Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scrapping about Preemies

After I finished my first scrapbook layout about my older DD, I turned my attention to my younger DD and DS, twins. I was excited to start a page about them, but quickly sobered as I looked through their early pictures. The twins were born 14 weeks premature and had extended stays in the NICU (my DS for 2 1/2 months and my DD for 10 months).

Looking over the images from their first days and months brought back a lot of emotions that I hadn't thought about in a while. I plan to scrapbook about as much of the NICU experience as I can, but wanted my first layout about them to focus on a happy moment. I decided to work on a first Christmas page. I have a set of sweet pictures of the twins being held by Santa Claus, who make a special visit to the preemies in the NICU. I am grateful to the nurses and hospital staff who tried to bring a little sense of normalcy to all the families by taking time to bring the spirit of the holidays into the intensive care unit.

I found this wonderful poem that I will include on the layout in a journal box. It really captures some of the realities of the NICU, but in a comforting way...


Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and in each isolette
Little creatures were squirming and getting all set;
Machinery sat by their bedsides with care,
In hopes that good breathing skills soon would be there.

Day shifters were home all snug in their beds,
As visions of overtime danced in their heads;
While preemies on ventilators, and some on CPAP,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap...

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
The residents woke up to see what was the matter.
Away from the sink I flew like a jet
To make sure all was well at my baby's isolette.

Some bilirubin lights with their powerful glow
Gave the luster of mid-day to babies below,
When, there before my wondering eyes, it would seem,
Was an oversized stroller and a medical team.
With a handful of needles with which they could stick you,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nicu.

More rapid than eagles his specialists came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Nurses! Now, Residents! Now, Neonatologists!
On, Social Workers! On, Respiratory and Occupational Therapists!
From the front of the unit! To the end of the hall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

Up to each baby's cribside they flew,
With the stroller full of toys, and St. Nicu too.
And then, in a twinkling, they stopped at each bed
And tucked in the babies and got them all fed.

As I looked at my baby, and was turning around,
Down our aisle St. Nicu came with a bound.
He was dressed in red scrubs, and I could instantly tell
That his clothes had an obvious hospital smell;
A bag of stuffed animals was flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
A little red pen he held tight in his teeth,
And a stethoscope encircled his neck like a wreath.

He was chubby and plump, with a few extra pounds,
And I laughed when I saw him there doing his rounds.
A turn of his clipboard and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke few words, but came straight to my side,
And running down his face was a tear he had cried.

And laying his hand on the back of my head,
He gave me a nod, and slowly he said:
"Each night you come here you're aware of the danger,
But your baby is loved by the One in the manger."

Then the medical team gave a thumbs-up and smiled
And St. Nicu placed an animal next to my child.
But I heard him exclaim, as they rolled out of sight,
"Merry Christmas, tiny baby, and have a wonderful night!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Crafty Update

Gull Pattern Preemie Hat made for Knit One, Save One

I'm back! I've had a long break from blogging as I dealt with other issues in my life. Things are a bit calmer now and I'm ready to get back to posting about my crafty adventures.

Even though I've not been writing, I've continued to make and create. I've made quite a few baby hats over the past year for charity. My school group donated over 1000 hats to Save the Children's Knit One, Save One campaign last year and I had the joy of accompanying a group of my students to Washington, DC for a Save the Children volunteer event.

The Arthur Dollhouse (w/red clay bricks, white clapboard siding--no shingles yet)

I've also adopted a few other craft interests recently. The first is building dollhouses. A dollhouse is something I always wanted as a little girl, so I decided to build one with my DD. It is still a work in progress, but it's coming along well! The above house is only about halfway done. We still need to finish the roof and outside trim before starting to decorate the inside.

The most recent new craft I've taken up is scrapbooking! Again, it's something I've wanted to do for ages and am finally making the time to begin. I recently finished my first layout featuring my DD at bathtime.

I have SO much to learn about scrapbooking and have been doing a lot of reading and surfing to learn about techniques for creating layouts, journaling, lettering, and more. I advised our school yearbook for almost 10 years, so I have a good understanding of design and what looks good on a page, but even though there's lots I can apply, scrapbooking is a different animal. It's been a lot of fun and I have a lot of pictures to scrap, so look out!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fun Handmade Knitting Needles

I think my biggest problem as a crafter is that I have too many interests. Sometimes I find myself pursuing so many craft projects or trying to learn about new ones, that I sometimes neglect the things I really like to do. Making knitting needles is one of those things. I haven't made a new pair of knitting needles since this summer, but as I finally sold a few pairs on Etsy, my inventory was suddenly dramatically low.

The first thing I realized is that I was not happy with the wooden dowel rods I had bought most recently and wanted to find a better quality wood. Why put all the effort into making a quality handmade pair of needles if the wood is not great? I looked at several different web pages that discussed wood types and decided to start working with birch dowels. The dowels I've bought at the craft store previously were never labeled with a specific wood. They just said "hardwood", but I found the quality varied. I bought several sizes of birch dowels from Woodworks Ltd. this week and immediately noticed a difference. The 3/16th birch dowels had less "bend" than the last batch I had worked with and definitely made me more confident that they wouldn't break easily. Also, the dowels had a smoother, even texture and I didn't need to sand them as long. I was very pleased.

So here is another pair of needles I finished this weekend. I've made smiley face needles before and they are fun to work with, but decided to paint the needle shaft this time, instead of just the bead. Looking at the finished product, I think I won't do that again, unless I change the color. Just a little too much yellow I think.

My favorite are the Froot Loop knitting needles. I made a bunch of the polyclay "cereal" beads several years ago and kept the extras. I've used some as needle toppers before and made buttons for a baby sweater out of some. Here's a picture I kept of the baby sweater from a few years ago (I donated it to a infant resource center).

I thought it was too cute, but a friend warned me about making more, because children might be inclined to try to eat the buttons... True, but it was still cute.

Anyway, I'll post more on my process for painting the needles soon, something I have recently started doing more. Painted needles are a lot more work, but the results can be quite striking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Break Service Project

My daughter and I have spent part of our spring break working on a fun service project to help animals at our local shelter. She is a animal lover and wants a dog SO badly, but that's not going to happen right now for numerous reasons. We decided she can do something to help dogs though...make homemade dog treats!

I actually got the idea from the education director of our local shelter on a recent trip there with my students. She actually had a recipe ready for us to make, but we ran out of time for the activity. She said they love to get homemade treats for the dogs. It makes the pets happy (which make them more appealing for prospective pet owners) and gives them a chance to reinforce behavioral training (the dogs must sit to receive their treat).

We had a blast with this activity and after looking at many online recipes, we made up our own in two varieties. Check out my new Squidoo lens Great Treats for Good Dogs for the recipes and other info about helping shelter animals.

I got another great idea from Kelly Medina on her blog about making a Dog Bone Label. In the spirit of recycling we took an empty peanut butter container and put some of the treats in it to keep at home for our hamster Twyla. Dog biscuits are great for hamsters anyway and she really likes our peanut butter variety. My daughter helped me design our own label for the jar and voila...a recycled dog (ahem..hamster) treat jar!

We are heading to the animal shelter tomorrow to drop off our treats and spread some love to these great animals.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On My Needles....

I thought I would do a quick post about what projects I have in progress right now. From my sidebar you can see that I just finished a baby hat using sock yarn (modeled on one of my daughter's dolls).

I used Lion Brand Magic Stripe yarn to do a quick preemie hat that I will donate soon. I like self-striping yarns for baby hats, because it makes it look like you did some thing complicated, when it really isn't any big deal. The gauge of this hat is a little looser than I would like and next time I will use the next size smaller needles (I'm not sure if these were 6's or 7's). The hat is a variation of the Ann Norling Fruit Cap pattern that I have practically memorized. I cast on 60 stitches, worked until it looked "deep" enough, then gradual decreases ending in a i-cord top. Cute and easy!

My big challenge right now is to get the baby blanket I'm working on finished. It's one of those projects that has dragged on way longer than it should have. Normally, if I'm knitting a baby blanket for someone, I choose something quick and easy. This time because the recipient is a close co-worker (first time grand-dad), I thought I do something a little more complicated. Ughh! Well, I started this in September, the baby was born in October, and at the rate I'm going, he'll be 6 months old before I finish! Oh well, I know it's the thought that counts and I'm determined to finish. I'm just so use to mindless projects, that anything that requires counting rows and stitches carefully is like work. It'll be pretty when it's finished though.

So that's what I'm up to on the knitting front right now. I got a gift certificate for Christmas to my favorite LYS, so I can't wait to see what trouble I can get into there!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year...New Start!

Life hasn't stopped my crafting, but it did derail my blogging for a while. Actually, I did manage to keep my other blogs more up-to-date than this one. Check out the activities of my middle school knitting group, Stitch for a Cause. I've been really proud of the girls this year. We just completed a scarf project for our local women's shelter and delivered 110 scarves just before Christmas.

I'm still trying to decide what we'll start with after the holidays. I have a few of them working on squares for blankets and we'll continue that, but I always like to do something fun in the winter to keep the enthusiam up. This year we don't have any boys in the group and in past years I've had as many as half the group made up of boys. That makes me think I need to come up with a guy-challenge this month... One year, we had a "Real Men Knit" challenge with boys knitting against some male teachers (mostly just one) to see who could complete more squares in two weeks. They beat him by one square and were so excited. Since I don't have any guys coming right now, I think I will start with an "Eye Spy" challenge. Any boy I see knitting each day will get entered in a drawing for something cool. Got to work out the details, but that's my idea for now...

Another new crafting endeavor for me was started by "Santa" this year. Santa brought us a hamster for Christmas named Twyla. My daughter adores her and loves to play with her. I have been reading a lot about hamsters on the web and noticed some people have been making little pouches for them. You can put the hamster in the pouch for some lap time or even put them in cages for a sleep bed. Oddly, you can't find these pouches in stores. I'm pretty crafty, so I put my minimal sewing skills to work and came up with my own version of these pouches and have been calling them Hammy Sacks!

I have put a bunch on Etsy and have supplies to make more. I even made a little logo featuring Twyla. I've seen other people expanding the idea to rabbits and ferrets, but right now I'm sticking with hamsters. Hopefully I'll sell a few! If you are interested in one, visit my Esty store. I'm open to custom orders and am posting new sack patterns (for boy and girl hamsters and owners), so hopefully you'll see something you like.

So, my New Year's Crafty Resolutions are:
  1. Increase my completion percentage for my projects (aka, finish what I start)
  2. Blog at least once every two weeks
  3. Put more time into my Esty shop and hopefully increase sales (so I can buy more craft stuff!)
  4. Inspire others to be crafty too!
Happy New Year's everyone!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Organized Living

I had a major setback in my crafting endeavors this summer when my entire craft shelf came tumbling down one day out of the blue. I think it just got a little too overburdened (wonder why?). Turns out that it really had not been put up in the way it should of have been for what it was going to hold. So for a while, my kitchen table looked like this...

After I got tired of the complaints, I went to Home Depot and bought some 50 lb wall anchors and rebuilt the entire unit. The result is definitely better and I don't think anything short of my children collectively swinging on it would bring it down again (I hope!)

This mess actually gave me a chance to rethink how I wanted to organized my "stuff". To anyone but me, it always looked cluttered and disorganized, though I usually could find what I wanted (although not always when I wanted it). Anyway, I went shopping for containers and other things to help me make sense of my supplies. I ended up putting all my acrylic paints in two plastic containers from Walmart. I found a tip somewhere online about storing paints upside-down to keep them fresher and have found that it does make a difference. I also put all my painting tools in trays on the same shelf, so everything is ready to use. Glues, sealers, fillers, tape, sprays, are all grouped together and have a place.

Next were my jumbled up craft drawers. A couple of years ago my husband bought me four Rubbermaid stackable drawers for my crafts. Shortly after that, he went out and bought four more. The drawers have always be stuffed and at one point were generally organized (fabrics, yarns, etc.). After fixing the shelves, I decided to tackle the drawers next, one by one. I pulled everything out, cleaned the drawers and decided what would be going back in and what needed to just go.

I realized that I had a lot of stuff I had forgotten about and still would like to use. I put all my collected patterns, stencils, sketches, etc. in a stack and eventually put them in a expandable file folder. Fabric was neatly folded and put back. I used more plastic containers and put related notions in the same drawers (ie. pins, needles, buttons, etc. went in the fabric drawer). I even had a drawer for works in progress which I put in separate grocery bags. If ever I want something to do, I can pull out one of the bags and have at it.

There's a drawer for glassware (like mason jars I use for Cookies in a Jar) and a drawer for tools (like my glue guns, wood burner, sandpaper, etc...) I also made a box for craft supplies I didn't want anymore and plan to drop that off at Goodwill sometime soon. Not as full as it could have been....

I haven't solved everything yet. I decided to keep the drawers looking somewhat organized, most of the knitting supplies had to come out for now, including the yarn. I don't have a huge stash like some people might, but enough to make a big tangle if I'm not careful. The knitting needles will probably return to the tool drawer, but I want to figure out how to organize them (by size and type). I may put the straight needles in a vase again (like I've done in the past), which can be cute. As for the yarn, I read about someone who used a closet door shoe organizer, and I'm planning to try it. I have the organizer and as soon as I have it up with yarn in it, I'll post a picture.

So, even though I haven't posted recently, I've been busy! I have more projects to update everyone on, so check back. I finished the book purse, which looks great (smells a little too much like glue though--any suggestions?)! I also have finished my Harry Potter hats and a few other things. Still have lots "in progress" though!