“Does Irsy have a pillow, Mama?” Jack asks me. Irsy is the child we sponsor in Guatemala. “Because if she doesn’t, how is the tooth fairy going to leave her money in exchange for her baby teeth?”

It’s September, and we’ve had a rash of tooth losses, including Jane’s first two baby teeth falling out, before she’s even five, which is unheard of in our family. We’re late tooth-losers around here.

“Irsy is older than Jane,” Jack continues, “and she’s probably got loose teeth. Do you think she has a pillow?”

I don’t know. I have no idea if Irsy has access to such things as pillows. Her family is poor and rural, and if they have pillows, they’re not the kind of thing Jack has in mind.

“I think we should make her a pillow,” Jack tells me.

I explain that Compassion International won’t deliver a package to Irsy, only mail.

He thinks for a moment. “Then let’s just make the case, Mama. Jane and I will embroider it, and you can sew it.”

I try not to choke. I don’t sew. Instead I smile and say, “Sure.” I figure he’ll forget about this in a day or two and then I won’t have to deal with it.

He doesn’t. He writes Irsy a letter and asks her what she enjoys doing. “So we know what to put on the pillow, Mama.”

When he gets Irsy’s letter back, he says, “She likes riding her bike and playing with dolls. So I think we should put a picture of a bike and a doll on her pillow.”

“Okay,” I say, “but that’s only two things. You wanted to embroider four squares. What’s going to go on the other two?”

He and Jane flip through the embroidery-for-kids book I’ve checked out of the library. “I want to make this flower.” Jane points to a picture. It looks simple enough. I figure we can manage that flower.

Jack looks through the whole book. “I don’t know,” he says.

I turn to a page with pictures of embroidered monograms and names. “What if we just embroidered her name in the last square?”

Jack’s face lights up. “That’d be good!”

We go to the fabric store and he and Jane choose a bit of plain cream-colored fabric to embroider on and a pink fabric with small flowers that they want me to quilt around the edges.

Quilt? This project is getting out of hand.

But I want to encourage my children to be compassionate, to care about other people, and if that means quilting a pillow case for a little girl in Guatemala, well, I’ll figure it out. I buy the fabric.

At home, I trace Irsy’s name and a picture of a bicycle, a doll, and a flower onto small rectangles of the creamy cotton and help Jack and Jane embroider them.

Then the embroidered pieces sit in my bedroom for several months as I try not to think about having to quilt them. Every once in a while Jack says, “When are we going to finish Irsy’s pillow?”

Finally, when Irsy’s sixth birthday comes and goes and I have still done nothing about the pillow—”It was supposed to be a birthday present, Mama!” Jack scolds me—I email my friend Glyn who is an avid quilter and ask her if she’ll help us. She emails back and says she’d love to.

She comes over after lunch one afternoon and helps Jack and Jane quilt Irsy’s pillow together. What would have taken me weeks (what had already taken me months because of sheer procrastination) took Glyn two hours—and that was with Jack and Jane helping her sew.

The finished pillow is beautiful.

I hope Irsy is as happy in receiving it as my kids were in making it.