Preschool At Home: Part One

May 31, 2011

When I was visiting Emily a few weeks ago, we were brainstorming about some of the things we wanted to blog about.  One of our best ideas was to talk about doing preschool at home (sorry, no sewing again this week).  Both of us had a successful year doing a home preschool co-op with a group of other kids and mums.  Since it's still fresh in our minds, we wanted to share some of our ideas on the topic.  I am sure there are a few of you out there trying to make plans for next year for your 3 and 4 year olds, and doing preschool at home is a great option!
My son on our way out the door to his first day of preschool

Why do Preschool at Home?

Many of my friends' children, and most of the kids in our neighbourhood, attend preschool at an official preschool center.  While I don't think there is anything wrong with that, I didn't make sense for us for a few reasons.  First, my husband is a graduate student and our income is, um, small.  There was no way that we could afford to pay the tuition for any of the preschools that I was interested in (why do they cost more than what I paid for college tuition?).  Even the very least expensive option would have been a real stretch for us.  In addition, I didn't feel quite ready to send my child out into the world.  I am pretty careful about media, and language, and other influences of that nature, and I know as soon as I send him to school he will be exposed to things that I haven't chosen.  Both my family and my husband's family participated in home preschool groups, so it was in the back of my mind as a possibility.  I knew both of us needed something, and was very happy when a friend approached me with the idea of starting a preschool group for our children.

Recruit Others to Join You

I am fortunate to have a built-in network of mothers (that mostly stay home with their kids) and kids through church.  Last year, I asked around to see which families had existing preschool plans, and was lucky to find a group of 5 kids to form our preschool.  All of the children in my group were 3 turning 4 (with only an 8 month gap between the oldest and youngest) and we had three girls and two boys.  For this age group, I think 4 or 5 kids is ideal.  You want enough children to make it feel official, but more than that sounds unmanageable for one adult.  If you have more kids and mothers that are interested, you could also organize things so that two adults are present during preschool.  And a smaller group is okay too.  Emily had a group of three kids, and it was still a good experience for them.  

To form your group, ask mothers and kids that you (and your child) like, live close by, and if possible, also share common ideas about discipline and child rearing.  I mentioned that my group was formed from families at church, but this isn't the only way to find interested people.  One of the mother's in Emily group was a friend she met at the swimming pool.  I find people at the park, or swimming pool, and other kid places are friendly and eager to chat about preschool and similar topics.  I know in our area, there is a great website that lists many play groups, and these types of groups are perfect for meeting other interested families.

Before Valentine's Day I hosted preschool, and we made cards for all the mothers.  The kids loved lacing the cards!
Setting it Up

When you have identified a group of mothers (or fathers) and kids, invite all the adults over for a planning meeting.  This is a good time to discuss everyone's general goals.  We wanted our children to become accustomed to having a regular schedule, participate in enriching and fun activities, play with kids their age, and practice having a teacher other than their parent's.  This next year, now that our kids are a year older, we will be doing more kindergarten preparation (pre-reading and early math type activities).  We also decided on a general weekly schedule.  We met twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 9:30 to 12:00, and alternated houses each week.  Since there were 5 families, I had preschool at my house every 5th week.  Some of the families have older children, and we were careful to plan around school holidays.  At this meeting, we also decided upon themes for each week for the first half of the year.  We chose not to use a set curriculum (like Joy School), but instead we picked topics that the kids would be excited about.  To see our full year schedule, click here

But I'm Not a Trained Professional?

I have talked with a few mothers that worried about their own ability to participate in a home preschool co-op.  My feeling is that you don't have to be a trained professional to prepare good lessons and facilitate learning and fun.  Obviously, having child care experience is helpful, but if you have a preschool aged child, you have quite a bit of this experience from being their parent.  On Thursday, Emily is going to discuss some of the specifics of running preschool on a more day to day basis, and lucky for us she is a trained professional!  The other good news is that the internet is a pretty fantastic resource.
Here are a few of the places I visited often when planning preschool:

  • Everything Preschool - I especially found their song section helpful 
  • Preschool Expresss  
  • One Pretty Thing - they often feature kid craft projects, and the site has an easy to use search tool 
  • Google - As I sat down to write this, I can't remember which websites I've specifically used.  When I'm preparing my lesson plan, I always start with a google search and go from there (typing in my theme and the words preschool, craft, songs, etc).
The week of Halloween I had the kids at my house.  Everyone dressed up, danced to the Monster Mash, and practiced some simple counting, addition, and subtraction with Jack-o-lanterns on the felt board. 

Doing preschool at home has been such a great experience for us this year!  I really encourage you to consider it!  It wasn't perfect all the time, and sometimes it was pretty crazy keeping up with all five preschoolers plus my one year old, but I would do it all over again given the chance.  In fact I'm planning to continue with my group next year as well.
Dearest friends on the internet, if you have done preschool in the past, please tell us about your experience.  How many kids were there in your group?  What ages (and range of ages)?  How often did you meet?  What did you like about doing it?  What didn't you like?  What did you learn the hard way?  Or did some of you participate in a similar program when you were kids?  What are your favourite memories?  Mine is of watching a movie in Steve's basement (Winne the Pooh I think) and getting my own bag of fresh popcorn to eat.  It was just as good as watching it in the real theatre I'm sure.  Maybe Emily's favourite memory was spending all that time with her future husband?  I'm only kind of joking on that one.  I hope Emily will tell us more about this...   

Oh What Can You Do in the Summertime?

May 26, 2011

If you're like me, I'm sure your summer will be pretty packed with vactions, visitors, beach days, and lots of outdoor playing.  I'm also pretty sure that not every day will be sunshine and roses - there will be some yucky weather, and bored kids (even if the weather is nice).  There are, however, a lot of great ideas out there in the blogging world that just may save you a time or two this summer.

We never tire of sidewalk chalk.  This picture is from last summer, my daughter and our next-door neighbor had fun tracing and then decorating their bodies.

I've complied a list that just scratches the surface - there are a million fun things that I could do this summer with my kids.  Here are a few ideas that I just may try:
  • Do some brainstorming.  It's helpful for me to have a list of great ideas that I can draw from.  Sew Dang Cute Crafts has a printable magnetic summer fun board on The Brassy Apple.  Teach Mamma shares a summer fun list that you can create with your kids.  The Crafting Chicks also have a lot of great summer fun lists here.  
Leftt Image via The Brassy Apple, Right Image via Teach Mamma
  • Water is alway entertaining.  Fill up a little pool, big bucket, or even give a kid a spray bottle and then let them play until soaked.  I love the idea of "painting" the house or sidewalk with water too.  

Sponges, containers and water are always fun (and not even messy outside).

 Don't forget about art!  The Artful Parent has a great printable for simple art activities.  The Long Thread has compiled a list of 50 handmade crafts for kids.

Left Image Via The Artful Parent, Right Image Via Lila-a-design

  • I was sent a link for these Preschool Packs.  These are some super cute printables for you to use with preschoolers in the event that they will actually sit still long enough this summer to do some school-readiness activities. 
Images via 1plus1plus1equals1
 Some other websites that I love for kid activities are and modern parents messy kids

Do any of you have any fun things that you like to do, or any great resources or websites that you recommend?  Please share!

No matter what you do this summer, make sure you get out and enjoy the outdoors with those you love!

My daughter and Carlee's little guy enjoying the great outdoors together this past week.

Road Trips

May 24, 2011

This week I'm taking a break from my regular sewing posts to share with you one of my favourite things to do when the weather is nice.  I just got back from a week long road trip to visit my sister Emily and my brother Grant, and it was a great time.  My husband and I really love a good road trip, and now that we aren't battling snowy roads, it's the perfect time to set off on an adventure or two.  One of the things I love about traveling by car, is the flexibility you have to stop whenever you feel like it.  Okay, let's be honest here, you can stop whenever your three year old needs to use the potty (every five seconds), or your baby is screaming, or both.

On this most recent road trip we drove through some awesome rural areas in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  

Rural Pennsylvania = Awesome (Photos taken by Adam Dynes)

We crossed the border at Niagra Falls, but the fog was crazy and we couldn't see anything but mist.  Luckily I've been a few times.

Niagra Falls Skyline (Photo taken by Adam Dynes)

On our drive back to New England, we drove through the Adirondak Mountains and Lake Placid.  It was really beautiful, but I must say it was stunning last fall when I did the same drive in late September and early October.

Near Lake Placid (Photo taken by Adam Dynes)

Driving on I-87 in Upstate New York.  The cracked windshield is classy right? 

(Photo taken by Adam Dynes)

On a nice day we often load everyone up in the car and go for a drive.  Right now we are lucky to be close to some fun cities, nice beaches, and beautiful natural sites, but we've done this everywhere we have lived.  Some of my favourite memories are from road trips.  In college, Emily and Grant and I took a memorable west coast trip that included the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the beaches of Orange County, downtown LA, San Fransisco, the Redwoods, the Oregon Coast, and a million hours of driving.    

Emily in the Redwoods in Northern California

When I set out on an adventure with my family, we are always sure to bring our camera, a backpack carrier for the baby, a stroller for city excursions, and a cooler full of snacks and juice boxes.  Oh, and a portable DVD player.  How did people previously entertain their kids in the car for long stretches?  Because we all know not all the parts of road trips are fun (especially for little kids). 

Where is your favourite place to go on a road trip?  Are you mostly into doing day trips, or do you like the adventure of longs drives and camping on your route?  What else do you like to do as a family when the weather turns nice? 

Matching Circle Skirts

May 19, 2011

I was recently going through my fabric bin.  I was inspired when I came across a large piece of black and white polka-dot fabric that I was given to me by my mother-in-law.  I thought: what better project for yards and yards of fabric than a set of matching circle skirts for my daughters and myself?

For this sewing project I used Made's Circle Skirt Tutorial.  Dana claims that you can make four of these circle skirts in one hour.  I beg to differ.  It took me a few hours for my three, however, I am not a master sewer, nor do I own a serger, which sure would make this project simpler.  I followed the instructions on the Made blog almost exactly, and am really happy with the result. 

For my skirts I used black 2" elastic, and a few yards of mystery fabric (probably rayon?).  I made these skirts quite full - perfect for spinning.  My skirt comes to just past my knee, which is a great length.  I never have to worry about accidentally flashing someone when I bend over.

Oh, and did I mention how cute and fun it is to dress you and your kids in matching clothes?  Cheesy?  Absolutely.  Would I do it every day?  Not a chance.  But it's pretty cute, you have to admit.

Cloth Diapers FAQ

May 17, 2011

I think if I had an FAQ page for my life, my top two questions would be "what do you eat?" since I'm an almost vegetarian (I eat fish), and "what do you recommend for getting started with cloth diapers?".  I know many of our parents used cloth on their kids (us), but when they started making better disposable diapers, most people stopped doing it. 

When I was pregnant with my first son four years ago, a friend of mine mentioned to me how she was planning on using cloth diapers for her baby.  Up until then, I hadn't given it any thought.  Once I started looking into it, I found that in the last few years there has been a movement towards using cloth again.  Diapers have come along way since the days of prefolds, pins, and rubber (plastic) pants, but the essential idea hasn't changed at all.
Baby Carlee rocking the cloth diaper and rubber pants look with my older brother
(he's adorable right?) and Grandpa
I'm not going to revisit the arguments about why cloth diapers are a good idea in the first place (if you are interested in that I can refer you here), so let's just assume that you are interested in using cloth diapers and want to learn more.  Personally I think using cloth is better, but if it doesn't work for you, I won't think less of you.  I occasionally use disposables during the day and almost always at night, so I can hardly be considered a purist.  I do think that parents should try it, because I have found that it's not nearly as hard to do as I worried it might be. 

There are currently a million different types, 'systems', and brands of cloth diapers, and over the last few years that I've had kids in diapers, I've tried a variety.  For a nice overview of what is out there, Sew a Straight Line, has a really great summary.  It can be overwhelming at first, but let me tell you what I use and why I think it's the best way to go. 

Right now I have one kid in diapers (he's a year and a half) and this is what I have been using exclusively for the last year:

  1. 2 dozen Medium sized Premium unbleached prefolds (either Indian or Chinese - I don't remember which I have and I don't think it matters anyways).  Half of these have been converted into 'fitted' diapers by cutting off part of the sides and adding elastic.  More on this later.
  2. 4 or 5 wool covers.  I have one baby beehinds wrap in medium, one aristocrats wool soaker in small, and a couple of homemade wool soakers.  I plan to blog about making these covers and the fitted diapers next week, so stay tuned! 
  3. 2 regular and 2 toddler sized snappis
  4. 2 dozen cloth wipes
  5. Charlie's Soap
  6. Eucalan Wool Wash
  7. Lansinoh lanolin (which you probably have anyways if you are a nursing mother)
  8. A basic diaper pail.  Mine was a 10 gallon sterilite trash can with a flip lid that I bought at walmart.  It doesn't need to be fancy, but you'll want the lid to fit tightly.
  9. Diaper pail liner 
I should confess that I have lots of other diapers that I will occasionally use if I run out and haven't done the wash, but this is what I use 99% of the time.    

Are you still with me?  The first two items on the list are the ones that I want to talk about.  All the other stuff is either general to all cloth diapers, or will just help you keep your wool clean and working well.

Baby #2 wearing a prefold and snappi at about age 3 months
If you have looked at cloth diapers at all, you may have noticed that there is a lot out there.  I like to use cotton and wool for a few reasons.  First, it's really cheap.  If you want the quick break down, the prefolds are about $2 a piece, and even if you buy all expensive wool covers, you will only spend about $100 per size (and you will likely just need small and medium sized covers).  One of my main motivations for doing cloth in the first place was saving money, and this is by far the cheapest way to go.  Especially if you make most of your wool covers like I do.

Second, I think it's better for babies to be in natural fibers.  Think about how you would feel if you were wearing plastic pants.  True confession time: I once had a pair of pleather pants, they were for a Halloween costume, and wearing them was hot, sweaty torture.  Natural fabrics, like cotton and wool, allow air to flow, and it's more comfortable to wear.  This is particularly true in the summer and in humid climates.  I know it sounds cruel to put wool on a baby's bum when the temperature is soaring, but it really isn't!   

Third, this combination is the easiest to care for.  Wool does require some extra attention, but since you don't have to wash it nearly as often, it's really not a very big deal.  In my experience, and I've had friends face this as well, synthetic fabrics start to retain smells the more you use them.  Here's a good example: When Emily used to work at Taco Time in high school, she would wear our favourite thrifted black polyester pants for her shift.  It was impossible to get the smell of tacos out of those pants!  The same thing happens with diapers, except they don't start smelling like tacos, just urine.  Additives from the detergent slowly build up on the fabric, and smells start getting trapped.  Using Charlie's Soap (or I've heard great things about Soap Nuts or even just plain Dawn in your washer) really helps, but eventually it all gets stinky.  And when you are using synthetic fabrics, it happens faster and is harder to get rid of.  I used to spend lots of time scrubbing my pocket diapers with Dawn dish soap to "strip" them, but now that I've switched to all cotton and wool, I haven't had to do this once.  Line drying your diapers in the sun also helps to kill any bacteria and keeps them smelling fresh.   

Fourth, the more expensive options like pocket diapers and all-in-ones don't last as long as regular prefolds and wool covers.  All my stuff is in great shape after constant use, but I can't say the same for the expensive pocket diapers I used with my first son.  The velcro and elastic was the first to go, but everything started looking worn far before I thought it should.
Small handmade PUL cover with fold over elastic and resin snaps I made in 2009 for a friend
I should also mention that newborns and small babies have slightly different needs.  I think it's nice for the first few months to invest in some fitted diapers (along with infant sized prefolds), and I'm less particular about using wool covers.  Mostly because they wear each diaper for much less time and both my kids had a messy diaper every three hours or so.

Now that I've talked all of your ears off, I think that just about sums it all up.  Next I am going to show you what I do to make fitted diapers and wool soakers!  Exciting stuff!

Soft Wand Toy

May 13, 2011

If I were to liken myself to a character type on Project Runway, I can tell you who I would not be.  I would never be pegged as the "She's a good seamstress, but is she a designer?" type.  I guess if I had to label myself as a Project Runway character type, I would be the "she can't even sew and her designs are wacky" type.  Good thing I'm not on Project Runway, because I'm pretty sure I'd be voted off at the beginning of the season.  Anyway, my life is not Project Runway, or anything remotely like it.  When I sew, it is because I want to make something for myself, a member of my family (read: my kids) or someone who loves me enough to appreciate a labour of sewing love.

A few weeks ago, my three and a half year old daughter was playing dress up and suddenly needed a princess wand.  Rather than rushing out and buying one that was over priced and over commercialized, I thought, "okay, I can make you something."  This is the something that I came up with.

It was an easy-peasy sewing project for me, and is a well-loved toy for my little princess wannabe.  (As an aside, Disney or society or someone is SO GOOD at teaching my little child to love princess stuff.  It's not coming from me.  Is anyone else facing this challenge?  I really don't want my daughter to think she needs a princess bike, princess lunchbox, princess vitamins, princess bandaids... on and on.)  This toy works for me though because 1) it's handmade, 2) it was made with fabric scraps so it only cost me my time, and 3) it's soft and can't be used as an effective weapon.  My daughter loves it so much that we made another (wizard) wand for her little cousin to play with.

Here's how you can make your own toy to satisfy your little one's dress-up needs in four quick steps. 


2 - 2" x 14" fabric rectangles (Any type of fabric will work.  I used flannel for one wand and a mystery polyester for another.)
2 - felt star shapes (approximately 6" across)
embroidery thread
sewing machine thread

1. Make the handle.

Cut out the two fabric rectangles to be 2" x 14".  Pin right sides together, and sew a big "U" shape leaving the top end open.  I used about 1/4" seam allowances.  Turn the fabric right side out, and stuff.  You'll need a pencil or something long to stuff all the way to the bottom. 

2. Make the star.

Draw a free hand star shape (or print one from the computer if you are particular) that measures about 6" across.  Trace the star onto 2 pieces of felt, and cut it out.  Sew around the edges of the felt star, leaving the bottom 1 1/2" open.  Stuff the star.

3. Attach the two.

Jam the handle of the wand into the star part.  Use embroidery thread to sew the two together.  I went over a few times because I wanted it to be pretty secure.

4. Let the magic begin!

Your wand is ready!  Wasn't that simple?  Now you can teach your child a few magic spells, and you'll be set for life.  (One million wishes, granted!)

Post Mother's Day Post

May 10, 2011

Did all of you ladies have a lovely day on Sunday? I (mostly) did. The baby wasn't feeling well so my husband stayed home from church with him. So that left me and the three year old to go by ourselves. After all the kids sang in Church, which was adorable as always, he started burning up with a fever. As a result we left early. Both the kids were not feeling well all day, but my husband took care of them and still managed to make me waffles for breakfast and a very nice dinner (which I didn't have to plan or help much with). They mostly left me alone all day to be lazy, and I capitalized on this by reading and finishing David Copperfield.

One of the highlights though, was the Mother's Day gift that my three year old 'made'. We participate in a homeschool preschool coop, and last week my friend Heather had the kids at her house. On Wednesday he had a little white paper bag with a present inside for me. I waited until Sunday to open it, and inside was the sweetest little gift.

Next to the hand print is written my son's name and the year, but I edited out his name.

The kids picked out their favourite colour for the hand print (my son's is apparently pink right now) and my super talented and did I mention generous friend Heather did all the rest.  She is an amazing quilter, and hopefully soon I'll talk her into sharing with us for a Reader's Show Off post.  The finished potholder measures 9 3/4" square, and the hanging loop is 3.5" long.  I know I'll always treasure this, even after it's stained with years of dinner, and I'm logging it away in my brain for next year's Mother's Day gifts.

Happy (late) Mother's Day to all the women out there!


Anti-Stress Rice Bag

May 5, 2011

Something that I think is a common problem with women, is that we don't take enough time for ourselves.  In thinking about what I could share for About You Week, I wanted to make something that could help me take time for myself. 

My stress often shows up in my neck.  If I'm stressed, I'm tense, and my neck is sooo tight.  One thing that really helps is for my tight, tight muscles is heat.  If I'm feeling yucky, I reach for the hot water bottle or rice bag.  The rice bag that I had is a long tube of fabric filled with rice.  You heat it in the microwave for a few minutes, and voila! instant heat therapy.

The only problem with the rice bag in my house, is that there was only one, and if ever I wanted to use it when my three year old daughter was around, she suddenly developed a sore neck also.  Fighting over a rice bag with a three year old is quite the opposite of anti-stress.  I decided it was time to whip up a few more.

Rice bags are a pretty simple project.  I'm not going to re-invent the wheel on this one.  V&Co. has a pretty good tutorial here

My twist on the rice bag project was to cut the fabric in the shape of a moon.  My finished rice bag measures 6" down the center seam, and 17" straight across from tip to tip.  It's the perfect size for wrapping around my neck and shoulders.

Here's a simple step-by step:

1. Cut out two crescent moon shapes. 
2. Sew them right sides together, leaving a 2" gap somewhere on each half.
3. Flip the moon shape right side out.
4. Sew a line down the middle to divide the moon shape into two.
5. Fill both sides with rice.
6. Hand or machine stitch the openings closed.
7. To use, microwave 2-4 minutes, and start de-stressing.

Thrift Shopping for You

May 3, 2011

When I was a teenager, I often bought my clothes at the thrift store.  I loved finding awesome (mostly vintage) items that I knew no one else would have.  At least for me, being a teenager was all about wearing crazy things and wearing them with confidence.  I still have some of my favourite vintage items, including several Adidas zip-up jackets.

My favourite pink Adidas zip-up and Adam's Grandpa Willard.

Now that I'm an adult with kids, I find that I've had to rethink thrift shopping for myself.  I don't think I'm at the stage anymore where I can pull off most of my former wardrobe, but thrift shopping can still make sense.  Shopping for kids clothes is easy, but it is admittedly more difficult to build or add to your own wardrobe with thrift store finds.  I've been shopping at thrift stores for years, and here are a few tips I've picked up along the way: 

1. Go often.

I don't know if I can say this enough, but the more often you go to the thrift store, the more likely you will find things that you love.  Chances are other people have similar taste, and lots of the 'good' stuff gets snatched up after a short time being on the floor.  The other advantage to going often is that it's easier to quickly scan the store for new items.

2. Shop with a buddy.

If you are buying for yourself you will need to try things on.  I like to have a second opinion on things, and the bonus to this arrangement is that my friend can watch my kids while I go into the dressing room by myself.  Best scenario is to shop with a buddy that isn't your same size so you don't fight over the perfect dress that you both love.

3. Keep a list of what you are looking for.

I try to do this with kids items especially, but this is good practice for thrifting in general.  If I know that I need a new pair of jeans, I look until I find something that I love.  If something is on my list I look, and if it's not, I skip that part of the store.  This helps me to not buy too many similar items and keeps me from forgetting about my highest priority items.  Although, I'm not convinced that I will ever have enough jackets and coats!

My gorgeous friend Katja and my almost as gorgeous green velvet coat.

4. Know what you are willing to spend.

For me, I typically compare prices with other thrift stores, but if you do most of your shopping at Target or the Gap, compare to their sale prices.  If you find a sweater in excellent condition that you love, and it's $7, don't automatically dismiss it because it sounds expensive for a thrift store.  Ask yourself if you would spent $7 on the same sweater at another store you often shop at.  If the answer is yes, it's a good deal and you should get it. 

5. Only buy what you are actually going to wear.

Even if something is a good price, don't buy it unless you love it.  Similarly, don't buy 'novelty' items, unless you have a specific event planned.  My sister Emily has an awesome cream and black striped spandex jumpsuit from the 70's that fits her like a glove.  Unfortunately neither of us have a scanned picture of her wearing it.  She bought this either in high school or college, and it got plenty of good use then.  I am no longer going rollerskating or to disco dance parties, so it doesn't make sense for me to add these types of items to my closet as tempting as it might be.  It does make sense to buy a black wool pencil skirt or something else I know I'll wear. 

Vintage Western Shirts Worn to the Medicine Hat Stampede. I owned this shirt for years and only wore it once or twice.

6. Be flexible with sizes. 

I find that depending upon the brand, and decade that the clothing is made in, I will fit into anything from a 4 to a 14.  It's a good idea to shop with a tape measure, and know your basic measurements, so you can quickly gauge if something is worth trying on.

7. Learn how to make basic alterations.

Lots of vintage dresses and skirts have very generous hems, so it's easy to make them a little longer (or shorter).  Skirts with back zippers are easy to take in (equal amounts from both sides).  Pants are easily hemmed, and sleeves can be shortened.  Sweaters and shirts can be taken in along the side seams to make them less boxy.  My favourite new trick is to buy bootleg jeans that fit nicely in the hips and bum, and turn them into skinny jeans.  I've seen several tutorials on this, but the basic idea is to take in the side seams from about the knees to the bottom hem.  I try and stay realistic with my alterations and put items back on the rack if they need a lot of work or if I am too busy to take on a big project.  I break this rule if it's something I really love and I have a vision for what I'm going to do with it.

My high school graduation dress, which predates digital cameras as you can see.  I removed the fluttery 80's bridesmaid sleeves and it was beautiful.  Or at least I thought so in 1999.

8. Buy brands you already like.

If you are wary of buying vintage, then just stick with the newer items in brands you feel comfortable with.  I very often find cute clothing in nice brands like J Crew, Ann Taylor, Gap, Express, etc, that is only a season or so old.  If you know and like the way that a certain brand of jeans fits, keep looking until you find a pair in your size.  If you go often, things will turn up!

9. Check out the accessories.

I've bought nice leather purses, necklaces, earring, belts and bracelets at the thrift store.  They are usually cheap and since fashion tends to cycle every 20 years or so, there is almost always something currently fashionable among the selection. 

Finding something awesome at the thrift store is a total thrill and I wish you success not just in finding things for your kids and your house, but also for YOU!
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