Or is your schedule so busy that you have to set a timer to avoid missing something on your list of things to do?

Have you ever known someone who only wanted contact with you when they had a moment to spare from their "busy" life?  We have nearly all met someone like that.  They are so caught up in their own life that they don't have time for things or people not at the top of their priority list.  If you are on the receiving end of it, that can become a very hurtful experience.  You extend an invitation to them to visit and the answer is always, "I would love to when I get a chance."  Problem is, often that visit never seems to happen.  I have been on the receiving end of it quite often.  In honesty, I rarely extend an invitation now because of it.  I simply got tired of people not caring enough to call or stop by.  They are happy enough to talk or visit if I am the one initiating the contact.  Yet, they never make the time to do the same towards me.  Being human, I often feel hurt by this and give up trying.  I don't like feeling as though the relationship is one-sided or that the friendship is of such low importance to the other person that they would not notice if I simply stopped contacting them.  Sadly, that has happened.  I stopped contacting people and they never contacted me after wards.  It is as if they hadn't noticed at all.

In thinking about that situation I wonder, how often do I make the Lord feel that way?  He is patient with us certainly.  I think of that picture of Christ standing at the door knocking.  He patiently is seeking to commune with us.  Do we make time for Him?  Do we ever truly seek Him out?  When we do commune with the Lord through prayer or studying His words, are we like a rude visitor who is constantly checking their watch to see if it is time to leave yet?  Or do we spend enough time to really seek His message for that day (or moment) and wait for His answer? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cold Feet???

It is a long running joke in our home. Cold feet in the winter. My
poor husband teases me about it when he is home. Well, I was
remembering tonight an idea that I tried when living in Montana years
ago - a rice bag! Made from fabric, you can have them in any size you
need. Here is how to make a simple one.

Cut 2 pieces of muslin (or other 100% cotton fabric) to be about 1 inch
larger than your finished bag size. This will give you about a 1/2 inch
seam allowance. Don't make the seam allowance any smaller than that!
You will need the full 1/2 inch by the time you are done. Round off the

Place the fabric wring sides together and sew 1/4 inch from the edge
leaving a 2" wide opening for turning along one short side. Turn bag
inside out and sew the seam again about 3/8 inch from the edge, leaving
the opening unsewn. Turn the bag to the right side again. You now have
a very secure french seam!

Fill the bag with rice. Some people like the nag to be more firm than
others. For a less firm bag, you may consider laying out the bag prior
to filling and with chalk, draw a line across the bag, dividing it into
3rds or 4ths. Fill the bag part way (below the chalk line) and then
top-stitch a seam across the line. Continue filling & sewing across the
line until you reach the top of the bag. Fold in the raw edges at the
opening and stitch closed.

Heat up the bag near your heater or some other warm spot. If I were to
use it, I would place it in the warmer above my wood cookstove. Just
before going to bed, place the bag near where your feet will be. These
are wonderful for achy muscles too.

An idea I remember the Amish used in their horse-drawn buggy was to heat
a big stone or brick in their wood stove's oven or near the fireplace.
The brick was then wrapped in a towel or other thick fabric and placed
on the floor of the buggy to rest their feet on. With a lap blanket
over their legs and the hot stone under the blanket & their feet, it
really helped to keep them warm. May just be a good idea for in a van
or other large vehicle where the heating may not be as good as you would

Simple Gift Idea for Kids

Here is a easy idea for a gift that kids (and maybe adults too) will enjoy. All kids love to use chalkboards. Here is a gift I am planning to make for the holiday.

Chalkboard Box


Wooden cigar box (or something similar)
Paint to decorate the inside & outside of the box
Chalkboard paint
Foam brushes
Box of chalk
Scrap of flannel or fleece

Paint the inside and outside of the box as desired, leaving box lid unpainted. Let dry.
Carefully paint the box top with chalkboard paint. Use an extra coat if needed. Let dry.

Place a box of chalk in the box along with a scrap of flannel for an eraser.

Voila' That is it! Simple, yet most young kids will love it.

Bonus Idea:

If you have extra chalkboard paint left over, use it to paint an old vinyl placemat, for little ones to use at a table.

Another off-beat version of the chalkboard is to alter an old book. Start with an old hardcover book like those found at a thrift store. Glue pages together and let dry. Leaving a minimum 1 inch border around the page edges, cut out the pages using a sharp utility knife. This forms a box inside of the book. You may wish to paint the inside to dress it up a bit. When dry, paint the book cover with chalkboard paint.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Preschooling Little Man

On Monday, I began preschooling Little Man. Up until now, I have worked
with him in preparation for using the TEACCH approach to preschool him
at home. It is going to be a while before he fully has the sequence
down, but he is doing great so far.

The first obstacle was to help him sit still long enough to do a task.
Our son loves to walk in circles and is nearly always on the move. We
first started with a low children's table & chairs. While a nice idea,
it didn't work. He was able to get up and walk whenever he had a mind
to do so. Unfortunately, he had a mind to walk quite a lot! I ended up
sitting him at the kitchen table with his older sister who is
homeschooling at the 1st grade level. Being in a booster seat, he is
not able to get up. This is working out much better. He doesn't even
try to get up, but will wait for me to get his activity ready in front
of him. At this point, I do not have a work center set up. I bring the
activities to him one at a time.

The next step was having a signal for him to understand that we are
going to be working on his schooling. Little Man has one of those ear
flap hats that are so popular today. When wearing it, he stops any
fussing or squirming. We refer to it as his "thinking cap" and put it
on him when it is time to do the task boxes. Surprisingly, as long as
he has that hat on, he is very cooperative. If the hat comes off, he is
ready to get down from the table and go roaming about the house. It is
funny how it works. Some kids on the autism spectrum need a fidget
cushion or a weighted lap mat to apply the weight and pressure they need
to sit still. Little man just needs his hat.

I had 3 tasks set up for his first day. He loves to paint with the
wooden handled foam daubers. I taped the corners of a sheet of
cardstock to the table in front of him. On the cardstock, I had drawn a
simple Christmas tree made up of a large triangle with a rectangle for
the trunk. I placed a dollop of green and brown Tempura paints on an
old deli lid and got him started. Our son needs the gentle guidance of
my hand touching his elbow. I pointed to the pencil lines of the
triangle and guided him in pouncing the paint onto the pencil lines.
Once he pounced the paint on with my help for 3 times, he finished on
his own. The only thing he needed was for me to help guide where his
hand moved by the touching of his elbow. It is really low key
guidance. He just needs a slight touch. If I remove my hand, he stops
working. Once he finished painting the triangle border, he painted the
inside of the triangle. Finally, using the brown to paint the trunk.
The entire time, he worked with my fingers gradually easing the touch on
his elbow to a feathery pressure. I lifted my hand away at one point
and he finished the picture completely on his own. I removed the
cardstock and gave him a blank sheet to paint all on his own while I set
the tree painting aside to dry.

After painting, his next task was to place 8 wooden alphabet building
blocks into a bowl. While the painting with a dauber used his larger
muscles in his arm, this activity with the blocks used more fine motor
development. He had to pick up the blocks one at a time and put them
into the bowl. I had to use hand over hand for much of it. I learned
that painting will have to be the last activity each day or else he is
not happy to do other tasks. While he did complete the task, he wasn't
as happy about it as he was with the painting. Since he was not as
cooperative, I allowed him a break for a little while to calm down and
become ready to get back to task.

The last task of the session was to glue pom poms (ornaments) onto his
tree. This one was very difficult. He had unexpected sensory issues
over that task. He has a sensory bin filled with pom poms that he has
used without any problems. Dipping a pom pom into the dollop of glue
and putting it on the tree was another matter entirely. It was a
struggle. I finally got him to do a few, using the hand over hand
method, before allowing him to walk away from the activity. I am not
sure what set him off. He has touched the pom poms before. Today the
texture of them didn't agree with him.

Overall, Little Man did great. He worked 3 tasks, completing 2 of the 3
without much protest. Getting him used to doing the structured tasks
will take time. I am encouraged with how well he did. I am going to
start using painting as his "reward" for doing his activities each day.
One thing I would do different however is to grab an old adult sized
t-shirt and make a paint shirt before he paints again. A very simple
way to make the paint shirt is to cut up the center back of the t-shirt
from hem to neck. This makes an open back, think hospital gown, for
covering his clothing. To fasten it, you can stitch a ribbon or bias
tape on each side of the neckline for typing. An even more simplistic
method would be to use a large safety pin to fasten the neck area.

It is such a blessing to see Little Man's progress. Even though part of
the activities were more of a challenge for him, he really made some
milestones. He was able to follow the direction of painting along a
line. He was able to do the block activity. Even though he didn't
enjoy gluing the pom poms onto the tree, he did a few. He did awesome!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God's Grace in Autism

Not long ago, I was asked a simple, yet difficult question. "Where is God in autism?" The person who asked was a reader of my blog and just didn't seem to understand how a loving God would allow autism to happen. They spoke of the burden autism places on a family. It saddened me to read their email. I wanted to answer them here as well as personally.

As most who read my blog already know, we believe that our son is autistic for a purpose. No, we don't feel that God "made" our son autistic. We believe that God "allowed" him to be autistic for a purpose. You see, the Lord is powerful enough that if it were His will, he could cure our son at any time. Nothing is greater than the power of our Lord! If our son is autistic, then we believe that the Lord will use our son's autism as a testimony of His grace and power. Today, I saw a glimpse of that grace.

Our son is now using a regular bed instead of his baby crib. Sometimes in the mornings, he will come into my room and wake me up. He is a very early riser! Today was one of those mornings. I was awaken by my little guy climbing up on the bed. He held onto my hands and we played a little tugging game that he enjoys. When we were done, he leaned against me and said "I love you". That may not seem like much, but our son is considered non-verbal. He mimics sounds and occasionally words that he hears. It is a rare moment when he actually says something with full intent and meaning. The one exception being his sippy cup. For our son to say "I love you" is a huge step forward. Realistically, it may be months or longer before he is able to say it again. His saying it this morning was a strong testimony of God's work in our son. The Lord is working through him to help free his speech! Later in the morning, he brought me his cup and the canister of cocoa mix. It was his way of asking for some cocoa. I made the cocoa for him and as he took the cup, he gave me a big smile and said "thank you" before running off to the other room. This was a first! Not only had he told me that he loved me, but he said thank you when I gave him his cocoa. Again, a glimpse of God's grace.

The Lord may not have cured our son overnight, but He is working through our son. Each new milestone is a blessing and a gift from the Lord. It is a moment of renewed hope for our son. There is no doubt in our minds that one day our son will be able to stand and share his testimony of what all he is able to do. Not what he is able to do in spite of autism, but what he is able to do because of the Lord's blessing him to overcome the obstacles of autism.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Renewal

Well, today we were gifted with 3 large chicken hens that are no longer laying eggs.  My in-laws raised a flock of them for eggs, but they have stopped laying now that winter is here.  They are planning on slowly cutting back the number in the flock and then buying new hens in the spring.  Which brings us to the gift of the 3 hens.  The hens are to be butchered, then I will roast them.  The extra meat will be canned in jars for later.  On a cold blustery day like today, a pot of chicken stew simmering on the stove sounds wonderful.

The days are slowing down to a gentler pace.  I enjoy the "rest" of winter.  The changing seasons give nature a rest from their growth cycles.  Trees that have been green and producing fruit in the warm months are now bare and in a dormant state.  This is a necessary state of renewal in nature.  I think upon the wisdom of that.  We work from the time the ground thaws until the hard freeze in autumn to lay in stores for our family.  After all of that work, our bodies need a restful season to rest and renew ourselves in preparation of the next season. It doesn't mean we are dormant, only that we are resting from the harder more physical work of the warmer months.

The older I get, the more I realize just how much I need this season of renewal.  Not just physically, but in other areas of my life.  It brings with it a peace to my spirit that is not there other times.  That is not to say that my spirit is in upheaval the rest of the year.  Only that in the winter, when life slows down, I have more time to devote to the things that nurture my spirit.  I have more time to read, sew, crochet, and other activities that I enjoy. 

In homeschooling, the children are schooled year round.  In summer, it is a bit more relaxed by comparison.  The days are filled with educational activities that involve the outdoors, such as nature study.  In winter, we are indoors much more and the school work reflects that.  That is when I pull out the experiments and other fun activities that they don't do the rest of the year.  It is a perfect time to teach kids a handicraft that takes more time and patience.  Right now, I have holiday ornaments for the kids to make.  Some will be only for this season, while others will be ones that we can use again in future years.  Little Miss will be working on more literature-based thematic units over the winter.  She loves books, so this is a natural for her.  Homeschool Share has free units for each of the "Little House" books.  Little Miss loves those. 

For my Little Man, I am putting together more tasks for him to work on.  I have so many ideas running through my head that are being written down in a notebook for later.  I am taking basic ideas that I have seen for the TEACCH method and remaking them to suit our needs.  So many of the tasks that you can purchase are more busy work than academic instruction.  Yes, he needs help with some motor skills that he never developed naturally.  That doesn't mean that the academic aspect should be neglected.  One activity is that of stringing beads onto a cord or dowel.  In most task packs, they just have the child string them however they want.  In the beginning, that is fine as they learn the skill.  After that, have the child string them in a pattern to teach sequencing.  In Sue Patrick's book, "Sue Patrick's Workbox System: A User's Guide", she teaches the idea of using interactive posters to teach or review material learned.  For Little Man, I am using that idea on a smaller scale and making them notebook size from cardstock that I will laminate.  My favorite resource for him right now is very basic preschool activities that you would do with a toddler.  He seems on track with some of that. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Simplicity

Years ago, I wrote a blog "Having a Green Christmas". I read through it again and the blog is just as relevent today as it was when I wrote it back in 2008.

Christmas simplicity is taking back control over the holiday celebrations and putting priorities where they should be. The holiday is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Where does that fit in with the holiday craziness that ensues each year? It doesn't. If you take a good honest look at the holiday craziness in your family's celebrations, you may just discover that the further you move away from keeping Christ as the central focus of the holiday, the crazier your life becomes.

In our home, we keep it as simple as possible. We have a small (no larger than 3' tall) tree to place on a desk for decoration. There is also a Nativity creche displayed in the home. Decorations are handmade by the family.

For gifts we limit them to 1-2 per person. Most are handmade gifts, which we prefer. We want to raise our chlidren to appreciate the work and talents of others more than a brand name & price tag. Occassionally, a gift may be purchased but only if it is something we are unable to make ourselves.

T keep Christ central in the celebrations, we have devotional Bible activities for the children. I found online a printable Jesse Tree activity for kids. You can find it at http://tiredneedsleep.blogspot.com/2009/11/advent-and-jesse-tree.html#. The free printable has a link, but the blog post shows how this mom made it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Knitting Nightmares

Okay, I am doing it. I have been talking about wanting to learn to knit
for some time now. Well, I bought a pair of needles about a year ago
and gave it a go. What a first-class disaster! I just had the worst
time trying to do the stitches. They were too tight and just a pain in
the backside to work with. I remember learning to knit when I was in
elementary school. It was a very informal group of girls learning from
a girl's mother who came to the school and volunteered as a room mom. I
remember how she taught us to cast on to load the stitches onto the
needle. Well, after learning how to do the basic knit & purl stitches,
the family moved before we could learn to increase, decrease, or finish
off the piece. In a nutshell, I learned how to do basic knitting to
make a scarf, but never learned how to take it off the needles.

Last year, I carefully loaded a needle and began knitting. When I
reached the end of the first row I switched the needles in my hands and
started the next row. Got through that one and thought I was doing
great. I thought to myself, "Woo hoo! I'm knitting!" Little did I
know, lurking around row 4 was the beginnings of a nightmare. The
stitches were becoming gradually tighter and in row 4 were actually
making a slight squeaking sound as the yarn slide across the metal
needles. By row 5, I could not even slip the needle under the yarn on
the other needle to start a new stitch. I was in such a state of
frustration that I was ready to cry. I set the work aside until I was
ready to deal with it again. So, here I am nearly a year later looking
at that knitting attempt. It lurks on the shelf. I know I need to just
remove all the yarn from the needles and start over. It is my albatross.

A week ago, I was at a craft supply store and saw a beautiful pair of
wooden knitting needles that I fell in love with. I thought about some
handcrafted wooden crochet hooks that were made for me. I use the
wooden ones and prefer them to the plastic or metal. They feel very
comfortable to work with. I thought that if the wooden knitting needles
are as comfortable as the crochet hooks are, I would enjoy using them.
I didn't buy those needles. I love them, but will consider them as a
reward for learning to actually make a finished project using the pair
of knitting needles I have right now. Sigh.......

So, here I sit with that Knitting Nightmare mocking me. I am really
going to do it. I am going to reach over tonight and undo all that yarn
from the needle and banish that nightmare from my sight. If I don't
post again soon, I may need a rescue from a savvy knitter to get
unraveled. Or maybe a Knitter's Anonymous intervention. Or maybe a
good cry over a piece of dark chocolate. Will see what happens.....

New Blog Name

Well, it was on the horizon and needed to be done. I hadn't known at the time years ago whe I began using the Prairie Mom name online that there was another lady in Oklahoma using it. I have never had contact with her, but out of respect I have changed my blog name and email. It no longer reflects the Prairie Mom name. The blog is not being changed in any other way. It is still going to contain posts about family and homesteading. For those folloing my blog through email, there should be no change. You should still receive it as always.

I realise that there may be a bit of confusion at first. I apologise for that. I am just wanting to prevent trademark or other issues later on. The scope of just how many people have access to my blog is gaining enough ground that I needed to make this change now.

I have been gradually making a few change to the blog that readers may have noticed. First, I no longer am referring to my children by their names. This is for safety reasons. The second change is that the future posts are going to include more ofthe back to basics information. Many topics from the early years ofthe blog will be revisited with updated information. I am hoping that the revisiting of the "old ways" of how things were done generations ago will be a welcome pursuit. So much of the knowledge is being lost, but in today's economic situation that information is sorely needed.

Thank you to all who have been following and reading my blog. I never thought it would have such interest as it does. When my beloved husband first encouraged me to start a blog, I didn't think I had anything to say that others would enjoy reading. It humbles me to see just how many actually do read it.

My new URL for this blog is http://grannysimplicity.blogspot.com and you can email me at grannysimplicity@gmail.com.