Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cardboard Playhouse Makeover

I don't know if anyone remembers this cardboard playhouse that I made for Bijou and Zion a while back.  While incredibly economical (it cost me next to nothing to make) and easy to move, it did not get used as often as I would have liked.  It get HOT here in Mississippi and playing out in a cardboard house that's been sitting in the heat was no one's idea of a fun afternoon.  So the playhouse got retired to the garage and there it sat for awhile.  I decided that all was not lost for our little playhouse and with some tweaking, it could still be a really awesome toy.  So, I scaled the size down a bit and attached some Velcro (to stand up to rough play a little better) and brought it in the house.  I have this strange obsession with paint chips from the hardware store, so I literally have every singe one that Home Depot has (thanks to a very patient cousin who helped me collect all of them one afternoon).  I used one stack (of many, many) paint chips to cut apart and make "bricks" for the outside of the house.  I also added a little chalkboard (actually just a rectangle of chalkboard spray paint framed with wood grain contact paper) for them the draw or write little messages.  Now it's cheery and colorful and when I want to free up the floor space, I can just take it apart and store it under their bed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bijou's Dinosaur Tea Party

Bijou is five years old today.  I know I say it every time a birthday rolls around, but I can hardly believe that she's five already!  She has had such a big year.  She learned to ride a two wheeler, tie her shoes, got glasses and learned to read.  So what better way to celebrate such a big year than to have cinnamon pancakes, scrambled eggs and hot chocolate for breakfast and then a dinosaur tea party? And that's just what we did.  The party is over and Bijou and her friends had a great time.  I'm tired and glad it's over.  Here are some lovely pictures for you to enjoy!

I made fossil shortbread cookies.  The cookies kind of puffed for some reason while they were baking, so the fossils weren't as defined as I would have liked.  I dusted them with a patina of cinnamon to make the edges stand out a little better.

Dinosaur birthday cake (white cake with raspberry lemon buttercream frosting) surrounded by chocolate rocks.

Thanks to our local Goodwill, we are now the proud owners of a bajillion tea cups.  I am sure they will be put to good use.

Dinosaur garland...

The entire spread.  There were cheese sandwiches, jam sandwiches, fossil cookies, chocolate rocks, peppermint tea, pink lemonade and birthday cake.  Oh and of course a multitude of prehistoric table dwellers.

The birthday girl.  We had a Cosby Show moment before getting dressed for her party.  Remember the episode where Rudy wants to wear the summer dress to the fall party and her mother wouldn't let her?  That was us this morning.  But just like the Cosby Show, it all worked out in the end and she looked perfectly cute in her sweater dress.

Last, but not least, I thought I would share the gift that I made for her.  She'd been bugging me forever to make her a wooden camera.  So I gathered a few blocks from her room, some other random wooden bits and some paint.  Voila, homemade camera.  Nothing like a present that doesn't cost me a dime.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bijou is turning 5!

Bijou's fifth birthday is just around the corner and the addition of a full time job makes the time I have available for birthday party prep very limited.  This one feels like it's sprinting up on me way faster than I am prepared for.  BUT, I know that things will come together in time.  This year, Bijou is having a dinosaur tea party.  Yes, a dinosaur tea party.  The girl still loves her dinosaurs and what better way to turn five than with a tea party.  This year's party will boast fossil cookies, tea sandwiches, tea, pin the bone on the dinosaur and a variety of other dinosaur/tea party related activities and decor.  So, without further ado, here is Bijou's dinosaur tea party invitation. 

I got the floral frame from Graphics Fairy which I think adds a cute vintage, girly touch.  I also think it's super funny with the ferocious "tea-rex" in the tiara.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Little Girls' Room Do-Over

Not long ago, I posted about the girls bedroom makeovers.  All in all, their rooms have stayed about the same.  But the little girls' room seemed to become the bane of my existence every week.  It was constantly a mess, no one ever wanted to clean it up and things were getting broken and torn form being stepped on.  It was driving me insane!  A few weeks ago, I decided to take half of the "stuff" that they had and store it in the garage (to rotate out next summer).   Things were STILL constantly a mess.   So yesterday, I decided that today would be spent cleaning house and the little girls' room was my first stop.  As I was cleaning (mainly alone, because Bijou decided to spend this time laying on her back staring at the ceiling), I realized that it was pretty difficult to get toys in and out of the bins on the shelf. 

The only logical solution, of course, was to build a new shelf.  So, that's what I did!  I am going to insert a complaint here.  I love Home Depot, don't get me wrong.  But I was SO annoyed with HD today.  I went in to get wood for the shelf, found the pieces that I needed place neatly above a $5.98 price tag.  The very helpful HD employee even did some comparison pricing for me with a piece twice the size to see if we could cut a cents off the price by just cutting them in half.  We found that it would be about the same price, so I got my four boards.  The very helpful HD employee cut my boards and loaded them into my cart.  I get to the cash register with my plan to spend about $27 on wood and about $4 on nails.  The checkout girls scans the pieces and they are $8.40 a piece!  I mean, it's not a HUGE difference, but it added like $12 - $14 to my total cost!  I was so annoyed...ugh.  Anyway, complaint over...  The shelves were quick and easy to put together and the bins are much more accessible for small people who don't want to work to hard get their toys put away.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More homemade Montessori

So, on occasion the little girls come spend the day with me at work.  They love visiting the school and getting to use the materials.  I try to watch and see what things they enjoy and figure out if I can recreate them at home for little or no money.  Last weekend I made a decanomial.  It's made from craft foam (cheap, $5, and easy to cut).  Ashni (who HATES math) said, as soon as a demonstrated it for her, "Oh, it like multiplication."  I think the universe must have opened up and rained down joy on me!!!  It's like this method is what she has needed (particularly for math) for the last couple of years. 

Tonight I made some insets for Zion and Bijou.  They both love the metal insets at the school, so I decided to make a set from mat board to have here at home.  I traced the set at work to use as templates and the knobs are just wooden beads that are hot glued on.  Total cost of this project $0.

Bijou loves the object boxes at work.  She likes being able to read the words and match them to their object.  I could not imagine having additional tiny objects in the house, so I printed some pictures of objects and labels for her match. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today's Bijou-ism

So, I posted a picture a couple of days ago of Bijou sitting proudly with her list of words that she'd spelled with her letter cards.  Unfortunately, I forgot to share the great Bijou-ism that goes along with that picture...

Bijou:  I can spell "as".  A. S.

Me: Very good.  Now can you tell me a sentence using the word as?

Bijou: (looking very thoughtful and serious) Like, pain in the as???

Me: (falls on the flooring laughing)

Okay, so maybe I won't win mom of the year for that one, BUT I did let her know that it was not polite for little girls to say that and gave her the correct use of the word "as".

Monday, October 24, 2011

Goodbye to a friend

The girls pet fish died tonight.  He was their first pet, so everyone was very sad.  I think Jena took it especially hard because she bought him, named him and took care of him the most.  We had a small fish funeral in their bathroom before sending him to the big fish bowl in the sky (think Cosby Show circa 1984).  We'll miss you An.  The dining room won't be the same without you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homemade Montessori

So, in my last post before my blogging hiatus, I mentioned that I was going to start working again.  Well, I've been working at a small local Montessori school.  It's a great job and I love it.  I miss being here with the girls for their schooling, but I love Montessori and am really happy to have had the opportunity to take this job.  (I am also happy to have a regular paycheck again.  Yay, income!).  Over the summer, before school officially started here, we had the opportunity to go observe a Montessori school in Memphis.  I was already pretty familiar with the method for preschool (we wanted to send our older girls to Montessori school when we still lived in St. Croix, but we could afford it, so we incorporated a lot of the ideas and materials into our homeschool then and with Bijou and Zion now), but hadn't had the opportunity to see an elementary aged class.  I have to say that I fell in LOVE!!  I wished we lived in Memphis just so we could send our older girls to school there.  BUT, since we don't live in Memphis, I decided to incorporate some of the ideas and materials into our soon-to-be-fourth-and-fifth-graders school day.  The director of the school where I work was gracious enough to give us some of her old materials when her new ones came in.  I was immediately struck by how enthusiastic Ashni was to do pages of subtraction problems using the subtraction strip board (if you follow us, then you'll know that Ashni HATES math).  I really think that Ashni could excel in a program like this (and I think it would take some of the pressure off of my husband who, despite our homeschooling for the last 5 years, is very new to actually having to school the children).

So I guess a new addition to this little blog will be some of the Montessori type materials that I make for the girls to use (because the materials are terribly expensive, and we just can't afford it).  Today, i will leave you with a picture of Bijou making a list of words that she can spell.  She has the attention span of a flea right now, so after about 5 minutes, she was over making words.

Please excuse my husband's giant shoes that I didn't notice until just now...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I told you I'd be back...

I am officially back to blogging. I know, I know, it's been FOREVER! Hopefully there are still a couple of people who still care about what's going on in our little corner of the world. There have been big changes around here.

First and foremost, I am now an official member of the work force again. So, I am up and out everyday at 7:20 (that's in the morning), which is a HUGE change for me. That also means that The Hubs is now handling the bulk of the homeschooling activities. I'm still putting together the lesson plans for the most part, but he is carrying them out. We will be wrapping up 3rd (Ashni)and 4th (Jena) grade in the next few weeks and begin 4th and 5th grade in January. Bijou has learned to read several sight words and can sound out short words on her own. She's very proud.

Jena turned 10 on August 20th. She officially had her last big birthday party. It was rainbow themed and all of her friends came out to celebrate with her.

This is a version of a very complicated sounding cake that Jena saw in a Martha Stewart magazine (a frozen rainbow chiffon cake). My version consists of several flavors of sorbet melted and refrozen in a cake pan in rainbow order, then covered in whipped cream. It looked and tasted awesome! It was a bigger hit than the cupcakes!

I haven't really created much in the way of crafts or art, but I have a couple of portrait commissions waiting in the wings. I did make chocolate souffles several weeks ago. They weren't as difficult as I thought they would be and were delicious. (I think I won Mother of the Year the day after the souffles were made because I let the girls have them for breakfast. I mean, they're mostly eggs, so that makes it okay. Right?).

(they were taller when they first came out of the oven, but I didn't think to take a picture when they first came out)

Monday, June 20, 2011

I will be back...I promise

It seems that I have been put into some sort of communication bubble. My communication with anyone outside of my immediate four walls has become nil. I will regain the ability to communicate with the outside world soon. It feels like my connections to the outside world have gotten shakier and shakier over the last year, until is has faded away to nothing. But I promise I will be back.

For now, a tiny update. We are half way through our 3rd and 4th grade school year (WOO HOO). Next year I hope to be working, so that was add an entirely new dynamic to the whole home schooling thing. Jena is participating in a dance workshop this week. She will spend 8 hours a day immersed in dance. She has also asked to play soccer this year. Team sports are a new addition to our household. Ashni has decided that she wants to take Taikwondo and will hopefully be taking part in a theater workshop. All the girls are taking swim lessons again this summer. Jena is the only official swimmer, though. On the "making stuff" front, I took the little kids' cardboard playhouse that I made last summer and cut it down so that it can be assembled and disassembled in their room (pictures to be posted at a later date).

Saturday, May 21, 2011


So I have been totally cheating on my vegan diet while visiting my mom and brother in St. Louis (I am marinating jerk chicken as we speak) and let me tell you, I feel like CRAP. Crap that has been dipped in crud then rolled over a waterfall in a barrel. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but I definitely don't feel good.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big Girls' Room Preview

In all honestly, the big girls' room has been finished for weeks now, but because they are "big" girls, it is quite difficult to get a picture of a clean room. So I figured I would share the one picture I have of their little writing/work table. I really will share more pictures as soon as I can get the room clean for more than 30 seconds because it really is cute.

My favorite part of this little area is the turquoise typewriter. It's in perfect condition (they occasionally type little notes for me). I spruced up the cork board with a stencil of Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes (the girls favorite band right now). The red drop leaf table was mentioned in one of my very first blog posts, here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Kids' Garden

We had our first attempt at a garden last spring and the girls could not wait to start their garden again as soon as the weather warmed up. This year their garden contains potatoes, onions, carrots, lettuce and tomatoes. We planted spinach, but I don't think it gets enough sun, so the plants sprouted and then stopped growing. Last year, we got a good amount of basil and rosemary, but just a few tomatoes. Hopefully we will have a more bountiful harvest this year. The girls love being able to eat food that they've grown.

Oh yeah, we also accidentally "planted" some black beans. Bijou and Zion were playing with a big bowl of dried back beans in the backyard and dumped a bunch in a pot of dirt. A few weeks later, we had a pot of little bean plants.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Quick and Easy Kid's Gift

A friend of mine has a son who turned six over the weekend and she decided to throw him a little impromptu party at the playground. I, having had four daughters, have absolutely no idea what to get a six year old boy for his birthday. So, I figured I could probably whip something up on the fly before the party. Here's what I came up with.

It was super simple (and free) to make. I just used a Sharpie pen to draw the heads, noses and mouths onto white card stock. I laminated them with some clear contact paper that I had in the craft room. I also cut some mustaches from black craft foam. Then I stuck some magnets (the kind with adhesive on them) to the back of each facial feature (notice the big googly eyes, too). And Voila! Funny face refrigerator magnets! Just tape to head to the fridge and make as many silly faces as you want. Apparently he (and his brothers) are having a grand time making silly faces at home.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vegan Eating: Week 2

So this is the post where I am supposed to share my menu for the week, but I have yet to create said menu. I did go to the grocery store today and will be forced to create a menu for the week based on what I bought today. Instead of sharing the menu that I failed to create, I will share my shopping list. That way I will still feel like I got to share.

Vegan Shopping List (week 2)
red, yellow, orange peppers
Brussels sprouts
white, shitaki, portabello (How DO you spell this?) mushrooms
whole wheat tortillas
applesauce (no sugar added)
graham crackers
canned tomatoes
black beans
chic peas
olive oil
sugar (raw)
orange juice
soy, rice, almond milk
brown rice

We already had some staples here in the house, so this plus the stuff we already have is what I have to work with this week.

While I am discussing food, I should share that I did cheat on my vegan diet during the week. BUT, in my defense, I was celebrating my fifth anniversary with my hubs in Memphis. We went to our absolute FAVORITE restaurant, Flight. This place makes me want to be access to large amounts of money on a regular basis so that we can eat there more than once a year! I should explain that a "flight" is three small (they're not that small actually) portions of dishes grouped together and paired with three small glasses of wine (I am not a wine drinker so i usually forgo this). This year, for starters I had the seafood flight, which consisted of a portion of tempura Caribbean lobster, two ginormous shrimp with mango/ginger salsa, and four lump crab fritters. YUM! My entree was a flight I created myself. They have the most insanely delicious duck, so I had dick confit over a "hash" of butternut squash and duck. I also had quail stuffed with shrimp and grits, and Maine lobster over shrimp risotto. We were SO stuffed, but I had to get dessert (so we took it to go). I had a mini chocolate cake, vanilla bean creme brulee, and cheesecake with vanilla syrup soak strawberries. I swear, I have never been so happy to eat numerous members of the animal kingdom. I should admit that my stomach was not as happy about the onslaught of meat, cream and sugar as my taste buds were. But if I had to cheat, I am glad that I cheated there. I'll be dreaming of our sixth anniversary dinner for the next year.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kale Chips

Well, those are two words that I never thought I'd put together. And I never thought I would follow those two words with these words "Oh my god, SO delicious and addicting!" So, yeah, the lady clan and I made kale chips this week. I'd seen them mentioned a few times on vegan blogs and had been curious. I guess my curiosity got the better of me. The girls and I could not stop eating them. I'm sure we've consumed at least five bunches of kale this week alone. "How in the heck do you make a kale chip?" you may be asking yourself. Well they're super simple.

One bunch of kale (or two or three depending on how many you want to make)
a little olive oil
a little red wine vinegar
salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne (and/or any other seasoning you like)
nutritional yeast (because I love it).

Pull the kale from the stems and break the leaves into 2 - 3 inch pieces. Toss in olive oil and vinegar. Arrange on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and seasonings of your choice. Bake at 275 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they are crisp.

That's it. Oh, make sure to put them in an airtight container or zip lock back to store them or they'll get chewy. Not that my kids cared, they ate the chewy ones too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vegan Eating, Week One

So, I'm a procrastinator. I know it and will admit it freely. Generally I like to be done planning my weekly menu before the week actually starts, but that didn't happen this time. I just finished the menu today and have to go to the store this afternoon or no one will be eating anything! Alright, here's this week's vegan menu (side note, when I refer to milk it will always be either soy, rice or coconut):

Monday: Breakfast - cinnamon oatmeal with fruit (bananas/apples/raisins), Lunch - ramen (noodles with mushrooms and spinach), Dinner - stir fry (peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli) over soba noodles

Tuesday: Breakfast - cereal with banana & milk, Lunch - homemade hummus on toast with carrot stick and apples, Dinner - sauteed mushrooms over couscous and oven roasted asparagus.

Wednesday: Breakfast - millet (cooked, then pureed with almonds, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon), Lunch - PB&J with fruit, BBQ tofu with mac-n-cheese (I'll post a recipe for vegan mac and cheese below) and sauteed green beans

Thursday: Breakfast - cereal with banana & milk, Lunch - leftover BBQ and mac, Dinner - mushroom risotto and broccoli

Friday: Breakfast - Fruit Salad (apples, bananas, raisins, coconut, almonds with a peanut butter sauce...I guess I should post the recipe too), PB&J with fruit, Dinner - red lentils (I'm going to try something fancy with that...I'll post the recipe if it turns out tasty) over rice.

Saturday: Breakfast - smoothie (frozen strawberries, frozen banana, frozen peach, milk, OJ and maple syrup or sugar), Lunch - veggie wraps with hummus, Dinner - black bean burgers and roasted potatoes

Sunday: Breakfast - Oatmeal with fruit, Lunch - leftover black bean burgers, Dinner - Pasta with sauce and veggies, salad.

This menu is not super different from our regular menu, just much less cheese melted on things. I am also eliminating soda (which I am ashamed to say that I have a slight addiction to, but in my defense, I really only have one soda a day, two MAX and probably not even every day). Alright, disclaimer over. On to the recipes.

Vegan Mac-n-Cheese (sauce to pour over whole wheat macaroni, makes enough to feed a family of 6 for dinner and lunch the following day. And these are approximations because I rarely measure anything)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups unsweetened milk (I use soy, but it works with rice or coconut too)
1/2 - 1 cup nutritional yeast (depending on your own taste, I like a lot)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp turmeric (it makes it nice and yellow)
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (or you can use fresh garlic, minced)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring constantly for about a minute (you're making a roux - think that's how you spell that). Slowly add milk (whisking constantly) letting the mixture thicken before adding more milk. Add broth. Stir and simmer over medium low heat to thicken slightly. Whisk in all of the seasonings and spices (there's not order to this, just do it). Last, add the nutritional yeast. Whisk everything until it's smooth and creamy. I just pour the sauce over macaroni and serve, but it can be baked in the oven (in the fashion of baked macaroni).

Peanut Butter Sauce for fruit salad (this also works with cashew or almond butter)

1 cup of peanut butter
1 cup of milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup (or less depending on how sweet you like it) of maple syrup

Put everything in the blend and blend until smooth. You can add more milk if it's too thick. Pour over fruit salad of diced apples (I like Fuji or granny smith), sliced banana, raisins, almonds (or any other nuts) and unsweetened coconut flakes. It's a very filling breakfast

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's time again...

I think it's time for another round of better eating. Not that I have terrible eating habits, but the last couple of years have been a huge change from what I've been used to as far as eating goes. The fact that I was vegetarian for a good ten years consistently (and on and off from the time I was 12) makes eating meat now even more of an issue for me. My older kids were raised vegan for quite a while and all of the children are vegetarian, so for me to eat meat seems thoroughly hypocritical. Fortunately for me, they are grossed out by the thought of meat, so it's not a huge issue of them feeling slighted or anything. I still maintain a mostly vegetarian diet. It is SUPER rare that I purchase meat to cook at home, but I will eat it if I'm out. But I've noticed how tired I am and how stiff and achy I feel. All of those thing are nonexistent on a vegan diet. SO, I think I am going to attempt a 30 day vegan diet. You may remember that I tried a 30 day raw fast last year. I think I made it about 2 weeks, but in those two weeks I felt better than I had in a long time. I figured vegan is a whole lot easier to shop for and along the same lines as how I cook now, so it won't be too much of a shift for the kids. I do think that Zion will flip out at the lack of yogurt and string cheese in the house, though. That girl loves some dairy products! I think I will start Monday. That'll give us a chance to eat the stuff that's already in the house, eat at the going away party for my mom on Friday and probably make something cheesy for my brother while he's here over the weekend. No use setting myself up for failure by starting before then. So, now I'm off to find some good vegan recipes to create a menu for next week. I'll post the menu once I've put it together.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What we do each morning...

Some families like to start their school day with a prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance. I think that starting your day the same each morning gets the kids mentally prepared for school. It separates their free play time in the morning from their more structured day (if you have a structured day). We do not pray or do the pledge. What we did was come up with our own set of expectations for behavior in our home and out in the world. The children are every involved in the creating of our house rules. Our rules morph as our children do. So I thought I'd share our current ones.

I am in control of my actions. I can choose to behave in a positive way. No one can make me think, feel or act in a way unless I choose to. I can choose to be a good influence on my sisters, family and friends. I can choose to be responsible, mannerable, strong and kind. I can choose to be my best everyday.

1. I will not question adults that I trust. (we made this rule because we were having a lot of "why do I have to do xyz, when (insert sister's name here) doesn't have to do xyz?")
2. I will not interrupt
3. I will take care of my belongings
4. I will use kind words.
5. I will be honest.
6. I will take responsibility for my actions and not blame others.
7. I will do everything to the best of my ability.
8. I will respect myself and others.
9. I will be a good influence on my sisters.
10. I will be satisfied with what I have and not feel entitled to have more than I need.

Jena is in charge of helping Bijou to recite the house rules each morning until she memorizes them and even Zion likes to follow along (in her own language, of course). Now, our house is a mass of chaos quite often (I'd like to see a house full of kids that isn't), but the rules do give us something to refer to when things get too out of hand. What do you do to start your school day? (Or keep some sense of order if you aren't home schooling.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Little Girls' Room

The little girls' room makeover is finally complete! Yay, me. I have to say that they really are enjoying having their own space. My mom hasn't moved yet (she's leaving in a couple of weeks), but the bigger girls have already moved into their new room and my mom is their temporary roommate. I still have some work to do on their room. Anyway, here are some of the perks of the room redo (that were not featured in the room spoiler post).

This is their little chill out/reading nook. The orange rocking chair was mine as a kid (and another lady's before that) and is about 60 years old. It's been painted and repainted so many times that I couldn't get all of the old layers off. So I just painted it orange and did a little rough sanding. I couldn't sand the seat very well (it was very close slats), so I cushioned and upholstered it with a nice soft fleece. The little piano is one of those Melissa & Doug ones that I spray painted a glossy black.

(I probably should have vacuumed before I took this picture, but honestly, this is what it looks like most of the time...)

Zion's awesome quilt was a HUGE score at a local yard sale. Sometimes it pays to show up at the eleventh hour. I acquired this hand sewn morsel for literally nothing. They were to the "fill up a garbage bag and we will sell it to you for $3" point in the sale. The quilt was originally marked $125 (I repeat, hand sewn), but If I hadn't bought it, it was going to Goodwill. So they were happy to shove it in a $3 bag for me.

Jena and I made paper cranes from scrapbook paper scraps and some maps of NY city that I had laying around. Those we made into the lovely crane mobile.

The play mat was definitely a labor of love. Their floor was a large expanse of ugly blue carpet and I wanted to make a play mat for them to build block towns and play with their little wooden people. It took me a few days to draw and paint the little topographical landscape and sew on the little felt trees. My dining room/craft table will be forever speckled with green paint (this is why we can't have nice things).

And finally, I figured while I was painting religiously for days, I may as well make the play mat two sided. So what does every preschooler need in their bedroom? Yeah, hopscotch. Double the fun. The girls have been really good about keeping their new room neat while spending a lot of time playing in there. Next up, getting the big girls' room looking like a big girls' room.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who are you and what have you done with Zion

Somewhere in the last few weeks my sweet, squishy Zion has turned into a shrieking, boneless, miniature ball of snack craving madness! I know, it happens to all sweet kids at some point between birth and college, but it remains a shock when it happens. It probably wouldn't be so shocking if it didn't seem to happen overnight. Don't get me wrong, she's still a pretty sweet kid. She still climbs in my lap and gives me kisses and buries her icy cold feet into the warmth under my shirt (thanks for that by the way). It's the times that she wants pasta at 9am (ten minutes after breakfast) and slides, limp, from the chair into a puddle on the floor. Or when she wants to ride her tricycle to the cul-de-sac at a snail's pace (LITERALLY) when I need to be in the kitchen making dinner and the entire neighborhood is treated to her brain melting scream. Or when she refuses to be strapped into her car seat and turns herself into the letter "c" making it impossible to get a grip an any part of her body. Who is this kid? She looks like my Zion. She smells like my Zion. She has that cute baby voice and crazy language like my Zion, but MY Zion would never do me like this. MY Zion loves me and proclaims (to anyone trying to get within five feet of me), "My mommy too!!" This look alike Zion is cute and all, but I still wonder what she did with my original Zion....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Party over here...

Ultimate Blog Party 2011
It's Ultimate Blog Party time again over at 5 Minutes for Mom. Woooo! I love a good party, especially a party that I don't have to cook for or clean up after. So welcome to my blog party. Grab a cupcake, a soda, some chips, whatever and make yourself at home (excuse the mess, i have a bunch of kids). So I guess I'm supposed to introduce myself to those of you that I don't know.

I am a freelance artist and homeschooling mom of four bad apples (also known as the lady clan, the girlies, the kiddos, the tribe, etc.) Jena, Ashni, Bijou and Zion. I live in the south by way of St. Croix (three of my four girls are Crucian, the baby was born here). I guess I am another "Mommy Blog". I talk about a lot of different things going on around our house (school, food, art, parties, vexations, crafts, grievances, projects, annoyances, successes). We do a lot of things and I try to record those things here. Honestly, a blog is a lazy homeschooler's ideal record keeping system. Despite living in the suburbs and driving a minivan, I am not a soccer mom (no offense to soccer moms. We need soccer moms!). With four kids the vehicle options tend to be limited and our rent is cheap. My kids know no kids' songs (they are into Janelle Monae and the Noisettes at the moment) and I am okay with that. I make stuff out of necessity (i.e. I like awesome stuff but don't have the money for awesome stuff, but I am smart and crafty and will make awesome stuff out of crap that I already have around the house). I have an eclectic style to homeschooling. I don't homeschool for religious reasons, I homeschool because I love it. My kids are smart and have lots of friends (Who's an unsocialized homeschooler?). So yeah, that's kinda who we are. Welcome...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Ashni!

Today, Ashni is eight years old. Eight. There I said it. This day has been coming for...oh...well, eight years now, I guess. So in eight years this is what I have learned about Ashni:
1. She must eat. A lot. All day. BUT, she's not just an eater. She's a foodie. A fish eyeball eating, balsamic reduction requesting, ingredient tasting, Food Network watching foodie. She loves to be in the kitchen. She needs it. It drives me insane some days (because, honestly, I'm not a fan of the kitchen).
2. She talks. And talks. She always has. She's one of those kids that you can't remember NOT being able to talk. She uses (and has always used) big words, like atrocious and pessimistic. When she was young and would use a big word, we would say, "Do you even know what that means?" It didn't take long before we stopped asking her that.
3. She is enthusiastic about new things. All new things. Except for math. She is incredibly unenthusiastic about math.
4. She will take care of you when you are down (or sick or hurt). She's the sweetest kid you'll ever meet. Granted, she may talk you to death.
5. She is stunningly beautiful. Yes, I know, every parent thinks their kids are beautiful (humor me). But really, her perfect skin and long eyelashes and deep dimples...
6. I love her ferociously.

Today, she is eight years old. And unfortunately, not feeling well. So as she sits, sipping ginger and lemongrass tea, watching the kids' movie du jour, I just want to wish my food loving, non stop talking, over enthusiastic, sweet, beautiful girl a happy eighth birthday.

Friday, March 25, 2011

extended vacation?

Sometimes, when homeschooling, it can feel like everyone else around you has it all together and you are the slacker mom who can't get it together long enough to get a proper workbook page done, let alone plan out an entire week of enriching, educational activities. Honestly, I am having one of those moments. To be truthful, we have been loosely schooling for weeks now. I know, it's something a lot of HS moms do not want to admit. But to be honest I school 12 months out of the year, no summer vacation, no spring break. I get burnt out from time to time. I don't have the luxury of janitorial, cafeteria or nursing staff. There's no sub to step in when I need to take a personal day or have a cold or migraine. I am the teacher, the janitor, the cook, the nurse, the bus driver. I do it all. All day. Everyday. Without fail. Do I feel overwhelmed? Sometimes. But honestly, that comes with the territory. No job is great all of the time. Do I feel like my kids are being slighted? No. This is the time that they are self reliant. This is the time that they ask to do work. BEG for it actually. And I am more than happy to oblige. Do something, anything. Whatever you want. There are gardens being tended, math games being played, books being read, stories being written. There's pretending and sharing and entertaining each other. There's food being cooked, recipes being created, ideas being formed. There's learning taking place all around us. Did I do a lesson of the associative property of multiplication (which is what's on the schedule for today)? No. Did we discuss the Mongolian invasion of medieval Europe? Nope. Are they going to be doomed to a life of crime due to lack of education? I highly doubt it. My motivation will return soon and we will back to our regularly scheduled schooling. Until then, happy learning.

Jena Thinks She's SO Cool

This is a story I wrote for Jena and Ashni back when they were little. My brother just resurrected it and uploaded it on YouTube. It is handwritten and the pictures are all paper cutouts. Thanks for bringing it back from the dead for me, Derek.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Little Girls' Bedroom Spoiler

The big move hasn't officially happened yet, but redecorating the little girls' room is in full swing. (I will post pictures of the whole room once the bigger girls have moved out) For now, I thought I'd share a few completed projects. The little workbench had been successfully turned into "Little Monkeys' Farm Stand" complete with shopping carts and specials chalk board. If you need to drop off some mail on your way to pick up groceries, there's this little mailbox on the way! Once you've mailed your letters and picked up your groceries, it's time to head home to make dinner (or maybe vacuum or take care of the baby). I am still stocking the kitchen with canned goods and such.

We finally got a bookshelf back in the room (we moved it out last year because Bijou and Zion kept pulling ALL of the books off and throwing them around the room). Now all of the books that have been stored are sorted and shelved. The big girls' books went on the big book shelf in their new room. The little house on top of the book shelf is a super simple little night light that I put together for Bijou (who is afraid of the dark). It's just one of those papier mache houses they sell at Hobby Lobby (about $4) and a battery powered LED touch night light with an adhesive back (about $5). It casts great shafts of light from the windows and door of the little house onto the ceiling and walls of their room at night.

This is the little workbench as it was when we bought it. Notice the curious little one trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing.

A couple of wooden boxes we already had and a plethora of felt food later, they have a cute little market stand.

I painted the black sheep painting for Bijou when she was first born. I think it works well here.

In closet playhouse, complete with vacuum for tidying up!

I didn't really have anything to stock the kitchen pantry, so I saved a couple of cans and glued pictures from magazines to the outside. I just used up some stickers we had in the craft cabinet for the words.

The night light after dark. Looks a little creepy here, but it's not creepy in real life.

And finally, my very sweet little Zion in front of her newly organized bookshelf!