Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fond Memories of American Girl Dolls

Sophia and I started a huge cleanup in her bedroom about two weeks ago. We completed a lot, but there was a lot of work to do and we have been slowly chipping away at it. We planned to finish up yesterday but she had an opportunity to do a sleepover with a friend, so I decided to finish most of it on my own as a surprise to her.

As I was going through her collection of American Girl dresses my first thoughts were, "Oh no, we don't have matches for all the shoes and we are missing a few pieces to outfits." But as I dug more I thought about all the years Sophia has played American Girl (and she isn't finished yet) and new thoughts emerged, "With all of the playing she has done over the years, it isn't a surprise that we are missing things." I felt more relief than discouragement knowing that she has filled her days being a little girl. She doesn't worry about the future, she just lives in the moment, something I have always admired about her.

When Sophia was five years old she wanted an American Girl Bitty Baby. I had hoped we would avoid the whole American Girl thing, but she received money as a gift and had her heart set on a baby. So, when Grandma and cousin Joe were visiting, we visited American Girl Place.

It was our first time in the store but she had one purpose for being there and that was to bring her baby home. She picked out the Bitty Baby she wanted and was ready to head to the register. She had no interest in looking around. As soon as we left the store, she wanted her baby out of the box because she was afraid she wouldn't be able to breathe.

Sophia spent hours and hours with her Bitty Baby. She carried her in a sling, she nursed her and loved her like a good momma does. One time when we were going to the mall, she was getting her Bitty Baby ready to put in the sling. Steve said something like, "We aren't going to bring the doll into the mall. You will have to carry her for too long and she will get heavy." She kept getting the baby ready like she never heard a word he said. Steve told her again to leave the doll in the car. She finally said something like, "Mommies don't leave their babies in the car when they are gone." Bitty Baby came with us.

When Sophia was seven Santa brought her Kirsten, an 1854 American Girl. By this time,Sophia had totally immersed herself in a pioneer lifestyle - she taught herself to read using McGruffy Readers, she wore a prairie dress, apron, boots and bonnet every single day for over a year, she played pioneers, she wanted to have "school" where we rang a bell and I wore a dress with my hair in a bun (yes, I played along), and much more. Kirsten was her sole mate.

She now took Kirsten everywhere she went. She played with her and we read all the books about her life as an immigrant to the United States.

Knowing that Santa might leave Kirsten, my friend Olif and I traded talents. She knitted a poncho, hat and mittens for me to give Sophia and I sewed an American Girl dress for her to give her daughter.

This is Emma modeling the dress I made. Emma was given to Sophia when she was two or three years old and was well loved. Her hair was a mess which didn't bother Sophia one bit - even when strangers made rude comments.

My mom kept Sophia clothed during her pioneer days. She sewed dresses, aprons and bloomers for both Sophia and Kirsten and when everyone in the family received a quilt from my mom, Kirsten also got one.

If you have ever purchased American Girl items, you know they are very expensive. We tried to find substitutions whenever possible. Sophia wanted Kirsten's St. Lucia outfit, but it was between $35-$40 for the complete outfit. So, we purchased fabric, redesigned a pattern I had and made our own St. Lucia dress for Kirsten. We found a small wreath after Christmas and glued birthday candles to it for the crown. For under $10 we had a whole outfit and a cinnamon roll tray made out of polymer clay.

As Sophia moved away from pioneers and into the era of hippies, Kirsten joined her.

Kirsten is at a protest and is carrying a sign that says, "Make love not war."

Two years ago, Alexander made a bed for Kirsten and sewed pillows as a gift to Sophia for Christmas.

As I organized the American Girl stuff, I found myself having fun dressing Bitty Baby and Kirsten in my favorite outfits. It was kind of fun being in a little girls bedroom, all alone, playing again.....being in the moment.


  1. That is so sweet. My daughter, Averie, just got a bitty baby from Santa. Like you, I hoped we would skate by withought an American Girl obsession, but Santa knew better!

  2. How very cool! I was hoping we would miss the American Girl scene, too. But the inlaws took Hope downtown to get one.

    My little one isn't much of a doll girl so she hangs out in the closet. Which is good, because I don't know how to sew and the clothes are expensive.

  3. I love Sophia's dolls and your memories! Mallory wanted an American Girl doll for Christmas, but Santa brought her a guitar instead. Now that she's going to be home I think she'll love one. I might try to find a gentley used one for her to adopt.


  4. Oh what sweet memories this brings. I don't know who had more fun with the Am. girl store and all the "stuff" - Sophia, Cathy or Grandma. Funny how we all revert to those safe fun times of being a child. Thank you for the memories. I love you all -- babies too. Grandma Jo

  5. Such an inspiration! A couple questions:

    What are McGruffy Readers? and -

    I have never read the books. When you say Pioneer Days, is that one of a series? I'd like to get it.

    We are about to read Little House on the Prairie. If these books are about the same time period, perhaps we could read both, consecutively, for fun!

    Love, Kelly

    PS I'm already scoping out Ebay for the doll :-)

  6. Hi Kelly,
    McGuffey Readers are a series of books that were used until the late 1800's, I believe. They were used in the one room school house and consisted of stories, poems, manners, etc.

    When I say her "pioneer days", I mean that Sophia lived and breathed pioneers. She totally immersed herself into a pioneer lifestyle by wearing the clothes (even in 105 degree temps she wore her pioneer attire because "if Laura could do it, so could she.") Everything we did revolved around pioneers. We found recipes from Laura Ingalls books, we watched the TV show, we read everything we could about Laura. This is a great book.
    We visited Laura's home in Independence, KS. We did "school", we did so much.
    Sophia did a week long camp at a local 19th century museum where they lived the life of pioneers doing school, chores and crafts. She had Ingalls dolls that she played with daily. Since she dressed the part daily, people often told us wonderful stories. When she played with friends, they were always pioneers and would set up clothes lines and worry about Indians. Those were her "pioneer days".

    The American Girl story of Kirsten would be wonderful to read along with the Laura books. We would often compare and contrast their lives.

    I hope you can find a doll. They really are special. We learned so much from Kirsten and Laura Ingalls.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. I will probably do a post on Born To Learn blog about her "pioneer days".



    Here is the home we visited in Kansas. It was fun to walk on the same land that Laura walked on.


  8. I'm so excited! I just bought the Album-Remembrance-Scrapbook and the Second Reader, used on Amazon, for not much money!

    I also found the Kirsten doll, with 3 books, 3 outfits, and the bed, on craigslist! They are asking for best offers, so we'll see! Fingers crossed! :-)

  9. Great story, Cathy (sorry I'm late, I'm finally trying to catch up on my blog reading).

    My brother made me a doll bed too, when I was 10 and we were living in England, in our garage workshop. I don't know whatever happened to it - I wish I still had it.

  10. Kelly,
    It sounds like you were able to get some great deals! Good luck with the Kirsten doll. You will love the scrapbook. We looked at it so many times.

    Never too late to read. Brothers are pretty special, aren't they?