Friday, 27 December 2013

Craftiness Roundup: Sewing

My mother gave me a sewing machine for my birthday/Christmas present and in 6 months I made three things. While, obviously, I'd like to Make All the Things, I'm largely at peace with this output. Little Dinn is not hugely fond of letting me out of her reach and I'm sticking to my decision not to sew while holding her. If this makes me staid and boring, so be it.

My first "familiarise one's self with the machine" project was some summery gingham bunting. Simple double-sided triangles, sewn to a ribbon of bias tape. I don't seem to have a picture of the project but here's one of my audience.

Emboldened by my success, I bought a Little Dress Kit for a double-sided smock for Little Djinn. It turns out I'm no good at curves but I did successfully figure out buttonholes and babies look cute in anything, even if the seems are wobbly.
My third project was another set of seasonal bunting, autumnal prints, greens and oranges and golds with a bit of pumpkin, again attached to bias tape. I spaced these a bit further apart than, on consideration, I would have preferred but it's good enough. I had enough triangles to make a smaller strand of bunting to hang in the porch, greeting people at the door.

Autumn bunting hanging in the stairwell.

I bought a pattern, fabric, and notions to make a romper for Little Djinn but never so much as took the fabric out of the bag. I also bought two prints to turn into wall-hangings. My mother cut them out, pinned them together and started quilting one. That's exactly how they remain. I hung them anyway, for Thanksgiving.  Just today Lilltle Djinn got a care package from Grandma which included pre-cut triangles and bias tape for some winter bunting. I'm feeling optimistic about its chances.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Robot Turtles

We backed our first (and only) kickstarter project this year: Robot Turtles. It's a boardgame aimed at teaching (younger) children the basics of programming, namely the step-by-step and literal execution of code. The goal is to move a little turtle from a corner of the board to the centre of the board to collect a jewel. There's a jewel for each turtle so ever turtle wins. Yay!* Each player gets a stack of instruction cards used to tell their turtle what to do: go forward (a blue card, moves the turtle towards it's blue flower), turn left (a yellow card, the turtle has a yellow flower to its left), and turn right (a purple card, turns towards the purple flower).  In its basic form, an empty board and colour-coordinated movement cards, I'd say the game is similar to Candyland.

As the child's skills develop so does the game's challenges: ice walls on the board and a laser card to melt them, boxes that can be pushed, and immutable stone walls to navigate around. You start off playing movement cards one at a time, then three at a time, and finally laying out the entire series of actions (code) and seeing if you got it right. If not, if you played a wrong card, you can play the "bug" card and play a new (series of) card(s).

That's all well and good, but what if your child is too young (or non-existent)? What if you want to play with other adults? We came up with some variants that I think will help: 

There is no one turtle mover. Either everyone moves their own turtle, the turtle of the person next to them, or any turtle in front of them. Making silly sounds as you move the turtles is still vital. 

Each player is given a selection of objects with which to decorate the quadrant of the board closest to them. These can be dealt out or drawn blindly from the lid of the box. Alternatively, take turns devising a challenging maze.

Deal out the robots and jewels at random. Robots have to collect their matching jewel. Jewels serve as walls to other robots. Remember when planning your obstacles that your turtle may have to get past them. If you're playing with less than four turtles, dealing out all four will keep their relative placement random.

Another thing we didn't try is random placement of the jewels. Label the grid like a chess board and randomly select a grid space (if the space is occupied, select again). 

We also tried writing out our code in advance and then executing them concurrently. (one move at a time) which sometimes meant revising one's code as another turtle moved (or itself became) an obstacle. 

There's another type of card, a function card, where a series of moves can be shorthanded and repeated. I was thinking it could be used in the adult version to allow a super-turn but to keep someone from making their entire code a function and completing the game on their first turn, a function must be used twice and contain at least three executable cards, eg no creating a two-card "laser (melt an ice wall), move forward" function or a function where you fire a laser into empty space or turning right and then left again, where nothing has been achieved. Turning left as part of the function and then having to turn right again on the next turn, however would be allowed.

That's what we came up with last night, what variations have you come up with, for children or adults? And if you missed the kickstarter but still want a game, I'm told they put some extra copies for sale on Amazon(US).

* everyone cheering when a turtle wins is in the rules. Yay!

Friday, 6 December 2013

9, 10 A Big Fat Hen

Nine was not a good month for us. We've had rough patches before, a fortnight at 4 months, a fortnight at 7 months, but this rough patch lasted pretty much the entire month. There was another cold, a cough this time, which she passed to Chris and then myself, and she decided that being asked to lay on her back whilst having her nappy changed was the worst thing in the world* (which got even more festive when my normally backed up booboo got diarrhoea) except for being put in her high chair which was also the worst** but the absolute worst was that she wouldn't sleep at night unless she was in bed with me. As she wanted to go to sleep at 7, this was also the worst for me. This was also the month with two nights where she threw up on me three or four times. At least the second time she threw up on her Daddy first. Some experiences are best shared and if it had been all me all the time I would have been bitter.

Thank god that's stopped (though she sometimes fights me over nappy changes or going in her chair, but only once every day or two, not Every. Single. Time.). It was only just this last week that I got her sleeping on her own without nightly hysteria: we hug over the rails of her cot until her legs give way and she lays down, then I rub her back, cover her with a blanket and rub her back. The first two nights this involved a wash-rinse-repeat action with some protracted cuddle sessions but now it's mostly just once and a minute or two at most. You can't even believe how much better this is for everyone. Part of me wants to beat myself up for not working this out earlier but the ruling majority is just happy it's working now. And, in fairness, I did try this earlier and she just stood there and cried.

But it wasn't just being in a funk; Little Djinn has a tooth! Just one on the bottom that broke through on Thanksgiving. In the Bad Month she regressed slightly on the food and figured out that boobies still exist even when they're hidden under my shirt. She can now indicate a specific desire to nurse by trying to tug my clothes off, which was cute for two days but now I'm trying to teach her to ask more politely. Between the eating less and being able to request boobs on demand we've been nursing more and she's currently waking up twice in the night to nurse. 

Since my last post we started (and this week ended) another playgroup, a free one sponsored by the Scottish government, from the same woman who taught baby massage and the weaning class. It was the same group of mums so LD was still at least 3 months older than the other babies, she's on the verge of walking unassisted and they're just sitting on their own. But they're all about the same size. We had a little Christmas party for the last session and some of the mums requested that the babies dress up. I was thinking party dresses but didn't get my act together to buy one so instead I put her in the Santa Suit Karen gave her. Turns out that was exactly the right thing as the other babies who dressed up were all in "fancy dress" (costume) as well. Another baby showed up as Mrs Claus but not in time for the impromptu group picture.***

Little Djinn is continuing to do really well in swim class, though we wound up in the Friday session (we're back on Monday now) and it never quite worked for us. We were always running late, and never quite warmed up to the instructor though she did figure out how to stich the foam bricks to the wall and later put them back in the bucket. She's very interested, in general, in taking things out of containers and putting things into containers. The other day she sat in Daddy's office and started dropping his unused coffee pods in the rubbish bin, one at a time. She's also put the cat food back in the box (minus a few pieces she ate) and even tried putting individual grains of rice into a cup. She has a 2" square Tupperware that I keep her Cheerios in and she can put the lid back on it and even pop it closed. 

She's standing on her own, though briefly, and can do things while standing like bounce up and down. She loves bouncing and will bounce for ages if she has something to hang on to. She likes to push walk chairs around and will hang onto the back of my trousers to push me around, too. She walks if we hold her hands and does her own steering. I only give her one hand so she has to do her own balance. At the pool on Monday she got hold of a tiny kickboard and walked around in the shallow end hanging on to it. It wasn't floaty enough to take any wait so it was purely a confidence/counter-balance thing. She's just adorable. 

She definitely understands us (though as the baby book points out, she's also developed enough to decide to ignore us), and will seek out favourite toys such as Monty the Monkey and His Motorcar when prompted.  She figured out how to play "chase" and spends a fair amount of time trying to coax Daddy to push the little car after her. We bought rubber mats for the lounge with the money my godparents sent for her Christening and can I just say how nice they are on adult knees? I mean, I bought them for her so she doesnt bonk her head when she falls over, and they're less slippery than the floor, but man oh man, the difference in playing on the floor with her on the mats vs without them is astonishing. 

Little Djinn has also started babbling with a vengeance. Mostly when she's happy it's "dah dah dah dah dah", when she's upset it's "muh muh muh muh muh" and when we're being told off it's "bah bah bah bah" though she's getting more sounds including "dis" and even starting with cadence.

For Halloween Little Djinn and I went as The Incredibles. For Thanksgiving we had 4 (American) friends up, three from London and one all the way from SF, though he was in the country for business. Chris keeps saying he wants our Thanksgiving to be world renouned, which appears to be working, and to convert all the Brits to Thanksgiving which seems to be going backwards since we went from three Brits last year to 1.5 this. Two of our guests are coming back for Christmas and, other than putting up a tree (on top of a table) and hanging lights we're pretty unprepared. Good thing our baby has no expectations, right?

*and as a consequence spent most of the month in disposable nappies.

** though once she was in she was in she was usually fine if only briefly

*** the elf kept toppling over, falling backwards out of the ball pit.