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Stress Is Just How We Roll These Days

Doesn’t it seem like stress has been trending for too long? Like it’s a bit ridiculous that feeling hassled is not reserved for crunch times – that instead it’s just a way of life?

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This picture AB drew really captures how I’ve been feeling.

Last week a colleague, who also happens to be my friend and neighbour, asked me, “Do you ever feel like you’re just barely scraping by?”

Fervently, I replied, “Ohmigosh, of course. ALL THE TIME.”

This friend of mine is one of the nicest people you can imagine, smart and hardworking and very compassionate. I’ve never seen her seem anything but serene, even when we’re talking about stress.

We were discussing the ever-tricky work/life balance. She told me about a recent incident in which she’d felt unreliable because she couldn’t remember whether or not she’d completed a particular task. This is something I can definitely relate to. The not-so-shining moments of things falling through cracks because… there’s JUST TOO MUCH.

It was, I think, surprising and comforting to both of us that we feel the same about this. I guess we’re both good at seeming fine when we’re not actually that fine.

The truth was, the previous week had been one in which my undulating perspective was rather more vertiginous than usual. My 39th birthday was on the Thursday, followed by Mother’s Day on the Sunday. My birthday was great – I felt loved and celebrated and worthy.

Things fell abruptly into focus for me on Mother’s Day. It was a lovely morning, with pancakes made by my Hubbibi and sweet little cards from my kids. In spite of this, a few hours later I was grouchy and yelly with those same kids. The little darlings had not taken the bait when I told them my dearest Mother’s Day wish was for them to clean their room and/or the playroom. In fact, both kids have arrived at a stage where they feel entitled to A) not do what I ask, like AT ALL, and B) give me attitude about it.  And I just felt bitter.

We did clean up, but I basically had to threaten them. Great mothering right there. (And great childing too.)

The day got better later on, and everything was fine. It’s just that it happens more than I’d like that I get grumpy and raise my voice – and I hate that. I feel myself using guilt as leverage, and I hate that too. But why don’t they see how much work it is to parent them? Why don’t they want to help out? DON’T THEY LOVE ME??

That’s when I start to fret. Are my kids just lazy and selfish? Is it permanent? And if they are, isn’t it muchly my fault, as their mother?

Sean says I worry too much, and I’m sure he’s right. He generally doesn’t worry – but I have no idea how such non-worrying is accomplished. Case in point…

Examples of Things I Worry About

  • My kids are spoiled beyond all help
  • My house will never be clean or even properly tidy for more than 17 minutes
  • I’m not a good mom
  • I’m not a properly nice person anymore either – I’ve just got people fooled
  • Teaching is not my true calling
  • My “undulating perspective” is actually something wrong with my brain
  • My energy oscillation is actually some weird disease
  • The frequent headaches I get are actually cancer
  • E’s melodrama is actually depression
  • AB will grow up to be a Mean Girl
  • My husband will die young and I’ll be a single mom
  • My mind is disorganized because of all the thoughts that want to much to be written down but can’t be because NO TIME
  • Work/life balance is a pipe dream. Period.

I swear I’ve never been a pessimist or a hypochondriac. I never used to stress out about little things, and it used to take a lot more for me to lose my temper. If I remember correctly, I did not used to be bitchy.

*Sigh.*

When I think about it at this moment, with the kids asleep in bed (no doubt looking like gorgeous innocent cherubs), I can convince myself that it’s probably not that they’re inherently or permanently lazy/selfish/evil. It’s probably just that they’re four and almost-eight, and they’re figuring out what they can get away with.

And maybe I’m not done for, either. I often have those moments where I look at my healthy children, my brick of a husband, my incredibly comfortable bed, my pretty house, my friendly neighbourhood filled with trees… And I’m completely dazzled by my good fortune. I can hardly believe I get to live this life.

As long as I keep coming back to some semblance of equanimity once in a while, I’m sure I’ll be fine. And get some fracking sleep, for crying out loud. (Or for not crying out loud. One would hope.)

Tomorrow I leave for OELC for a week. Experience tells me it will be one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my year. It does include stress – but it’s all temporary, and all focused in one place. It’s a place to get centred and come back tired but refreshed. And by then it’s June! So EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE PEACHY.

That’s the plan.

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Bullies: How You Treat People = WHO YOU ARE

For your reading pleasure today, we have a rant for and about BULLIES. Specifically, adult bullies who need to know better.

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Image via thinkinclusive.us

I’m incensed after reading an article about disgusting trollery cropping up among Ontario doctors, targeting other doctors with whom they disagree on their internal politics. Click on over if you’d like to bear witness to some truly heinous behaviour, some even with screen-capture as proof.

Why should I care about infighting among doctors? Is it even my business?

Yes, it is, and I should. And so should you. Because: we are a better species than this.

Not too long ago, I wrote about How Not To Be A Douchebag, prompted by some similarly obnoxious incidents perpetrated by a different swath of people. I feel pretty certain that the post was read only by non-douchebags, since this blog’s readership is traditionally a small number of lovely, civilized people.

Now, here I am again. It seems I need to look at a greater problem: not just your run-of-the-mill jerks, but highly educated expert jerks on the public payroll.

I’m upset about the doctor thing for several reasons:

  1. Doctors go through many, many years of school, and work with (and for) a wide variety of humans, with the goal of doing no harm. In this province, they even do specific training for empathy. How can you go through all that and still feel entitled to stab your colleagues in the back?
  2. The nature of a doctor’s job is extremely intimate and sensitive. If online bullying is acceptable practice to you, what other shockingly inappropriate actions are you justifying to yourself?
  3. I’m a teacher, one of those professions people LOVE to bully. I’ve learned first-hand that no matter how divisive an issue is, it is possible to have a respectful conversation. (3.b And that no matter how crucial or legitimate an issue is, there will be people who feel qualified to forego critical thought and spew crap all over it.)
  4. As with any profession, most doctors are doing their best to do a good job and be good people. When something like this blows up, it dishonours all of them. A big shame-paintbrush like this gets an awful lot of people messy.
  5. Although this current news piece will no doubt shortly fade from the public consciousness, it is not an isolated problem. The article states that abuse and bullying have been going on in the medical community for decades.

I guess that should be no surprise. Every field has its assholes. It’s just that there’s this thing called “Professionalism.” Medicine is one of the most highly-regarded professional fields in the world. Therefore, to be part of it, you are expected to be professional. (That part ain’t brain surgery, people.)

The biggest reason I’m mad at the doctor-bullies today is that, despite the brains and hard work required for them to be where they are, they have somehow skipped the lesson you’re supposed to learn in kindergarten, or even younger: BE KIND. In translation, this also means DON’T BE A JERK.

As both a teacher and a parent, I spend a lot of my life trying to help people under the age of twelve understand what it is to be a good person. There are millions of other teachers and parents out there doing the same thing.

And it is constant work, an endless slog. Kids are often mean to each other, both by accident and on purpose. It’s normal, a developmental process – but that’s not to say it’s okay. We don’t just let it slide. When we teach kids about treating other people as they’d like to be treated, we are explicitly instructing them in skills like empathy, politeness, advocacy, and rational conversation.

We discuss manners, even down to tone of voice. We talk about mediation and listening. We make it clear that it’s not acceptable to deliberately hurt other people, whether in person or online. It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to express anger, but it’s not okay to be mean about it.

I often ask kids who are being mean to someone, “Are you a mean person?” They almost never believe themselves to be mean people. They must be reminded that if you do mean things, that makes you a mean person. You are what you do.

These are young children. Of course we have to help them learn these things. Part of developing as a human is to learn how to be what we intend. We all need help and reminders.

But really, is there any excuse at all for being a medical doctor who still calls people awful names? When can we expect adults to grow up, if not by this point in life? When might we expect one to dislodge one’s cranium from one’s anus?

Once more, with feeling: if you act hateful to people, that’s you. Being a hateful person.

Is that the person you meant to be?

To be honest, I’m not just talking about the field of medicine. My ire is directed at all the bullies, trolls, harassers, and intimidators who fall into the category of “adults.” It is TIME TO SHAPE UP. Can’t you see that the rest of us are working here?? That we are toiling every single day to be and teach examples of treating others with compassion and respect, and that you are unraveling our carefully-crafted lessons? In other words, in case you need some more familiar terminology, you are f*cking it up.

If you think children don’t notice your bad behaviour, you couldn’t be more wrong. They are all over the internet, seeing all kinds of things you didn’t intend them to see. They hear the words you say aloud and they see the way you treat people. Unless you live by yourself in a remote cave (without internet access), you are setting examples every day.

I’m not saying you have to be perfect. We all lose our temper sometimes. Most of us occasionally say things we regret, in the heat of the moment. But when it comes to online harassment, you have no “heat of the moment” defense. You deliberately typed every ugly word you used.

I don’t care how upset you are: as an ostensible grown-up, you need to express your anger in a mature and productive way.

I also don’t care how excellent you are at your job, or how prestigious your career is; it does not make you a superior human.

I have always been mystified by those who think it’s okay to treat others cruelly. And I don’t know why, but many people seem to think the internet is the place to give voice to their most repulsive selves. I have heard of and witnessed far too many examples of this recently. Full-grown people behaving more obnoxiously – and immaturely – than the worst schoolyard bullies. Feeling no need for reflection or self-examination, and no need to consider their actual audience.

That’s the thing even the most educated trolls seem – conveniently, and incredibly – to forget: the audience is real. Would you really call your co-worker a c*nt – to her face, in a roomful of your colleagues? Would you stand up in the staff lounge and announce that so-and-so should eat sh*t? Because that’s what a closed forum is.

And if you’re on a public comment forum, you’re essentially onstage. Picture yourself and your target sharing the spotlight in a grand auditorium filled with unseen crowds – they’re there, they’re listening, and you’ve taken the mike. What would you really say?

It worries me that so many bullies have been validated by the recently-elected American Prince of the Douche-Trolls. If you look at him and think admiringly, He has no filter and he’s proud of it! He stands for free tweets speech! That’s what the new era looks like!, please know that this is bullshit. He is not “telling it like it is.” He proudly embodies a lack of self-regulation, combined with a pitiable need for attention and the cowardice to choose the internet as his preferred medium.

You know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will leave emotional scars that will affect my relationships and mental health for the rest of my life.”

Words are profoundly important. Especially online, we have the time and experience to make something of our words, to use their power to move our society forward. We have a responsibility to consider the words we use, and to make them reflect who we are.

You’re really going to pick those shabby, disgraceful words to express disagreement? You think they will make your point?

Actually, the most salient point you make, with words like those, is about you.

If you call yourself an adult and have not yet figured out how to disagree without being abusive, then you are an embarrassment to your peers. You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s time to join the civilized world and fix this.

Please and thank you.

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Dear Kids: For the record, you adore each other.

Our kids are like most siblings: they play together, and they fight together. Sometimes, the screaming is pretty horrifying. And then there are those moments – and those little games and traditions they invent – that warm you right down through to the sub-cockle area of your heart.

{For example, there’s this one funny procedure whenever I give them their vitamins. They have fish-shaped ones and Disney-character-shaped ones – please don’t judge us – and they MUST discuss them every time. They announce the colours they received, and what characters, and what order they eat them in. And then they put up their thumbs in different positions depending on whether their vitamins match or not. I don’t know why or how this came about, but they’re both VERY attached to the ritual.}

Last evening, there was a lot more good and happy play than screaming. (Which I really needed, after three weeks in a row of my Hubbibi on evening shifts.) At one point, they were sitting amicably together in the guest room, having constructed a barrier so each could not see what the other was drawing.

Turns out E was making a present for AB. The next morning there was a note in the advent calendar pocket, which completely turned around a morning that had promised to be very grumpy on her part:

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look in the guest room and you will find a present there

And it led her to this lovely festive drawing…

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Bells are ringing!

And THIS was on the other side.

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I can’t even.

I got a bit teary-eyed and all squeezy and kissy with that boy when he showed me. (Which he doesn’t mind as he is a squeezy, kissy type himself. They’re both very affectionate, even with each other, to the point that staff members at their school stop to watch their sweet little goodbyes in the mornings as a pick-me-up.)

And since we’re looking a wee masterpieces, here’s what AB was drawing at the same time.

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Sort of looks like an underwater scene… But it’s a holiday scene!

The spidery things are suns, and the phallic green-and-brown thing is a Christmas tree (obvs), and the little brown guy is a reindeer, and the swoopy line is a sleigh, and the black dots are buttons on a (non-visible) snowman, and there are also a few flowers and stars sprinkled in there.

So, kids, if you’re reading this and you’ve reached that phase of your lives (because we have to assume it will arrive eventually) where each of you annoys the other ALL THE TIME, please just know that you truly love one another deep down, and you’re a sublime little team when you need to be. We love you kajillions.

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Quotable Moments From My Toddler

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I was reminded by my family last weekend that I haven’t yet shared the weird pearls of toddler philosophy that my daughter has been imparting to us since she learned to talk. Frankly, I haven’t written down nearly enough of them, because life is too busy and my memory for details is shockingly short.

Another reason I haven’t really delved into this is because, at two-and-a-half, AB is so verbal it’s almost scary… and although I’m insanely proud of her, I don’t take credit and I don’t want to sound like a braggy mommy. E was like this too, where complete strangers would hear him talk, ask his age, and express disbelief at his vocabulary – but it’s even more so with her. Of course we’ve encouraged their language in the ways we know how, but I figure it’s at least 90% genetic luck – being linguistically inclined, but also having no hearing issues to interfere.

Sometimes I forget, when I haven’t been with any other 2-year-olds in a while, how advanced her language is. It has all flowed naturally from the context of her learning to say “Hi” aptly at 8 months, and producing sentences like “That’s a ball,” and “Come here baby!” at 13 months. With her, I think it has happened faster because she’s a people person. She wants to relate, and language is an effective tool for that.

Looking at the notes I’ve taken, it makes me smile and sigh to remember the things she was saying a year or more ago.

  • She used to press the button to make music on her doll stroller, bounce her knees and say, “Happy happy happy!” You just had to grin your face off.
  • When she first learned to say Please (or “pease”), she soon changed it to “Pease-awwww,” mimicking the reaction of people hearing her new nicety.
  • She had two words she made up that she used regularly with consistent meaning – and I’m sure it was very frustrating how long we took to figure them out: “Bacca” meant “Give that to me” and “Abodee” meant “Open this.” (Obviously.)
  • I noted her word “Mecumber” once I figured out that when we talked about “cucumber” she thought we were saying “you-cumber” – so if it was hers, it was “me-cumber.”
  • In February of last year, I wrote down her attempt to count just like her big brother: “Two four fie sick weven sick.”
  • Around the same time, she was showing some bossiness, trying to get me to join nap time: “Lie down. Close the eyes.”
  • Sometimes, especially when sleepy, she would gently touch and admire me: “Like a hair, Mama. Like a hand.”
  • She also tended to use words she remembered that were wrong-but-close-enough: she called green beans “green pants,” occasionally substituted “elbow” for “eyebrow,” and (my favourite) referred to the Bambi book as the “Zombie book.”
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Yup, I guess that’ll do all right.

 

  • Other cute substitutions: “Up-a-size” for exercise (“Mama, looka me up-a-size!”), “wriggly” for regular (“I want wriggly milk”), “olives” for overalls, and “acalulu” for ukulele (she still uses this one sometimes).
  • When we got her undressed for bath, she’d run around saying, “Got my naked on!”
  • Because I so often said to her, “Hi, sweetie,” she began to respond with “Hi seedy!”
  • On March 25th of last year, I noted her saying, as she gathered some items together, “Where’s the boots? Where’s the coffee? Goin’ to work.” (These days she likes to pack her backpack and put on her rubber boots and sit on the hall bench, which naturally transports her to school.)
  • Shortly after that was my first note of her using the word “actually” – “Ackshly it’s MY ball!”
  • She loved to do grown-up things like talk on phones – since almost anything can be a phone – and read Trivial Pursuit cards. (Just not usually in English.)
  • For many months now, she has made a habit of running up to whoever arrives at our door and yelling “SURPRISE!!”
  • She began to express compassion right around 18 months. I will never forget the time I was having a rough evening trying to get the kids to bed by myself – they just kept needing me and not sleeping – and at one point I sat on the edge of the bed and rested my head in my hands in frustration. She looked at me for a moment, then put her little arms around me and said, “I give a big hug, Mama. I see you cry.” I almost fell over.
  • She’s still good at this. She gives hugs and kisses when we’re upset or hurt. And as frustrating as her tantrummy side can be, she is good at thinking it over, and after a short while saying something like, “Mummy, I’m sorry I screamed and hit you.” Without fail, it completely disarms me.
  • Speaking of screaming, last summer I wrote down this charming conversation:

AB: (Screaming about something.)

Mummy: You don’t have to freak out about it…

AB: I AM freaking out!

E (mimicking her): I AM freaking out!

AB (to E): NO! You’re not freaking out, I’m freaking out!!

Then there’s the kind of out-of-the-blue, imaginative conversation she has when she’s getting sleepy and talking in bed, like this one last August:

AB: I wish had a boat.

Mummy: You wish… you had a boat?

AB: Yah. A sailboat. A sailboat.

Mummy: What would you do with your sailboat?

AB: I passed the boat… in the water… and the ducks on the boat, and the geese… in the river.

Mummy: Wow, that’s really cool.

AB: I had snacks with Emi. And I had snacks with Mummy.

Mummy: You had snacks… on the sailboat?

AB: I don’t have a sailboat. I have… a ladder… umm, a donkey-horse… two donkey-horses… and, umm… tomatoes… and, ummmmm… CHEESE! And… a sailboat.

Since last fall, there seems to be nothing she can’t say. I love that she still says things like “I goed to bed,” or “I maked a mess,” because it’s so toddler-y. She also, when reminded to ask nicely, still says “Can-I-may please have some water?” And she went through a long period this past winter where any statement she would make would be followed with a bizarre indication of whom she was addressing, like this: “I need some different pants, Ass-Mummy,” or “Can you read me this book, Ass-Daddy?” It seemed vaguely narrative. We eventually figured out she was meaning to say “ask,” even though the ass-prefix could be used with any sentence, not just questions. She just had it in her mind as necessary.

She also seems to have genetically inherited the language my sisters and I used to speak together (called Oody-Funka). She sings beautiful, unintelligible syllables a lot, and sometimes translates the books she “reads” into Oody-Funka as well. And she uses her elastic toddler-brain to give names to a lot of random things:

  • She once named the fingers of one hand Madeline, Miss Clavel, Matracita, Maca, and Fen;
  • For a short while, she had imaginary babies named Nollie and Kernie;
  • She has told us about her pet sharks named Mixery, Globby, Glicky, and Loast;
  • And she has expanded on what she told us about the school she goes to “under the water in North Canada” to let us know that her teachers are fish, and they are called Packo and Lala.

Here are a few other fun quotables from the last few months:

  • “I’m hugging you to my bones!”
  • “These Os are techally mine.” (I’d just told Sean, after a snack dispute between the kids, that the Cheerios were “technically” not E’s; she clearly got my meaning.)
  • To her big brother: “You can kiss my hand. Not off my hand, in my hand. That’s a good boy.”
  • When I found her curled up in someone’s abandoned snow fort at the toboggan hill: “I’m just sleeping in this hole, in this little rock home.”
  • While drawing a “picture” of me with a baby in my tummy: “She’s crying because her little brother leaved with her mom. Now the baby’s all covered up with grossness.” (Yikes, wha?)
  • When I asked, after she’d been horsing around with Daddy, if she would like some breakfast: “I already ate Daddy’s nose. I had breakfast.”
  • Just last week, at lunch one day, as she made up a random story about a doctor – who was also apparently a driver of some kind: “The driver didn’t do anything. He just sailed away, as faintly as a breeze.” (Where does she get these turns of phrase??)
  • The other day, when I asked her if she was all done on the potty: “I… am… precious.” True, but doesn’t answer my question.
  • And just this week, she started enthusiastically using a word that it took Daddy a while to decipher: hypothesis. Eventually he gleaned that she’d gotten the word from the Dinosaur Train show.

She told him, “Daddy, I have another hypothesis.”

“Oh, really? What’s your hypothesis?”

“Umm… It’s in the bathtub.”

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DIY Tie-Dye Jamboree! Shirts, shoes, and a jillion tiny socks.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been attracted to things that are tie-dyed. I love the fluid shapes and patterns and the vibrant colours. Fortunately for me, tie-dyed clothing is one of the 80s trends I like that came back! (Along with some that make me wince a little, such as crimped hair.)

I have also always wanted a pair of Converse high-tops, ever since Grade 9 when I spent many hours drawing a beat-up black Chuck featured in my culminating still-life in art class. (We got our still-life materials from a closet in the art room that was full of interesting crap.) At age 14, I did not feel I could pull off the necessary coolness/attitude for high-tops. Now that I’m an adult, I know what’s important, which is: I don’t care if I pull them off.

I ended up putting those two ideas together after getting all excited about design-your-own shoes on the Converse website and then having my dreams crushed because Converse.com DOES NOT SHIP TO CANADA and furthermore DOES NOT ACCEPT PAYMENT FROM ANY CANADIAN INSTITUTION INCLUDING PAYPAL ACCOUNTS FROM CANADA. (Not that I’m bitter.)

The solution? Dye my own. (IN YO FACE, Converse.com!)

I went out and procured two “One-Step Tie-Dye” kits by Tulip. I had to get two, because I wanted all the pretty colours, please.

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If you’ll notice, one kit says it will dye up to 20 projects, and the other up to 30 projects… and the dye apparently starts to lose potency after 45 minutes. Ergo, by my calculations, that meant: dye a whole truckload of stuff!! Or as much stuff as I could reasonably afford.

tie-dye preparation
E was raring to go. What better activity for a balmy Victoria Day weekend?
tulip one-step tie-dye bottles
Dye bottles from the kits form a nice rainbow.
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Then you fill ’em up and shake ’em. E was good at the shaking part.
dye your own converse
There are my Converse, actually off-white, carefully taped up with painter’s tape because the Interwebs were inconclusive as to the stainability of rubber soles.
dye your own canvas shoes
It was surprisingly hard to find these little canvas shoes for E – I eventually did at Old Navy. The adult ones came from Ardene.
tie-dye toddler socks
I told you – a jillion socks. (If you count them, I think you’ll find it’s exactly one jillion.)

Here are a few things I learned from the DIY Tie-Dye Extravaganza chez Dilovely:

  • Paper towels: YES.
  • Plasticized tablecloth: YES YES YES. (Dye washes right off with water.)
  • Plastic gloves from the kit: nice idea but they SUCK. Rip at the slightest provocation.
  • Reading the whole instruction booklet first: a good idea. It’s full of solid advice.
  • I would add to the advice: if you don’t want to have droplets of the wrong colour in random places, put your fingertip over the tip of the bottle when positioning it.
  • Also, if you want lots of control over what the dye does, use a sponge to apply dye instead of tipping it straight from the bottle.
  • We tried three of the different techniques for shirts described in the instructions: bullseye, spiral, and “scrunching”.
  • They all work! Make sure you use lots of dye to penetrate the folds.
  • If your helper is a small child, make sure he has had a full snack before you start.
  • If your small-child helper is a mini-perfectionist, working with liquid dye might produce tears and/or screaming.
  • If the end result is cool enough, your small-child helper will forget all about the tragic parts of the adventure.
  • The rinsing part takes forever – but you can make it more efficient by squeezing in a top-down direction.
  • As to the staining of rubber soles: tiny spots that got in around the tape washed right off the Converse and the adult shoes, so my precautions were probably unnecessary. The only soles that seemed to stain were the kid shoes. I’m hoping it’ll come off with baking soda and a toothbrush.
  • We kept the bottles, and there’s a refill dye packet for every colour… so I may be ready to try this again in a year or so.
tie-dye kids socks
It’s like a party in your socks and all the colours are invited!!
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He’s very invested in his stripes.
tie-dye canvas shoes
RIGHT??
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You have to bag everything for 6-8 hours to let the dye set. We ended up leaving them overnight.
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After the rinsing, our clothesline looked like this…
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… and my hands looked like this.
hand dyed converse
Supa-cute! The middle ones were bottle-dyed, the Converse were sponge-dyed, and E’s little shoes were a combination of both techniques (with only a small calamitous meltdown in the middle).
hand dyed chucks
YEAH baby.
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Tie-dyed children! xoxoxox

Don’t you want to go try it yourself? 🙂

P.S.: If you’re a shoe-lover and a Canuck, I can recommend ShoeMe.ca. My Converse came from there, hassle-free, free shipping and returns on everything – but they ONLY SHIP WITHIN CANADA. Just so you know. The company tells me you can get $50 off $100 with your first order – just for being MY friend!! – by using this link. http://shoemeca.refr.cc/4822RKB

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