Thursday, April 29, 2010

Public School Parents' Guide to Homeschool Parents

On a totally different note,
I read this, love it, and must share it:

Meeting Pen Pals, and Special Visitors

Meet Claudia.

I met her at an Artists' Night that I attended a few months ago. She is kind, interesting, funny. Through the course of the night, we chatted about why and when they built their gorgeous home out in the country. It seems that this country girl married a city boy, and it wasn't until they retired that her dream of being in the boonies, owning horses and writing came true. Then and there, I knew I'd have to hook her up with my little Artist Child, for the Artist has the same dream. For several months now, multiple times a week, they've corresponded through email. (The Artist can already type faster than I can.)
They met for the first time at the Horse Festival, and Claudia invited us to come out and ride. Artist-Child has been counting down the days.

After meeting all of the horses (and dogs and chickens,) the kids helped Claudia brush Shriner and saddle him up.

The Artist had the first lesson... half an hour riding, reviewing, working on posture...
...while the boys played with barrels.

Claudia was kind enough to give each of the boys a ride, too.
It was a ridiculously cold morning, but well worth it! Thank you so much Claudia!!

On Wednesday night, a dear friend took me to the cafe, under the ruse of coffee-enjoyment. She had arranged a mini-birthday celebration with a few friends! Sherrill, thank you. You are so kind. The inflatable cake was hilarious. :-D Even more hilarious, the length of time it took to get the battery cover open!
(and see, I'm wearing one of my little swirly flowers (: )

Arkansas weather is finicky, at best. Yesterday and today, we had amazingly warm weather. I wore a tank top both days. We did plenty of gardening, after school, and spotted a furry friend behind our fence.

Tomorrow the weather may turn yucky again, but we have all-day plans to keep us happy.
AND my sewing machine is back out on the kitchen table.
I whipped up some frilly thigh-highs for my 2-year old niece, to bring with me tomorrow.
Pictures to follow; I have to get shots of her wearing them tomorrow before showing a tutorial.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The "Day Of"

My 30th birthday weekend + Monday ("Day Of") simply could not have been better. I didn't have any of those "woe is me" feelings; no contemplations of the percentage of life that I've lived or anything else along those typical (?) lines. Seeing as how I've felt at least 30 for some time, this new season is just rollin' smoothly on in.

(** you know there's a craft, don't you? If you feel the insatiable urge to see it RIGHT NOW, I give you permission to skip down to the end...and then come on back and read about my amazing friends and family.**)

Fred was off work today(sweet blessing, thank you God,) so he let me sleep in. I like to sleep, and would not wake up ever unless kids came in jumping on my head. When I did roll myself out of bed at 9am, the house was spotless, dishwasher was whirling away, washing machine was going, and kids were fed. Yeah, Fred, the jig is up. I know now that you CAN work the washing machine. That revelation aside, I was pleasantly surprised (read: shocked beyond reason that SO much was done,) and the day began with a bang.

Add to that, Trac stopped over with a special birthday breakfast of delicious quiche, delectable scones, banana muffins with cinnamon crumble topping AND her amazing fresh-roasted coffee, (which I got to keep, by the way!) Go ahead and check out her
Little Coffee Company on etsy. Once you try Little Coffee, you can never go back. This girl knows her stuff.

The jam, courtesy of Sam, was amazing as well. Who makes Wild Violet Jam??? I'm blessed with such amazingly talented and unique friends If you find a recipe for this, I'd recommend savoring it with plain scones, like we did, as the violet taste is very delicate and sweet. It needs to be relished without any other overpowering flavors.

My day and my agenda: We went hiking next. I was slightly put off by the cooler weather at first, but after a hike and several crazy games of freeze-tag with the kids, I concluded that the weather was just right for the occasion. Look at the greenness of it all!! Just spectacular. The water was covered with a layer of pollen, though. Seems that our cold spell lasted a bit too long and then everything just decided to bloom all at once. Little Lad even did some "swimming" in the shredded tires beneath the playground. When we were all thoroughly worn out, we headed back for a Mexican dinner at home. My favorite. Cheese. Avocados. Cilantro... Mexican food has all the best things.

This next picture had to be taken. We were in Oklahoma. 'Nuf said?
(Relax, relax, it's a JOKE. I make fun of Arkansas all the time, too. In fact, all the southern states are fair game. (-; )

Yes, the bumper was held on my bungee cords. Seriously.

Now, you know I couldn't end a perfect day without throwing crafts into the mix. After kids were snugly tucked into bed, Fred and I turned on a movie and I did my usual can't-sit-still crafting.

These pants were just insane: Shiny, droopy, crazy things that begged for transformation. I obliged.

Fabric flower time. Once you start these, it's hard to stop. And I have no tutorial for you. I saw these somewhere, similar to
this one (and there is a tutorial at that site!) and decided to wing it. Actually, I'm glad that I didn't see a tut to start with, because my way was WAY easier (lazier) and faster. I wasn't going for perfection, just experimenting with scraps.
I cut different sized circles from cardboard.
Yes, cardboard.
Then I tore strips of fabric, of whatever length and width.
We're winging it, remember?
And, using tacky glue and fabric fusion, I twisted, turned, swirled around the fabric onto the glue cardboard circle. Can't even tell, can you?
I added pins on the back, so I can dress up my headbands, clothes, shoes, purse, whatever.
I can safely assume that no one has done flowers in this way. And I'm perfectly okay with that. It worked for me, and you are more than welcome to try it out for yourself! Or do it the "right way"and grab a great tutorial from somewhere. :-) Sometimes it's the idea that counts. Take the idea and run with it. Actually, I plan to sew them next time, to make a "statement" necklace.

Check out the other Motivate Me Monday linked ideas!


How does it feel to be 30?


Need I say more??
(It's, like 1am, so I'm really not literacy-functioning right now anyway.)
Thanks so much for the birthday wishes and the FANTASTIC par-tay!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

spending more time on toddlers

As usual, there's not enough of me to go around. Lately I've found myself spending the majority of the morning (8-11:30am) working with the older kids, while the younger boys just do their own thing. Oh, I check on them, hug them, give them things to play with and do... but I certainly haven't been spending the time on the fun pre-K things I intended to accomplish; things I used to do all the time.

Gosh, the things I want to do.
There aren't enough blog posts to go over it all. How can there be so much to accomplish and so little time?? How can I possibly succeed at it all?

My Mimi used to tell me that there were enough hours in the day to accomplish what God wanted me to do. So true. The question is then, what does God want me to do with those hours? Another piece of Mimi's wonderful advice: Your family is your first ministry.
Note to self: learn to say "no" more often, to outside obligations. It's a lesson I've been working on for the last five years, but my progress is slow and painful.
Often I even wonder if blogging is worth the time and effort. Why do I do it? Am I out to help and inspire others? Sometimes. Is it an effort to scrapbook and savor the activities my family does together? Sure. Is it worth the time? I believe so. Even if no one reads or comments. Even if a thousand other sites are more inspiring, creative, or better photographed & unique... this is MY time to just be. I can be crafty-me, tired-me, happy-energetic bouncing-on-the-world-me.... and it's all okay, because it is my place. By having my own place, as public as it may be, a part of my mind is allowed to release guilt. No one is hanging on me right now. No one needs a nose wiped or another drink. I'm not spread thin at this moment. They are all tucked into bed. Like I've said before, if I didn't use pieces of this time for renewal, I couldn't function like I need to the next day. Or so I tell myself.
All that to say, guilt is a very motivating force for change. I want to be more. I want to do more. I want to give my children the absolute best of me. So how can I do that, without running myself ragged or falling over drained by noon? I suppose the first step is to establish what the "best of me" actually is. And I believe it's attention. Just good old-fashioned look-you-in-the-eye and smile attention. (It's here that I find the almost unbearable urge to defend myself and talk about how much attention I truly do give my children...don't misunderstand... blah blah blah... you know it all.)

A homeschool mom friend of mine once said that she spends the most time each day teaching the youngest student. For some reason, I've flip-flopped this. Because my ArtistChild is dealing with the most challenging work and my NatureMan is a little more help-needy, I tend to spend the bulk of my time working with them. How can I taper this down, and give my preschool kiddos extra attention? And, are they really lacking? They don't *seem* to be. Is it just guilt talking? Could I be doing this right after all?

Well, it doesn't hurt to tweak things and see if the change will make a difference. I'm trying to re-implement specific pre-K time while the older kids are doing "lighter subjects." (Now Selfish Me talks: this is a sacrifice, because it means dishes and whatnot will wait until nap-time. Sigh.)

Sooooo, the little people have been enjoying extra "work," and the older kids want to tutor them, and do the lighter subjects later. Now that I can handle. Isn't this what it's supposed to be about?? --Working together, learning together, willingness to spread it all out, to get the quality stuff down.
The older kids and I made a color wheel for Little Lad. He has a blast matching the clothespins, which is great for his fine motor skills, too.
More importantly, we're doing this with him, delighting in watching him, and not just handing him another busy-item to keep him out of the way. I'm guilty as charged. I haven't been delighting in the kids like I need to. Like I want to. I get all snippy and tired when I'm...well, tired....or when I've over-planned and my agenda starts to sap my joy.

I'm re-discovering the joy of watching them discover.

We're trying to include the little boys in our afternoon activities, too. A lot of the time, the olders and I will do art or read, do experiments, etc when the littles are napping or playing around us outside. That's fine sometimes, but they really could participate in so many things with us.

This book, for instance, is super-kid-friendly to all ages. As the story progresses, you draw the animals' paths, buildings, obstacles. At the end of the story, the picture is complete. Sorry for the blurry pic-- I've already turned this book in, and can't take another.
The kids all enjoyed it. Together.
In light of this new purpose, I'm linking to and through The Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations and Kid-Friendly Friday. Check them out, for great ideas!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Painted Rock Plant Labels

First, I have to show off the Artist's latest paint-by-number. These take a lot of time, but she loves these things, and they always turn out great! Next up: rock painting. I've always had a things for painting the unusual: shoes, trashed furniture, my porch, you name it. Why not rocks? They can be used as paperweights, door stops, garden decor, or plant labels.
This river rock will go on the side of the house, where I've planted Autumn Beauty Sunflowers.
I painted it with acrylics, left it to dry, coated with varnish and then let dry again. Didn't bother with the underside:Next, a little watermelon slice, to go in my garden near the watermelon plants. This rock is about 2 inches long, at least half the size of the other one. We also whipped out some more painted wide-popsicle-stick labels:Paint solid color and, when that dries, dot or swirl or get messy. Add stamped label if you desire. Coat with varnish to protect the paint from the elements.