Monday, August 13, 2012

"I'm bored."

"I'm bored."
"I thought you were Yasya."
"I'm Bored Yasya.  Bored Yasya is bored, bored, bored."

While I love having my daughters home all summer, and I am not looking forward to early morning running around when school starts again, it is getting harder to fill the days with new activities.  The girls are getting bored, bored, bored.  Enter new art projects!  A project a day seems like a great goal, but trying to come up with new projects that a) don't require buying new materials, b) are easy enough for the girls to do with little help (just supervision), and c) won't add to the clutter in their bedroom can be tricky.  Here are two of the simple projects we have done over the last few weeks of summer which meet all those criteria.

Project 1: Dressing Up Dinos

My older daughter is a future paleontologist.  She loves dinosaurs and has since she was a baby (one of her first words was dinosaur).  After seven years as a dinophile, she has acquired a large collection of plastic dinosaurs.

My younger daughter is a nail polish addict.  It is rare to see her without decorated nails.  Over the years, she has amassed a large collection of nail polishes.  The latest additions to her collection were two bottles of color changing polish her grandfather gave her.

Combine those two loves and you get:

The girls each chose one of Sofi's tiny plastic dinosaurs and one of Yasya's nailpolishes and went to work.  This seems very simple, but painting tiny things with tiny paintbrushes can be tricky and time consuming.  The girls had to be careful to paint thin layers then let them dry before adding a second then third coat.

In the end, after about half an hour of careful work, they each had a new, customized dinosaur.  The dinosaurs which had just been sitting in the bottom of a large bin of extinct animals have new life and new importance.

Project 2: Wall Art Quotes

I am becoming a bit of a Pinterest addict.  The quotes I find are some of my favorite pins.  For this art project, I let the girls browse through my board of Quotes and Such (I did cheat and only show them ones which were appropriate for children and didn't let them browse ALL the pins) and find the quotes they liked.  The criteria was they had to pick a quote that will make them feel happy or inspired, something positive.  Sofi, of course, chose a dinosaur trying to sing, "If you're happy and you know it."  Yasya picked a science quote.

Then the fun began.  An old pad of watercolor paper was pulled out and each girl was given one sheet.  Then they used their inexpensive watercolors, the kind in the little plastic tray, and they got to work painting a background for their quote.

Years ago I had taken a watercolor course at the community college and learned a few tricks.  The girls felt very grown up and like real artists learning some new ways to use their paints (even though what I passed on to them is hardly major art skills, it was new to them).

A lot of thought went into what they would paint, and we had some interesting discussions about the quotes.  Yasya chose to paint space and had some pretty cool explanations of what everything was, then she blurred things together, "cause that's how it is."  When the paint dried, the girls used Sharpies to write the words on their pictures.  In the end, each girl has an original piece of art to decorate her room and something to inspire her whenever she looks at it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Just one more chapter!”

When my older daughter was still just a baby, she loved listening to stories and looking at books.  We would sit on the floor of her room with a pile of books and work our way through them.  When we finished the last one, she would waddle over to her bookshelf and grab another stack.  She just loves books.  I read Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’tKnow She Was Extinct so many times, I had it memorized.  I could even read that book in the dark at bedtime without looking at the pages.  It helps that it is a good book with a good message.

Now she is older, about to start second grade, and reading on her own.  She has access to computers, iPods, televisions, Innotabs, a Wii system, and all the other modern toys with their flashing lights and annoying sounds, but she still loves books.  At bedtime, she still loves to curl up in my bed next to me and read book after book.  The other night, after finishing MeetMarie-Grace and getting two chapters into the next book, I tried to stop reading.  It was after 10 o’clock!  She cried, “but I am so sucked into this book!  It is like the book is a whirl pool, and my mind is going around and around and around, getting deeper and deeper into the story, until -WHOOSH - I am totally sucked in.  Please don’t stop!”  I read one more chapter.

Her little sister, though, rarely wants to sit still for a story.  Occasionally we can find a book which will get her attention and keep her sitting still from cover to cover, but not often.  There is one book that always works, though.  Naked Mole Rat GetsDressed by Mo Willems.  We have several books by Mo Willems (the girls get a kick out of the Elephant and Piggie series especially Today I Will Fly), but that little naked mole rat is true favorite with my soon to be five year old.  She loves that he is naked.  I love that he is himself.  She loves the silly costumes he puts on.  I love that in the end everyone agrees to be themselves – whether that means being naked or wearing clothes.  She loves that everyone is happy in the end, and I love that she loves a book.

While modern blinking things are cool, and the girls do love their gadgets, I think books will still be a part of their lives.  If even my non-reader daughter can find a book to get sucked into, I think all kids can.  We just need to keep looking for new books to match their personalities.  Not everyone will like every book (although my older daughter comes pretty close), so don’t give up if your kid squirms away when you try to read.  Just keep trying, and when you find one that works, read it over and over until you can read it in the dark.

Here are a few more books we love:

And my favorite:   The Scarlet Pimpernel  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Mom, I want to make a book."

Back in the day, I worked in the gift shop attached to a photography studio.  We sold all sorts of picture related things - albums, journals, scrapbooks, frames.  We also sold kits for making scrapbooks and journals and hosted a variety of crafty classes.  That was a long time ago, and sometimes this old brain of mine forgets that I used to make things other than hats.  Thankfully, I got crafty kids.  Crafty, AMBITIOUS kids.  Crafty, ambitious kids who assume their mom can make anything.  They remind me from time to time that I used to be a crafty, ambitious kid, too, and then my little grey cells get moving and drag up memories of old favorite projects.  That is what happened this morning.

While sipping my coffee and watching a nature show about cobras with my older daughter, she suddenly turned to me and said, "Mom, I want to make a book."  I have no idea what about cobras in India inspired her to make a book, but that's how life works around here.  I watched the cobras eat another snake for a couple minutes, then my brain booted up (maybe it was more the last drops of coffee and less the snake eating snakes) and I remembered how I used to make my own books back in high school.  When the show ended and the snakes were all happily settled in their new sanctuary, we headed around the house to round up supplies.

If you want to make your own book, this is what you need:
  • Scissors or a paper slicer
  • Stiff cardboard (the kind included in packs of craft paper works well)
  • Pretty paper to cover the outside
  • Paper for the inside covers
  • Paper for the actual pages
  • Spray adhesive
  • Hole punch
  • Marker and pencil
  • Ribbon to bind it with
  • Anything else you can think of to make the cover your own
The first step is deciding how big you want your book.  Cut two pieces of cardboard that size (my daughter decided 4" x 6" would be just right).  Then decide how you want your book to open.  Cut 1" off along which ever edge will be the binding on both the front and back pieces.

Use your hole punch to make holes along one strip.  

To make sure your front and back covers will match up, use a marker to copy the holes onto the other strip and then punch them out.  

Cut your inside pages the same size as the front and back covers, trace the holes onto the edges, and punch them out as well.

Cut two pieces of cover paper slightly larger than your front and back covers (I like to give myself 3/4 of an inch on all sides).  Spray with adhesive then lay a cover piece and holey strip down.  Be sure to leave a slight gap between the pieces to allow the book to open and close. 

 First fold the corners over, then the sides.  Repeat for the other cover.  

Cut two pieces of lining paper slightly smaller than the covers (I like to trim off 1/4 inch from all sides).  Spray and place down covering the edges of the outer paper where it has wrapped around.  

Use a pencil to  poke through the holes (if you run your finger along the edge, the holes become more visible as little divots).  

Add whatever you want to the front then sandwich all the pieces together with the pages and use a ribbon to bind it all up.  To make threading the ribbon through the holes easier, wrap tape around one end.

Some fun variations are using fabric instead of paper (use fusible interfacing and an iron instead of spray adhesive) or cutting up magazine pictures to use as interior pages.

My daughter decided to use her new book to write a story about a shark named Eliza.  I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kids Get It

I saw this video today, and to me it just shows how much more the kids today know about bullying compared to the adults.  While I am trying to encourage my daughters to be strong and be themselves, and while I am trying to work with our parish's teens to teach them to live the golden rule, a lot of adults - a lot of LOUD adults - are trying to play down the bullying problem or blame the victims.  I have been told I am setting my kids up to be bullied and I should encourage them to "fit in" and match the crowd.  But isn't that backwards?  Shouldn't we be teaching acceptance, understanding, and celebrating diversity?  Isn't diversity what makes us stronger?  Our country is capable of doing so many different things because we have so many different people. If we all thought the same way, our growth would be so limited.  The kids get it, though.  They are fighting back and are standing up to the adults saying, "Wait, we've gone to far.  We have to start changing our attitudes."  Instead of saying, "Gay kids deserve to be tormented; beating up geeks and nerds is an American tradition; people who dare to look or sound different - whether or not they they can control it - should be driven from the herd," the teens are saying, "we need to stop making school a place to dread and start making it a place to learn; we need to stop finding differences and start finding similarities; we need to stop trying to force people to be like us and just learn how to live side by side."  I am encouraged by the changes I see in the teens I work with.  I am saddened because I have seen how very bad the bullying has gotten - much worse than it was when I was a teen.  I am angered because teens are not getting the support they need to grow.  Adults need to step up to the plate and stop bullying each other and really need to stop justifying bad behavior.  They need to start listening to the kids.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Star Trek is awesome, and I am awesome, so I love Star Trek."

We just got through two birthdays - first William Shatner's then Leonard Nimoy's.  For my four year old daughter, these were days of celebration.  She dressed up, baked brownies, and carried around her Cpt Kirk and Spock dolls as honored kings for a day.

I encouraged the celebrations for two reasons.  First, I believe life has enough serious stuff naturally built into it, so we should take every opportunity to focus on the positive, happy stuff.  Second, I love the messages in Star Trek and think my daughter will grow up to be a better person because of it.  I know some people think Star Trek is just a geeky sci fi show, or that it is boring compared to Star Wars because it isn't all fighting and special effects.  The boring factor is kinda what I like, though.  Instead of numbing the brain with explosion after explosion and building a story around visual effects and computer generated enemies, the show focuses on telling a story, examining philosophy and psychology and dreaming of a future with less conflict instead of more.  I want my daughters to be thinkers and dreamers, and Star Trek encourages that.   Cpt. Kirk and Mr. Spock fly through space in the future, a future my daughter longs for.  She looks forward to some day doing more, exploring more.  They have cool gadgets, so she starts talking about how she will make some and talks about what they are used for and compares them to technology around her.  We have discussions about how people make decisions by comparing Spock's cold logic to Dr McCoy's heated gut decisions.  What other show encourages a four year old to examine decision making that way?

One of the coolest lessons of Star Trek, I think, is the multicultural side of it.  Lots of different kinds of people and aliens are all living together, sometimes struggling with cultural differences, but working hard at sharing the universe.  They are always emphasizing peace and the need for peace and that peace is the end goal.  Peace and understanding - what better goals are there for a little girl?  Chekov, who the girls say talks funny even though he has the same accent as their father, lives with Scotty who has another accent and is friends with the Iowa boy Kirk who is best friends with the Vulcan Spock who sometimes clashes with but in the end is friends with the southerner McCoy.  Then there is the strong portrayal of women (even if they rarely wear pants). In the original series, Uhura and Nurse Chapel were the lead females.  They worked alongside the guys.  They didn't deny being feminine, but they also didn't deny being strong and intelligent.  Pretty good role models, I think.  Except for Chekov being extremely and hilariously Russian, the other characters were people first and ethnicities second.  That is how I want my girls to view the world.  In the show Trek Nation, Nichelle Nichols explained it perfectly when she told the story of meeting Dr Martin Luther King, Jr:

Simon Pegg, the actor who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the most recent Star Trek movie, further explained the additional benefits of being geek very clearly:

So I hope my girls grow up to be geeks, and I will continue to encourage them to explore strange new worlds and civilizations, to dream of a peaceful future, to seek ways to understand other cultures instead of fear them, and to be true to themselves without forcing their beliefs on others (the struggle of Kirk in many episodes and Picard's struggle with the prime directive as well).

Friday, March 2, 2012

DIY Sci-Fi

My younger daughter is all about outer space.  She loves everything about it - both the NASA and the sci-fi.  Her absolute favorite sci-fi show is hands down "Star Trek".  She is totally obsessed!  Her every day hat is a knit beanie with Spock ears.  She regularly wears her Spock uniform as clothes.  She sleeps with her stuffed Spock and Kirk dolls every night.  She has the opening memorized and giggles every time I put an episode on for her (she even knows the names of her favorite episodes and asks for them specifically).  She was a Tribble for Halloween.  So it was only logical that she should have a shuttlecraft for a bed.  Now, to buy one would cost money - lots of money.  We don't have lots of money.  The solution: make one!  She and her sister were already sharing an inexpensive bunk bed we picked up at Ikea.  To turn it into a shuttlecraft, my husband and I simply painted the bed with leftover gray paint from another project, and added sheets with logos (photo transfer paper run through a regular printer) and insignia.   Easy-peasy, right?

But she isn't narrow minded.  She also loves Star Wars.  Now, I know that historically Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans tended to be polarized.  I get it.  I certainly love Star Trek more than Star Wars.  But my daughter just loves adventure and space.  Once I saw George Takei's appeal for Star Peace - a truce between Star Trek and Star Wars fans - I knew we needed to add a bit of Star Wars into her room as well.

Here is how we did it.

Materials: unfinished wooden knobs, styrofoam cups, sand paper, ModgePodge, brush, pictures.

First, we took her cheap inexpensive dresser and removed the plain wood knobs.  Using the sand paper, I cleaned up and smoothed out the surfaces a bit.  Then we (she liked this part) poked the screws through the bottoms of some styrofoam cups to hold them steady and upright while we worked.

She very carefully cut out pictures of some of her favorite Star Wars characters.  I had printed them out as thumbnails on regular paper.

Then all we had to do was put each picture on a knob and "paint" them with the ModgePodge.  She wanted them shiny, so we used high gloss.  


In no time at all, she had six customized Star Wars knobs for her dresser.  She is a happy little geekling. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"I don't want to go to school."

Argh.  I am feeling really annoyed.  This morning, my usually chipper, happy, outgoing older daughter didn’t want to go to school.  It is Tuesday, so it isn’t part of her sleeping late on Mondays and Fridays thing.  I asked her about it and kept pushing, not satisfied with her mumbled, “I just don’t feel like it,” answers.  Finally it came out.  She was nervous about some bullies.  A few months ago, one of them punched her.  Her school handled it fairly very well.  The vice principal herself stepped in and mediated a discussion between Sofi and the bully, and promised to keep an eye on the situation.  Sofi, at the time, said she felt the vice principal took her seriously and she was satisfied with how it was handled.  But she is still nervous.  That punch really shook her.  It shook me.  She is in first grade and should not be worried about getting punched at school.  She also said those bullies – who are in second grade – have been teasing her about her new shoes.  She is a very active girl who loves running all the time.  When she outgrew her old gym shoes, I took her to the store to pick out a new pair.  Her main concern was that they be FAST.  We looked through the entire “girl” section, but there was only one pair of running shoes, and they weren’t in her size.  All the other shoes were either dress shoes, tall boots, clogs, or Keds style tennis shoes with sparkles on them.  We decided to move on to another store, but on our way out we passed the “boy” section.  She saw a pair of orange and black running shoes with Velcro and flashing lights.  She was so excited!  She tried on a pair and ran up and down the aisle.  “These are super fast!”  So we bought them and she was thrilled.  As soon as we got home, she put them on and ran around the dining room table showing them off.  She couldn’t wait to wear them to school and run around the playground with her friends.  Now she is sad about them because of the older boys taunting her.

So what can we do?  I can’t go to school with her and yell at those kids for making my daughter sad.  I can’t pull her out of school and keep her home alone, locked away from the mean kids forever.  And I don’t want to tell her she has to ignore her own taste and just do what society and the mean kids deem acceptable.  Lucky for my daughter, her grandmother writes books about teaching children to be peacemakers and she advocates for anti-bullying issues (through PFLAG and Illinois Safe Schools Alliance).  So we have some tools available to help guide her through this.  A friend of mine who is an educator and mother shared this resource with me as well.

The first obstacle was finding out about the problem.  She was ashamed and didn’t want to talk about it.  When I was in school, I didn’t want to talk about the bullying I went through, either.  The bullies make us feel ashamed and try to take away our pride.  We don’t want to repeat what they say because what if the person we are talking to agrees with them?  But now we know what is going on, or at least part of it, so we can move forward.

This morning we talked about things she can say when the bullies make fun of her shoes.  She settled on, “Why do you care?” as her choice comeback.  We also talked about the power she does have.  She has the power to walk away.  It is a big school with lots of other kids.  If one kid doesn’t like her, she can walk away and find another one to play with.  She doesn’t need to play with the mean kids.  If the bullies keep harassing her, she has advocates.  She can talk to her teacher or find the vice principal who helped her before.  It is a large school, but it has committed educators and administrators who will take her seriously.  Two of the teachers there are friends of ours from church, so my daughter also knows she can go to them as trusted adults.  And I told her we would talk more after school.  We will start working at home to arm her with confidence and tools to handle the haters.  Her little sister is also struggling with a bully at her preschool.  Her teachers said they are aware of it and that he is a problem for several kids.  She will be part of our new anti-bullying homeschool curriculum, too.

It makes me sad and angry that my children have to deal with this when they are still so young.  Part of me feels guilty, like I set them up for this by encouraging them to be themselves instead of trying to make them fit a mold.  But I think that is not right.  I used to work with high schoolers, thousands of them a year, talking to them about the problems they were facing.  All of them dealt with bullies in one way or another.  Even the ones who seemed perfect were teased about something.  Allowing my girls to be themselves, hopefully, will give them greater confidence in the end.  Hopefully the confidence and joy they show at home will prove to be stronger than the negativity they encounter in school.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

“I’m taking Mondays and Fridays OFF!”

Monday morning.  My house.  My younger daughter was already awake and chatting with me, and I said to her, “Hold on a second.  I have to wake your sister up now.  She needs to start getting ready for school.”  My younger daughter glared at me and said with a very serious frown,  “My God wants us to be nice to people.  Waking people up is not nice.  My God does not want you to go around waking up all the people in the house.  Got it?”

Now, I am not a morning person.  I never have been.  On Saturdays, the only day of the week I don’t have to wake up to get people some place, I want to sleep late.  I get very annoyed when people wake me up, and I can understand my daughter’s frustration.  But I am the mom.  It is my job to wake them up in the morning, make sure they eat a good breakfast, wear weather appropriate clothing, brush their teeth, get their hair out of their eyes, remember their backpacks, change their underwear, etc.  So I went to wake up my older daughter.
the breakfast glare 

“I think every Monday should be a half day, but not the kind with no school in the afternoon.  We should have yes school in the afternoon and no school in the morning.”

Yeah, again, I get it.  I really do.  When I was in school, I fought with my mom every single morning.  Now that I am the mom, I can’t help laughing.  I really do laugh.  I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it.  The more my daughter fights about waking up in the morning, the harder I laugh.  How can I not laugh at this great cosmic joke?  The girl who would never get up in the mornings, the girl who was always late to school, now has to get up early six mornings a week and try to get a miniature version of herself up and out the door?  It is pretty funny.  Luckily, my daughter is way better than I ever was.  If I walk away for five minutes then come back for her, she is up and ready to go 99% of the time.  And she really does like school, so she is pretty good about going out the door once she is awake.  But for that first five minutes of every morning, I laugh and feel sorry for my mom.

Friday, January 27, 2012

“Mama, the theme for my new bedroom will be fairytales, dinosaurs, and broccoli . . . or carrots.”

ready for SCIENCE
There is no denying my older daughter has eclectic tastes.  And there is no trying to tie her down to one description.  She knows what she likes and she sticks to it.  She loves pink, and she loves dinosaurs.  Always has.  She refuses to cut her hair because she wants to look like Rapunzel, and she is most comfortable in a pair of jeans and a science shirt (dinosaurs, microscopes, Stemgent, etc).  She is boy crazy already (even though she is only 7) and has plans for dating a lot when she gets older, but she doesn’t really want to be a mom.  She wants to have dogs instead of kids and wants to focus on her career as a hockey playing paleontologist.  She can sing most of the Disney princess songs, and can name most of the dinosaurs and paleontologists she sees, and can skate and take checks like a grown man.  I am constantly amazed by how strongly and passionately she embraces three worlds – the girly princess and the science geek and the tomboy.  What a wonderful, interesting, full world lies ahead for her!

cheering on her favorite team
Then I think about the little (and full grown) girls out there who don’t get a chance to be lots of things at once, who don’t know what they are passionate about.  Or the girls and women who know what they love, but don’t feel they can openly live out their dreams.  How sad is that?  And not just in far removed countries with laws created to shut women out.  There the burkas, curfews, regulations, limitations blatantly, opaquely define what a woman can and cannot do.  Here in Midwestern America, things are more subtle.  The eyebrows that go up when Sofi starts talking about science.  The people who laugh at her and then say, “Oh, well, she’ll grow out of it.”  When she talks about hockey they say, “That’s a nice way for her to meet a boyfriend, but I don’t think that is an appropriate activity for a girl.” (Even though girls have been playing hockey since the beginning of the sport.)  When she wears her Stemgent shirt and proudly tells people she wants to be a scientist and work with Lia Kent at Stemgent, it is not uncommon to hear actual gasps.  Why is this so shocking?  It is 2012, and women have been studying science, making incredible discoveries for hundreds of years.  At this point, her stubborn side (well, stubborn WHOLE) prevents her from being deterred by other people’s views of her hobbies.  But what about the girls who DO care what people think?  How is society blocking them in, shutting them off from other areas?  Telling them that "like a girl" means weak or vane or less intelligent.

So what can we do?  Give our kids options and lead by example.  For little boys as well as little girls.  Will it really kill them if we let the boy play in the kitchen and the girl play with Star Wars Legos?  Will they really be teased that much if the girl wears blue and the boy wears pink?  And who will tease them most: kids or adults?  The adults, in my experience, are the most judgmental and limiting.  They are the ones who set up these gender roles and teach them to their children.  Kids don’t care until the adult tells them, “That is wrong and I am right.”  When my younger daughter wanted to cut all her hair off, I was nervous because of what the adults in our community might think.  Then I came to my senses, adopted her courage, and realized I have to set the example and not force her against her will to adhere to illogical gender norms.  Does hair length really matter in the end?  Nope.  Is she thrilled with her short hair?  Yup.  Have some people questioned the decision? Of course.  Does she care? Not yet.

And in case you were wondering, my younger daughter is planning a Star Trek themed bedroom.  She likes other things, too, but dreams of living on the Enterprise (she already has a shuttlecraft bed).  Here she is with her favorite things (doll dress from here, Alice in Wonderland tutu dress from here, Cpt Kirk and Darth Vader from here).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“Hey, Mom, did you buy this on Etsy?”

Not an uncommon question.  That and the request to window shop Etsy.  Of course my girls like my shop, but they really love other people’s shops more.  They have become just as addicted to the online marketplace as I have!

At first I was skeptical.  I am not a naturally trusting person.  My husband has had bad luck with buying things from Amazon and Ebay, so I wasn’t sure Etsy would be any different.  But I like selling things there, so why not buy things there, too?  I mean, I am an honest person, so why not assume that other sellers are as well?  I have had a few bad experiences (cranky sellers, really late delivery, and two items have turned out the wrong color).  But I learned from those bad choices and from the blog Etsy itself puts out for sellers to learn how to identify low risk, reliable shops.  Here are a few of my favorite shops and tips for what to look for.

Unisex hand embroidered - Halloween skeleton shorts - Dancing calaca
get it here

Friendly Sales People

Read profiles.  Really.  It is a good clue as to whether or not a seller takes pride in his/her craft.  And it lets you know how serious they are about being a good seller.  When I read Chez Marmota’s profile, I loved that she was dedicated to reusing, creating, and supporting the preschool she was working at.  The fact that she was selling a sweatshirt with a walrus was just the final straw and I had to shop.  The back and forth pleasant chatting that happened after the sale made me feel confident I had made the right choice.  I wasn’t just shopping a big box store, giving my money to some far away man who had nothing to do with his products.  I was giving my money to someone like me.  I now have a long list of things to buy from her shop in the future.

Jupiter Seen Through A Porthole Vinyl Wall Decal
get it here

Shop Policies

There is nothing like getting a junky product and then realizing you can’t return it.  While Etsy encourages sellers to fill in their shop policies, not everyone does.  That’s a red flag that they are going to handle issues in a professional manner.  Yes, people shop Etsy like a craft show or flea market, but the sellers still need to be serious, professional business people with plans for how to handle any problems which may arise and plans for how to keep customers informed.  WilsonGraphics, another of my favorite shops (my older daughter has a large chalkboard decal, and my younger daughter has two portholes with views of outer space), did a great job filling in their shop policies.  You can tell this family is doing this as a serious and legit business.  I was 100% happy with the level of communication, service, and product I received.  No question was left unanswered.  And I knew exactly what to expect.

American Girl Sized Tangled  Rapunzel Costume
get it here

Read Feedback

On Etsy, it really is rare to find negative feedback.  If a shop has a low percentage of positive feedback, be forewarned.  Read through what the complaints are.  Are they related to the product you want to purchase?  Do they seem like legitimate complaints or just people being unreasonable?  I shop on Etsy a lot and have only not left positive feedback twice.  It is so worth it to check first.  Want an example of positive feedback?  Check out Enchanted Designer.  She earned that 100% happy customer rating.  Her products are well made, shipping is fast, descriptions are accurate, and her customers appreciate it.

Finally, Live and Learn

Find a shop you like?  Stick with them.  Here are a few shops I have multiple products from:

Catnip Eyeballs (Pair)


Handmade Barbie clothes - bright pink satin gown with boa

Have you ever seen a smack of jellyfish: an alphabet book

and of course, my shop  ;)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Христос рождається!

One of the perks of having a Ukrainian dad and American mom is that my girls get two of almost every holiday.  American Independence Day, Ukrainian Independence Day.  New New Year’s Eve, Old New Year’s Eve.  Western Easter, Orthodox Easter.  Same is true for Christmas.  They celebrate American Christmas with my family – Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, etc. in December.  Then in January, they get Ukrainian Christmas – kutya, baby Jesus, etc.  They love it. 

We try to keep the two holidays separate, not putting the traditions of one in with the other.  So Santa comes only once in December.  We spend that holiday with my family eating our traditional foods (ham, clam chowder, lots of brownies and candy canes).  In January, we focus on baby Jesus, the girls get gifts from my husband and me and my husband’s family, and we eat traditional Ukrainian foods.  Because we live in America now, obviously the December Christmas gets a lot more hype.  The challenge for us is to find ways to make the Ukrainian traditions seem just as special.  We found that the easiest way to show the girls how cool their Ukrainian heritage can be is to invite non-Ukrainians to celebrate with us.  When the girls are teaching others about their traditions and seeing how excited people get about the cool, unusual foods, the girls get more excited and realize how special those traditions can be.

This year we invited a new group of friends to celebrate with us.  Two of my friends brought their teenage sons to our Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner.  The presence of those two boys was invaluable!  First, they are boys my daughters know from church and who my daughters look up to.  Second, both young men came with open minds and no negativity.  Even though some of the food we served was a little strange to them, neither made “ewww” faces (at least not in front of us) or showed any attitude about trying new ethnic food.  They politely said, “No, thank you,” to some of the dishes and then took seconds and thirds of the things they did like.  I loved watching my older daughter watch the boys eating and trying “her” food.  When one of them raved about the varenyky, she beamed with pride.  She is a huge fan of borsht, so she took great joy in watching him try it.  She had fun showing her old USSR cartoons and explaining a Ukrainian story to them.  She proudly dressed up in her Ukrainian style clothes to show them as well.  The affirmations she received from those two young men built up a pride in her which I hope she hangs onto.