artsy fartsy,  Bad Mom,  Bug,  Life Lessons,  sewing catastrophes,  spilling my guts



It’s been a while since I’ve cobbled together a lumpy pillow that roughly looks like a stuffed animal. I used to do it all the time. In fact, when I was little, many of my daydreams centered around the day that I would finally own my own sewing machine and then I could make anything I wanted. I envisioned a whole world out of stuffed material. There would be trees made of green calico and brown felt bears with black pleather noses… I would make a whole forest of animals!

Then I grew up and realized that sewing is hard and it takes entirely too much time. However, I did buy a sewing machine when I got old enough and I’ve made the odd lumpy pillow over the years.

So when Bug came to me dressed in a brown-flowered skirt and the only brown t-shirt she could find (that happened to have pieces of cake on it) and explained that she was a forest girl and all she needed to complete her pretend world was a pet owl that she couldn’t find anywhere in her vast (and I mean vast) collection of stuffed animals, I hesitated. It was true. She has every animal under the sun I think but she does not have an owl. Octopus, check. Ferret, check. Owl: no dice.

At first I rolled my eyes at her and told her to just imagine one or to find some other forest animal to play with. I’m sure the Forest Girl would be friends with all the animals. As she ran off, slightly distressed, to look one more time inside her hedgehog for some sad sorry owl substitute, I gazed over at my new clean work table and my stack of folders representing all the jobs I’ve got going on right now and sighed heavily. Then I decided that I would much rather make a stuffed owl than attend to my many deadlines. Blast it. Life is short. I should make an owl, I thought.

I see an owl

I hauled out my banker’s box full of odd bits of fabric and called Bug over to help me pick something owlish. She was beside herself excited of course. The prospect of making an owl, from fabric with mommy’s sewing machine! She hadn’t even thought of that. This was probably a bit foolish on my part because now she’s going to be thinking I can make anything she sets her heart on at the drop of a hat.

I’m sure I’ll soon cure her of that.

owl parts ready, set...

Anyway, she picked some red velvet for the body, some orange raw silk for feet and a beak and we found some buttons for eyes. I was going to use that brown corduroy for wings but like all my sewing projects, it got simplified in the end. I’m not that amazing at sewing.

pipe-cleaner bones

I did, however, have a fantastic idea for the feet. What if I sewed the raw silk around some pipe cleaners so they could bend like real talons?!! I didn’t sew tiny claw tubes and then turn them inside out or anything. That would be madness. No, I just sewed seams around the pipe cleaners, cut off the excess and let the raw edges fray. The owl would have floppy-feathered* feet like real owls do.

sewing feet

It actually worked really well.

clipping edges

With Bug hovering at my side, I sewed up the owl body, snipped the edges, turned him inside out and let Bug stuff him. I stuck the bendy feet inside the body where the stuffing hole was and sewed him closed with a kiss and prayer.

ooops, he hangs upside down

And that is how Owly (or Velvie, as Bug calls him) became the floppy-feathered owl that hangs upside down from branches. So his bendy feet aren’t strong enough to hold up his own stuffed-with-fluff weight. That’s okay. He’s still cute. (Maybe I should try that trick with a bat next time.)



And she loves him.

messy end

I’m not really sharing this story so you can say, Oh, wow you’re such a great seamstress! (snort.) or Oh, Brenda, you’re such a great mom. Because I’m not. I like to put pictures up that make me look like I’m doing a half-way decent job but really, I’m just like every other mom on the planet nagging and yelling and failing everyday at motherhood. I should share the humiliating jacket story that happened the other day. Ugh. It was terrible.

Okay I’ll just share a little bit: I thought I’d teach Bug a lesson about not getting ready fast enough in the morning by making her wear an ugly jacket to school. It wasn’t even an ugly jacket but she hates it with a white hot passion which drives me crazy because I think it’s a perfectly nice jacket and it’s cozy and warm. I can’t stand seeing her shivering in the cold on the playground when she has a perfectly good jacket to wear but she’s too vain to put it on. It’s big, I’ll give her that and I guess the kids don’t like wearing things baggy these days or something but sheesh! The battles we have over that stupid jacket some mornings make me want to wave a white flag and tear up my mom card.

So she made me mad one morning like she often does by not getting dressed and not getting her shoes on and just generally goofing off and being a normal six-year-old. I lost my temper and said, That’s IT! You’re wearing the ugly jacket and you are going to learn a lesson. You’re going to learn to get ready quickly because you never know what punishments might await you around the corner if you don’t take Mommy’s nagging seriously, rant, rant, rant.

As you probably predicted by knowing Bug from past posts I’ve written about her, she didn’t get over it. There were tears all the way to school. How could I make her look so hideous, she cried. All the kids weren’t going to like her. It was a tragedy. Weeping and gnashing of teeth…So sad, so terrible…

I was tough about this lesson all the way to school. I would not let her win. But when we got to school and I looked down at this little two-foot person standing next to me in the giant purple coat that she hates so much with tears streaming down her cheeks silently; I was a mess. How could I do this to her? She was going to be humiliated all day and what would she learn from it? That her mom is mean and has no taste in coats? At the same time how could I let her niggle out of this punishment without teaching her that crying and throwing fits works like magic? It’s the eternal parental predicament I find myself in. You just want to make them happy but you don’t want them to grow up like spoiled brats either.

So we sat on the wall outside of her school like we often do when we are a little bit early and soaked up the sun. She’d stopped crying and had finally accepted her fate. I was just tired and wanted to hold her close to me because I feel that way when I drop her off at school. I feel like I’m missing something when she’s gone from me and it makes me sad all day until I get to pick her up. I like to hug her and squeeze her and blow kisses and do all the mushy embarrassing things that moms do when they’re dropping off kindergarteners. I know she won’t let me do it much longer so I treasure it.

And as we sat there in the bright winter sun, I felt a little warm. It wasn’t that cold actually. It was warm enough to take our jackets off really. So I took her jacket off and stuffed it in her backpack just in time for her to run to the gate as the bell rang. Did she learn the lesson that I wanted to teach her? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever know. All I know is that this parenthood gig kicks me in the butt on a regular basis.


That and pipe cleaners make pretty good beak bones.

*floppy-feathered is what Bug says when she can’t pull her tights all the way up and the loose feet where her feet should be flop around when she walks.


  • gingermog

    I love owls. I think your soft toy version is a rousing success. Reading your post about Bug dallying while getting ready for school makes me feel guilty for everything I must have put my mother through. Especially hair combing and tangles. metal comb. Ouch!

  • Hil

    Oh, I loved this because this is exactly how it is. Somedays we moms are knocking it ours of the park by making the most precious owly, and sometimes the parenting thing becomes really challenging. Like, sign me up for nuclear physics because it must be easier than half of the parenting predicaments I get myself into…xoxo

  • Alexandra

    Brenda, I love this post for so many reasons – the wonderful owl (and the genius of pipe cleaner usage!!), the purple jacket story and your powerful admission -> “I’m just like every other mom on the planet nagging and yelling and failing everyday at motherhood.”

    So, so, so true and thank you for reminding us that we *all* feel this way. I was talking to a friend last night who lives in a big city (I live in a small town) and she told me she wished her kids had my kids’ life, that everything seemed so simple and easy for us, as she reads on my blog. And I reminded her that it’s exactly why I put those kind of posts up,not to make her feel bad of what she doesn’t have, it’s more so I can feel good about parenthood–it’s the memory of 10% that goes well, since so much that goes sideways.

    Bug will know you are a *human* mother, with all her wonderful strengths and weaknesses, and she will know that it is okay to have her own. She is having a fantastic childhood with you at the helm, I can tell :)

  • BeachMama

    Love the owl, he/she is perfect! I fear breaking out the sewing machine because Apple will have an endless request for things for me to make. She already asks me to draw everything under the sun and well… I can’t draw.

    As for your coat situation. We go through this all the time. Especially in Winter! Apple has two winter jackets (the snowsuit one and the less heavy for the car and shopping one) well, explaining how fortunate she is to have two jackets and no you can’t just wear a sweater when it is -20C, why, because I said so and I don’t want you to be cold. Then there is the mitts. GAH! But Mom these aren’t pretty! I hear this ten times a day, twenty if she is pretending to be a tomboy, craziness. But I have learned that when I say ‘no’ to something I need to stick with it. I can’t give in because then they never learn the meaning of ‘no’. It breaks my heart, sometimes I cry but it is for the greater good of the kids. And now I sit back an patiently wait for the teenage years…

  • Heather in WA State

    We are having jacket battles here at my house, though ours involves a 10 year old who won’t let go of a stained, threadbare, too-short, hand-me-down (which is probably as old as she is), coat that she’s been wearing for 4 years! I wash it, bleach it, scrub it, and mend it, but it’s just worn out and looks hideous. Other moms wonder why I won’t get my kid a new coat (she has 2 newer ones she rejects each morning), and other kids tease her, but she loves it like a best friend and won’t let go.

    I was overjoyed the other day when the zipper finally broke for good, but at 10 years old she knows I could go to the fabric store and buy a new zipper, so that’s what she’s demanding I do. I’m keeping as busy as possible so I always have an excuse for why we don’t have time to get to the fabric store. If I can just keep busy enough until summer comes…

  • Elizabeth

    You know, I think you *can* give Bug everything she sets her heart on at the drop of a hat. In fact, I think you do. I think you give her everything she needs. The owl is just one tiny example of the mom you are.

    The coat side of the story does not cancel out the owl side of the story. Every one of us has that story over and over in our parenting. I have a 7 year old girl and I could have written the coat story. We just do the best we can in balancing the need for warmth and lessons about not being bratty with our empathy for the 7 year olds’ hatred of the too-big, horrible coat.

    What Big will absorb from you is the owl side of the story.

  • bethany actually

    You may recall my own fights with Annalie over what to wear on cold days, when she thinks a skirt and a t-shirt are plenty warm for 50F weather while the rest of us have on jeans, sweaters, and coats. I finally gave up and decided she wears what she wants and if she gets cold, it’s her own problem. The only rule is that if I tell her she has to bring a coat, she has to bring a coat. I still have to grit my teeth to keep from telling her to go put some pants on for the love of Pete, but overall we fight a lot less. I do make a point of telling her when I think she might be cold, though, and I encourage her to go outside and test the weather.

  • ioi

    You’ll be glad you stuck out the jacket battle now than face it in ten years. At least that’s what I tell myself when I so want to give in because they seem crushed by me standing my ground. I especially loved how you put the coat away for her without losing the battle. You’re doing a great job!

  • Christine

    You’re such a sweet, good, thoughtful mama. I think so long as you think about it, you can’t go too far wrong.
    We have an owl. And a platypus, among many, many other creatures. But yours is cuter.

  • Heidi K.

    I had a similar experience this morning. As I yelled at my 15 year old son to please hurry up for the billionth time I stood in the kitchen and truly debated on leaving him there to walk to school. (After I drop him off at school I go to work and the longer I’m late the longer I work) I just couldn’t do it. A part of me thought that would teach him a lesson and the other part of me didn’t want to face the teenage attitude. Now what kind of mom does that make me? A normal one just like the rest of us trying to raise our kids the best we know how with knowledge and love. And kudos for you for telling the world your human just like the rest of us who may be having similar scenarios with our families. BTW LOVE your Owl! It turned out super cute and as long as Bug loves Vilvie then that’s all that matters.

  • Kristen

    The parenthood gig kicks me in the butt every day too.

    Today it was a tantrum by the almost-5-yr-old drama princess just outside the school involving;
    1) Me chasing her
    2) me attempting to wrest the knapsack off her shoulders while she kept running
    3) me attempting to get the zipper down in order to retrieve the drink bottle while she was running and screaming
    4) me attempting to get the drink bottle to her almost-5-yr-old thirsty brother who was crying for water while she screamed at me
    5) me blocking her attempts to get the drink bottle back from him as he drank
    6) her pulling a screamy fit on the sidewalk and kicking off her shoes
    7) her kicking me


    I just say, “Ah yes, another Rekker gong show for everyone’s enjoyment.” I think it makes other parents feel good about their kids when they see mine acting like that. *sigh*

    Btw, I loved your post about the owly sewing project. Kudos for leaving the rest of your chores in order to sew that little critter! : )

  • Madge

    That owl is cool! Great job!

    We have a brown coat in the closet that is really cute but Pix thinks it’s ugly. Molly hates the feeling of waistbands so she’ll only wear dresses and announces regularly that she “likes to be cold!”. Kids and clothes, so nutty.

    Who knows what lessons have impact?

  • TexasLea

    I won’t say those things you didn’t want said but I will say you have a wonderful heart Brenda Ponnay and your a damn fine blogger who has the honesty thing down pat. Everything in this post made this moms day!

  • Carrie

    That owl is so cute! And creative!

    I was thinking of you this morning b/c I was trying to find some printable Valentines that I liked. There was a huge list and I was clicking around, but not seeing anything appropriate for my toddler party. Then it linked to you! And I knew I’d hit the jackpot!

  • Peggi

    LOVE the owl! So cute! And take it from a been-there-done-that mom, the best way to handle the problem of not being ready for school in time is to take her to school in her jammies – no rescuing!. I promise you, it will only happen ONCE.