Sunday, September 14, 2014

And we're off!


homeschool
[first day of school]

Just like that, we started our "official" homeschooling at the beginning of the month. I'm doing three subjects with Edmund right now -- Bible, reading/phonics, and math/numbers. For Bible, we read a chapter each day, work on memorizing one verse each week, and learn a new hymn or psalm each month (Lavinia does this with us and enjoys it, too). For reading, I am using "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and reading various books aloud, as time permits (right now we are on "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, having already finished the first two books in the series earlier in the year). I haven't quite gotten my act together for math yet (planning to order a workbook at some point), but I've had him do some counting and sorting activities and practice writing numbers.

He thinks it is all simply wonderful.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Purple bunting

Purple bunting

I made this bunting out of purple fabric scraps as a decoration for Lavinia's birthday last May. I just now got around to hanging it up in her bedroom (we switched rooms with her and Rosie this summer), along with a few other wall decorations. Her toddler reaction when she saw her room: "This is amazing!!" A good reminder to me, don't waste time feeling bad that my kids' bedrooms aren't Pinterest-perfect... just decorate them with a mother's love and they will be so happy.

To make the bunting, I cut out fourteen triangles (two of each fabric that I had) and backed them with a similar color. Sewed right sides together, clipped and turned right side out, then edge-stitched. I centered the triangles, tucked the raw edges up inside the (pre-made) bias tape and sewed it shut -- easy peasy!

That lavender eyelet in the foreground of the picture is left over from the birthday dress my mom made for me when I turned six.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Day at the Museum


A Day at the Museum

There's something for everyone at the museum.

A Day at the Museum

A cozy, old-fashioned quilt on an iron bed...

A Day at the Museum

I always notice a pretty teapot....

A Day at the Museum

Lavinia loves the little playhouse. Here she is enjoying some "grapes" at table...

A Day at the Museum

...and tucking the dolly into bed after reading her a story.

A Day at the Museum

A Day at the Museum

An apple tree for Edmund to climb, and outdoor swings and games to "give him energy," as he says.

A Day at the Museum

Even Rosie enjoyed the outing.

A Day at the Museum

Next time, we'll come back with a picnic.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Around the house


bookshelves

Is summer the universal time to work on house projects? We've been more productive since the weather has turned warmer. Douglas recently finished up building two handsome wooden bookcases for our living room. When we were first married, we bought some cheap shelves from Target, but they basically fell apart after five years of use and three moves. I'm so happy to have space for all our books now! With these bookcases, plus the built-in bookcases in our mantel, there's room for everything, and it helps give the living room a library-ish atmosphere.

When I visit other people's houses, I like to (not-so-surreptitiously) check out their books, if they're in a public area, that is. :) It's fun to see if we've read any of the same books or share the same loves. Anyone else do that?

Douglas and I spent the afternoon of my birthday prepping our bedroom to move into later that night. We've been working on fixing up that room -- priming, painting, pulling up carpet, new cellular blinds, installing quarter round. It's looking SO much better, although it still needs some decorative touches before it really becomes our sanctuary.

Now the girls will eventually end up in the bedroom that Douglas and I just evacuated. It has a built-in wooden vanity with lots of drawers and two cupboards, which works well for their small wardrobes. The first thing I did to beautify their room was to line their drawers with Crabtree & Evelyn drawer liners left over from my unmarried days... a rose print for Rosamund's drawers and a lavender print for Lavinia's drawers. Perfectly serendipitous! I'm still working on sorting through clothes, organizing and purging, and the girls' room has been my base of operations for all this. It's been a huge job, but oh, how I'm looking forward to having that off my mind!

drawer liners

drawer liners

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!


Fourth of July 2014

Last night, the big boys had tank wars.

Fourth of July 2014

This morning, the kids rode in a parade at the park.

Fourth of July 2014

Then back to Grandma's for a picnic lunch.

Fourth of July 2014

I think Lavinia's meal consisted solely of a corn dog and strawberries.

Fourth of July 2014

Grandma has made this flag cake just about every Fourth of July since she was given the recipe, sometime in the '80s.

Fourth of July 2014

Happy Fourth of July from all of us (including Douglas, not pictured)!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blue summer sundress


blue sundress

Well, I knew as soon as I publicly stated that I wasn't doing any sewing at this time, I'd get a chance to drag out my machine. :) I have done a few simple projects in the past few weeks. This little dress for Lavinia started as a new-with-tags maternity top at the thrift store. It was one of those things that I looked at and thought, "I could easily repurpose this by taking in the side seam and shortening the straps!" Of course, when I got home and examined it, it turned out a little more complex than that. I had to straighten the hem (not realizing that, as a maternity top, the front was longer than the back), take in the sides, cut off some of the elastic shirring at the top, and shorten the straps. The straps were already attached with buttons on one side, to allow for lengthening or shortening as needed, so I decided to keep that feature in the back. I'm not sure if we'll ever need to lengthen the straps, but if Lavinia mostly grows in height rather than width, she could probably wear it as a summer top for a few years yet.

blue sundress

This disheveled little lady spent a day enjoying the pleasures of summer -- playing with her brother, napping, and popsicle treats all took a toll on her pigtails, clean face, and ironed dress. But it's proof positive that she's enjoying summer to the max, and that's OK in my book! :)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cleaning the bathroom with little helpers

Here comes a confession. A few Fridays ago, before he left for work, my husband kindly asked me if I would make it a priority to clean the bathrooms that day. Now if Douglas was asking, you'll correctly surmise they weren't in a pretty state. I had neglected them for a long time, due to a lot of factors (hello, new baby). But it really was getting gross. So, I determined that I needed to stop procrastinating and get a system going that would make it easy for me to get the bathrooms clean on a regular basis.

Here's my problem: I want to train my kids to help around the house, to work hard and to appreciate cleanliness. However, it is slow, frustrating, patience-shattering work to train them, so I tend to put it off. Edmund is four and he can be genuinely helpful with certain tasks. Lavinia, who just turned two, not so much -- but I don't want to let her play elsewhere while Edmund works. We're all in this together. I gave it some thought and here's what I came up with to help me in my task.

Cleaning with little helpers

Before you start, ask God to give you His patience and cheerfulness. If at any time during the process you feel yourself losing it, stop and take a break for a minute. Pray, regain your good attitude, apologize to your kids if needed, and start again. Another good idea is to start the cleaning right after breakfast or after a mid-morning snack, so everyone's tummies are satisfied and there's no hunger-induced crankiness to add tension to the atmosphere. If you like, put on some calming music.

Write down, in minute detail, all the jobs needed to clean your bathroom(s). On my own, I am perfectly capable of cleaning a bathroom in logical order, knowing what to do next and keeping on pace. When I am overseeing two little helpers, my brain flies out the window. It is very helpful to me to have a list to consult so that I don't have to think about what task to do next. You could either put it in a homemaking binder, or laminate it and keep it with your bathroom-cleaning supplies. Mine looks like this:
  • put away toys, dirty clothes, throw towels/rugs down chute
  • dust surfaces (shelf, cupboard, window)
  • wipe down medicine cabinet shelves
  • organize drawers/shelves (if needed)
  • clean mirror
  • spray and wipe down sink, toilet, tub
  • clean inside of toilet
  • clean soap dish, replace soap if needed
  • empty trash
  • replace handtowels with clean ones
  • restock toilet paper, if needed
  • sweep and mop floor
  • wash floor rug, towels, and replace when clean
(That is my intensive cleaning list for our main floor bathroom. I also wrote an abridged one for maintenance.)

Gather all your cleaning supplies in one place. I put all the bathroom supplies in one bucket so that I can easily grab it and not have to spend time hunting up various cleaners or utensils from the far reaches of the house. Whatever your stance is on using "green" cleaning supplies, with little kids it is good to use some mild cleaners because I guarantee you will be hearing things like, "I just sprayed my eye!" I have a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar water that I let the kids go to town with. I also have a shaker full of 50/50 salt/baking soda which is a good abrasive for scrubbing soap scum from sinks and tubs. Cleaning wipes are very handy and if you don't want your kids handling store-bought ones, make your own.

Demonstrate and delegate. As far as the actual cleaning, there are two approaches you can use and they both have their places. The first is to do the work very slowly, alongside your kids, explaining and demonstrating what you are doing with each task as you go. This is good for the first couple of times you are training or for a deep clean. However, if it takes me 3+ hours every Friday morning to get the bathrooms clean, that is a serious bite into our time and I am more likely to not do it. So the other way is to delegate small tasks to your kids, and while they are occupied with that, do as much thorough cleaning as you can, as quickly as you can. In the time it takes Edmund and Lavinia to spray and wipe the bathtub, I could have the mirror, sink, and toilet clean, etc. This is good for maintenance.

Maintain. Fridays are our bathroom-cleaning days. However, the most heavily-trafficked bathroom (our main floor bathroom, which is also the kids' bathroom) can get messy and dirty in a hurry and start looking dreadful before another Friday rolls around (or you may have to skip a Friday from time to time, when other things come up). One good idea I gleaned from the book Large Family Logistics is to superficially clean and straighten up the bathroom while your little ones are playing in the bathtub during bath time. I will often take a used washcloth or a handtowel that's headed for the laundry basket, wet it with water, and just wipe down surfaces that have accumulated dirt or dust. Put away toothbrushes, toys, dirty clothes; pick up trash off the floor; straighten towels; even grab the broom if needed (our kids tend to track in sand from the sandbox).

Since implementing this system, I am a lot more dedicated to keeping the bathrooms clean and it is an easier job (and my husband is happier!). If you have any more suggestions or great ideas, please leave them in the comments!