26 February 2010

Spending time with my people

I am exhausted.  Totally wiped out.  The source of this tremendous lack of energy?  I spent the whole day without my children.

Today, the Mad Scientist and I went to Indianapolis for the IAHE homeschooling conference.  It was great.  I walked in the doors, and there were homeschoolers everywhere.  I felt immediately out of place, since I was not wearing jeans, nor a full-length skirt.  I instead had opted for a knee-length skirt, and felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.  But oh well; no one else seemed to notice.

We attended workshops all day, and wandered through the exhibit hall in between times.  I looked at books and curriculum 'til I was cross-eyed.  I also got to visit with a friend (more a friend of my parents, but that's a minor point) whom I haven't seen in ages and ages.  Maybe I'll post pictures tomorrow.  I didn't take any today.  I was too busy deciding what curriculum I'm going to use for next year.  Or not use.  As the case may be.

More on that tomorrow.

23 February 2010

These are a few of my favourite things...

I love my children (naturally), and I love crafting beautiful things, and doing "art."  I do not, however, really enjoy doing art with my children.  Because, really, my house is enough of a mess as it is.  (True confession:  My mother sent the children craft-foam projects for Valentine's Day.  They loved them, and had a great time putting them together - even though I threw away the glitter, and wouldn't let them use it AT ALL.  Sorry, Mom.)

I try to work it in though, because my kids love it, too.  Which brings me to another thing I love:  The public library.  Tax dollars at work!  And I found out a few weeks ago that my local county library actually has a "Preschoolers 'n' Art" program.  I think it's even a monthly thing!  So I called up my sister-in-law to see if she could take the youngest two monkeys for an hour, and Monkey1 and I had a date.

Now, this was just a week or two ago.  But rather than having a project to do with Valentine's Day (the holiday in closest proximity) they decided to do Mardi Gras.  So we read a very bizarre story called The Green-Tailed Mouse, about a bunch of field mice who decide to throw a Mardi Gras party.  At midnight they all put on their scary masks they've made, but they forget to take them off.  So they spend a long, long time running about, jumping out and scaring one another.  Then finally someone comes along to remind them to take off their masks, and life goes back to being happy, and no one is frightened any more.  Great stuff.  (The librarian said she had to look really hard to find a story about Mardi Gras.  Why they didn't just do Valentine's Day, I don't know).

Anywho, so the craft project was masks.  And a local artist, who happens to be originally from Argentina, was there to help give the children some ideas and guidance in their crafting.  She showed a few slides of some carved wooden masks made by a fellow artist in Argentina.  There was a really cool one that was the lower half of a jaguar's face.  I thought that would be neat!

The last picture she showed was of a red devil-type thing, with three horns coming out the top of its head.  Guess which mask Monkey1 wanted to reproduce.


He asked me to cut out "big, purple teeth."  I suggested the google eyes when we got home, hoping it wouldn't look quite so menacing.  I think it helped, a bit.

I stuck holes in it with a knitting needle, so he could see, and coated it with a layer of Modge Podge to enhance the durability.  He was extremely pleased with his mask.  And I must say that, despite some misgivings regarding his chosen form of self-expression, he and I had a lot of fun putting it together, and enjoyed spending some time together just being creative.  And, as a bonus, I didn't have to clean up the mess when we were done!
I did have to go buy some craft feathers, though, and they have subsequently been stuck all over numerous objects all over the house.  Monkey2 got to make herself a hat:


which was consolation for not having gotten to come with us.
All of which is to say, if you have a young child who likes art, check out the local library.  It's a fun, easy way to do some crafts with your child, and not have to worry about the mess.  That works for me!  

Check out other great ideas at Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristin at We Are THAT Family.

21 February 2010

Easy Fix

Children (I was going to specify mine, but I'm pretty certain it's an across-the-board phenomenon) are hard on their clothes.  It's unfortunate that, when the clothes wear out, there's usually still a whole lot of good fabric in them.  I have a hard time throwing that away, so lots of things wind up in my mending pile...where they usually aren't rediscovered until the child in question has moved on to the next size(at least).

BUT I had a friend who came over last week, and actually offered to help me with a project around the house.  And after I trucked her through the house, opening doors that guests are typically not allowed to look behind, and confessing my sins, she helped me start to sort through some things.  I was SO inspired that when she left I kept going.  I'll show you the results another time (when there's a little more to see), but the point of this post was to say, I unburied Monkey2's favourite jeans while I was organizing:


They were stuffed in a bag in the corner of my craft room, together with the iron-on patches I bought to fix them.
It was a six-month and five-minute long project, and Monkey2 was very pleased.  If you eliminated the stuffing-into-a-corner part, it would be a fast, cheap, super easy way to fix a pair of pants.

20 February 2010

Learning New Things

You'll never guess what I have to share with you tonight!  Well, yes, it's another story about Monkey3.  You could at least PRETEND to be surprised.  How about pleased?  Can I get some excitement?  Good, you on the left!  Thank-you!

So, I was in the living room the other day...or, well, wherever I was, it wasn't the kitchen, and I heard Monkey1 and Monkey2 calling me in panicked voices.  Which isn't always, necessarily, a cause for concern.  But then I realized, they were in a panic about something related to Monkey3's activity.  So I listened carefully to ascertain what level of alarm needed to be reached, and how quickly I needed to get there.

"Mama!  Monkey3 is pretending to cook himself eggs!!  Don't worry though, the burner isn't on!"

Oh, well then, that's not really a prob...wait, is he using real eggs?!?

Well naturally.  Why on earth would he have dropped a pretend egg in the pan, when the refrigerator is right there?  When I walked into the kitchen there he was, happily stirring his eggs around the frying pan with my spatula:


So...I turned on the burner.  I mean, what else was there to do, really?  And he was so pleased with his eggs that he cooked all by himself!  
And I was left with this:

Only I've realized since then that actually letting him cook the eggs may have been a small miscalculation, because now it's his favourite activity.  And I have this sort of mess to clean up on a pretty regular basis.  Also, we're going through a lot of eggs.

17 February 2010

Wasted Space

This post is brought to you by Works For Me Wednesday (hosted by Kristin at We Are THAT Family), and my mother, who taught me to find a use for what would otherwise be wasted space.

My refrigerator has really been bothering me lately.  It has become a catch-all message board, and frankly was contributing to my stress levels.  Then, about two weeks ago, several things in my life came together to form the perfect solution.

First, I have been reading The Nester for a while now, and love that she just whips out her hot glue gun to solve so many problems around the house.  Inspiring!

Then, I remembered that I had several corkboard tiles in my craft room, that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago "because you never know when they might come in handy...and what a great deal!"  (I get that from my dad.  Genetics played a strong role in this project as well.)

And I noticed an empty space where they would fit in just right, but be easy to hide:


See?  It's perfect!  Who would ever guess at the disaster that lies within?

Project Specs:  I measured the inside width and cut the tiles using my exacto knife (a gift from my husband who managed to prove that there was, indeed, something he could buy me at Lowe's that I would be excited to receive.) and a cutting mat and ruler that are meant for quilting.  After the tiles were cut, I used the glue gun to stick them to the cabinet doors.  It took approximately ten minutes, total.  Probably a bit less.  Then I pulled out the cute ladybug pushpins I bought at Wal-Mart, and went to town.  Most of the refrigerator contents ended up in this cupboard.  The rest are in my spice cabinet:


For that one, I just used the full tiles.  I plan to keep recipes there for spice blends that I use on a regular basis:

The refrigerator isn't perfectly clean, but it's SO much better!

Contents:  Magnetic Poetry Green Pack, two sponsored children's photos, and some magnets my kids like to play with.  110% improvement.  Can you imagine how it looked before, with all that other stuff all over it?  Horrible!  Corkboard inside the cupboards definitely works for me!!

ETA:  I should note that the cork boards do occasionally get a bit loose and threaten to fall, but then I just plug in the glue gun and stick them back up wherever they need it.  It only takes a minute.  And it's reassuring to know that, if I want to, it's easy to get them down.

16 February 2010

Valentine's Day Fun

We had a very nice Valentine's Day chez moi.  We went to church in the morning, where at least half the females were wearing red.  In the choir were a woman in a long-sleeved red shirt with a black vest, and a woman in a long-sleeved black shirt with a red vest.  They couldn't have done that better if they had planned it; they were in exactly the same outfit, just with the colors reversed.  It made it very difficult to concentrate on the music.  (Maybe I'm just easily distracted.)

Monkey2 wore an adorable outfit that her Bestemor brought back from her last trip to Ukraine.  I promised to take pictures, which is more difficult in this house than one might suppose.  What to use as a backdrop?

I decided I didn't like that, because the lighting was bad.  So we tried another location:


"Monkey Baby, you need to move.  I'm trying to get a picture of your sister."  (He has a balloon in his mouth.  Just in case you were concerned.)
Ah, very cute.  Of course, now she has the other window behind her head, but I decided it was good enough.  
Then, after church, we needed something for lunch.  Bestemor to the rescue again!


I gave them all their Valentine's candy.  Yes, that was lunch.  Because for supper...well.

Two weeks ago I bought a ten pound beef brisket, specifically so I could make The Pioneer Woman's brisket recipe.  I had an ulterior motive, which was that I wanted the leftovers for her other brisket recipe - tostadas. Have I ever told you of my deep and abiding love for anything resembling Mexican food?  So I used the leftover brisket from last week, made quacamole and pico de gallo, and we watched Veggie Tales Jonah Sing Along Songs.  Good stuff.  The five of us nearly finished off a four-avocado batch of guacamole.  I think I ate most of that myself.  My favorite part of the evening, however, was watching Monkey1 laught hysterically at every funny part in the movie.

(Confession:  I cheated a bit.  I used store-bought tortillas, which I bought already crispy, and canned tomatoes for the pico de gallo.  Also, I left out the jalapenos.  Apologies to my Mexican friends; I'm sorry, but I can't take the heat.)  (It drives me crazy that I can't put a tilde on my n in this program!!)

So, we had a very nice day.  I think Monkey2's favourite part was her new socks:

I made her take them off when she went to bed yesterday, or she'd probably still have them on.  :-)

09 February 2010

Keeping the Monkeys Busy: a great idea

Wal-Mart sells little wooden models in their craft department.  They cost 88 cents, each.  They're cheaper than the snacks at the check-out line, and if he's already holding a model car, you can tell a child "Nope.  You already got a treat, it's right there."  (Note:  Do not ask if he wants to give it up in exchange for the candy as a way of putting an end to the discussion.  This can backfire.)

The other day we bought a bunch of them.  Monkey1 and Monkey2 actually used some of their own money, which I believe was left from Christmas, and got two each.  Then I bought one for Monkey3 so he wouldn't feel left out.

Once nap-time started, I got out freezer paper.  I folded over the edges just a bit, to keep it from rolling back up.  Then I squeezed gobs of paint directly onto the paper.  (I have also used a rectangle of cardboard, such as could be cut from a cereal box, for a palette in the past.)  They shared a cup of water for rinsing brushes, each had their own rag for drying brushes and taking care of minor messes, and generally had a ball and kept themselves entertained for about an hour.  That definitely works for me!

A word of caution:  If you try this at home, make sure you put the paint away before nap-time is over.  I didn't.  When Monkey3 woke up and found it, he unscrewed the cap off one of the bottles, and carefully poured it all over the rest of the bottles and his high chair.

For more good ideas, visit Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family.

08 February 2010

Let's Define Our Terms

Mothers know about messes.  I can personally attest to the fact that there are few messes greater than those a troupe of preschool-aged children are capable of making.  (For evidence, see here, here, and here.)  But, did you notice something?  Actually, none of those messes required an entire troupe of monkeys.  They were all made by the same monkey, (who shall remain nameless, except to say that it was this one:


and doesn't he look cute in his daddy's boot?)  He never needs help.  Which is good, because, well:

This is Monkey1, who called me into the dining room in an absolute panic because he "made a big mess" all over his pants.  He's pointing to the cause of the upset.  I couldn't find it without his help.  I think it was salsa.  
My mother has always said, that if the older of my two brothers had been born first, he would have been an only child.  Some children just require more energy to parent.  This one:

(He wanted his picture taken, too, and is smiling for the camera) He might just do me in.  I'm not sure I have the energy reserves available that are necessary to parent this child.  So it's good that, when the other two start making "messes,"  it doesn't mean quite the same thing.

Thought-provoking question

Browsing through some blogs (yes, I should be cleaning), I came across this thought:

I find it entirely ironic and downright ignorant on our part that church growth is celebrated while family growth (where Christians should assume that added members will be discipled and brought up in the faith) is frowned upon and even discouraged.

Read the rest of the post here.   Speaking of which, I was in Wal-Mart a few days ago and happened to notice the current cover of People magazine...  Which I would just like to say a few things about. (Warning:  Rant Ahead)

In the first place, I think it is totally obnoxious that they are insinuating that one child with problems means a couple should never have another child.  Not only obnoxious, but ridiculous.  But, let's face it, if this was a reality tv family who only had one child, or maybe if it was their second child struggling, no one would be insinuating they needed to re-think their birth-control (or lack thereof).  Which leads me to my second point.

Could everyone just GET OVER the fact that the Duggars have chosen to not use birth control?  They don't claim that everyone needs to be like them.  They provide for and love every one of their children.  They aren't on welfare; they are self-sufficient.  What is everyone's beef with this family?!

I have an idea:  Maybe we could just all mind our own business, and prayerfully consider the choices that God would have us make, personally.  Then we could all stop worrying about the choices God is calling other people to make.  Just think how much less stress there would be in the world, if no one ever got agitated because they didn't agree with what someone else was doing.  A large family, in and of itself, is not illegal, and it's not immoral, so I really don't understand why everyone feels a need to criticize, or even comment at all.

07 February 2010

Should this worry me?

A few days ago I was called into the kitchen by frantic shouts of "Monkey3 is into the butter!"  (WHAT is it with this child and the butter?!)  I arrived to find that "into" was a fairly accurate description.  He had GOBS of it all over his hands, and was doing his best to rub it in like hand-creme.  In the process, he was dropping chunks of butter all over his pants, the chair, and the floor.  And just look what he did to the bread!

I'm guessing he's not going to have a career in surgery.  Can you imagine?!

Do you remember this post, wherein I discussed why ophthalmology is probably not the best career choice for Monkey1?  Don't you just wonder what they're actually going to end up doing?  I'm waiting with bated breath.  :-)

This post is entered in Friday Funnies at Homesteader's Heart.

05 February 2010

A Monkey's-eye View

Monkey1 really likes to take pictures.  So it wasn't too surprising, the last time I downloaded pictures, to find a few I didn't remember taking.  They have a nice, abstract quality about them, and I like having this little insight into how the world looks to him.  Pardon the following assault on your eyeballs..


This is the bottom half of their "school bus."  The bus came into being early on in our school year, when I was informed that they wanted to go to school so they could ride the bus.  Prompted by my favorite photographer (who has since changed jobs, and is sorely missed!!) I gave them a large box and let them paint their own bus.  They decided it was a city bus, so should be blue, and played in it happily until I tripped over it one too many times, and it went to the large playroom in the sky.

The alphabet playmat I bought at a yardsale.  I paid $5.  I thought it would make a great "rug" for their play area, which it would have if they had left it on the floor.  It looked a bit too much like a puzzle to convince them that it was actually intended to be a floor covering, and so this, also, is no longer with us.  I gave it to Goodwill, and the beauty of thrifting most things is, when they outlive their usefulness, I don't feel a need to hang on to them just because of the money I spent.  I definitely think we got $5 worth of playtime out of that mat.

Pillow on the sofa.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps Monkey1 was still in his sleeping-on-the-couch phase at this point?  

Dust rag, containing what appears to be actual dust smears.  I wonder who on earth put those there?

A gift from the monkey's aunt, and one of their favourite toys.  Notice, it's the only thing that he's looked down at, so far.  Do you remember when the world was mostly over your head?

Something they see all too frequently, I'm afraid.  Ah, well.  Wow, is that an unflattering angle, or what?  Just for the record (why am I always saying that when I put up pictures of myself??) I don't think that is a very good representation of what I actually look like.  I must have been focusing hard on something!

04 February 2010

Something Lighthearted (for a change)

Is anyone else tired of all the depressing stuff I've been blogging about lately?

Good.  How about some Monkey Moments?

The day the Mad Scientist walked in his graduation ceremony was a Sunday.  He was ushering during second service at our church.  I hate sitting by myself, so usually when he does this (every three months, for the whole month, I think) we go to first service together.  Then he ushers during second service, and I either find a quiet corner and knit, or hang out in the book store nook and read.  It's a great system. 

This particular Sunday, I decided, was extra special.  We've spent FIVE YEARS getting to this point.  So during second service I went home to put on some make-up, and generally tried to go the extra mile to look special for his big day.  This took me the entire hour.  (I'm a bit out of practice with the cosmetics.)

I picked everyone up as the service was ending.  The children didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, 'til I leaned in to buckle them into their car seats.  Monkey2 looked carefully at my face, and then said "Mama, why are your lips all red?" 

"Because" I replied, "I painted them."

"Why did you do that?"  She asked.  Fair question.

"To make them look pretty." I answered.  Then I made my fatal error.  "Did it work?" I queried.

She examined my face once more, carefully, then sweetly replied "I don't think so."

So much for sprucing up a bit.  This afternoon, Monkey1 decided he is going to be a cowboy.  (He was looking at The Pioneer Woman's mustang photos over my shoulder at the time.  Yet another good reason to read her site.)  Monkey2 promptly decided that sounded like a wonderful career choice; she would be a cowboy as well.  For this, I was informed, she would require "a cowboy hat, a bull whip..., and a horse."  I'm still trying to decide if I should be concerned that the bull whip is essential, while cows, apparently, are not.


02 February 2010

Timely Reminder

This morning I looked around my house, and I cried.  There is a mess in every room, a pile of stuff in every corner.  I told my husband I am a failure as a homemaker, a homeschooler, a wife, and a mother.  I believed it.  I told him the solution was for me to get rid of all my craft things, because they take up so much space.  And I cried as I said "but that's the only thing I do that's just for me."

I could type out a list of home maintenance tasks I have not taken care of recently, but that's not the point of this post.  The point is, that as I sat on my (dirty) kitchen floor, crying out my failure to maintain my high ideals, I prayed "God, help me."

Then I got up, and went about my day, determined to make a dent in the chaos before it consumed me.  But I was totally overwhelmed, so instead I sat down at the computer.  And as I scrolled through my blogroll, I found this post over at Holy Experience (which I only added yesterday.)  And these words hit me right between the eyes:

In those hours of margin, I’ll have a sliver of time for leisure. I’ll take mine tapping keys, reading. Others might sew, knit, paint. But it’s not as though I simply plow through the day’s work in order to get to what I really want to do. But rather, the leisure projects of a mother’s fringe hours, or of anyone engaged in a Christian model of genuine work, these hobbies aren’t the desired end of our work or escape from it, but are simply a change in pace, a recharging rhythm, refreshing us to return with renewed passion and vigor to our ultimate callings, our purposeful work.
Because all work is sacred work, worthy of the diligence, the effort. I pick up lost legos, dry the pots, whish the toilets and this serves God. For if I can’t meet God in my work, where do I meet Him? If I don’t serve Him here, where do I serve Him? Are we not called to serve God in the work – not merely in some imagined, mirage place outside of work?

In a model of Christian work, we live one-piece lives, all weaving together into a sacred cloth as unto the Lord with no false seams between God and our days.

And in our work, sacred work because there is no such thing as secular work, we first serve God. I’ll put away the laundry, sweep the crumbs, polish the windows not to serve my family primarily, but to serve God. Because, “whenever man is made the centre of things, he becomes the storm center of trouble,” writes Dorothy Sayers. “The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…. You will begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause.” 
 God, help me to live a one-piece life, where my work, and my leisure, are done to your glory.  Help me to find the balance between chaos and order, that neither may rule my life.  Rather be you the center, and the focus, not crowded out by other things.  Remind me every day, that what I do, I do for you.

 Really, I need to just read through that entire site.  So far, every single post I've looked at has brought me to tears.   But right now, I have laundry and dishes calling my name.  God's grace to you all.

01 February 2010

The power of words

I am totally and completely stealing this post from Bonita...

Sorry!  But this gave me goosebumps, and it seemed easier to post the video here, than to send everyone there a follow another link.  I hope that was ok.  Anyway, here it is:

On another note, this post, over at Domestic Dissident, accomplished something I thought was not possible, which was to make me want to read the Twilight series.  I haven't yet, but I'm thinking about it...

And this post, which I found by following a link from We Are THAT Family, also made me cry.  As did this one, from the same blog.  It's called Holy Experience, and I'm adding it to my sidebar.  It's been a very cathartic afternoon, on-line.  Back to my laundry now!