Wendy Knuth Author of Moore Zombies, blogging about the human experience.

Tag Archives: #holiday

One Of The Most Perfect Gifts For A Toddler!

EPSON MFP image

Everyone has heard the adage of buying presents for children only to find out they prefer the box.  Well, from experience, it is true.  So today, my good friends, I am here to tell you about one of the most cherished gifts your child will get from you:  An item to bond with, to sleep with, a source of comfort, homemade with love.  Yes, you will beam with pride when other parents ask you, “Where did you buy that?”

From me to you:  Make a pillowcase!

Back in the day, I made a Teletubbies pillowcase for my son.  He loved it – he treasured it for a couple of years.  My other son was meanwhile enjoying the store bought 101 Dalmations bed set, just so you know he wasn’t neglected.

Go to your local store where materials are sold such as WalMart or JoAnns, and you will find a whole new world of options:  Animals of all types (real and cartoony), holiday themed prints, fairies, princesses, flowers, specific sports teams, and copyrighted Disney characters.  What did I find for my boys?  Dinosaurs and construction equipment galore.  Jackpot!

IMG_20160609_182831891

Worried about your sewing skills?  Don’t be.  I’m not an expert seamstress.  Out of all the things one can sew, a pillowcase is probably one of the easiest, even if you don’t have a sewing machine.  If your work is not up to par, your child probably won’t notice.  But just in case, here is a handy tip from me to you:  Don’t sew ALL the edges together or you will be left with a pillowcase malfunction.  Handy tip #2 – buy a “travel pillow” – it is the perfect size for a toddler, and you’ll need even less material.

A yard of material is dirt cheap compared to your limited selection of pricey bed sets, and you can almost bank on the idea that toddlers don’t know that bedding should match, and really, why should it?  Where is the fun in that?  Live a little!

Alternatively, if you are “one of those people” and just can’t function without the matching set, you can take it a step further.  I actually made (er, um, yeah) dinosaur blankets.  Okay – I didn’t MAKE the blankets.  I bought really cheap blankets and then covered one side with dinosaur material and used a plain blue cheapo material on the other side.  In retrospect the plain blue material was more difficult to deal with since it was very stretchable.  Tip #3:  If sewing is not your thing – don’t buy anything too stretchy.

DSCF0365

My dinosaur blankets each have a large seam running down the middle because often material is sold in smaller widths than can cover an adult sized blanket – did my kids notice?  Nope!  However, after a couple of weeks, one son complained of something pointy in the blanket.  Oops – it turned out I had sewn in one of the pins I had used to keep the edges together.  Tip # 4:  (I think you get the point, yuk, yuk.)

That same young man is now an older teenager.  Out of the numerous pillowcases I made for him, he still has (in his closet) what is now an old, raggedy pillow with the construction print pillowcase.  He is not willing to part with it.  It is a keepsake of his.  Oh my gosh, how worth it is that?

IMG_20160609_182528206

So pick a print, apply your skills and give the gift of a pillowcase!  Tip #5: Don’t forget to include a pillow.

Since you may not always be able to find what you are looking for at your local store, I am including some affiliate links for themed materials that are always available online:

Outer Space Fabric

Unicorns and Such

 
Tell me how it goes. . .

 

Wendy Knuth

Author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books

 

Christmas and The Leaning Tower of Tree

Leaning Tower of TreeHand Xmas Tree
I bought a Christmas tree.  I placed it in the holder all by myself, and low and behold I could not get it straight.  More importantly, I couldn’t get it steady.  Perhaps older teenage boy that I purchased the tree from at the local grocery store did not cut the bottom correctly.  I broke out the old camp saw and cut it again myself.  If you want something done right. . .  Long story short, the tree is still leaning, and still loose.  It could fall over at any time.  I may have uttered a few bad words.

So let’s reframe the situation.  Instead of admitting defeat, I will name this year’s tree:  The Leaning Tower of Tree.  It is much easier to cope with the situation, and much more fun.  I have to admit, I did think about strapping the tree to the wall with plumber’s tape.  Have I mentioned that my husband, the old bald guy, is a plumber? The layperson might imagine that plumbers tape actually has a sticky side.  No, it is a thin sheet metal strap with which you use screws to secure things to a wall or stud, such as a water heater in an earthquake prone environment.  No, it is much more fun to deal with said tree in its current condition.  It is what it is.

Thinking back to previous years, I recall the year of two trees.  The kids couldn’t agree on which tree to buy, and of course they each favored a different one.  Luckily I could afford and we bought them both.  Then there was the year of “The tree of poverty.”  I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when the economy took a terrible turn for the worse.  I bought a tiny little table top tree on the cheap, almost Charlie Brown style but not quite as sad.  We had a lot of fun making fun of that tree, and the savings made for more money for presents.  Boy, how I miss the days of the dollar bin for the plastic airplane or car that the kids loved as much as they would love a brand new computer nowadays.

So buy a tree, or don’t.  Draw a tree on cardboard and stand it up against the wall.  Put together cutout hand prints of your children, tape them together, and tape it to the wall.  Don’t be sad about it.  Set the mood and make it fun!  Oh, and don’t forget to name your tree.

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies picture books and early chapter books

Thanksgiving – My Family’s Tradition of “Boo”

I blogged a pinch about this last year, but this is a much more in depth blog about the boo subject.  Here goes:

Every time I see a contest for a Thanksgiving story, I think of my grandmother who has long since passed away.  My family has an interesting tradition that stems from a Thanksgiving dinner many, many years ago.  We say “boo” after a good meal.  A good meal means that someone actually put some effort into cooking.  One might say “boo” after a meal they did not enjoy in a show of respect for the chef, however, one would certainly not say “boo” after a fast food meal.  Back in the day, there was no such thing as fast food as far as today’s meaning of the phrase.

The tradition started before I was born.  I have heard the origination story so many times that I feel as if I were there.  I was not.  Now that I think about, I have only ever heard the story from my mother’s perspective.  Yet, I was there for meals with my grandmother and family when we all said “boo” afterwards.  Only now do I wish I had heard perhaps a truer, closer to the source version from my grandmother’s own mouth.

I wrote a wonderful piece on the subject from my grandmother’s point of view.  Envision the daily life of a young mother in the 1950’s and all the differences between then and now, and all the similarities between then and now.  I can picture my mother as a young child at the time, who could not even fathom her own grandchildren as she knows them today who live to carry on this tradition, much in the same way that my children can’t hardly imagine their own children yet to come, let alone grandchildren who perhaps will say “boo” one day after a home cooked meal, maybe a Thanksgiving meal.

As I introduce you to the slightly more dramatic version of this tale, I hope you think of your family’s past, present, and future, and revel in your own family traditions!  Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy. . .

 

Listen To What I Hear

Pay attention.  Listen to what I hear.  I took pride in my craft.  I slaved all day with no help, no offers of help.  I expressed my affection through my work.  My loved ones gathered around, and took part in this, the most intimate of family traditions, a holiday known most for family gatherings and for a day of thanks.  No compliments were heard, no thanks, no giving on anyone’s part but mine.  I was waiting, just waiting for even the smallest something.

As the last family member left the table, save for myself, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was ired by their rudeness.  I heard a voice coming from myself expressing in a disappointed and loud voice the same words I was feeling: “I worked hard all day for this fine meal before you and no one even said boo!”

My family was just as shocked by my reaction as I was by their non-reaction.  The children eyed each other, eyed me, and then eyed their father nervously.  My husband, at first, looked surprised.  His perplexed expression relaxed, and slowly turned to adorement.  A faint smile slowly crept upon his face.  He then said “boo” in the nicest, most loving way.  My children giggled in the moment and also said “boo”, each in turn.

It was the smallest something.  But really it was greater than that.  From resentment and compassion was born this family tradition:  A gift of folklore to the family, from the family, for the family.  My legacy?  Perhaps.  I am no longer here, and yet, this old soul lives on. Boo. It is what you would expect this old ghost to say, but it is what I hear.

Wendy Knuth, author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books.  MooreZombies.com

Spooky Time – A Fun Halloween Game!

Tonight I reminisce.  I would like to tell you about the fun & scary game that somehow just came to be.  It became a favorite Halloween tradition for our family.  Spooky Time.

When my children were very young, I liked to set the mood for whatever holiday was present.  I just happened to be shopping for Christmas items at a craft store when I noticed a 90% off deal for Halloween items.  Lucky me. I bought numerous, numerous candle holders at 10 cents apiece.  Skulls, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, etc.

So come next Halloween, I put them on display.  I also wanted to play some Halloween music, and all I could find was CD’s with songs such as The Purple People Eater.  I used to light the candles in the spooky looking candle holders, as well as in the jack-o-lanterns we had carved.  I would play the fun music and the kids would run around.

We turned out the lights so we could see how spooky the carved pumpkins and ghosts looked.  Then we decided to play hide-n-seek.  There were numerous candles everywhere so that every room was very well lit.  We even left some of the lights on, but dimmed them.  My boys were so cute.  They would go to their bedroom for one minute to give us time to hide.  Then, they would come out with big eyes, fake swords and plastic armor.

As the kids grew, I had to find scarier music.  So I went online and found some great clips that I downloaded and put on CD’s:  Werewolf howls, theme music from The Exorcist, theme music from the Halloween movies, music with people screaming on occasion, maniacal clown house music, the dreaded string sounds that you usually hear when someone is being attacked in a movie, etc.

The years continued to pass and we had to have less and less light as hiders were more easily found.  By this time, the REALLY scary music was blasting, and the neighbor children came over for this great, fun, scary, Spooky Time.  Sometimes the kids would hide with adults being the seekers, other times vice-versa.  We discovered throwing items at or near a seeker could throw them off, and there was a lot of moving around so that hiders could go to a place where the seeker had already checked, leaving the seeker to believe no one was hiding there.  One thing was very apparent – the jump scare never gets old!

Fast forward a couple of years.  The lights were almost none existent.  The music still blared on.  So, yes, injuries started to occur.  Hiders and seekers would run into each other.  One night, I heard “Wendy, I’m bleeding!”  We turned on the lights and our neighbor had a split in the center of his forehead.  How very Halloween to have blood dripping down all over his face and onto the carpet.  I thought he had crawled into an outside wall corner but it turns out he had just run straight into the flat surface of the wall.  Head wounds bleed, um, a lot.

Boys and men are so funny.  As my husband and I were working on the boy’s wound, my husband told him that someday women would be impressed with his scar, but that he needed a better story.  Apparently, running into a wall doesn’t excite the ladies.  All of the boys got to work.  I was amazed by all of their fantastic stories as to how our neighbor had now suffered this injury.  Great imaginations!

Being the only female present, I found it very interesting that there was no screaming or crying, but almost a proudness, a rite of passage if you will.  I’m sure if some young girl had split her head open things would have been quite different.

I don’t think that was the last year of Spooky Time.   I believe the next year the kids wore their karate gear, including headgear.  We may have even gone one more year.  But it was pretty much the end of an era.  And that is why I reminisce.  It was a lot of fun.  Go ahead and give it a try, just remember to leave some lights on.

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies  MooreZombies.comGE DIGITAL CAMERA

What Did You Do With Your Christmas Tree and Did It Involve The Fire Department?

So there we were.  Post Christmas and what to do with the Christmas Tree.  I have to tell you that when we first get the tree I am really good with watering it.  I am always amazed at how much water a Christmas tree can drink in the first few days, but as time goes by, it drinks less and less, until there is no loss in water in base at all.  The needles go from soft and pliable to bone dry and brittle.

My husband has numerous stories of burning a Christmas tree and convinces me that it goes quickly and that is an amazing sight.  For some reason, after numerous year of marriage, he decides we will burn the Christmas tree in the yard this year.  Yes, we have a big yard.  No, I have never seen a Christmas tree burn before.

So we happen to have this weird, old, wood burning stove thing with a vent in the top that has been outside since we bought our house.  My husband places the Christmas tree into the vent hole, so now the base of the tree is about four feet off the ground.  Please add 6 feet for the Christmas tree just to adjust your visual picture of this situation.

The old, bald guy takes a match to tree.  Oh my, wow, holy moly.  I watch as the fire catches quickly and burns up one side of the tree, crackling and popping as it goes.  Once the flame reached the top of tree, a HUGE fireball rolled off and went up, up, up, I swear maybe twenty to thirty feet.  Small cinders and ashes are raining down on our immediate neighbor’s home to the north, where the wind took it.  My husband had the forethought of having a hose ready and starts spraying the tree with water.  I’m thinking this is not good, this is dangerous, I’m sure that neighbor would not appreciate this.  Did I mention that we were new to the neighborhood?

So my hubby is putting out the fire, and doing a good job, except I’m still concerned about all the little cinders possibly igniting a fire in the aforesaid neighbor’s yard.  Hubby assures me he is looking around at the neighbor’s yard and making sure that nothing will happen, with hose in hand.  A little time passes, and he is sure all is well, so now it is time to continue with burning the other side of the tree.  Yes, one side of the tree actually did not burn and it is time to finish the job.

Next thing we know, we hear a siren.  I am sure it is for us.  I tell my husband I hope you know that siren is for us.  He blows me off like I am an idiot, a complete idiot.   It is a coincidence.  The neighbors to the west pop up in their upstairs window and yell to us – you scared the heck out of us, we saw the huge fireball and thought your house was on fire.  So then, of course, another siren is heard.  My husband starts to put two and two together while the neighbors do the same and yell with amusement at our expense “here comes the Fire Department!”  And even then, we hear a third siren.

My husband goes into defense mode and says “let’s go inside.  Turn off the lights!!!”  We see a fire engine going down the next street, slowly as if looking for something.  I explain to him that they are most definitely looking for us and we should come clean because every single neighbor will point to our house and then we look really bad.

So at this point there is a fire engine coming slowly down our street and hubby realizes he needs to fess up and goes out to greet them.  He tells them he lit the Christmas tree on fire.  Their first question is did we have a permit?  This question is actually a rouse, because where we live there is no such thing as an after dark fire permit.  (We learned this afterwards.)  My husband apologizes and asks if he is going to be the idiot in tomorrow’s newspaper.  They assure him that he will not, as long as he does not continue with the stupidity.  Now, we live in a small town, or at least it was at the time, so I am kind of surprised that a 3 engine response did not gain the press that it should have.

I have fond memories of the half burned Christmas tree that sat in our yard for months.  Our town now has a wonderful recycling program for Christmas trees which we take advantage of every year, perhaps brought on by pyromaniacs like us.  It was an interesting way to meet some of our new neighbors.  And I hate to say, I would like to see, some day,  what it would have looked like if the whole tree had gone up!!!

Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments Are The Best!

I love my Christmas Tree!!  Many years ago when my husband and I were celebrating our first Christmases, we didn’t have much for the Christmas tree.  We bought some ornaments from a neighbor kid for a school sales drive.  We bought bright and shiny hanging balls and tinsel.  We bought a unique ornament here and there, which of course would be horribly expensive if you bought enough in one season to fill up the tree.  I’d have to say for the first several years of our marriage, our Christmas trees just had a manufactured feel.  Memories of purchasing ornaments from K-mart just don’t warm the heart.

After my Grandmother passed away, I inherited all of her numerous ornaments which I LOVE!!!  Most of them are handmade.  The woman could sew.  There are angels and stockings and snowflakes and Santas; all the typical ornaments you would think of for Christmas.  I also have mice, geese, trains, drums, teddy bears and little wreaths.  I recognized and remembered the felt angel I had made as a Camp Fire Girl with sequins and nylon material for the styrofoam head.  And there are really unique ones, such as Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, Raggedy Ann & Andy, items you wouldn’t associate with Christmas but they are adorable.  I even have a Batman ornament and Robin ornament.  There are so many – enough to fill up the whole tree.

As a youngster, my mom would always cook popcorn on the stovetop.  Does anyone remember the labor that went into quickly moving the pot back and forth over the burner as the popcorn popped so it wouldn’t burn in the layer of oil?  My mother gave my brother and me a needle and thread so we could make long strings of popcorn for the Christmas tree.  I’m sure we ate more than we put on the string but it was great fun.  We also made chains with links made out of cut up strips of colored construction paper.  Cook that popcorn with your children, and link those links!

Since we have had our two boys, they have added to the collection.  They made ornaments in school and at home.  I still have a Kirby ornament made out of pipe cleaners, er um, chenelle sticks (they loved the Kirby Airride video game at the time).  Yes they made paper chains.  There are styrofoam balls they glued sequins and shiny glitter to, with unfolded paper clips as hangers.  There is an ice cream cone with a glued on ball.  There are simple ornaments that are paper cutouts that they drew on with crayons.  They may not be the most artistic but since they are from my boys, they are the best and I hang them with pride!

So when the Christmas tree goes up, and I start hanging the ornaments, I am flooded with memories.  My Grandmother made this with me as a little girl, here are the ones my sons made when they were young, and yes, my best friend bought this as a present for my first son and my first Christmas as a mother.  Now the tree is not just a Christmas Tree, it is a Memory Tree, truly a Family Tree, full of history, each ornament with its own story.  Make those ornaments, keep them, remember them, hang them, relive the memories and retell the stories.

SAM_0368