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Again, time flies. We’ve been really buckling down with school these past few months after the craziness of the summer break and travels. My kids were gone most of July and part of August, so I spent it all planning the next school year. I didn’t change up much in the way of the curricula used, although a few things have been added or removed, as the case may be. I mainly worked on aligning the reading and spelling curricula to the extra work we’re doing with Pynni to address her learning disabilities in those areas. Plus, I dug through all the science curricula I’ve accumulated over the years and aligned all of that so that all the lessons and information and labs line up. I feel like this concentrated approach to the information both with Pynni’s school work and Science will solidify the information in their brains.

With the addition of the Brave Writer collection of curricula to our day, I’ve expanded the copywork the kids do every day and added free writing. Some of the things that we used as supplements during our workbox work has been moved to “on your own time” supplemental work that is aimed at fostering independence and self responsibility in regards to assignments and projects.

With everything that I’ve dealt with in regards to Pynni, I’ve dropped grade levels with my kids as far as my yearly planning is concerned. I have goals set for all of them for the year and with a four year plan for Chi, since he’s that close to graduating.**gulp**  But for the sake of all the people who don’t homeschool, or who still care about grade level: Chi is in 8th grade, Pynni is in 5th grade, and Pieces is in 3rd grade.



Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

More information from

“It is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context, using copywork and dictation. It is a language arts resource that equips you, the homeschooling parent, to fulfill your best intentions related to:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Literary elements
  • Quality living literature
  • Literary analysis

The practices of copywork and dictation teach your children the fundamentals of written communication. These practices naturally facilitate the development of accurate mechanics in the context of quality literature (the best words, in the best style, accurately edited).”

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 


  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Youth Digital: Mod 1 : an online programming class teaching programming with Java through Modding Minecraft, Chi
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Science Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Young Scientists Cluball three kids. This is a lab mailed to your house once or twice a month.
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids
  • Rosetta Stone: Spanish Level 1
  • Keyboarding Without Tears by Handwriting Without Tears: Pynni and Pieces

Joint Reading:

  • FINSIHED Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • FINISHED The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee (This is just with Pieces right now. It’s for The Arrow. We take turns reading out loud. Chi will read this on his own and then he will read the passages used in the curriculum out loud to me. He’s read this book before about 4 years ago.)


Perhaps you know some of this, perhaps not. If you want to know more history in the journey to educate Pynni, please see these posts (These may or may not be all of them, I got tired of looking. Apparently I’m not very consistent with my categories)(Sorry bout that):

Pynni has always been a happy child: easy going, curious, creative, and compassionate. She is delightfully silly and prides herself on being a little weird. She’s really not too weird, but don’t tell her that.

She has this ability to be friends with absolutely anyone at all times. She seems infinitely capable of seeing the good in everyone and is most happy with all her friends are all together. I envy her this. I, as a general rule, am not a people person. “Friend” is not a common term and the fact that Facebook uses it to describe everyone you have contact with really bugs me. I have lots of acquaintances and very few friends. I like it that way, thanks. But I love the fact that Pynni likes and loves so broadly and freely. Go her!

But all that light dims when it’s time to read or write. If you’ve read any of the above linked posts, you will have some inkling of what we go through with reading and writing. It was good, actually, to go back and see some of the positives that I highlighted about her education in reading and writing because it is so frustrating and so daunting and so confusing to figure out what is the right thing to do; what is the right direction to take; what is the right or wrong reaction to have or thing to say. It is so easy to get bogged down in the negatives that it can be hard to remember any positives.

And through it all I question whether I’m up to this. Whether I can help her at all. Whether I’m hurting her more than I’m helping her.

For so long, I blamed the public school. I blamed them, and not entirely incorrectly, for not placing a permanent sub in Pynni’s Kinder class after her teacher went on maternity leave. That is absolutely a failing of the school administration’s. But was it the cause of Pynni’s difficulties in learning to read and spell? I know it had a huge impact on her self esteem, but now?

Now I wonder about all the rest of it. I wonder if the inconsistent teacher situation was the problem at all. I wonder if it was actually a problem with Pynni all along. I’ve posited that some of her issue may be sensory and I still believe that. We’ve done nearly two years of language therapy with a Speech Language Pathologist who diagnosed Pynni with a “severe written language disorder” and the strides she made were huge, but we hit a wall, and it seemed as if Pynni wasn’t advancing anymore. I felt like we were wasting money and we stopped the therapy, with SLP’s consent. The idea being that we’d been given all the tools. We knew what to work on. We would keep doing that and come back in the fall for her yearly assessment and see where she stands. Improvement? We can keep on, keepin’ on. Digression? We start therapy again.

Then one of my Homeschool Friends, told me about the NCSU (North Carolina State University) Psychoeducational Clinic and the awesome work they do there to assess and help people who need it. They test for lots of things: Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. AND THEY ARE RELATIVELY AFFORDABLE. That’s key because we spent a friggin’ mint having Chi tested and we’d already spent so much having Pynni tested and treated. (I know I make this sound like it’s all about money, and really it isn’t, but we don’t have one of those Money Trees and so it is definitely a consideration and a limitation.) Hubs and I discussed it and decided that it was something we really needed to do.

And so we did.

After all was said and done: all the interviews given, all the questionnaires filled out, all the tests taken, and all of the assessments completed, we were left with a hefty file folder of information that was detailed to us in a final meeting with the team we worked with at NCSU. They made sure we understood everything they did, everything they learned, everything they determined, and everything they think we can do to help Pynni.

After two months from beginning to end, we had answers and we had some directions to take and we know what Pynni struggles with EXACTLY and how best to help her.

She was diagnosed with Specific Learning Disability (DSM v 315.00 and 315.2): with impairment in reading and in written expression.

Her biggest hurdles in reading are word accuracy and fluency which, in turn, affects her reading comprehension. Basically, at some point in learning to read, most people stop having to sound out familiar words and letter patterns every time they come across them because their brain has memorized, in essence, the shape of the word. This opens up working memory to contain the meaning of the words you’ve read and compile them into a broader comprehension. Pynni does not do this. She has to sound out a word many more times than should be necessary to imprint those, should be familiar, words on her brain and so her working memory is always full of letter sounds as she pieces words together. By the time she finishes a sentence, she can’t remember the meaning of the words she just read. This level of reading inaccuracy directly affects her fluency. So we have to work with a level of repetition that is bound to drive us both to frustration, but she won’t learn to read better or faster any other way.

With writing, her biggest hurdle is spelling. There is no explanation that I can see for it except that she needs the same level of repetition in her spelling as she does in her reading to make the common words familiar and to make the common letter patterns familiar. Unlike her older brother and I, she does not internalize all the rules for spelling in the English language and use them to great effect throughout her spelling career. She learns the rules and applies them appropriately, then immediately discards them after learning other rules. She doesn’t consult any of the rules she’s learned many days past learning them.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s what the doctor ordered. Literally.

I was given a great deal of information on how to help her and I’ve been working on putting the plan together for the rest of this school year, which starts back up in a week and a half.

The team at NCSU also suggested I take Pynni to a specialist for her eyes. This wasn’t an official diagnoses because it would be outside the realm of their expertise, but they experienced for themselves her difficulty with bright, fluorescent lights, white paper and the speed with which she fatigues. So we’ll be seeing a behavioral ophthalmologist. This is an eye specialist that focuses on uncommon eye issues, mainly for people with brain injuries, but I think they might be able to point us in the right direction with Pynni.

I’ll go further into what exactly I’ve got in the works to help Pyn with the reading and the spelling another time, after I’ve gotten a better handle on it.

I never thought, never for one second, that I would be dealing with a kid who struggles and hates to read. I never thought that my most difficult student would be my best behaved child.

I’m scared, to be honest. I’ve got to get this right. I can’t let that self doubt in too far or it will eat me alive. And I’ve got to do this work. I’ve got to help my sweet girl navigate this world of words that seems to be so daunting to her.

We’ll get it figured out. We will win.


Last time I was here, I wrote my school year 2014-2015 roundup. Some things have changed since then, and although it’s the end of the year (and we’ve officially started our next school year), I wanted to put my thoughts on some changes I’ve made, and changes to come, here for any who are interested.

Chi is in what would otherwise be his 7th grade year. He completed the writing curriculum Writing with Ease by Peace Hill Press (which I cannot praise enough for the changes it has wrought in my so-reluctant-to-write-Aspie-that-he-had-less-writing-in-his-504-plan) early in the year and, of course, we moved on to the next phase of that series: Writing with Skill. We worked and worked through it and his writing became more and more reluctant. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere no matter how much we did and Chi increasingly hated the lessons. So much so that he began having meltdowns.

Meltdowns are uncommon for him these days, and that made me realize this curriculum was no longer for us. And so began the months’ long search to find a writing curriculum that both of us liked.

The problem with most of the curricula I liked was that they were part of broader language arts programs and entirely too comprehensive, and thus more expensive, as a result. Also, integrated writing curricula tend to be extensions of other subjects: spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension and therefore more difficult and often confusing to use outside the whole.

I very much like the curricula we use for those other language arts subjects and don’t need more overlapping in those areas. So the search continued until I stumbled upon Brave Writer by Julia Bogart.

Brave Writer is a more comprehensive writing curriculum than Writing with Skill but only because it includes a nice reading comprehension component that pairs nicely with what we already do in that area. It also expands the concepts I was introduced to through Writing with Ease: daily copywork and dictation exercises as a bridge between reading and writing.

Originally, I wanted to buy the language arts bundle but  Chi’s level wasn’t yet released. So, after waiting for a couple of months and continuing my search elsewhere, I decided to buy the available components: The Writer’s Jungle.

I really like it. It’s not a scripted curriculum like we’re used to using, but more of a class for me to learn why these concepts, why they work, and how to implement them in my homeschool. So far it’s been great, and I liked it so much that I started using it with Pieces and Pynni.

The first thing I brought to our day was free writing. For Chi, this means writing a short story or part of one, making brainstorming lists about anything and everything that interests him (Minecraft), elaborating on the lists, or writing a journal type entry. For The Littles, that means drawing a picture (elaborateness is a personal choice) and writing about the picture in some way. There is no minimum number of words or lines or pages. There is no grammar or spelling checks. It is just a means to get them writing in a completely stress-free, non-judgmental environment. It has been completely freeing for them and Pynni has really taken to the task and run with it.

The grammar and spelling and sentence structure is being covered elsewhere. This isn’t about that.

The next two things are stuff we already do in First Language Lessons (our grammar curriculum), Writing with Ease, and All About Spelling: copywork and dictation. Right now, I haven’t expanded copywork and dictation outside of those subjects. Eventually, I will have expanded both within those subjects and without, but that’s another post.

Everything is trucking along now. The other components of Brave Writer were released since I began putting this post together. I’ll acquire that and integrate it this summer.

Summer is the time of year when I do a big reassessment of our goals and how to meet them. This summer has me doing a lot of research and learning, and this fall should bring some pretty big changes in how we go about our school day. Chi is in his 8th grade year and is still behind in math, but not by too much, so we need to push that along a little faster. It’s also time to start having him write some formal research papers. It will be his first. I’m not looking forward to it, but hopefully my work this summer will help me feel more up to the challenge of getting this reluctant writer of mine to write something not about Minecraft (although I’m thinking a history of Minecraft might be a good jumping off point).  Pynni is in her 5th grade year and is way, way behind. In fact, she tests at barely a third grade level. I have more information on that, but it won’t be delved into here. Suffice it to say that most of my work this summer will be integrating a bunch of resources into our school day to help her cope and advance. Pieces is starting his 3rd grade year and he is beyond that already according to his end of year test. He blows me away with how quickly he assimilates knowledge.

Whoo. It’s a crazy ride. I don’t always feel equal to the challenge, but giving up isn’t an option. So onward!



Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 


  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (We finished the Harry Potter Series and started with the Maze Runner series. The books aren’t nearly the tomes of Harry Potter and makes for fast reading.)



Whew, it’s been a while, I know. I could go into all the why’s, but it’s a long, very unhappy, story, but a) talking about it anymore might make me scream, b) it’s really not relevant to this blog other than the lack of blogging, and c) talking about it now feels like whining and very self-indulgent. But, now I’ve made you curious and that’s rude so I will say two things: 1)Depression and 2)Writer’s Block.

Ok, now that the obligatory “I’m sorry I wasn’t blogging and I’m going to write again, now, but I can’t promise this will be with any regularity” is out of the way, onward with the Curriculum Roundup for this school year 2014-2015.

Chi is in “7th” grade this year, Pynni is in “4th” grade this year, and Pieces is in “2nd” grade this year. Not a whole lot has changed about our curriculum except that Chi moved from Writing with Ease to Writing with Skill and we BOTH hated every second of it. So for now, until a)I find a writing curriculum that I like and b)Chi finishes his other language arts curricula except spelling, he is taking “Mom’s Writing 101” and learning some general things about essays and research and expositions, etc.


Language Arts: spelling, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary

  • All About Spelling by All About Learning Press: all three kids
  • All About Reading by All About Learning Press: Level 2 for both Pynni and Pieces (Pieces has caught up with Pynni and will pass her soon. They’ll both move on to Level 3 this year).
  • Explode the Code by Nancy Hall: Level 3.5 for Pynni and Level 3.5 for Pieces (they will be moving up to Level 4 in the near future)
  • Guinness Book of World Records Reading (comprehension): Chi (He is almost finished with the last book of this.)
  • Reading Detective by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi
  • Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer: Pynni Level 2 and Pieces Level 1 (Chi finished WWE and moved on to Writing With Skill: commented on above)
  • First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise: all three kids although Chi is on the last level and will be finished with it shortly.
  • Vocabulit by Perfection Learning: all three kids

Mathematics and Critical Thinking 

  • Math U See by Demme Learning: all three kids
  • Mathematical Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Building Thinking Skills by Critical Thinking Co.: all three kids
  • Kumon Publishing North America, Inc.: My Book of Easy Telling Time; My Book of Telling Time; My First Book of Money:Counting Coins; My Book of Money: Dollars and Cents: Pynni and Pieces (They hated the time telling and money counting apps. I don’t know why because they seemed fun and well done to me, but these books have been very helpful and not so fraught with drama. They’ve both completed the time telling ones and can both tell time accurately on analog clocks. There are length, weight, and volume books that I will be using once the money counting books are done. Math U See covers time telling and money counting, but there wasn’t enough repetition, or hasn’t been yet, to really engrain the concepts).
  • Balance Benders:Logic and Algebraic Reasoning Puzzles by Critical Thinking Co.: Chi


  • Handwriting Without Tears: all three kids with Pynni and Chi learning cursive
  • Snatch: a programming language for Chi
  • Kano by KANO Computing LTD.: initially for Chi, but will expand to the other two as I see how it works with him. (It’s a computer you build yourself. It uses Linux and Raspberry Pi and teaches the basics of programming)
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: all three kids
  • R.E.A.L Science Odyssey by Pandia Press: all three kids
  • Supercharged Science  by Aurora Lipper: all three kids
  • Which Way USA? and Top Secret Adventures by Highlights: all three kids (this helps cover basic geography on top of what they learn in their history curriculum)
  • Piano Adventures by Faber: all three kids

Joint Reading:

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (We’ve been reading through the Harry Potter series. I thought I’d start including our group read-aloud books here, as well.)


I’m really happy with Math U See still and all of All About Learning Press’s stuff (All about Reading and All about Spelling). I really like Writing with Ease and First Language Lessons, but Writing with Skill (the next set of books after Writing with Ease) was just not something that was working for Chi. I felt like it shoved him into the deep end of writing without a flotation device when I’d just been teaching him to tread water.

So I’m looking long and hard at Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Curriculum. It’s a comprehensive curriculum that includes vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and writing. My biggest hesitation with this curriculum is that it IS comprehensive. What if one part of it doesn’t work for us? Also, we like Vocabulit very much, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a little overlap in curricula. My second biggest hesitation is the cost, but then I spend quite a bit on Peace Hill Press books so that will cover some of the expense. I’m also a little hesitant because it is SO intensive, but I know I can pull back and slow down as needed.

In order to give MCT a shot, though, Chi has to complete First Language Lessons (grammar), Guiness World Records Reading (comprehension), and Reading Detective (comprehension). I have until then to decide. I see a trip to  the Homeschool Gathering Place (our local homeschool store) for knowledgeable input into this decision.

So, hello? How’ve you been? For me? It feels good to be back.


How much longer?


I was spending time revisiting some older posts when I came across this one. It still cracks me up and makes me a little queasy at the same time. My Good Ol’ Uncle, here after known as GOUB, thought it was amusing that I couldn’t find meter sticks anywhere and randomly texts me pictures of meter sticks as he comes across them. He owns something like three of them and likes to point out that they aren’t that hard to find. Maybe in Texas, GOUB, but here in NC meter sticks are hard to come by.

Originally posted on Don't Hold Your Breath:

I need a meter stick. I do. I keep coming back to that and forget about it for a while until I come back around to needing one again. It’s mainly for school purposes. Sometimes I’ll be out running errands and I’ll remember and I’ll look and I’ll not find a meter stick. Then I forget again. And on it goes.

I finally put that meter stick on my LIST. I NEED it for science and we’re going all out with science this summer. So on to find a meter stick.

I looked at Target. No meter stick.

I looked at a Super Target. No meter stick.

I looked at Michaels. No meter stick.

I looked at Office Max. No meter stick.

I looked at Staples. No meter stick.

Then I have the best idea since starting this quest. Lowe’s Home Improvement! Solved!

Uh, right.

I go in the store…

View original 378 more words

This post requires backstory.
Backstory: A few days ago, Pynni and I were out running errands just the two of us. Somehow the conversation got around to Harry Potter, as all things do, and I mentioned that Hermione is my favorite character. Pynni said that Harry was her favorite, and I agreed that Harry is, indeed, a great character and worthy of some admiration. But, I said, “But, without Hermione, Voldemort might have won. Hermione did all the research, knew all the spells, gave Harry all the information he needed to solve the problem of the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort. Without Hermione, nothing gets done. Hermione is AWESOME!” To which Pynni replied, “Yeah, but Harry is my favorite.”


We went to the library. We don’t do this often enough, but I like books and I usually buy them so there are lots around the house for any and all reading/maturity levels. Anyway, today we went to the library and I told the kids before we went in that we had a time limit due to upcoming lunch and after lunch appointments, and that they were going to need to pick out one or two books to check out. We ended up checking out 11 books between the two littles and spent almost an hour doing it. (no worries, we made all our afternoon obligations, including lunch.)

As we were hauling our load of books out to the car, Pynni gasped. “I’m Hermione!” I looked at her in question. “I LOVE the library! I LOVE books! I’m JUST LIKE Hermione!”

I laughed and laughed. Not in amusement, but in joy. She loves books! She’s identifying with this great female character that maybe she didn’t feel too parallel with until now.

I’ll take it.

Well, Halloween has come and gone. My kids dressed up and threatened people for sugar along with their ravenous gang of friends. They’ve entered the time of the year I like least, when the perpetual sugar high from Halloween begins. It’s a sugar high that lasts through the end of the year thanks to holiday baking and stocking candy.

I was able to complete Pynni’s Weeping Angel and I didn’t have to threaten her within an inch of her life to get her to wear it, either. I cannot express to you the rush I felt when she WANTED to wear that costume and was determined to get it on almost two hours prior to trickertreating time. That rush, of having finished. That rush of her LIKING the results of my work. That rush of seeing her traipse along the sidewalk among her friends, completely satisfied with her costume. SUCH a rush.

I’ve made things for people before; worked really hard on them, but I don’t live near a vast majority of those people. I never see them wear what I make. Oh, sure, I get thank yous and lots of great feedback, but somehow, it isn’t the same. It is a GREAT feeling to see her unabashed enjoyment. And she was SO grateful! I was worried that she wouldn’t wear it. Not because she didn’t like it, but she balked so strongly whenever I had her try parts of it on. She would get embarrassed if anyone asked her about it. She didn’t want to be seen in the various parts and stages of this costume, but boy, how she owned the role, when she donned it in its entirety.IMG_1668

So after all the hard work and random moments of drama, The Weeping Angel was finished. I was glad that I’d planned in advance for Chi to be something other than another involved costume creation because I was tweaking Pynni’s costume until about 4pm on Halloween.

Chi decided he wanted to be a Ghostbuster. He likes them an inordinate amount for a kid who doesn’t like scary or freaky things. His costume was purchased and it came with a jumpsuit and a blow-up Proton Pack and gun thingy. He was over the top excited about being a Ghostbuster.

Pieces was the 10th Doctor. I got him a pinstriped suit and a Sonic Screwdriver. He already had the Converse. He, of course, was unbelievable cute in his suit “fixing” everything with his screwdriver. He was, also, super stoked to get dressed in his costume.

I went prepared when we went trickertreating this year. I brought bottles of water and a wagon. The wagon was to hold the costume parts my kids would inevitably shed through the course of the evening. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised when my kids kept all of their costumes on almost the whole evening. The only exception was Pynni and her wings. She wore them for probably 80% of the night, but they started getting heavy and she wanted to take them off. Which, wow! My kids have not once, EVER worn their entire costumes all night.

When Chi was Mario, he took off his mustache right away and his hat about 15 minutes into trickertreating (that’s 3 Halloweens). When Chi was Harry Potter, he removed his glasses right away and took off his robes and put down his wand about 15 minutes into trickertreating. When Pieces and Chi were Minecraft Steve and Armored Minecraft Steve, I ended up carrying two heads, an axe, and a sword. Tinkerbell? Wings. Wall-e? Uh, no wait, Pieces wore that all night. He wanted to sleep in it.

Ok, so wow, this post has gotten away from me. So here they are. My kids on Halloween.

IMG_1680I bought the newspaper for the papier-mâché, which was an adventure all on its own due to it being a Sunday and WHERE DO YOU BUY NEWSPAPERS THESE DAYS? A book store seemed logical to me (the bookstore I worked at in a previous life sold newspapers), but that was a big bust and gave me a good reminder of why I hate malls. So, then I thought about the convenience store I worked at in an even earlier life and how it sold newspapers, and that’s when I started hitting the gas stations. That turned out to be the right place , although the line was stupidly long.

After I got home, I tore the newspaper, which was much easier to do than tearing the tissue paper had been. Then I began dipping and placing. At first, I thought I’d hang the wings and paste like that, but the wings weren’t holding their shape well at the time so I laid the wings onto a covered work surface and started. Even this part was more involved than my brain had planned for it to be. I thought I’d be able to get one whole layer of paper done before letting it dry and doing another, smoother layer. WRONG.

IMG_1649Since the wings weren’t holding their shape, I had to reshape them on the table. AND since the wings to which I was pasting paper weren’t solid either, I was basically creating wings around a wire frame the paper stuck to the table. So after one side of one wing was done, I had to hang the wings up to dry, or the side would dry to the table. It took many hours for the one layer to dry completely, and since I was using a flour paste, complete drying was a necessity to prevent mildew.

When I laid the wings down to work on another side the next day, the previously pasted wing had… warped while drying. This goes back to the whole bit about the wings not holding the shape I wanted them to have. I decided I would do one side of the other wing and find a way to prop it away from any surface to which it might stick while it dried. Then I would reshape the warped wing when pasting the other side of it.


I’m just going to short-story it here for you and say that the reshaping didn’t work as great as hoped. THEN, I remembered that this is a costume that will be worn an entire ONE time, and probably not for the whole trickertreating event because my kids shed costumes on Halloween like cats do fur in the summer: just sort of constantly. THEN, I, also, remembered that it’s going to be dark and little details like feathers and slightly warped wings aren’t going to matter. THEN, I, ALSO REMEMBERED that between having to do a quarter of the wings per day and also having to do the ribs along the top of the wings separately, I WAS RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

IMG_1645The ribs took an entire extra day to dry completely. I think this is because the paper tubes got soaked and had to dry, also. When I tried the wings on Pynni, which aren’t at all as heavy as you’d think, the elastic bands from the Wings That Were were not nearly strong enough to hold the New Wings to her back. They just sort of hung down by her side. And this was BEFORE the wings were even painted.IMG_1646

So, while I waited the extra day for the wings to dry, I crocheted a new harness and a new mechanism to hold the new harness on the wings. And I went to the store to buy paint. I had decided after my “this doesn’t have to be perfect” epiphany that I was just going to spray paint the wings grey. At the store, they had “stone” faux finish spray paint. PERFECT!
Then I painted the wings which took more paint than I could have fathomed, but ended up looking like stone anyway.

The final step to all this was to attach the harness and try the wings on Pynni. After some adjusting of the harness and tightening of it against the wings, everything was about as perfect as I was like to get it hours before the trickertreating started.

I have to admit. I wasn’t happy with the wings even after the alterations. They weren’t exactly how I’d pictured them and they didn’t hang on Pynni’s back the way I wanted. I was, actually, very disappointed in them. I felt a little nauseous. I had done all this work, and this one integral part was not right. In the end, when the whole costume was put together, I was happier than I thought I’d be.

And Pynni loved it.

These WILL be angel wings when I'm done. I think.

These WILL be angel wings when I’m done. I think.

The wings.

Ah, the wings. Honestly, when I was first planning this costume, I thought the wings would be the easiest part, because I was going  to be repurposing wings I already had and not making anything from scratch like the dress or the wig. I was pretty far off the mark.

The dress was the easiest and now I know I can sew from-scratch garments decently.

The wig was next easiest, and it only missed being the easiest because there aren’t as many webpages out there about making yarn wigs as there are about making dresses so the planning was more difficult. The wig took longer to make because I had to let glue dry and set between rounds of working. Plus, you know, manufacturing hair.

The wings. Ah, the wings.

So my plan was as follows:

  1. Reshape the existing wires of the wings to more fit the shape of angel wings.
  2. Use pipe cleaners to connect the existing wires into the final shape. The idea was that these pipe cleaners would connect the spaces between the wires and finish the general outline.
  3. Use toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls to create the rib along the upper edge of the wings.
  4. Papier-mache over the whole lot. First layer would be covering the framework and the second layer would be the shape of the “feathers” to give the impression of carved feathers after painting.
  5. Paint the dried papier-mâché wings using highlights and lowlights as needed to give depth.
  6. Crochet covers for the straps that hold the wings onto Pynni since they are green.
  7. Voila! Wings.

IMG_1588The reshaping went well and worked better than I thought it would. The pipe cleaners, not so much. They were much flimsier than I needed them to be and so I ended up doubling them to make them sturdier. They weren’t supposed to be integral to the structure of the wings, but more guidelines for the paper-mache, but the wings, after being reshaped, weren’t as  sturdy as I thought they would be. Moving the wires around compromised the integrity of the structure, making the green nylon stretched over the frame loose and unable to help the wires hold their positions. I had to have the paper-mache do that job, but it was tricky to get the wings to stay put while the paper was applied.

The toilet paper/paper towel rolls were a little more difficult to apply than I had envisioned. They needed to go around a curved edge. I employed a version of lobster armor by laying narrower strips of the rolls, over-lapping one another along the curve, and had to cut slits in some of the pieces to make a sharper curve than the lobster armor technique was allowing. I tried to hot glue everything as I went, and ended up having to tape some of the pieces because the glue wasn’t holding them exactly the way I needed them held.

I’ve papier-mâchéd before, but it’s been a while and I needed the end result to be fairly light weight. So I did the research on papier-mâché to get all the info I could before starting this part of the project. One of the resources I used suggested using tissue paper to make a lighter project so I bought a bunch of tissue paper.

I sat down and laboriously tore that paper into strips (which doesn’t tear all neatly like newspaper) and dipped it into the paste I’d made before sitting down. The paper practically dissolved before I could pull it out. I tried several pieces of varying length and width and it fell apart every time. It was something I thought would happen when I was reading the article, but I gave it go anyway. The author of the article must have used thicker, more expensive tissue paper than I had, so I had to go buy newspaper before my paste started drying out.

to be continued…

The costuming has been going much slower since the first big push with Pynni’s Weeping Angel dress. Last week, I was able to eek out some time to work on the wig. This was surprising because I was keeping Abshie and Timmus while my brother and his wife were out of town, and they are public school attendees. So here I was, thinking that I would be too busy with my normal schedule plus morning and afternoon carpool topped with homework and extra baths.

All my time concerns were for naught, though, and we were able to keep a tight schedule that allowed for the PS kids to have playtime with the HS kids, and THAT gave me time to work on the wig.

I started out crocheting a beanie with a flap around the ears and back of the head to better mimic Pynni’s natural hair line. Then I created bundles of yarn about 18 to 20 inches long that I tied along the center line of the beanie every two rows or so. This created the center part.

I looped yarn “latch hook” style (a’la amigurumi hair) all along the front, inside edge of the beanie  so that when I pulled the yarn up into the twist, there would be no beanie parts showing. Next I created two, much fatter bundles of yarn of similar length to the attached bundles and braided each of them. One of those braids, I rolled into a disc to attach to the back of the beanie to be the base of the messy bun. The other braid, I glued along the small space between the first bundle of yarn in the front and the amigurumi hairline. The Weeping Angels have some sort of ribbon wrapped around their heads and through their hair, and I thought this would fit the bill while also filling in gaps and covering exposed beanie.

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I wrapped a styro head with plastic wrap and worked the, now, yarn covered beanie onto it. I couldn’t decide, up until actually getting into the nitty gritty of this part of the project, what I was going to use to secure the yarn down on the wig. Originally, I thought I’d use fabric glue, but that is made to be flexible. I was wanting stiff because this is supposed to be statue-like. So I thought I would use Elmer’s glue. This would dry clear and stiff and, maybe watered down a little, would make a good over-all treatment to make the whole thing stiff. When I started gluing, the Elmer’s glue was a failure. It didn’t dry fast enough to be of use for securing large sections of the wig, so I had to try something else.

I settled on my glue gun and got to work. This worked exactly as I’d hoped, if a little more painfully. Did you know that glue gun glue is HOT? Yeah, me, too, but I burned my poor fingers over and over because yarn hair isn’t very solid and glue oozes easily into the spaces. I tried using tools like popsicle sticks to maneuver the hair around in the glue, but they just stuck to the glue. Whatever. It got done sans a few fingerprints.

Not really, no fingers were permanently damaged in the making of this costume (disclaimer: yet).

I glued down the braided disk and the head band type braid and then, beginning on the left hand side facing me, I began twisting the “hair” along the hairline toward the back and wrapped the “hair” around the braided disc. Along the way, I glued and secured the “hair”, leaving some of it down to create curls along the hairline after the main part of the wig was done. I, then, worked on the right side facing me and repeated the process, making sure the hair was a symmetrical as I could make it.

Then I trimmed the remaining “hair” and wound it into “curls” and glued and pinned them into place. I discovered that Elmer’s glue had it’s uses. In the end, there were ends of yarn that didn’t want to lay flat and weren’t long enough to tuck in anywhere hidden, so I used Elmer’s to glue the ends down and pins to hold them in place while the glue dried.

I also decided to forgo the stiffening of the entire wig. I’m not making the dress stiff so why would I do that to the wig? It doesn’t flow around her shoulders or anything. All the tresses are glued in place so the illusion of stone should hold without any extra gluing.

Things I learned during this process (yay bullet points!):

  • Hot glue is hot. Go figure.
  • Elmer’s glue dries aesthetically better than hot glue. Hot glue is shiny, not matte, this is problematic when imitating stone.
  • I should have used LESS yarn in the bundles that I tied down the center, as the yarn I used was very bulky when all gathered in the back.
  • I should have gathered the hair down one side and then the other BEFORE swirling one side and attaching it to the bun disc in the back. It was difficult to work the second side into the previously glued and dried half done bun and I ended up with WAY too much yarn for the bun in the back.
  • If I’d done the previous bullet point, I could have thinned the yarn out as I worked my way down the sides of the wig OR if I’d done bullet point 3, I might not have had to do even that.
  • I should have found grey yarn to make the beanie out of. I thought the black would be fine if there were gaps in the “hair” yarn, but it’s very visible. Yes, I needed a soft acrylic, but I should have looked harder for something closer to the “hair” color.

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