Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Ben!

Today Ben is one year old. He celebrated by skipping daycare and spending the day with grammy. He joined Josh for lunch and had dinner with grandma Sherry and grandpa Steve. Between all of that, I gave him his first haircut (just a little off the back) then quickly finished up his birthday present that I have been working on since a little after Christmas - Ben's Barn! It's a felt playhouse that fits over a card table.

The front is made to look like a barn door and he has a lamp on one side and a mailbox on the other. The mailbox opens and has letters that he can put through the opening. I made the lettering by printing the words "Ben's Barn" and then using that as a pattern to trace onto the felt.

One side has a vegetable garden with corn, radishes, onions inside pockets made to look like soil. Some of the vegetables have jingle bells sewn into them and others have crinkly plastic or other textured fabrics on the inside. The stems are bendy and made by sewing pipe cleaners into felt tubes. The corn is woven white and yellow corn, just like the corn we grew in our garden last summer.

The other side has an apple tree and a corral which holds his stuffed cow. The apples come off with velcro, and I may make pears or oranges to stick on there some day.

The back is our pond with velcro fish, a dragonfly, and cattails.

The inside is much less complicated, mostly covered in book pockets. 

I also used clear plastic sheeting to make picture frame pockets around the top of each wall.

And curtains for each of the side windows. The tiebacks are also tied around the legs of the card table to keep everything in place a little better.

And he has a fireplace in back. I still need to sew around each of the windows and trim the bottom a little. He absolutely loved playing with his barn. He crawled in and out through the door several times, then pulled all of the books out of the pockets, the apples off the tree, then crawled back in and out a few more times, trying to see if he could get his head through the mail slot. 

Felt is so forgiving and it is very much like using construction paper. Nothing was turned and top-stitched and everything but the lettering was cut freehand without doing much of any measuring. I sketched out my plans and I must give credit to my blog-spiration here. You will see many of her ideas repeated throughout my playhouse project, (mailbox, mesh in the windows to keep your kid from climbing through them, tree and garden ideas, etc.) and I am so grateful for her blog and sharing her creativity with the rest of us. She includes a lot more details about how to make each section and templates that make it possible to completely repeat her process.

I custom fit this to our small card table. I believe she used her dining room table, and somewhere she mentions that with felt, it is a little tricky to manage that much fabric when you are in the final stages of putting everything together. Because I did the inside and outside, I had a tough time managing the weight of the final project when I was sewing the finishing touches. I still need to go back and fix a couple of things and it's going to be tricky to keep the fabric from breaking the needle or pulling in the wrong direction.

I didn't use any patterns or templates, so I don't have any of that to share on here, but I think the best part about the barn is that I used features of our own farm and home. Ben's barn was the single biggest crafty/sewing project I have ever attempted and I think it was a big hit.

This is from his first haircut. I figured while I had the good scissors out I might as well cut a few of the long places in the back. I already don't like how old his haircut makes him look.

Monday, February 15, 2010


We started brushing Ben's seven teeth this week. He doesn't mind it as much as I expected.

Our helmet appointment was this afternoon and his head hasn't progressed any further over the past two appointments. He's very close to being within the "normal" range for his head size and proportions, but I'm not sure he's going to get there. Helmet therapy is so uncommon for children of his age, and their bone structure is not as mailable aside from surgery. We go to Dr. Sami again in March and we will hopefully "graduate" from helmet therapy. I am so ready to be done with it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Almost 1

Ben will be one a week from tomorrow! I realize how cliché it sounds, but his first year has gone by all too quickly. I tried so desperately to live in the moment and keep track of the most momentous events by writing them down. There are still moments too precious to capture here, like the connection we've had through nursing, or his excitement in initiating peek-a-boo for the first time.

Ben started daycare last week and will be going three days per week for the rest of the school year. He enjoys playing with the other children, but is still getting used to the new routine and the separation from familiar adults. He has been in the care of us or family exclusively until now. Considering that, he's doing quite well with this transition. The daycare workers have commented that he definitely lets everyone know if he needs something. I think that's a trait that Josh and I may have equally contributed to his personality.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Taxes Finished

Every year I have had to file taxes, I do my own. This makes my tenth year of being a taxpaying citizen, and my tenth year of filing with TurboTax online. I think most of the online programs are pretty comparable, but Josh ran the numbers through H&R Block and I used TurboTax and we ended up with a bigger refund through TurboTax. That doesn't really make sense, but I think it includes more deduction categories or something. Josh commented that this is such a good example of why the tax code needs to be simplified.

It took me about five hours this year because I had to total a mountain of medical bills and receipts. Our out of pocket medical expenses ended up being $6,892 for the year. That's not even including the three thousand we put on the flex spending account card. Unbelievable. We have health insurance. I really don't understand how people without health insurance can handle medical catastrophe without filing medical bankruptcy. I went through every bank statement for the year and highlighted the medical expenses, Josh's work expenses, and anything I spent on my classroom and it was fascinating to see what was left.

I didn't realize how our country's recession has affected us until I thought about last year compared to the previous year. Having a child has also changed our spending habits dramatically. I'm already trying to be optimistic about this year. Without major medical expenses, and with both of us working regular, salaried jobs that have taxes withheld, I think everything should go smoothly.

I am still adamant about cutting costs where possible. We may not need to buy shampoo or toiletries for another year with the amount I bought with my couponing binge. However, if we run out, there is no way I will shop without a coupon. We also purchased a Sam's club membership with intentions of buying in bulk to save. On diapers alone, we will make back our membership fee this year.

Ben is so, so close to taking his first steps. He stands for quite a while, and can walk all over the house if you hold one of his hands or if he's pushing his train.