Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Gift of Growth

I learned to sew when I was 18.  My mom bought me a sewing machine for Christmas and I never looked back.  I think of some of my early projects and chuckle.  They were full of mistakes, but I was always so proud of them.  There was no way to learn and perfect my craft without mistakes.  I've been sewing now for 27 years and I can still learn and grow.  I still make mistakes.  No matter what it is we are learning, we will make mistakes.

So, why, when it comes to parenting, do we expect ourselves to be perfect from the start?  I suppose it's because our mistakes affect these little people that we love more than life itself.  But, I've been thinking about the gift we give our kids when we let them see our growth.  When we screw up, especially in our relationship with them, we can try to hide it or acknowledge the mistake and choose growth.  

As I've grown as a sewist, I've learned what works for me.  I've found the fabrics I love.  I know how to read a pattern.  I know when to ask for help.  I know the nuances of my sewing machine.  And still, there is so much more to learn!

It's similar to my parenting journey.  I've learned that there is no one parenting book that has all of the answers.  There is no one right way since we are all so individual.  God chose me to be my kids' mom.  When I mess up, acknowledge it and choose to grow, I think God smiles at me and says, "Good job!  You are showing them how to embrace growth!"  

It's time to let go of perfection, do the best we can and when we do mess up, be vulnerable with our kids and give them the gift of getting to a close up view of how to do growth.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I get to be their mom

It's Saturday morning and our oldest has just left for an early shift at his job at In N Out.  Our younger son is asleep, and will stay that way for a few more hours.  Our daughter is watching TV on her tablet in her room.

After a trip to the store this morning, I sat down for a second cup of coffee and an overwhelming sense of gratitude came over me.  I get to be their mom. And, Doug gets to be their dad.

As I write this, Jackson is 19.  Nathan is almost 18.  And, Gianna is 12.  They are at such a fun age.  I've felt this way at every age.  As they grow, more of who they are is revealed and Doug and I get to watch from the best seats in the house. It is fun to see see them be and embrace and walk out whom God created them to be.

On Thursday I got to watch Jackson trade Pokemon cards with a group of kids who seemed to be around 7 years old.  He may as well have been hanging out with a group of friends.  It was so easy for him to be kind to and even enjoy these younger people.  I got to see that and chuckle with him later about how cute they were.  I got to enjoy the moment again when I told Doug about it.

After spending weeks looking for just the right one, Gianna ordered a swimsuit online that arrived in the mail yesterday.  It fit!  She liked it! I got to celebrate with her.  Then, I got to celebrate with her and Doug when she showed it to her Dad when he got home from work.

Nathan has been trying to get his schedule at work adjusted so he isn't working so much.  This has involved him having some not so comfortable conversations with his boss.  At age 17, he has dealt with conflict with courage.  Doug and I get to be in awe of his maturity together.

These days, parenting feels easier.  It seems like the really hard work of parenting is more behind than ahead of us.  You always hear how quickly it goes by...the time that you get the best seats in the house.  It really does.  But, it is as it should be and I get to bask in the deep sense of gratitude that comes from getting to be their mom.  If I could give one piece of advice to moms who are early on in their journey of motherhood, it would be to not worry so much about your kids' accomplishments...what they do...and focus on your relationship with them and who they are.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Herringbone Mason Jar Cozy {Tutorial}

I am sorta done with chevron stripes, but I still LOVE herringbone!  I was involved in a fall gift exchange and wanted to send a gift that I loved, but that I also thought my friend would love.  Her favorite color is orange and she loves bright colors. 

I discovered Cuppow mason jar drinking lids a while ago and my whole family loves them.  And...they come in orange!  The lids can be used with hot or cold drinks.  And, either way, the mason jar needs a cozy to keep hand from getting too hot or too cold.

I looked around for a mason jar cozy that I liked and couldn't find one, so I decided to design my own.  I snapped a few photos so I could write this tutorial.

drawing the design

 Herringbone Mason Jar Cozy {Tutorial}


- 1 piece of cotton fabric 12" x 4" for the inside of the cozy

- 2 pieces of cotton batting 12" x 2.25"

- 20 scraps of fabric (will be cut to 1.5" by approximately 4.5")

- 1 hair elastic

- 1 button


{Note:  You could easily make this without the herringbone design.  In that case, you would just cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of batting 12"x4" and then follow the directions for putting the cozy together.}

For making the herringbone top, I followed Maureen Cracknell's Herringbone Quilt Tutorial, adjusting the size.  (You will need to refer to her tutorial since I don't go into exact detail on how to sew herringbone strips to the batting.)

First, I cut my strips of cotton batting to 12" by 2.25":

(I currently don't have a rotary cutting board, so I've been using my Pampered Chef cutting board!  See, if you don't have the right tools, ruin use what you've got!)

Draw diagonal lines, 1 inch apart, onto each strip of batting:

Cut scraps of fabric into 1.5" x approximately 4.5" strips and lay them out in the order you want them:

Follow Maureen's directions for sewing the strips onto the batting in the herringbone pattern.

Turn each half over and trim down to 12" by 2.25":

 Sew the halves together at the center using a 1/4" seam and matching the herringbone seams:

Assemble the herringbone front, the fabric back and the hair elastic:

Place the herringbone front on your table, batting side down and herringbone design up.

Put the hair elastic on top of one of the the short edges of the herringbone panel at the center seam.

Lay the fabric back, right side down on top of the herringbone panel and hair elastic and pin together.  (In this photo, it looks like the right side of the orange fabric is up, but that's only because it is a solid kona fabric with no "right" and "wrong" side.)

Starting at the short end with the hair elastic, sew around all 4 edges of the layers, leaving a 3" opening on one of the long sides for turning.

Snip the corners and turn right side out.

Iron the cozy, turning in the raw edges of the opening you used for turning the cozy right side out.

Top stitch all around the cozy, sewing the opening closed as you go.

Wrap the cozy around your mason jar to determine where you want to place the button.

Using a disappearing ink fabric pen, mark where you will sew the button.

Sew button on with a needle and matching thread.

And....voila!  You've got yourself a herringbone mason jar cozy!

Let me know if anything is unclear or you have any questions!

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wool Dryer Balls!

This was one of the most fun projects I've completed in a while.  These are wool dryer balls that you put in the dryer with your washed clothes and they are supposed to cut drying time and static by quite a bit!  They are super easy and fun to make. 

Black yarn balls

There are several tutorials out there, but basically, you wrap feltable wool yarn (not superwash) into balls, stick them in pantyhose or tights and wash and dry them a few times.  Voila!  Dryer balls!

I have a lot of black wool yarn, but wanted my balls colorful, so I used black wool for the middle then covered them with fun colored wool yarn. 

Black no more!

Wrapped in tights

Dryer Balls!

 They are so cool!  We tossed them around for a while.  Doug juggled them.  Lucca wanted to play fetch with them.  I think I need to make a basket full.  They are way better than stress balls!

Our Sweet Pup, Lucca

Have you ever made and/or used wool dryer balls?  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I'm Passionate about Unschooling

I am a very open person.  I will talk about pretty much anything.  I am emotional, opinionated and expressive. As Adrian Monk would say, "It's a gift....and a curse."

Oddly, the topic I have been reluctant to blog about is unschooling: the style of homeschooling our family settled into after years of searching for the right fit.  I've always gone against the grain.  But, somehow, turning my nose at formal education feels...almost sacrilegious. When our homeschooling style comes up in conversation, I'm happy to discuss it, but broadcasting it to the world (ok, a very small, tiny, portion of the world) feels big to me.

But, when the opportunity to write an article "Why I'm Passionate about Unschooling" came up, I jumped at the chance.  I consider it a coming out of sorts.  Writing it was therapeutic and strengthened my confidence in our choice.

Yesterday, the magazine arrived in the mail.  I gotta say, I'm very excited to be in an actual magazine!

I would love to hear your feedback.  I am happy to answer any questions you have about unschooling and our process.

So, here you go!  My article in Greenhouse, a publication of North Carolinians for Home Education. 

Why I’m Passionate About Unschooling

     My name is Melissa and I’m an unschooler. I will admit that I’m more comfortable saying that now than I ever have been before. These days nobody blinks at the idea of homeschooling. But, I usually get some sort of reaction to telling people that we unschool. Sometimes, it’s genuine curiosity (Really? What is unschooling?) Sometimes, it’s confusion (How will your kids learn to speak if you don’t teach them grammar?) Sometimes, it’s good-hearted teasing by family members who think I’m just a little bit nuts (I think she even unschools her dogs!) However it comes up, I’m always willing and happy to talk about it!

      There are five in our family: my husband, Doug; me; our 17 year old son, Jackson; our 15 year old son, Nathan; and our 9 year old daughter, Gianna. We started homeschooling Jackson in kindergarten “just to see” and have never looked back. The first few years, we followed a curriculum. Actually, we were never very good at following a curriculum, but the first few years, we tried.

      We started moving toward unschooling after reading Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. It was great for me because it got me thinking about education beyond the institution of school. After that I read a few books by John Holt. I had never read books that so resounded with me. The idea of unschooling really made sense to Doug, too. It was a gradual transition toward unchooling. Letting go of formal academics is not easy when it is all you’ve ever known. But, now, we are full-fledged unschoolers.

      There are about as many different ways to unschool as there are families who unschool. We focus mostly on interests, natural strengths and relationships. More than just trying to encourage our kids to learn, though, Doug and I model curiosity and daily learning. We mostly learn just by living life: going for walks, watching TV, playing games, having conversations with a wide variety of people, going places, discussing ideas, going to the store, volunteering, looking at magazines, hanging out with friends, listening to music, asking our dear friend, Google, lots of questions, doing nothing, and yes, sometimes we even learn by reading a book!

      I heard a fellow unschooler say that when she is asked when they do school, her answer is, “always and never.” I love that! Learning in our life isn’t compartmentalized at all. We fundamentally trust that our kids will learn what they need to know to function in life, and to be lifelong learners without coercion from us, but with an open mind and a willingness to help them succeed.

      I recently read this quote by Robert Brault and my heart leaped. Yes! This is how I want to be with our kids! "Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations. Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit." With that, let me tell you a little about the kids that my expectations are pursuing.

      Jackson, 17, is our oldest child. He is a kind, bright, devoted, funny, and sometimes rigid guy who loves music, video games, Minecraft, physics and astronomy. He is one of the most loyal and considerate people I know. He has taken Latin with his best friends for the past four years. With minimal preparation and a relatively small amount of formal academics in his lifetime, Jackson passed the GED and has begun taking classes at Grand Canyon University.

      Nathan is 15. He is incredibly fun, funny, and quick-witted, sensitive, creative and boisterous. Nathan is amazing with people. I remember when he was about 8 or 9, a new family had moved in next door. One afternoon he said to me, “Mom. I’ll be right back. I’m going to go meet the new neighbors.” That’s just Nathan. He also loves video games, Minecraft, music, Latin and Lego. He is just as happy playing music with Jackson as he is playing “Spies” with his younger sister.

      Gianna, our 9 year old daughter, is spirited, creative, shy, and has a laugh that is absolutely contagious. Gianna chooses her friends very carefully. She has a great sense of style. She loves learning about the U.S. presidents, animals (especially baby animals) and China. Gianna is a spelling whiz and the only one of our kids who has always been unschooled. She knows more geography than I do!

      I think the best thing unschooling has done for our family is that it's taken the power struggle out of our day. What has been so cool for me, personally, is seeing how learning really can happen without coercion. Because they get to choose most of what they do throughout the day, the kids are usually happy to help out or change directions when I ask them to.

      The way Doug and I see things is that it is very important to help our kids know who they are and what they are good at. We want them to love learning, know how to think, know how to develop close relationships and to love and serve God, be tolerant of others, etc., etc.

      We have discovered a lot through our unschooling journey – a journey that we are still on. One thing is that this lifestyle really works for us. I know it isn't for everyone, just like I know homeschooling isn't for everyone. It works very well with our parenting style. I have actually been amazed at how much "school" stuff my kids have learned on their own or with my help, but at their request. They remember just about everything they learn and they do what they do well.

      I’m passionate about unschooling because it’s just who we are.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

do. Good Stitches Wonky Star Blocks

Louise at I'm Feelin' Crafty is the quilt designer/quilter for the Nurture Circle of do. Good Stitches for our February quilt. 

She came up with a great quilt idea...wonky stars!

(Louise has a thing for stars.)

I had so much fun making these blocks and I can't wait to see the finished quilt!

If you want to make a wonky star block, check out Louise's tutorial here!

Before making this block, I'd never made a star.
Do you have a favorite star quilt block?

Happy block making!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I have so many doll ideas.  There is a list on the wall of my studio (yeah, dining room) with lots and lots of ideas.  Between filling doll orders,  wanting to work on things other than dolls, and life, it's not often I get around to making something new for My Gigi Dolls.

So, these days, inspiration to make something new for the dolls comes from my customers!  This dress turned out so cute!  A woman ordered a doll and asked if I could make a dress for the doll based on a dress her niece wore.  

I really hope she likes it.  I LOVE it! 

And, now it's in the My Gigi Doll Etsy shop!

In your creative endeavors, what inspires you to actually create something new?