Sunday, September 22, 2013

Justin’s part in the Primary Program…

Our church has one Sunday a year where the kids are the focus of the congregation's main meeting, Sacrament meeting.  It is called the Primary Program and it is always full of tender testimonies and beautiful children’s singing and a few spontaneous kid funnies.  I have looked forward to this meeting every year, even when I was a kid!
Right after Justin got his diagnosis of Autism, when he was almost 4 years old, we moved to a new state in search of better services for him and a better lifestyle for our little family.  I remember sitting close to the front row for the Primary Program that year, very excited to hear all the children….and then I looked at one of the mom’s faces as she smiled proudly as her son bravely walked to the pulpit in front of the congregation and said his part.  Her tender smile was so touching and then my heart sank as I wondered what our future with Justin would hold, and whether he would ever be able to participate in the Primary Program….or any other things I had dreamed about.  I sat for the rest of the meeting paralyzed with my worries and fears and with tears streaming down my face.  I felt so scared and alone in our journey with Justin and Autism.
Now fast forward 6 years to today.  This is not a story of full recovery from Autism or a miracle of Justin speaking spontaneously, but it is the sweetest miracle story I know!!  It didn’t start out to be a good day, by any means.  Justin woke up mad and had several meltdowns all morning.  He tried to undo my husband's white church shirt which we thought was most certainly a sign that he wanted him to change his clothes and not go take him to church today!!  We took all the kids to church anyway and Justin went in to the building, and promptly had a pretty severe meltdown.  He started taking off his own clothes(we should have put him in more comfy clothes today—our bad!!) in the foyer and my husband and I looked at each other and agreed—the Primary Program wasn’t happening for him today, and that was okay!! 
He had made it through two practices already.  And I am always in awe at the spirit of love I can feel from all the kids in Primary and their leaders when Justin is around.  At one of the practices, they waited for him to come in from the hallway and when he entered the room and walked up to the pulpit—there was complete silence.  Not an awkward silence, but the silence of anticipation of something great.  I felt like every kid was holding their breath and thinking, “You can do it Justin!”  That triumphant, supportive spirit is something I know that Justin can feel.  And my husband prompted him word for word through his part.  And as soon as he finished, everyone sighed with a smile of pride—their Justin did it!!
Once we realized Justin wasn’t going to make it, my husband took him to the car to watch a movie while I stayed to hear my daughter.  Justin had the first line of the program, and as the time got closer I decided to go to the car and see if he wanted to give it a try.  My husband told me he had already tried to bring him back into the building, and he melted again!!  I got his attention and asked him if he wanted to say his part in the microphone.  He looked at me and said, “Yes.”  So we decided it wouldn’t hurt to try it again.  We anxiously waited outside the chapel doors and then as soon as all the other Primary children were seated we motioned for Justin to come to the doors.  He ran the other direction and squealed.  My husband went over and picked him up and he started laughing.  That’s when we knew this might actually work out.  He carried him through the doors to the chapel and directly onto the stand and then he walked up to the pulpit and being prompted by my husband word for word said his part into the microphone, “I-KNOW-THAT-I-AM-A-CHILD-OF-GOD.”  And then he smiled, and walked out of the chapel.
He didn’t smile for a picture because he was too busy eating his Swedish Fish as a reward—he deserved it!! 
I am always so proud of Justin for how hard he tries every day to combat so many obstacles that challenge him. He is such a great example to me and shows me such great determination.  I know that he knows he is a child of God.  He is not any less of a child of God than anyone else on this Earth.  It is such a simple phrase, but it completely puts into perspective why we are here in this life and reminds me that our day-to-day challenges are so temporal.  I am so grateful for that pristine moment of clarity today from hearing Justin’s testimony. I love you with all my heart buddy!!
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Friday, September 20, 2013

My favorite Beginner Sewing Machine… Brother XR1300

At the suggestion of a friend in bartering for eggs this year, I ended up teaching sewing lessons—who would have thought I would love it so much!!  In the process of teaching, I had a student bring her Brother sewing machine and I noticed it had speed adjusted button with “turtle speed” (it literally has a picture of a turtle on one side!!) as an option.  My Little Miss tried out her machine on turtle speed and she was in love.  She had already used my sewing machine since she was 6, but using the Brother machine with the speed adjuster really helped her feel more comfortable and really enabled her to be more independent in sewing.  After that, and because of all the young students I was getting, I started looking to purchase a new machine.
On a recommendation from a quilt shop owner who I adore and who I took classes from in the past, I tried the Brother XR1300 from Costco.
I have had this for 6 months now and used it myself, and had several students use this machine…..and I love it.  It was about $169 and I bought it online.  The best thing is it has the speed adjuster button and so my daughter is in heaven.  She can sew independently and because it goes a consistent slow speed she also has the time needed to adjust the fabric and learn how to sew straight consistently.  I have had several adult student who like the slow speed as well to start, and then you can adjust it to a faster speed as soon as you get the hang of things.
Here are the other things I have tried, and like about the machine…
  • Zipper foot—I have sewn a zipper once or twice in my life before this machine, but this one is very easy to use and I have made several of these adorable zippered pouches (pattern at  
  • Straight stitches and zig zag stitches are easily adjusted in length and width with the digital adjusting buttons.  I haven’t had problems sewing burlap and minky fabric on this machine either.
  • I recently tried out the free motion quilting on this machine and I felt like it was comparable in ease to my mom’s Bernina machine that I have.  It also has a mini stippling stitch available to choose on the digital decorative panel—I thought it was a great option for smaller pieces or doll quilts.
(free motion example on left, decorative mini-stippling on right)
I went to a local Bernina shop and asked them to show me some of their basic models for beginners and they showed me a great little machine that was $800—that was their student/basic machine.  I am sure it was a good machine, but if you are looking for something more affordable to start a new hobby or teach children how to see—I love the Brother XR1300.  Enough that I bought another one for my sewing classroom so more students have the option to go “turtle speed!”  It is a great beginner sewing machine!!
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

DIY American Girl doll skirt sewing tutorial…

My Little Miss loves to sew, she is almost nine and loves using the sewing machine by herself—and she’s getting pretty good at it!!  We have lots of mommy-daughter sewing dates, but she also gets sewing time rewarded to her if she gets all her studying and assignments done.  She has been working so hard the past couple of days to get all her chores and studying done that she earned some sewing time today.  We had about an hour while the other kids were napping and she pulled out some of her favorite fabric from her stash and asked if she could make a skirt for her American Girl doll.  And so we did!!
Little Miss measured Kirsten’s waist as 11 inches.  So we doubled that length to 22 inches and cut a piece of her fabric 22 x approximately 6 inches. 
She sewed the edges of each 22 inch side over about 1/2 inch.
Then she pinned a row of rick rack to the bottom edge and sewed it in place.  She couldn’t decide on which color, so she ended up using both!
She folded the skirt in half and sewed a seam to connect her skirt.
Next we cut a 10 inch piece of 1/4 inch elastic and sewed the ends together.  I helped her pin the elastic to the seam and then match the middle of the elastic to the middle of the skirt (so the elastic will be stretched evenly when it is sewn).
To finish the skirt, I helped Little Miss stretch the elastic until it laid flat against the fabric and sewed all the way around the waist.
We spent about 20 minutes on this project and it was done!!  And my Little Miss couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  I think I know what to get her for Christmas—a bag of scrap fabric and rick rack!!
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Monday, September 16, 2013

DIY Chalkboard with Hobby Lobby open frame…

I often look in my rear view mirror and see four little faces in the car and think, “I HAVE FOUR KIDS!!”  I am the busiest I have ever been—but I can’t think of anything else I would rather be busy doing!!  That being said, I have so many different places to be during the week that I sometimes feel like I don’t know whether I am coming or going!!  And then I saw it….a beautiful, scalloped open frame at Hobby Lobby.  It hit me that I could get some chalkboard paint, paint the wall in my eat in kitchen and frame it!!  They had chalkboard paint right next to the acrylic paint at Hobby Lobby.   I love the way it turned out!! 
It usually has a scripture of the week across the top, and Monday –Saturday columns with all the million places and appointments I need to remember.  It saves me brain power on trying to remember everything going on in my life.  And if that isn’t enough reason to love this thing—dressing up the board for birthdays and holidays certainly is. 
My other favorite part of this board is that it is right next to the dinner table which makes it easy to focus on where everyone is headed during the week and how we can help each other with our family and personal goals.  We get to catch up on what everyone is doing at dinner time together! 
This school year has been different than any year for us because I don’t have any kids in school!!  Justin is taking a break from school to focus on healing from PANDAS(which is going really well!!), and this is our first year homeschooling Little Miss.  I have to say, I love homeschooling—it has been so rewarding!  I wasn’t going to give up my ceremonial First Day of School pictures—so I got some of all my kiddos.  They turned out so fun using the chalkboard for the background!! Look at this picture of my sweet Justin—see that smile??  Yep, we have been seeing a ton of smiles from him lately—which make me smile more too!!  And he has learned how to pose for pictures!!
I wrote down each of my kids’ names, and grades and listed three of their personality traits that are their strengths and then included a few things they love at their ages.  It reminds me of what sweet kids I have and how all their strengths are needed in our family—I feel so blessed to have these kids making me smile everyday.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Up-cycled Denim Ruffled Skirt tutorial…

I don’t like sewing clothes—have I mentioned this??  I am sure I have!!  I do love sewing clothes from a blog tutorial or refashions, but if it is a big chain fabric store bought pattern—I am not a fan!!  But I love making stuff for my kids—so I just improvise!!
I took an old pair of my toddler’s jeans that had a hole in the knee, cut them off, and added ruffles to make a skirt—and it turned out adorable!!  I have taught this a few times as a sewing class and the girls love it!!
Here’s what you need:
  • Old pair of pants you don’t mind cutting up!! (I like denim but any structured non-knit pant will work)
  • muslin fabric for the underskirt
  • three, 4-5 inch x 45 inch(standard bolt length) strips of fabric***If you are wanting a more ruffle/pleated look or are making this for an adult, you will need to double the amount)
  • sewing machine
  • serger**you can turn over the edges instead if you don’t have a serger**
1. Lay out your jeans and measure from the outside of the side pocket down the side of the pant leg until you reach the same point across from where the crotch of the pants are.  Mark with a fabric pen and then measure that same amount from the other side and mark with a fabric pen.  Next cut from that outside marked point to the center of the pants and then to the other side so you end up with no crotch in the pants anymore and it looks like a super mini skirt.  **Make sure you watch that you are not cutting the back pockets off in the process.  If you have lower pockets in the back, than adjust your measurements lower so all of the back pockets will still show once the skirt is finished.**
2. Next take your muslin fabric and measure around the bottom of your denim skirt.  Pin to the skirt, right sides together leaving enough extra fabric to create a quarter inch seam down the length of the skirt.  Sew to the denim fabric, then sew down the side seam of the muslin.
3.  Take your 4 inch strips and serge the raw edges on both sides so they won’t fray.  If you don’t have a serger, just turn your edges under and sew a quarter inch seam.  Sew the short ends together with a 1/4 inch seam so your strip is now a continuous circle or loop.
4.  Slide your circle strip around the muslin skirt and fold over every few inches all the way around and pin it to form “pleats.” 
5,  Sew the strips with pinned pleats on the muslin skirt.  Repeat with the two other strips. Trim bottom of the muslin skirt and either serge or turn under edge and sew a 1/4 inch seam.
And that is it!!  These are quick and easy to make and look so cute too!!
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Burlap Deco Mesh Monogram Wreath…

I needed something for my front door, and after a few months of stewing came up with this little beauty…
Hobby Lobby is killing me with all their fun burlap stuff!!  The base of the wreath is made from burlap deco mesh and then I found these beautiful burlap flowers the other day there…
Added a few fall berry picks and a mod podged monogram wood initial and voila—fall wreath complete!!
I think it may need a little hot glue to keep everything in place, but other than that—it looks great on my door!!
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Money Saving, Time Saving, Stromboli…

I came across this great pin on Pinterest for Stromboli from Shatzi at Love and Laundry.  I modified it a little bit for the convenience of our family and it turned out so yummy!!  It only takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and 30 minutes to bake.  It is kid friendly, even my picky-eater-kid-friendly.  The best part is, it looks amazing too!!  It is a great dish for entertaining or taking to someone who is sick.
We use our Zojirushi bread maker to make our dough, here’s the link to the recipe.  I use Cooking on Clover Lane’s dough recipe which has a little bit of brown sugar in it that makes the dough perfectly sweet.  If you don’t have a bread machine you can use your own favorite pizza dough recipe.
Here’s the recipe:
  • Pizza dough
  • Prego Sauce
  • Deli ham, we use Boar’s Head honey maple
  • Sliced provolone
  • Onion powder(only because my kids won’t eat real onions)
  • Sliced olives
  • Egg
  • Parsley
Cook at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.
The dough I make usually makes two, small Stromboli.  I roll out the dough on a cookie sheet…
Then spoon some Prego sauce on top and sprinkle onion powder(if you have picky kids like mine) or use real onions;)…
Next, spread out a layer of deli ham…
And then a layer of provolone cheese slices and sliced olives…
Fold over both sides so they overlap, and then use toothpicks to hold the edges together.  Make sure to tuck and toothpick the ends tightly so that the Prego doesn’t ooze out, and be sure to count your toothpicks so that you know how many to pull out when it is done!!  I rub the dough with an egg wash and then sprinkle parsley on top.  I bake mine on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
I let mine sit for ten minutes or so and pull out the toothpicks and then slice on an angle to serve.
Look how pretty it looks!!  And it cost less than $8.00 to feed 4 people!!
And the leftovers are great the next day, too!!  This is our favorite “go to” meal and I love that it is budget friendly!!  Couldn’t be a better combo!!
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