Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Homemade Swiffer Pads

If you've been following this blog for any period of time, you know that we are committed to living green. We are not perfect by any means, but we do what we can, where we can. Our housekeeper is a big fan of the Swiffer, and as someone who needs help with the physical work of cleaning due to my  health issues, I can certainly understand why she loves it. But, as soon as I bought the first box of pads, I knew that it would be my last.

I found  lots of different tutorials online for making pads. I decided to do an experiment to see which worked best.

Starting at the top left in the photo above, and moving clockwise, I used flannel, a cloth diaper, fleece, terry cloth (an old towel), and bar mop

The fleece and flannel work great for dusting, but are not suited for wet mopping. Of the three remaining, the bar mop worked best, then the towel, then the diaper. 

Once I figured out which worked best, I got to work making more. They only take about 15 minutes each to make and they are a nice easy project for even a sewing newbie. After all, a glorified rag doesn't need to be perfect!

You'll need:
  • bar mop towels
  • fabric--this is a great project to use up scraps. Each piece needs to be 5.5" x 11.5".
  • Velcro. 
  • Swiffer pad (optional) 

First, cut 11.5" x 5.5" pieces of both your fabric and bar cloth.

Place the two pieces right sides together. The towel is pretty stretchy. You may want to pin the two pieces together. Or, you can be like me and trim the towel after you sew.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the fabric, leaving a hole so that you can flip the material right side out.

Before turning the fabric right side out, you can  trim the edges. 

You can also trim the corners to avoid bulk. Be careful not to cut too close, or you'll end up with a hole in the corner. I speak from experience.

Turn the fabric right side out. I like to use a chopstick to make sure that the corners are fully turned out.

Iron the edges down, taking special care with the hole to make sure that the folded down edge lines up with the sewn edge.

Sew along the edge again to close the hole. I use a 1/8" seam.

Cut two strips of Velcro, 11" long. You only need the fuzzy side. The bottom of the Swiffer mop is going to be the scratchy side.

Stitch around the Velcro, as close as you can to the edge. I used a zizag stitch in my first pads, but I found that they pulled away too much. Because you will be washing this again and again, you'll want to make sure the Velcro is securely attached.

And you are ready for sparkling clean floors! I should mention that I make my own Swiffer solution, too. I haven't found a formula I love, but if you have, tell me about it in the comments!

As far as care, just throw the pads in the wash when you're done. Let them air dry, though, because you don't want to be pulling that Velcro apart!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

August Projects

What a month! I am so ready for a break with my ongoing health issues. This month I spent three days in the hospital. Niels and I celebrated our 7th anniversary with a dinner date at Panera. I had a triple berry scone for dessert and wouldn't you know, Panera adds watermelon extract to its triple berry scone. That would be fine except for the little fact that I am allergic to watermelon. My tongue swelled up and I started coughing up a lung. I spent the next few days coughing so hard that I was throwing up. That led to bronchitis, which led to pneumonia. So...I had to spent a few days in the hospital to get everything settled down again. Some anniversary, huh?

In better news, I did get a few things done. I finished my first quilt in a while. The family I lived with before Niels and I got married were moving out of state. I wanted to make a quick quilt for them before they left. Here in Ohio, nothing epitomizes our state like Ohio State football, so I made a quilt based on the trademark Ohio State helmet.

I am so happy with how the label turned out. I finally figured out how to cut fabric with my Silhouette Cameo!!!

I made another flag shirt for a sweet girl born in Ethiopia. I couldn't find a white tee in her size so I improvised. 

Our family has continued to near-nightly tradition of playing Settlers of Catan after dinner. I finally did something I've been wanting to do for over a decade: I spray painted the brown pieces purple. And for fun, I added glitter spray. 

We keep our pieces in these fishing lure trays. They are awesome and fit all the pieces for the expansion games, as well.

D liked mine so much, he asked for his blue pieces to sparkle, too.

In anticipation for our new international guest, I added a frame to our guest room door.

Eugene, from Moldova, stayed with us for a week before starting classes at a local university. (Also, our son learned how to use a knife!)

Of course, I had t make a Moldovan flag shirt for D. 

D and I made one of Eugen's favorite meals, pelmeni. We were all fans of these meat-stuffed dumplings and I will be making them again!

Speaking of favorite meals, I posted about one of my favorite go-to recipes: oven-baked chicken with veggies. 

I took pictures, but haven't posted recipes yet for two other favorite meals. 

Our housekeeper uses a Swiffer, but I wasn't a fan of all those disposable pads. I knew I could make reusable pads, so I experimented to see which worked best, then made a big stack of them. (For the record, terry cloth and bar towels worked the best).

I roadside-rescused an old crib and repurposed one side into a rack for D's summer toys. 

I used another side to help our soon-to-be kindergartner plan his uniform choices each day. (I used a third side of the crib as a magazine rack in my craft room)

Speaking of preparing for school, I also made a dry erase card for D's daily notes. 

I also updated his morning checklist.

And then the big day arrived! After wiping my tears, I wrote him a letter

With all my newly-found free time, I got back to my craft room to get acquainted with my friend Pfiona (on the right). I wasn't planning to upgrade until Christmas, but I was ahead with my saving plan, and because I have the best hubby in the world, he encouraged me to take advantage of the big sale at the quilt show I attended in Pittsburgh.

It was a very good day!

I started with a little hanky for D, using the alphabet stitch.

And pieced together a new block based on a quilt I saw at the show. 

Then I made a snack bag for D. 

Feeling confident, I turned my attention to the quilt tops I finished for a sibling set. 

Verdict: Pfiona is dreamy!

 And finally, like thousands of others, I took the ALS ice bucket challenge.

Whew! What a month! I'm looking forward to a more low-key month in September.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Giving to a Good Cause

 Like thousands of others, I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS. If you aren't familiar with the challenge, the deal is that, once challenged, you have the option to either dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate $10 to www.alsa.org, or skip the ice and make a donation of $100. As of today, more than $103 million dollars has been donated to the organization. More importantly, people are talking about a horrible disease.

For many, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. For me, ALS is also known as Ed Dobson's disease.

Ed Dobson was my first pastor when I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1999. It was a very large church and easy to find, so I thought it would be a good place to try to make some friends in my new city. I quickly got involved in singles ministry and met some of my closest friends. Prior to coming to Calvary, Pastor Ed was best known for his work with the Moral Majority and Jerry Falwell. After becoming disillusioned with politics, he moved to Grand Rapids, Ed ruffled feathers by becoming and early advocate for those living with HIV/AIDs in West Michigan. He became less concerned about power and more dedicated to mercy. Even though he preached to audiences in the thousands, he was still approachable to individuals. Lean and healthy, I remember being impressed by the way he lead hiking trips with young people from the church. Then, in 2001, he was diagnosed with ALS. 

ALS is a vicious disease, slowly taking away a person's ability to control their body, starting with large limbs--arms and legs--and eventually robbing them of their ability to move, swallow, and finally, to breath. It's a long goodbye. When Pastor Ed was diagnosed, he was given two-five years to live. He's been around for thirteen, and has made the most of these years when his brain is willing and his body is weak. He's written a couple of books, including Prayers and Promises When Facing Life Threatening Illness and Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart, as well as several DVDs as part of Ed's Story

In the flood of posts and columns being written about ALS as a result of this challenge, the one that has stuck with me the most is the one by Bo Stern, who wrote "What An ALS Family REALLY Thinks About the Ice Bucket Challenge."

I highly recommend you read the entire post, but here's the take away: The Ice Bucket challenge is a fundraiser to be sure, but take the time to learn a bit about the disease, too. Here are her suggestions for "walking a mile in ALS shoes."
If you would like to experience just a tiny corner of an ALS life, I have a list of Empathetic Experiences for you. These are things you can do to walk for just a mile in ALS shoes. If you try one, take a little time at the end to consider that people actually living with the disease have a million miles more to go.

    1. Pick up a 10-pound weight. Now imagine it’s your fork and move it from your plate to your mouth repeatedly without shaking.
    2. Sit in a chair for just 15 minutes moving nothing but your eyes. Nothing. No speaking, no scratching your nose, no shifting your weight, no changing the channel on the television, no computer work. Only your eyes. As you sit, imagine: this is your life. Your only life.
    3. Borrow a wheelchair or power scooter and try to maneuver quickly through the aisles at Walmart, without speaking. Note the way people react to you.
    4. Strap 25 pounds to your forearm. Now, adjust your rearview mirror.
    5. Using none of your own muscles, have your spouse or child or friend get you dressed and brush your teeth. Write down some of the feelings you have being cared for in this way.
    6. Before you eat your next meal, take a good, long look at the food. Inhale deeply and appreciate the aroma. Now, imagine never being able to taste that – or any other food – for the rest of your life.
    7. Put two large marshmallows in your mouth and have a conversation with your friends. How many times must you repeat yourself? How does this make you feel?
    8. Go to bed and stay in one position for as long as you possibly can, moving nothing.
    9. Strap weights to your ankles and climb a flight of stairs, taking two at a time. That’s the kind of strength it takes for someone with ALS to tackle the stairs on a good day.
    10. Install a text-to-speech app on your phone or iPad and use it exclusively to communicate for one day. (Source: Bo Stern )

There have been criticisms of the challenge, for sure. That it's just a fad. That the ALS isn't a "worthy-enough" disease. That the ALS Association doesn't spend donations in the right way, the waste of water, etc. But here's what's good about the Ice Bucket Challenge: people are giving the money to help others. That's a win in my book.

When all the Ice Bucket buzz was filling up our feeds, I queried my Facebook friends:

If you could magically raise millions to cure or alleviate a disease or condition, what would it be?

Cancer. MS, autism, and mental illness topped the list of replies. Other responses included Alzheimer's, Crohn's, Marfan Syndrome, juvenille diabetes, congenital heart disease, MPS III, muscular dystrophy, lymphedema, and Prader-Willi. I've linked to organizations my friends know and trust.

Of course, traumatic brain injury is the condition I've lived with for the last ten years. I would love to see more money raised to education, prevention, early treatment for those who sustain TBIs, and assisting those who live with brain injuries. The organization we give to is the Brain Injury Association of America.

Oh, and in case you are interested, here I am getting soaked!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A letter to my son on his first day of kindergarten

Dear D,

So, this is it. Today you officially start your academic career. It's your first day of kindergarten.

At 6:45 this morning, you bounced into our bed with your own charming alarm sound. You were ready to go! I, on the other hand, was not so ready to let you go.

I spent the night thinking of how, surely, it was just last week that we brought you home from the hospital. I thought of those early, exhausting days when we were first getting to know each other. The days of delirium. I was deliriously happy to finally have you safe in my arms after a hard pregnancy. And deliriously tired from nursing you every two hours around the clock to get you back to your birth weight. But we eventually figured things out and settled into a routine.

I thought about how you were so alert and curious even from a very early age. I remember pushing you around Target and how you would get so excited when you saw flash cards. They were your favorite toy and we spent endless hours together practicing as you would pull out your favorite set and ask to play. I'll never forget the day when  you were 20 months old and we were walking around downtown. You saw a sign and you ran to it, excitedly pointing to each letter and saying its name. You really took off from there. On your second birthday, you realized that the letters on your birthday cake spelled your name. By three, car rides got very interesting, as you would call out the words you saw on signs, and buildings, and roads...and pretty much everything. By four, you could read anything, but your favorite thing to read about was space. By five, you were reading to yourself, and already I miss hearing you read when you don't think I'm listening.

On the other hand, not everything has come easily to you. If you find something to be difficult, you are far too quick to give up. This is something we've been working on, and mommy and daddy remind you often that, just like John F. Kennedy said, "We...do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." So much comes easily to you, son, but you will feel more accomplishment and pride when you conquer the hard things. For the longest time, you were afraid of water. Now you love to swim and are getting better and better with each class. Doesn't it feel great to see how far you've come? And riding your bike. You had the hardest time figuring out those pedals. Now you can ride your bike up and down the street. We'll keep working on it, and soon you'll ditch the training wheels and be flying down the street--safely, of course!

I thought about all the walks in the park, our trips to Joann where you played on my phone while I shopped for fabric, our garage sale hunts where I gave you a dollar to spend but you rarely did because you charmed everyone into giving you the things you wanted.

I thought about our mommy and son dates to your favorite restaurant, Chick-Fil-A, and how now, whenever we got to a restaurant, it just doesn't measure up if it doesn't have grilled chicken, fresh fruit, and apple juice...and french fries to share.

I thought about the things you've loved: first Elmo, then Thomas the Train, and now NASA and all things space. I smiled when I thought about how last week, when we were hosting a college student from Moldova, you drew a five stage rocket as you lectured him on flight dynamics. I can't wait to see if your dreams of being a rocket scientist come true. Or even if you will still want to work on rockets when you grow up.

But mostly, when I think about what you will be like when you are an adult, I hope that you love God. I pray that you will thank God for the mind that He has given you, and not let your intelligence keep you from knowing Him. Many of the early space pioneers, both on the ground and in the atmosphere, were believers, and learning about the created instilled in them a greater awe for the Creator. I am so thankful that our pastor is a former rocket scientist, and has taken you under his wing, to answer your many, many questions, not only about the universe, but also the God who created it.

It's a mommy's job to think about such things: the man you will be, the boy you are, and the baby you've been.

I thought about how, for the last six and half years, since I first learned you were in my tummy, how your well-being consumed my thoughts--where were you? were you safe? do you need to eat? drink? sleep? be changed? get clean? be held? As you got older and I could step away for a few moments, to go to the bathroom by myself, for example, you would still want to be near me and would wait, not-so-patiently outside the door, or, more often than not, inside the door.

I thought about how this summer you have grown more independent. You were such a happy baby and toddler. You completely skipped the terrible twos and threes. But five has been the year of NO! as you have have learned to assert yourself and express your ideas of how the world should work. And you have such detailed ideas! I think that was God's way of preparing me to let you go to school!

You actually started school two years ago, at preschool in Miss Jodi's class. How I sobbed after I dropped you off that first day. And that was for just two and half hours, two days a week! But I didn't know what to do with those five hours a week without you! I ended up learning to sew so I could have a hobby to fill my hours. Last year, you went to school all day three times a week. It was a perfect arrangement. I had solid blocks of time to sew, but we still had two days of "just us" time. Today, though, we start a whole new routine. For the next thirteen years, you will be in school and I will be home, missing you and wondering where the time has gone.

Last week, we attended your kindergarten open house. Your new classroom is just down the hall from where you were in Pre-K, so you already know your school. Your new teacher was the other preschool teacher, and your classes often mingled. You know Miss H and she knows you. When we spoke to her as you were settled in corner reading a book, she told us she was familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, and was already talking with the other teachers about how to give you the best year yet.

So many of your friends from Pre-K are in your kindergarten class, so I know that you will have so much fun catching up with everyone. And as we left, you saw a little girl in tears, partly for fear of a new school, and partly because the class looked so fun she didn't want to leave. You gave her a big hug and said you would be her friend. My heart nearly burst with pride. I hope you are making her feel welcome the way your friends made you feel welcome last year when you joined the class weeks after everyone else.

D, You are going to do great. If you are anything like your mommy and daddy---and we know you are--you are going to continue to love school and won't miss me a bit. And that's just the way it should be.


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