Wednesday, August 31, 2011

{kids crafts} A Year of Interviews

Can I just say how much I love the preschool age?  My kids are hilarious...their thoughts, the stories they come up with, what jokes they think are funny...the list goes on and on!  As a mamma, I want to bottle up this time of unfiltered thoughts and keep them forever.  But how?  

Inspired by Becky Higgins, I created "A Year of Interviews" scrapbook for the 2011-2012 school year. 

I just used a 3 prong folder (is that what they're called?), a pack of page protectors and some colored cardstock.  M designed the cover with a "swirly rainbow" that he drew and cut out himself. 

The title page will have a photograph of him once I get my pictures printed. 

The plan is that I will interview him every month.  The questions will all be different. 

This is what I did for September and the start of school:
  • I asked him to write his name (I want him to write his name at the end of the year too, to see how much he's improved)
  • I asked him general favorites: color, food, toy, etc.
  • We traced his hand and we'll do that again at the end of the year too, to see how much he's grown
  • On the other side of the two-page spread, we'll include some pictures of activities/projects we did that month and maybe a drawing
At the end of the school year, we'll have one little book full of memories.  Hurray for documentation without lots of clutter! 

Now onto his request for learning this year: how Marines do their fighting.  Hmm. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

{i want to remember} - 8/30/11

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to notice and appreciate the little things.  Here are some of the things I don't want to forget about our first day of PreK:

I WANT TO REMEMBER... waking up to M's face by my bedside saying, "Oh Mamma!  Today is school!  I'm so excited!"

I WANT TO REMEMBER... my high hopes for a special "First Day" breakfast.  I even bought new plates and cups from Target!  But my bacon didn't come out right and one child requested an omelette after I had made a big batch of scrambled eggs.  Lesson learned: life isn't picture perfect, so just roll with it.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... having my three boys cuddled around me on the couch as we read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

I WANT TO REMEMBER... our first project: making a HUGE apple tree on the kitchen wall.  M kept saying, "This is so much fun.  This is so cool.  I can't wait until Daddy sees this."   

I WANT TO REMEMBER... what an awesome privilege it is to teach my babies at home.  Life and circumstances change every year, so this may not last forever.  But for now, I am confident this is right choice for us.  I am so, so blessed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

{etsy finds} First Day of School Edition!

Today we start PreK with my oldest!  I have been planning for weeks, so I am excited to begin.  I will be sharing much more of our learning and crafting (mostly for grandparents!) in the weeks to come!

Anyway, inspired by this special day, here are a few Back to School finds from etsy!
1. Canvas School Bag  2. Raised Felt Alphabet  3. Library Card Notebook  4. "READ" Sign

Friday, August 26, 2011

{home} A Peek into the Nursery

It's seems so cliche to say that time flies.  And to be honest, I never really believed it until recently.  When it was just me and M, the days seemed to be so longSweet little old ladies would encourage me to cherish this time because it goes by so fast.  And I would smile and nod politely, not truly believing them. 

But now, almost five years and two more babies later, I am here to tell you it's true!  My oldest is almost five...five!  We are starting school and learning to read.  He is a big help and is crazy funny.  I look at him all the time and think, "Where did the time go?"  

D is looking older everyday.  He is talking in full, understandable sentences.  He loves to color and draw.  He wants to be a Super Hero when he grows up.  As I listen to his silly belly laughs, I think, "Where did the time go?"
And now my sweet baby J is growing like a weed, crawling and pulling himself up to stand.  Cruising around furniture and playing right along with the big boys.  Eating solid foods and "talking" to his DaDa.  I sit back and think, "Where did the time go?" 
All of that mamma mumbo jumbo to say...I thought you might like to take a peek into our nursery!  I have recently added in a twin bed and am still looking for just the right bedding.  I also need to order that artwork that's been sitting in my etsy cart for months now.  But that's really what I love about my's always a work in progress.

Hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend!   

Thursday, August 25, 2011

{etsy finds} Beautifully Classic Jewelry from Julie's Adorabowls & Jewelry!

This week's etsy find: Julie's Adorabowls & Jewelry!  The jewelry in this shop is gorgeous - simple, feminine, and just plain lovely.  So hard to choose, but I think my favorite is the Row of Pearls Necklace.  It would make any mamma feel just a little fancy in her spit-up stained t-shirt and jeans!

I'm going to be bookmarking her shop for future gifts...and definitely a little something for myself too!  Shop here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

{chit chat} A Call for Book Recommendations

First of all, yesterday we experienced our first EARTHQUAKE!  The epicenter was only miles from our home, so it was quite intense.  Thankfully, we are all okay and nothing was broken.  But wow!  What a crazy day!
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Anyway.  So I need your help.  I am stuck in a book rut, which stinks because earlier this year, I was on a reading roll!  I was devouring book after book, stealing minutes here and there throughout the day to read a few pages.  "Hold on boys, Mamma's gotta finish her chapter!"

I read The Forgotten Garden, Honeymoon with my Brother, The Middle Place, and The Help, all of which I recommend.  But then...I just couldn't get into another book.  Nothing kept my attention.  So I gave up.  And I haven't picked up a book in over a month!          

But last weekend, I was visiting my parents and brought back Heaven is for Real.  So far, it's an easy read and I'm stealing those little moments throughout the day to grab a few pages again.  So I need your help!  Help me stay on a reading roll!  What are some of your favorite books?  What have you read recently that you loved?  Please, please, please leave me some ideas in the comments!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

{read along} Mitten Strings for God: Stories

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry
"My children wanted stories...real stories, stories they could taste and feel and see, stories that would challenge their imaginations, scare them silly, make them laugh, and yet resassure them of the rightness and order of all creation." - page 69

I'm not a very good story teller.  I can't seem to think on the fly, my plots are lame, and the witty punch lines are often lost of my preschool crowd.  But the crazy thing is, my boys still love it.

My latest (and most popular) "series" started after telling some great childhood stories of the tricks and good natured teasing between my siblings.  The boys couldn't get enough.  So the "I'll get you next time!" series was born.  Here's the gist of one:

Once upon a time, there were two brothers.  The older brother wanted to play a game with the little brother, so he went to look for him.  He searched high and low, but couldn't find him anywhere!  "Brother!  Brother!" he called, but there was no answer.  Tired from all his walking, he sat on his bed to rest.  Just then, his little brother JUMPED out of the closet and yelled, "SURPRISE!"  He scared his big brother silly!  The big brother wagged his finger and said...."I'll get you next time!"

Super simple, but the boys love them.  And ask for more.  And more and more and more (you know how little ones are). 

In the end, the best part of story time is that I can actually see the bonds between my boys strengthening.  In the stories, they may tease each other and get in crazy predicaments, but they are a team.  Best friends.  Buddies who love and would do anything for each other. 

All because of a story told by their silly ol' Mamma. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

{family favorites} Dinosaurs

One of my favorite "kid spaces" in my home right now is located on the bookcase in our living room.  It has lovingly been dubbed "The Art Gallery" and it showcases the boys' best crafts and paintings.  But after a spring and summer full of fun, the shelf was pretty full.  I've had the task of clearing it out on my to-do list for weeks now, but I've majorly been procrastinating.  I love to look at that little space and all the memories that go along with the crafts. 

So as a way to record those little memories before they get packed away or hit the trash, I want to share one unit we did this spring: dinosaurs

Just part of our dinosaur unit!

I don't know what makes dinosaurs so appealing, but M and D are fascinated by them.  It was fun to play off of their interests.  I think we learned a lot that week, me included! 

In case you've got a little guy at home in love with dinosaurs too, these are some of our favorite books:
I wish I had taken more pictures of that week!  We did so many fun activities: made a dinosaur from the letter "D", created fossils from coffee grounds, colored a mini book, had a puppet show, made a T-Rex from a toilet paper roll, ate dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets for dinner and more!

Thanks for taking that little trip down memory lane with me.  I'm excited to create new memories in our learning adventures with my little guys.  So stay tuned, we start next week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

{home} Living Room Update: Reupholstered Chairs

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this project has been over a year in the making!  Last spring, I found two chairs in an antique store and fell in love with the curve of the backs.  So I brought my sweet husband to see them and asked if they could be my Mother's Day gift.  Thankfully he obliged, although he doesn't quite understand why I get so excited about sheets and chairs instead of roses and chocolates! 

Soon after I got them home, I spraypainted them black.  And then they sat.  And sat.  And sat. 

It took a conversation with my husband ("Frankly, I don't even notice the oriental design on the chairs anymore") for me to get my bum in gear and choose a fabric.  I made my inspiration board.  I was ready to purchase.  So imagine my minor panic attack when the etsy seller had already sold out!  

I decided to go with the big guys and to my surprise, the fabric was even on sale!  

I'm in love.  I love the color.  I love the slightly modern design that is still quite complimentary to the rest of my home.  I love a finished project.  I love it, I love it, I love it! (That's a nod to Molly Shannon for all you non-SNL addicts!)  

Here is a breakdown of what's left on my to-do list for the living room:

Rip up old carpet and replace with hardwood flooring
Recover chairs with chevron fabric
Make pillows from chevron fabric
Make pillows with floral patterned fabric
Buy mirror for above the fireplace
Purchase map for above the couch and frame with molding
Make console for behind the couch
Decide on new coffee table solution
Find neutral rug
Find two lamps for the console table much more to accomplish!  I better get to work! 
Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

{read along} Mitten Strings for God: Wants and Needs

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry"...many of us are just as confused as our children.  We fail to distinguish real needs from wants, and we focus on what we don't have rather than on the abundant gifts that are already ours.  When we are consumers, we teach our childrenthat it is good to consume.  When we try to resolve conflicts or to buy happiness by spending money, we teach our children to look outside themselves when they feel needy...On the other hand, when we pause long enough to give thanks for the abundance of daily life, when we feel good about what we have right now, we teach our children a valuable lesson: We help them accept that they can't have everything they want, and we reassure them they they do have everything they need.
- Katrina Kennison, pages 65-66

In the land of instant gratification, I think this topic is one that I have to revisit often.  When I see a new product on a blog or pin beautiful homes on Pinterest, it is easy to focus on what I don't have.  Instead, I have to make sure I focus on the grand scheme of things, I do have everything I need. 

What are your thoughts on wants vs. needs?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

{ramblings} How to De-Funk

A FUNK.  I think every mother gets that way sometimes.  The perfect storm of sleepless nights and long days, endless chores and a list of to-dos.  For me, I usually can feel it coming.  When the laundry starts piling up and I speak an unkind word, I know it's close.  And then the doubts come: Am I a good mother?  Am I cut out for this job?  

I hope I'm not alone in this.

But I can't stay this way for long.  My boys still need me and whether I like it or not, I set the tone for our family.  Unhappy mama, unhappy home.  So I pull myself up by my bootstraps and keep moving.  Here are a few things I do to "de-funk":
  • Look for the beauty in the chaos.  Even though there may be toys scattered across my living room, I look at the sweet drawing of our family that M made yesterday.  I look at the single bloom sprouting in the middle of our neighbor's yard.  If I am intentional, I am guaranteed to find something happy and beautiful.
  • Clean. Those dishes in the sink?  The crumbs on the floor from breakfast?  Clean 'em up!  Maybe it's a little OCD in me, but I feel calm when my house is in order.  Now that comes with realistic expectations.  I have three boys and God willing, more in the future.  My house will never look like a magazine.  But I know my trigger points (I get stressed with cluttery countertops and dirty dishes), so I conquer those first.
  • Do a little something for me.  I spend a lot of time doing things for other people (namely, my kids): feeding, playing, diaper changing, etc etc.  But when I'm feeling down, I become intentional in finding an activity that I enjoy.  Most often, these can be done at the same time as being with my kids: working on a cross-stitch, reading, baking.   
  • Get a reality check.  At the end of the day, I have so much to be thankful for.  And there are so many others who have it so much harder than I do.  Specifically, I've been keeping up with this couple and their little boy's fight for life.   
So, if you are a fellow mamma, and exhausted and overwhelmed today, please know there is someone out there thinking of you.  You are not alone.  And today is only one day.  Tomorrow will be so much better.     

Monday, August 15, 2011

{etsy finds} Reusable & Functional Design with Harriet's Haven

Fall is coming.  Fall is coming. 
That has been my mantra lately.  Between a teething baby, bickering big boys and the heat (oh the heat!), I've just been in a funk.  And a funk is never good.  So, I've tried to focus on the fact that everything is just for a season and nothing lasts forever, even though it can feel that way!  With the fall comes cooler weather and a new routine (PreK!)...and I'm praying our peaceful home will resurface!

All that to say, I went onto etsy on a search for things to aid us in our arrival of fall and found a great shop: Harriet's Haven!  
1. Message Board  2. Burlap Gathering Bag  3. Four Dinner Napkins  4. Reusable Sandwich Bag  5.  Reusable Sandwich Bag
 I love the gathering bags (#2) and I think they are the perfect thing for boys who like to collect "stuff" outside.  Simple without being too girly, which is a big requirement around here.  I also really liked the reusable sandwich bags (#4 and #5), both for their intended purpose, but also for gifts.  Wouldn't they be so cute for the neighbors, with cookies or another yummy treat tucked inside?  So cute!

Shop here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

(in the kitchen} Two New Favorites: Garden Veggie Sloppy Joes & Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

If you're looking for a dinner to use up some of those vegetables from your garden, this is the recipe for you!  Unfortunately, our garden this year was a total flop (note to self: don't leave for a weekend trip without DRENCHING plants in water.  We came home to fried veggies...and not the good kind!).  Thank goodness for our local roadside farmer!

For a little sweet treat, I also made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.  They were delightful and a hit among the entire family.  Both recipes are below! 

Spicy Garden Veggie Sloppy Joes

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup yellow summer squash, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 16oz. jar salsa
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
6-8 kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

In a skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat it brown and the onion is tender.  Drain off the fat.  Add zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and green pepper.  Cover and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes.  Stir in salsa, basil and parsley.  Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Serve on rolls or buns!

(This meal is easily freezable.  You can make a double batch at one time - eat half for dinner and save the other for a busy day!)

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chocolate chips

(NOTE: I did not have cloves, ginger or all-spice on hand, so I omitted them all from the recipe and just added a little more cinnamon, maybe a little over 2 teaspoons?  It was still delicious!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Mix together the first nine (dry) ingredients and set aside.
3. Beat eggs in the large bowl of an electric mixer until foamy.  Add pumpkin and oil and mix well.  Add the flour mixture, stirring only until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Spoon evenly in greased muffin tins (or use paper liners).
5. Bake for 22-24 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{read along} Mitten Strings for God: Secret Places

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry
No real words this week.  I just loved this chapter and the ideas it created for me.  I find myself looking at my house in a whole new light now: where can I create a special, secret and magical place for my boys?   

Enjoy some inspiration pictures I found on Pinterest:

Source: via Ashley on Pinterest

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

**we interrupt this blog...** Photo Groupon Deal!

Just wanted to let you know about a great deal on Groupon today! 

$10 for $20 worth of 4x6" prints from Shutterfly! 

I snatched it because I need to order a bunch to update my Project Life album!  Find the details here.

**Contains referral link.

{i want to remember} - 8/10/11

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to notice and appreciate the little things.  Here are some of the things I am loving this week:
I WANT TO REMEMBER... how D is calling everybody "big guy" after hearing his Daddy call him that for so long.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how M's idea of "cleaning" is shoving all of his toys into one corner of the room.  He's just so proud though when he shows me - I don't have the heart to correct him!

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how J babbles to himself as he plays.  He has lots to say!

I WANT TO REMEMBER... D and his "pow-ahs" (powers).  He takes two receiving blankets and swings them around in the air, declaring, "Watch out for me supah powahs!"  Reason #1000 why having little boys in the house is AWESOME!

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how among the long list of what he wants to be when he grows up, M wants to be a "Police Department-er".  :)

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how incredibly great it is to hear the beginnings of brother conversations.  D is really talking and expressing himself lately and the big boys have been coming up with some great games and adventures.  The latest convo overheard while building with blocks:

D: Whatchu makin'?  I makin' a robot.
M: I'm making a tower.
D: Cool dude!

My cup runneth over. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

{home} Living Room Inspiration

The living room is arguably our favorite room in our home.  We have lots of natural light and there is plenty of room to run and play.  But I've always had a love/hate relationship with it.  Too mismatched and not really fulfilling our need for organization.  And with three boys, you know we need organization and storage!!  So, last fall before the baby came, I started working on my vision for a cohesive look in the room.  We were able to get the big pieces I wanted, like a pull-out sofa for guests and a comfy armchair, but the little details were pushed aside...until now! 

So here is my inspiration for finishing up this room:
1. Inspired by Young House Love, I'm thinking of having a console table behind the sofa, DIY style.  I really love the cubbies for baskets on either side, so we can put all the boys' toys away and out of sight when not in use. 
2. This bench is narrow enough that it doesn't take up too much space and can serve two purposes: as a coffee table or also as more seating, if necessary.  It's on sale at PB but I'm wondering if we can DIY it ourselves when we make #1. 
3. We hope to replace our worn carpet soon with hardwood flooring.  I think this soft, shag rug would help ground the couch and coffee table and add some neutral tones to the room.
4. I like this fabric and this fabric, so I think I am going to make pillows for the couch and armchair.
5. I once heard on a blog that her "home colors" came from a vintage map.  I think that would describe our home as well!  We are going to buy a vintage looking map here and frame it out with molding.  It will go above the couch.
6. I'd like to find two neat lamps like these (picture is from YHL) for behind the couch on the console table. 

I'm really excited to get this room exactly like I have envisioned in my head.  Now to decide which project to tackle first!  What about you?  Any redecorating going on in your home? 

Monday, August 8, 2011

{chit chat} A Monday Morning Chat

Good morning, friends!  I hope you had a fun and relaxing weekend.  Here are a few things we are up to lately:

  • While out running some errands, Mark stopped and got some veggies from a little roadside stand.  That poor man is out there every day in this crazy heat!  I fully recommend shopping at your local roadside market - it feels good to support the farmers and the food is just so good!
  • My husband has been doing a lot of research lately about food and nutrition and has decided to eat "primal".  From what I gather, that means lots of fruits, veggies and meat and very little starches and carbohydrates.  There is no way that I could fully embrace eating this way (I love to bake too much!) but I'm trying to find recipes that are adaptable for all of us.  I've seen this cookbook and I wonder if that may help with some ideas. 
  • I am taking a small break from my quilt to work on a new project!  I bought this from the The Floss Box (for $2! What a deal!) and it's so cute!  I hope to have it finished by the end of the week.  I'm considering making it into a pillow or framing it for my craft room.
  • I spent the majority of this weekend scrapbooking.  Back in March, I took my mom's boxes full of 20+ years of photographs and promised her a scrapbook in return.  Needless to say, that was months ago and I'm still plugging away!  It has turned out to be a slightly bigger task than I had imagined (HAH! Understatement!) , but I am really enjoying it.     
  • Our school year will begin in three short weeks!  The first book we are reading is How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.  I have been searching the Internet for apple activities and recipes.  If you have a great craft or recipe or have seen something cute on a website, please share it with me in the comments! 
  • I want to start incorporating read alouds into our day.  We read picture books at bedtime, but I think the boys are finally old enough that we could start reading a chapter book instead.  I'm thinking of starting with Charlotte's WebDo you have any recommendations? 
Have a great week!
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