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My daughter, F, soon to be 3 years old, is a photographer.  She sneaks mama’s camera and takes pictures of her surroundings all day long.  Some are blurry and out of focus, and some are just spectacular.  I honestly love looking through the camera at the end of the day to find a few new pictures that she took.  Her perspective of our home is so sweet to me.  She captures things I’m proud of (kid art on the walls, baby’s first steps, me reading aloud, sisters playing “tea”) and things I’m not so proud of (dust bunnies under the bed, messy refrigerator, mama on the computer -eek!- and the TV on during the day).  Like it or not, her pictures are something special – they are her honest perspective of the world.  Through her lens, I can see what childhood looks like to her.

This midweek, I’m taking a page out of her book and focusing my lens on the Big things in life…you know, the things that really matter.  Things like building a snow fort in the back yard, cheering on the wobbling steps of little J, waiting anxiously for Daddy to get home.  I’m honing in on the blue light of dusk casting shadows over the snow, streetlights making the world sparkle and the warmth of snuggling under fleece blankets between siblings.  I want to revel in the clambering of little people into bed with Mom and Dad at the start of a long, lovely day of nothing much planned.  I’m loving the clattering of dishes during dinner, voices singing silly songs altogether and the love the weaves us all together in this crazy amazing impossible thing called FAMILY.   I’m enjoying this rich tapestry of a life, where learning and loving, working and playing  all connect together.

D on the snow mountain

B showing the girls how its done

I’m walking! J as observed by F

F building the great snow wall

And here I am, singing along while J rat a tat tats his pot and pan drums and I’m left wondering if it really does all come down to the velvety flour dusting the floor and my cheek while D cuts out the biscuits and together we push them in a warm oven.  This is what happiness is.  I’ve arrived.

Who needs Carnegie Hall?  We had our own concert here.

Leave it to them to teach me so much about what really matters.

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Enjoy those kids, if you have some, and if you don’t, try and look at life through the lens of a child.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Nothing really new to report on for WIP Wednesday…just plugging away at the same old projects, and starting to get a bit bored!  I’m working mostly on my Anna Maria quilt though…and I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to embroider the fruits of the Spirit in some of the squares?  You know, just in case we need reminding….

Have a lovely Midweek!

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“clut-ter:

1. A confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble”

One of the most effective ways to keep your life simple is to purge your home of clutter.  People spend hours upon hours managing their “stuff,” and for what?  Most of it is stuff we don’t even need or use!  I want to spend my time and efforts on my family and my life, not on the care and keeping of the junk in my life.  This kind of flies in the face of my thrifting obsession, but not really.  I try to employ a “one bag in, one bag out” policy in those situations.

I found this great idea this morning, and although Lent has already begun, I think I may be able to catch up.  My basement and closets desperately need to be purged.  What a lovely way to ensure a clutter-free Easter!  Just in time for a nice Spring Cleaning!  I have 2 bags filled just from my linen closet!

One decluttering method that works very well for me is “puttering.”  If you don’t putter around your house and actually look to see what areas need help, you will just continue to add to the pile and it will grow into an insurmountable problem.  Puttering is my answer to that.  First, I either turn on some music or call a friend/sister.  This gives me something pleasurable to focus on while I putter around my home.  Then I get started.  Often the distraction is so helpful that I get off the phone or emerge from crooning along to my favorite songs to realize wow, I just cleaned this whole room and I don’t remember doing it.  This may just be testimony to how 4 kids in 5 years makes you lose your mind, but I prefer to think of it as distraction working quite well, thank you.  An example of puttering could be reorganizing your bathroom cupboard, decluttering your work desk, cleaning out your fridge or organizing a closet.  I usually choose jobs that I seriously detest doing, not my usual daily cleaning tasks.

Living in a small home means we simply cannot hold on to every little thing we’ve ever owned or ever will own.  That includes the clothes that our kids grow out of.  For awhile I labeled and stored every item of clothing my children wore, but as our family grew, this became too much.  I switched to saving only the things that were in perfect condition, but even this became too much to hang on to.  The truth is, even if I did have a baby of the same gender as 0ne of the older children, there were no guarantees that the seasons would be correct anyway.  I began handing off clothes to friends.  So far things seem to find their way back, often mixed with outfits from other families as well, when a new baby warrants it.  I’d rather have my kids clothes used by others than stored in a basement.  It works well for us.

The best part of keeping your home clutter-free is how quickly you can clean your home, and how long it stays clean.  I can usually tell when my children have too many clothes and too many toys by how messy their rooms are.  Obviously they are children and are going to make messes, but if my daughter can throw 25 shirts on the floor in her quest for the perfect outfit, there is something wrong.

Here is a quick list of suggestions:

2 sets of sheets per bed. – this may not be necessity if you are single and tend to wash your sheets and put them right back on, but having kids can mean middle of the night messes.  Its nice to not have to do laundry in the middle of the night!

2 towels/washclothes per person in the family.

Keep your kitchen counters clear of appliances.  Keep only what you absolutely need and make sure each item has a “place” in the cabinet. (coffee makers may stay out).

File your papers/bills/bank statements weekly to cut down on surface clutter.

Employ “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Try to have “only” 1 junk drawer.

If you have a spouse who is prone to setting his/her random clutter all over your house, get a few baskets and set them around.  That way it doesn’t look so awful, and you can quickly grab the basket and put the things away when you get a chance.

Recycle, yet, but don’t be afraid to throw things out.  Socks with holes?  Toss.  Old toothbrushes? Toss.  Some of these may be a given, but if you are like me and really don’t like throwing away something that might be useful, it can be hard to figure out what to do.

As an organizational/large family thing, I like to have certain items in gender-neutral tones to cut down on what we have to have on hand.  Mittens in multiple sizes, snow boots, hoodies, etc., I prefer ones that are red, navy or grey so everyone is willing to wear them.

This post is entirely too long.  Please feel free to post any additional tips!

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There are loads and loads of laundry to be washed, bathrooms that really could use a good cleaning, beds that need to be made and a glorious pile of dress up clothes that threatens to swallow us all if not sorted through soon.  There is dinner to be thought of and made, kitchen floor in need of mopping, toys scattered hither and yon and art supplies from the ceiling to the basement.

And yet…

Weekends are for making babies laugh, letting kids fingerpaint, cheering on Mario Kart championships, braiding hair, singing songs, reading poems, watching the snow melt, eating cookies, writing letters, embroidery, holding close, slowing down, laying in a sunspot,  watching Spring unfurl, visiting Grandma and gathering up the moments in a big bouquet of happiness.  You know, the important things.

Its easy for me to be distracted by the work of life and forget to embrace the messy chaos of every day miracles.  Today I’m focusing on what matters.

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Big news!  I have a plan in mind for my next review/giveaway.  I am working with a work-at-home mama to 4 lovely children to bring this next giveaway to you.  Be prepared to have fun!  Also if you have any ideas for a giveaway that you’d like to see in the future, please comment or send me an email.  I always love hearing from you!

Do you ever have the moment of panic, thinking “my kids are growing up so fast. Are they having a fun life?  Are they enjoying life to the fullest?  What are they going to remember most from childhood?”  I have those moments from time to time.  When the panic hits, its helpful for me to reflect on my own childhood, one that, from my perspective, was the most fun a child could have.  The things I remember and treasure are not necessarily the things that cost a lot of money.  I have a few hazy memories from the week spent in Florida when I was five, the beach vacation to Myrtle Beach when I was twelve and the handful of movies my parents took us to.  What I remember most are the traditions my family had, some more frequent than others.  Those are what hold the deepest and dearest memories for me.  Spending summers camping in Canada, the image of my mom washing dishes in that big green bowl with a baby in the backpack.  My dad making pancakes on a Saturday morning, just for fun.  Sweaty summer evenings racing through the neighborhood on my bike with my friends, singing at the top of my lungs.  More recently, my dearest moments are summer cookouts with my family, an afternoon spent at the park with the kids, “family breakfast” on our midweek mornings.  Kids and adults too really thrive on traditions, even just the daily routines of life.  They’ll remember most the dishcloth swinging from Dad’s waist as he flips bacon on the skillet, and mom singing “Princess songs” while brushing the little girls’ hair.  Childhood does not have to be a series of expensive activities or events.  Sometimes regular life makes the best memories of all.

“Family Breakfast” is a tradition we all love…mmmm bacon!

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Its WIP Wednesday!  My favorite blogging day of the week.  This is where I show off some of my Works in Progress.  Due to randomly making that pillow with my girls on Sunday night and waiting for some more fabric to come before putting together our patchwork quilt, I don’t have very many WIPs this week.  That being said, I do have a very special WIP – possibly the longest standing WIP ever.

F’s birthday crown WIP.  Not much early morning light for these pictures, bear with me.

J’s WIP birthday crown

Little birdy on J’s crown

Not sure why the colors are coming out so oddly.  I need some more inspiration for these birthday crowns…not sure what else to put on them.  Thoughts?

D’s birthday dress.  I’m losing steam on this project, I’m in the skirt section which is SO BORING until you get to the lacework at the bottom.  Luckily I have over a month til its “due” so I can take my time.

Now for the ultimate WIP – I began this sampler when I was 8 years old.  I found it in my parents basement and brought it home.  Now I’m not sure what to do…finish where my 8 year old self left off, or leave it unfinished?  It needs to be ironed.  I’m thinking of framing it.  My mom has a sampler (much more fabulous) that my Grandma made when she was a young girl.  It is one of my favorite things in my mother’s house.

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We visited the Thrift Store again yesterday, just for a bit of an outing.  I rescued a pretty JCrew button down with a spring-y floral print (not pictured) and a basket to keep all Husband’s odds and ends in (better than leaving them around the house!).  We also found these:

a precious little candleholder that just needs a beeswax candle

Not bad for 20 cents.

vintage lace ribbon – I think this will be used for F’s birthday dress’ straps.

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That’s it from me for today.  Have a blessed Midweek with your family!

I can tell that my little one is feeling a bit under the weather, and if attitude is any indicator, my toddler is about to succumb as well.   I’m looking forward to slowing down for a few days, snuggling in and doing nothing but reading Little House books and holding my babies tight.  I know that my life already seems a lot slower than others,  but I tend to get ahead of myself and not take time to rest and renew with my little people.  Before I retreat to my cave of midwinter mommy-ing, I thought I’d share a few pictures from the last few days…

A little nature tray.  Not a great photo.  Some of the contributions are older, some more recent.  All discoveries by the kids.

Giving dead bananas new life!  Banana bread is a huge favorite around here.

My girls and I made this out of scraps from the fabric for our quilt.  It only took about an hour, we didn’t measure anything…just let it be perfectly imperfect.  I love it.  The best part was letting the girls pick the order of the fabrics and holding little F on my lap while sewing it on the machine.

I received a few sweet emails from mamas asking about our homeschool, so I thought I’d write a bit more on it for all who are interested.

Ahhh, Homeschool.  As with anything worthwhile, it is a lot of work.  It requires a lot of sacrifice.  It causes a lot of second-guessing.  It can be incredibly tough, but also incredibly rewarding.  I have a love/hate relationship with Homeschooling.

I’ll write later on about our path to Homeschooling, but for now I’ll just answer a few specific questions:

What curriculum do you follow?

I believe that curriculum should be chosen only after you come up with the goals you have for your homeschool.  Begin with the end in mind.  What do you hope to accomplish? WHY are you homeschooling?  Because of my specific goals for my children, I have chosen to take a Classical/Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling.  You can read more about the Charlotte Mason approach here.  There are free curriculum guides at Ambleside Online and Tanglewood.  We use a combination of these two curricula as well as some other things on the side.  “A Well-Trained Mind”  is an excellent must-read book on Classical Education that can be found here.

Will you ever put your kids in school?

I think it is incredibly important to parent on a case-by-case basis, looking at what is best for the child in question and the family as a whole.   I’ll never say “never” to school.  Circumstances change and every child is different.

What about High School?

I’m not interested in my kids having the “High School Experience.”  Missing out on all of that doesn’t bother me in the least.  That being said, we have a few excellent programs near by at the local colleges/universities where students can complete a few years of College while in high school on the government’s dime.  I’ll obviously take into account the personality of each of my children before deciding on this in the future, but I’m interested in those programs.  My younger sister will have her undergrad completely paid for under one of these programs while she lives at home with my parents as a high school student.

What is the Hardest part of being a homeschool Mom?

This is going to be different for every one.  For me, it is never getting a break.  My friends with children in school get these lovely stretches of time in the mornings where they can decide what to do with their time…work out, clean house, sit and read  a book, etc.  This never happens for me.  I love spending time with my kids, but parenting and homeschooling and housekeeping and everything run together in this giant circle of daily-ness.  That is part of the appeal, but it is also part of the sacrifice.  I also never have a clean house ;-).

What is the best part of being a homeschool Mom?

Being there for those moments when your kids “get it.”  I always say, “I didn’t want to miss out on their first steps.  Why would I want to miss out on anything else?”  I also love how learning never stops in our house.  The things we cover in our lessons are often discussed for the rest of the day as we work and play together.  I love how, if something is not working, I can come at it from another direction.  I can tailor the mode of teaching for each individual to the way they learn the best.

Do you ever worry…?

Of course.  I’m a mom.  Mom’s worry!  When I have those down moments, I often look up “what your child should know” at certain ages.  I am usually comforted in that either my kids are right on where they should be, or ahead in some areas.  I also know that I can’t screw this up: If my kid is meant to be an engineer or a mechanic, or an artist – he will be.

I’ll write more on this later on.  If you have any additional questions, please ask!

I’m generally a “can do” person.  I see things others do an I think “hmmmm I bet I could do that!”  I credit my Mom with this positive attitude and outlook on life.  It has come to my aid many times over the years and helped me to excel at things (with the necessary dosage of elbow grease, of course).  However, in one area I think I may need to admit defeat.  Here is my confession:

I can not for the life of me make a cake.  Believe me, I’ve tried!  I love to bake and to work around the kitchen, and generally I am a pretty good cook.  When it comes to cakes, I don’t know what happens.  They almost always stick to my nonstick pans, despite me greasing them up an/or using parchment paper.  After that they begin a slow crumble while I feverishly work to get them assembled.  Then they further crumble while I try to frost them, little bits of crumbs mixing with the frosting to decorate the cake.  UGH.  I had such a horrific cake wreck last year on my husbands birthday that I called my cousin in tears, telling her I wasn’t sure what message my dilapidated mess would convey to my dear husband (“you WRECKED my life”? “I think you are a disaster”?  Too horrible to think!).  I jokingly told her I wasn’t sure my marriage would survive such a disaster of a cake.  She came to my rescue with strawberries and whipped cream to hide what was now 2 halves of a cake.  I should have taken a picture.  If my skills weren’t so pathetic and sad, it would almost be funny.  So now, of course, it is Valentines Day, and its been just long enough since my last cake wreck that I was feeling stupidly confident.  “Lets make a cake and surprise Daddy!”  I wish I could surprise him with a beautiful Valentines cake.  As it is, we may have just enough time to cut out paper hearts to stick all over it to disguise the monstrosity that lies underneath.  I will continue to live in fear of baking cakes, asking my relatives to bake birthday cakes for my kids, or even ordering them from a bakery!  Admitting defeat.  One thing I simply cannot do: Bake a cake.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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We’ve had a few wild and crazy days (emphasis on the crazy!).  February is indeed here, with all of its lovely cabin-fever charm.  It has definitely been a challenge to keep the kids directed towards meaningful pursuits and away from using one another as entertainment.  I have to say I am incredibly thankful for the SNOW we had this week – it has proved to be a hot commodity with my children, a happy diversion.  Today alone they have been out at least 5 times each, coming in to warm up for a bit before heading out again.   I know I say this a lot, but my heart longs for Spring!

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Don’t forget to register for my Giveaway in the below post, and check back here tomorrow morning to find out who wins!!

Well it is finally Wednesday so I can show you all what I’ve been working on.  First, we have F’s birthday dress.  This is technically still a WIP since it lacks straps and the elastic threaded through the bodice.  It was an insanely quick knit.  I made the size 2T based on chest measurements.

Still unblocked, so a bit odd looking

a “Little Red” for F

These are my current “WIP”‘s.  I’m hoping to dig out from all of this crazy snow and head to the fabric shop for some elastic thread so I can finish F’s dress.  Then I’ll cast on for D’s and start all over again!

We were hammered with snow last night so today it is a winter wonderland outside!  F loves snow so much, she couldn’t want to get out in it.

The rest of us decided to stay indoors where it is warm and work on some Valentines.  D is my artist, so she was working especially hard.

So much love…

In the kitchen, I made some wonderful Snow Day soup.  We eat a lot of soup, stew and chili here, especially during the winter months.  My family loves soup and I love that most of it is very healthy, can be made inexpensively and can be altered to fit whatever you have on hand.  Today I used a few leftover chicken breasts, cut up potatoes, onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, garlic and added some chick peas as well.  I used chicken stock I had leftover and saved (always save your chicken stock!), although you could use some bullion cubes.  I love that soup can be left simmering all day and eaten whenever someone is hungry.  This helps a lot during our Midweek when mealtimes are not as regular as during our normal weekdays.  Add to it some homemade bread or biscuits and you have a lovely warm meal for a cold snow day.

Off to enjoy my family!  Happy Midweek!

Why is it that on the “warm” days of winter (over 30 degrees), it is always grey and depressingly overcast, yet it is on the sharp, knock-the-wind-out-of-you cold days (20 or below) that the sun pours through the windows, taunting us with its deceivingly warm glow?  I’m not sure, but it seems like a mean trick to me.

We are having a quiet evening here, which is a relief after our hour and half wrestling session at church today when I (un)successfully attempted to keep four little ones quiet and well behaved in a pew.  By the time church let out, I had had quite the workout.

I’m working on F’s birthday dress, which is really coming along quite quickly.   I’m knitting it up on Knitpicks Shine Sport, which is incredibly soft and has a beautiful drape to it.  The bodice is completely finished and most of the skirt.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I finished the lacework part of the skirt tonight and had the whole thing finished tomorrow.  I’m still contemplating what to do about the straps.  Lately I’ve been shying away from spaghetti straps when it comes to my girls, so if I have enough yarn I may attempt some butterfly ruffles on them just for a little more coverage.    Next in my project queue is D’s birthday dress, the same pattern, just a size bigger.  D’s is a lovely magenta pink, and F’s is periwinkle blue, just like her eyes.  Having  both birthdays in March makes for a busy February for Mama!

Yesterday we had an impromptu waldorf doll hospital day.  F’s baby needed a wig reattachment, and D’s needed a bath.  She also wanted to cut her hair a little bit shorter.  We gave them both a little bit more rose to their cheeks and dressed them in their finest.  Getting them all cleaned up again had me thinking I should really make them both a few more outfits…maybe something along the lines of Laura and Mary from the Little House stories.  In the interest of being a bit more frugal though, I think I’ll scour my local thrift stores for old sheets or fabric for the project.  J’s birthday is also in March, his very first!  I was thinking of making him a little one piece baby doll, but I’m not sure I’ll have enough time.   I have leftover doll materials from when I made the girls, so that isn’t a problem.  I want to make all 3 of them Birthday Crowns as well so I really do have a lot on my plate in that department!

I’m still struggling with our odd schedule as far as school is concerned.  Tomorrow will be a very structured, get down to business sort of school day.  We have quite a few things we simply MUST accomplish.  It will probably end up being a no TV/Computer day just out of pure necessity, which is just fine with me.  We need to get back on track!

Stay tuned for my very first “WIP Wednesday” if you want a peek at the birthday dresses!

While everyone else in the working world is anxiously looking forward to 5pm and the beginning of their weekend, I am slogging through what is now my Monday.  Although it usually takes me a bit longer to get moving on Mon(Fri)days, I’ve been trying to transform my perspective from “Manic” to “Marvelous!”

Getting back into the swing of the week is not only hard for Mamas, but can be for the kidlets as well.  They are coming down from a Midweek full of snuggling with Daddy on the couch watching movies, playing and largely ignoring chores (would that I could be so lucky!).  Beginning a day of picking up where we left off, cleaning up after lots of lazy fun and refocusing our energies on what needs to be done can be quite a drag to little people.  I’m trying to raise spirits of everyone by baking some yummy treats, reading through our stack of library books, taking a jaunt through the neighborhood and hopefully giving every one naps (or at least quiet time!).

In the kitchen, I’m making a simple bean and ham soup for dinner with some baking powder biscuits to go along.  We still have some leftovers from a few nights this week, so those will probably be making a (re)appearance tonight as well.  Last night I actually pulled off a Teryaki Chicken stir fry, which I’ve never made before.  It was quick and easy and so delicious!  I made enough  for J to take for lunch as well as some extra for me.  It was a bit spicy for the kids, but the adults loved it!

Beans soaking, waiting to be made into soup!

I’ve been having a lovely mail week full of packages!  First a love package from my older sister in Connecticut full of novels, a new corduroy skirt and sweater, makeup, chocolate and of course something for the littles.  Next, my beautiful stack of Anna Maria fabric just begging to be made up into something cozy and warm.  Lastly, a big box full of yarn, not all for me, but still so pretty and full of possibilities.  So excited to see what it all becomes!

Oh so pretty!

drool!

Lastly, I wanted to share a few projects I finished in the last few days.  First, I adapted this hat from a sweater pattern I have made.  I love the button closure.  It is so incredibly stretchy, I tried it on every single one of my kids and it fit!  Albiet a bit snug on the 6 year old and a bit loose on the 10 month old, but still, pretty impressive!

on the 2 year old

on the four year old

on the 6 year old

I also quickly knit up these mittens.  The Cestari Merino is nice and thick, so they are super warm.  I think if they were lanolinized they would also be pretty water proof.

All in all, fun little projects.  Now that the yarn is here though, no more fun and games!  I have to make the girls’ birthday dresses and have about 6 weeks to do it in.  Stay tuned!


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