Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting to know my boy

On Saturday, Toby took Noah to a soccer game - not just any game, mind you, but Toby's team, Liverpool! They were playing another English club - Tottenham Hot Spurs - in Baltimore, and Toby thought it would be a great chance to spend some quality time with his oldest boy. And it would have been, except...
As they climbed the stairs to their seats, Toby became aware of three things:
  1. It was hot. Really hot. And there was absolutely no shade, anywhere. But much worse...
  2. They were high up. Really high.
  3. Noah was no longer at his side. No, he was about 20 ft behind him, white knuckling the stairs' handrail. It would seem that Noah is afraid of heights.
We didn't realize any of these little facts before the boys set off on their adventure.
Being hot is uncomfortable, but like most people, Gayners can endure a little discomfort if the payoff is worth it. They had their baseball hats on, so their heads were protected, but Toby got red on his knees and neck, and the sweat ring on the Liverpool cap Noah was wearing has made the hat permanently his own.
The big problem was the height. Toby has no particular problem with heights, and it never occurred to any of us that Noah was any different. I'm the one with height issues - the kids (Noah included) look over a banister and I walk away; we step into a glass elevator and I'm looking real hard at those numbers; I even went bungee-jumping in the hope that it would help me get over my fears (it didn't). As it turns out, I am not alone. Almost as soon as they sat down, Noah was asking to leave. Toby said he was hanging onto the chair arms for grim death, and never really properly relaxed enough to enjoy the game. In the end, they left at half time, much to Noah's relief.
I felt so sorry for them. Toby had been so looking forward to sharing something he loves with his boy, and Noah totally hero-worships his daddy and would have followed him anywhere. I can totally understand Noah's fear, since it's so much like my own. Plus, who likes sitting in the baking hot sun, sweating like crazy? And yet, there is so much good to see in the situation. Noah endured the whole first half, doing his best to control himself, when some adults might have been wigging out in similar circumstances. I credit it mostly to his love for his father - Noah's desire to be with Dad and please him enabled him to put up with more than he would normally have done. And Toby's love for his son enabled him to put the financial investment (which was significant) and his own desire to see the match aside and put his boy's pleasure and comfort first.
And now we've learned something new about Noah. It was such a reminder that though we think we know these kids, there are still things to learn about them. They are their own people, with their own idiosyncrasies and foibles, and we need to see them that way and love them that way. And by God's grace, we get to spend the rest of our lives getting to know these amazing people, humbled that we've been allowed the privilege of doing life with them. That should be a helpful reminder the next time one of them covers the bathroom in shampoo...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Getting It Together - In Progress

Looking around, I realize that while I have gotten quite a bit done in terms of getting things organized, most of my projects are still incomplete, to one degree or another. So here are a few of the organizing projects that are still in progress:
  • I've been clearing out and re-ordering my sewing room. That's a mammoth task that can only be taken on a little at a time, much like eating the proverbial whale. I'd like to hang something(s) to pretty up the bare walls, but I haven't seen anything that has really grabbed me yet. I suspect I'll be turning to etsy, soon.
  • I've commissioned my very talented husband to build me a command center/mini office in a small corner of the dining room. I'm thinking something like this or this or maybe this. We'll see what he comes up with. I have no doubt that it will be excellent.
  • I'm sorting out how best to keep the kids' craft supplies. I've moved a lockable cupboard into the school room, and all the games are in the open top-half. The bottom half is lockable, which I'm thinking will be a help in keeping little Dan-hands out of mischief, but I'm not sure if it will all fit. I'm also considering making some space in my sewing room closet for some stuff...Very much a "we'll see" project.
  • I'm almost finished getting the boys' room organized to make room for the newbie. I bought 3 new boxes from IKEA initially intended to house the baby clothes under the changing table. Right now, they are keeping all the diapers neat and in order. I might buy more or fancy up some cardboard boxes.
So, that's it. Hopefully you've been inspired and assisted in your own organizing adventure, but if there's some idea you were hoping for that I didn't mention, please ask. I may not know the answer - I'm no organizing guru, you know - but I can sure give it a try!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting It Together - The Planner

 In organizing the school materials, I realized that I was going to need new school planner. In previous years I've used the Well Planned Day, and been very happy. It's pretty, easy to use and allows for planning up to four students at a time. This year, though, I wanted to try something different. I didn't think I'd have enough room to record each day's assignments in the space provided without a complex code system that I would most likely not remember. I'm also the sort of person who simply needs to change things up once in a while. I spent some time checking out different ideas online, fully expecting to have to design something myself, until I stumbled upon the Life as Mom blog. She very helpfully has designed an ebook planner that is right up my alley, complete with a vision-casting and homeschooling section. She also has a post about a great way to bind and organize your planner. So, so good - I had to give it a try.
After buying the ebook and printing out the necessary pages, I followed her advice and had some of the pages I would use a lot laminated, bought some wet erase labels (like the Expo Vis-a-Vis markers), and had it all spiral bound within a pretty pocket folder. So happy!

I laminated pages like the daily to-do list, the meal planning, and the weekly lesson plans. My view for the school section is to have each student's weekly plans made a month or two in advance for record keeping purposes, give them to each child for the week they need so they know what they're supposed to be doing, and use the master copy to fill in my week's plans. That way I can keep my personal records up to date without over-filling my planner with paper. Clear as mud? I thought so.
I'm still working on getting it ready and usable for the coming academic year. I work on it a little at a time, because at the moment I still have time for that. We'll see how long my timing holds...
Anyone else have an excellent planning method for homeschool and/or life beyond? Please share!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting It Together - The School Supplies

Many homeschoolers are spending some time (or a lot of time) this summer getting their school room/supplies set in order for the new academic year. Expecting a new baby right at the beginning of the school year, with the added bonus of schooling for three and pre-K for two has meant that this subject is of particular interest to me.
In previous years, we have homeschooled in our dining room, with most of the kids doing their seat work at the dining table and the reading work in the living room. We kept their school books on a couple of IKEA Billy Bookcases tucked into the corners of the dining room.
Earlier this summer, however, I decided to try out moving our school room out of the dining room and into the guest room/study. Formerly the master bedroom, it's one of the biggest rooms in the house, with plenty of lighting and it's own bathroom. It also has some bookshelves, a pull out couch and our family computer. Now that I've moved the school stuff down there, this is what it's looking like:

(Apologies for the blurry photos - Abi had a go at being photographer with my camera phone!)
On the back of the bathroom door hangs a shoe caddy that I've filled with all the little bits and pieces that formerly cluttered up some valuable bookshelf space. Flashcards, coloring pencils, scissors, tape, etc - everything can be clearly seen and easily returned to its place, with the added benefit of being able to put non-toddler items up and out of reach, while still being available to the children who actually need them.
Next to that door is one of the Billy bookcases I moved downstairs. It contains all of the kids' books for next year, plus what we are currently doing for summer school. In previous years, we've organized the shelves by student: all Abi's stuff on one shelf, all Anna's on another, etc. This year, since the girls are sharing a number of items, I've decided to organize by subject, so history is on the bottom shelf, math on another, etc. I'm not sure how well this will work - the kids tend to look for reasons to fight, and getting in each other's way to get their school books is a prime bicker opportunity - but I've noticed when they keep their books in their desks, things get damaged, either by sheer messiness or a certain little destruct-o child. Papers also tended to get lost or damaged when I made boxes for each of them - I thought, one year, that if all their stuff were in their own box, they could pull out their box and get to work. Eh, not so much. Evidently, it was just too much effort to take that pesky lid off the box to put their stuff away...
Our family has been very blessed to live in a house that is quite a bit bigger than we need, and I realize that many families do not have the luxury of a separate school room. Back in the day, when this room had other purposes, we were doing our work in the dining room. Sometimes the investment of a small bookshelf is needed, complete with nice-looking baskets so that the school-look doesn't overwhelm the dining decor. Maybe keeping each kid's supplies in their own under bed box is required if there's no room in the dining/kitchen area, especially if the box is secured against toddler hands. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be perfect, as long as it works for "right now". Sometimes we might need to try a thing for a few weeks and then make some needed changes, and that's okay. It doesn't need to be first time perfect, and it doesn't need to look like everyone else's system - it needs to work for you and your family.
Since I'm still in the process with this one, I'd love to hear some other ideas that have worked for other homeschool families - what do you do with all those books and papers and supplies??

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting It Together - the Linen Closet

Up until very recently, we've never had a linen closet. All the bed linens lived on the closet shelves in the various bedrooms, which worked...sort of. Everything had a home, but it was messy and hard to reach and I'm the only one who could put things away or get them out.
We had this closet downstairs that had once been used as a games closet, but once the games moved to another location, the closet was suffering from a distinct lack of purpose...until I saw this:
I was inspired. I love the way ordered, contained stuff looks, especially when I've never seen the stuff in question (in this case, sheets) look ordered and contained.
While mine is not yet labelled or color-coded or stored in matching baskets (though I will do that someday!), what I've got works for us:
On the top shelf are extra pillows (it seems that I could do with replacing some of those...), followed by duvet covers in the pink basket, pillow cases in the brown box, and a couple of extra blankets on the next shelf. Below them are the flat sheets, boys' on the left and girls' on the right, and the fitted sheets are on the bottom shelf. All the sheets are currently stored in underbed boxes, since that's what I had on hand. In fact, everything in there is what I happened to have. I'd love to go and get some nice-looking, color-coordinated containers, but at the moment, frugality and the desire to shop without my children wins out over looks. The whole point of this exercise, for me, is to be able to find my stuff and keep it tidy, and this meets that need for now.
Who else has some top tips on how to keep their linen closet neat and tidy? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting It Together - The Car

I mentioned last week the desire to share some of the organizing I've been doing - partly due to nesting and partly because I'm sick of the lack of homes for our stuff. Give the homeless stuff a home and maybe then it's got a better chance of being returned to its home. So goes the thinking...
You may have noticed that we got a new van. If you hadn't noticed, here it is:
As a 12-seater, it's pretty big, and because of its size, there will be some temptation to just dump stuff anywhere and kick things under seats. Because of the bench seats, there are no pockets on backs of seats, like in a mini van. Every vehicle has its own limitations, no matter how big, and this one is no exception.
So, this is what I did: First, I bought one of those shoe organizers that you can on the back of a door and cut the bottom 2 rows of pouches off. I then used my sewing machine to finish the raw edge so that it didn't unravel and made 2 button holes about half an inch from the top. Finally, I threaded some ribbon through, tied it in a loop and hung it behind the last bench seat so that it's accessible from the trunk.

It's currently holding our bug spray and sun screen, diapers and wipes, trash bags, a general cleanup cloth, hairbrush, sanitizer, and handy little plastic cups (like what the individual serving applesauce come in) for whatever.  As the needs change, so will the contents.
Likewise, I filled a small lidded box with clothing changes for each of the 5 kids. Each clothing change has a t-shirt, undies, pair of shorts and long-sleeved shirt - things that they don't wear often so it won't be missed, but something they don't hate so that we don't have a fashion breakdown in public. Each outfit is inside it's own gallon plastic bag, to minimize the need to root around, and, once again, as the seasons change, so will the contents of the bags. I used one of the bags just yesterday to change some wet shorts, and was so thankful I had them! The whole box slides very neatly under the back bench row.
Since we have a distinct lack of places for each kid to put the junk they want to take with them on various journeys, I've basically put a small plastic basket, about the size of a large shoebox, in each row. For now, I figure that should do them for a couple of toys, a drink each and maybe a snack or a book or two. When we start looking at longer car trips, I may have to reevaluate the need and make some adjustments, but for now, this will do.
The only other change I made was to add covers for the seats. We noticed on the old van that a child in a car seat would occasionally drop something that would sit and languish in between the car seat and the main seat = stains. To try to avoid that a little, I rummaged around in my sewing room, pulled out some old fabric and tucked it in across the bottom of the seat. I didn't stretch it across the back, since that doesn't seem to be such a muck-magnet and would have been harder to secure. As it is, it's simply a little barrier to protect against mucky feet and purple lollipops. My standards just aren't that high.
There you have it - my van, organized (for the moment). Any questions or suggestions? I'd love to hear 'em!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where I Live...

...or "Weird Stuff My Kids Do":
  • Coming into the kitchen mid-morning, I discover that Abigail forgot to put the oatmeal canister away after she made herself breakfast, because Daniel is sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, eating raw oatmeal by the handful. Blech.
  • I'm on the phone while the kids play with play dough at the kitchen table. I look over to find Daniel jamming play dough into Eleanor's cup full of water. While dealing with that mess, I see Ellie jamming a teeny-tiny Lego hammer into an electrical socket. I needed pliers to put it out.
  • At dinner that night, Ellie kept complaining that her water tasted bad. We paid little attention, since it looked fine and was the same water as everyone else's. Toby finally tasted it to convince her that it was okay, but it backfired - it really did taste bad. Apparently, her cup wasn't washed well enough after the play dough-defilement. Toby's dismay was palpable: "Wait - I just drank play dough-water?"
  • We are trying to leave swim class. I instruct Abigail to help Ellie with her shoes. I turn around to lead Noah, Anna and Dan to the van to find that Noah has vanished. I look around, calling for him, until I finally find him back in the main viewing room. Me: "What are you doing here?" Him: "I don't know." Me: "Did you not get that we are headed toward the van, trying to leave?" Him: "No..." Me: "No?? What did you think we were doing, then?" Him: "I don't know..."
  • Abi is doing her Bible study, answering a question about the Pharisees. The question reads something like "What were the Pharisees thinking about Jesus?" Her answer: "He visits with sinners and eats them." I had to remind her that good grammar can save lives.
I wonder what they are up to now...?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting It Together, One Project at a Time

You may remember me mentioning a somewhat involved organizing craze a while ago? Well, it's has mushroomed into a near-frenzied state. Furniture has been moved, storage containers have been purchased, and items have been homed/re-homed. It's all rather exciting, really.
My plan is to share at least one finished project with you each day next week. That may not actually cover all that's been done, but it would be nice to document some achievement before the kids totally wreck all my new systems. I'm hopeful that won't happen, but I'll not hold my breath...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Learning to Worship

A friend of mine asked me this week about what the expectations are for our children during worship in church, and how we train them. Since this is probably something many families are seeking to train their children in (and because my friend asked me to), I thought I'd have a go at addressing it here.
First of all, I want to point out a few things:
  1. My children are not perfect angels and do, at times, act up during worship.
  2. Any good idea we have, we probably got from someone else.
  3. It's hard work, requiring us to regularly remind the children (and ourselves) of why we do what we do.
Having said all that, our primary standard is that the children are with us during worship, standing. Having them stand is huge. There are several reasons for this. First of all, we are training them not to simply be quiet and non disruptive during worship, we want to teach them to worship, so we want them to have a posture of worship, and at our church, that means standing. We've noticed that if they don't sit, then they are also not laying around, reading, coloring, etc. We have also noticed that as they get older, they are more likely to take part in the actual singing if they are standing up like all the other worshippers around them.
One of my children has a regular problem with the standing, complaining about having tired legs. This child is regularly (as in, every week) reminded that they have plenty of energy for running and playing, so they can use some of that energy to worship Jesus, even if it only means they are standing. That is their act of worship. Another child who is often tempted to suck their thumb is reminded that they may not do that during worship. That might sound a bit uptight, but aside from the fact that it's time to give up that particular habit, for this child it fosters a sense of passivity and boredom, and we want to foster an engagement and excitement for worship - after all, Jesus is worth all our praise!
We have a very determined, wriggly and persistent 2 year old. I may have mentioned him before. :) We have made a consistent effort to make sure he is held as much as possible, usually by Toby. Thankfully, he usually seems to nod off at some point during worship, which does make holding him a little easier, though a little sweaty. On the days when he's up and ready for a wrestle, it is harder. There are some tears, maybe a trip to the back of church for some correction. We just keep reminding ourselves/each other that it will be worth the fight if we can teach him now so that we're not fighting this same fight when he's 10.
 I will note that if Toby is unable to hold him for any reason and I have to do it, I tend to sit down with him on my lap. The other children have to remain standing because, as I point out to them, they are not carrying one baby on the inside (that is crowding out my air supply) and one on the outside. They get the point. 
If standing is a major challenge or new to your children, practice at home. We've done this for a number of new experiences - in this case, have the kids stand still around the dining table or in the living room while you play a worship song or two on a CD. Pick songs that you often sing at church, and the lyrics will become more familiar - 2 lessons in one. After a few days, add in another song. They'll get in the habit.
Our final trick it this: find surrogate grandparents. If you sit near a bunch of other families with young kids, consider moving to an area of church where there is an older couple or single who would love to help out. We have a wonderful couple who sits behind us most weeks, and our kids love them almost as much as they love our kids. Ellie, in particular, loves to go and sit with them during worship, and they are glad to have her. We don't normally allow the kids to sit with others or allow friends to come sit with us because we've learned that the kids are just not attentive, but we've made an exception here, mainly because they sit right behind us and we can keep an eye on her, plus they respect our standards and are keen to help us parent our children, rather than just spoiling them. I would suggest looking for an older person/couple, though - in my experience, younger couples or singles without children tend to make it more a time of fun and games, rather than helping kids prepare to worship. So, if there is a couple in your church that you would like to have invest in your children and be able to bless with your need, ask for their help. They will probably love that you did.
 I know we are far from having cornered the market in Early Childhood Church Training, so please share what your family does that helps your children and your whole family to worship on Sunday morning!
P.S. In the typing of this post, I had Toby look over it to be sure that I didn't leave anything out or grossly misrepresent what we do. In talking about it, we were reminded of the vital need for prayer in all this. Too readily we rely on our own cleverness and systems to produce good behavior in our children, and settle with that result.  But what God wants, and what we should want, are worshippers of Him, and we are wholly unable to produce such things.  Without seeking God on our children's behalf, the best we could hope for are well-behaved children.  True worship requires the Spirit of God to transform the hearts of His people, and we are freshly reminded of the need to bring our children before the Lord, pleading for His Spirit on their behalf. It's not hard to do, but so easy to forget, and it's the most important thing we can do.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lily Pants 2.0

So, you may remember some time ago, I designed (copycat-like)  a new style of pants for little girls - the Lily Pants. I've since had another commissioned order for a pair of Lily pants - this time, with a coordinating print ruffle. Dreadful photo, but you get the idea...
Doesn't "commissioned order" sound really fancy? Really, my friend mentioned she'd like me to make a pair and sent me a link to another blog to give me some vision. Not so fancy, but very helpful and very fun.
I really liked making them with the coordinating fabric, too, which I don't think I would have thought of on my own.
I must make some more of these. I know I said that before, but it's true - they're so cute! I now have 2, possibly 3 different sizes worked out, so I'll be all set to add some to my empty etsy shop - if I ever get around to it...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Food and Family

Yesterday, we had some of my favorite people join  us for the day: my siblings, their families and my mom (and her friend).  Since there are so many of us Gayners and all the birthdays seem to happen in rather close succession through the summer months, we decided to try something new: a family party to celebrate all of the kids' birthdays. With a water blob, sprinkler, water balloon sling shot and a trip for some ice cream, I'd say the experiment was successful.
Of course, there was also food. A lot of food. I teased my brother that in many of his memories and stories, food serves as an anchor. That's probably true of most of my family - I know it's true of me. And so for this get together, I suspect that our cous cous salad will be the focus - everyone loves cous cous, everyone loves salad, everyone ate loads of it. Would you like the recipe? Of course you would.
I found the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit, mainly by adding cous cous and cucumber, so I shall also share my own version:

Tomato, Chickpea & Cous Cous Salad
1 cup cous cous
1 cup cold water
1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
25 basil leaves, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
pinch of salt
Pour water over cous cous and leave it until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Then add in all the other ingredients and mix well. Leave it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to marinate, after which time you can eat it. All. In one sitting, if you like.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Big, Fat Timewaster

I am guilty as charged and feeling convicted. I've been wasting my time, and I, of all people, have little time to waste. In about 7 weeks, we will welcome our 6th child and my 3rd son into our family, and there's only about a gabillion things to do before then. There's the normal, every day, taking-care-of-the-basic-family-need things, there's the it's-summer-and-we-want-to-have-some-fun things, there's the projects that I've committed to (that might end up with me being committed), the meetings and the planning for next year and the getting ready for baby things. That sounds like a lot - and it is - but I really do have the time for it if I exercise a smidgen of self-control and stay off the stupid Internet! I could blame Pinterest and interesting blogs for increasing my project list, but that would be false - they are great tools if used correctly. I could blame Facebook and people posting about their lives, but who makes me sign on? And it's important to me to keep in touch with friends and family, which Facebook allows me to do with relative ease. I'm very tempted to blame the singular game on my iPhone for spending so little time reading and knitting, but really - I'm the idiot that installed the thing. No, the fact of the matter is I am choosing to fritter my time away on things of less importance because I don't want to invest the time and energy on the harder jobs.
Some might say I need to step back and re-evaluate my commitments and see if there's anything I'm trying to do that is best laid aside for now. That might be necessary, but for now, I can see the problem, and the problem is the lady in the mirror. I think what she really needs is a good stern talking to ("What do you think you're doing? You've got more important things to be spending your time on than beating your high score on Bejeweled Blitz 2!"), some prayer and repentance (my time, my life, is not my own, since I was bought with a price), and the practice to continuously choose to weigh the options of how I spend my time. I do not have the luxury of going into autopilot - I need to be fully here, exercising wisdom and making good decisions.
I know I'm not the only one who deals with this - I suspect it is a common temptation in this time and culture. My question now is Who else is noticing this trend in their own lives? and What are you gonna do about it?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Last week...

  • We picked 13 lbs of blueberries. My freezer is now awash in them.
  • We finished snake-sitting. The pleas for a snake of our own have already begun.
  • We bought a new (to us) van. A twelve-seater, it has enough room for us, our junk, and some friends. I can now spend time intimidating other drivers on the road with this beast. Not really - I try to be a polite driver. But we have started referring to the old van as "the little van".
  • We got to look after a couple of my friends' daughters for a couple days while she had surgery. We were so blessed to serve this family that has so kindly and faithfully served us for so long. And my kids loved having some extra playmates for a couple days. There were tears when they went home...
  • We got to hang out with some excellent couples. One evening went particularly late - I remember looking at the clock and thinking, "It is sooo late, but I don't want the evening to end, so I'll just keep quiet and hope no one else notices." That happens rarely, but it's so fun when it does.
  • I've had a growing awareness that the summer is almost half gone (!), I have about six weeks left until this baby arrives (!!), and I have done no planning for next year. I have all of my supplies (I think), but no plan for how to use them. So, I anticipate spending more time this week looking through my materials and coming up with a game plan. That may mean you hear less from me over the next few days, but don't worry - "it's just a break". "It's not you, it's me." "I really need some time to focus on my 'career' right now." "I hope we can still be friends." Really.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Gayner family summer

This is what it's looking like: 

Crazy Hat Day at Summer Blast, our church's VBS program

Chillin' on the deck while assorted children play with their favorite water toy (in lieu of a pool)E

Enjoying the very first cucumber from the garden this year, and knowing there's more to come

                                                              Getting in plenty of playtime outside

How's your summer looking?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Baby Knitting - In Threes (again)

I mentioned earlier that I had cast on another In Threes to use up the other skein of that lovely Malabrigo yarn - well, here it is!
 Not the best pictures, as it's still on the blocking board, plus a busted camera means my iPhone camera is my only option. I should have a go at running some of these photos through Instagram or something interesting. Maybe one day.
I may or may not be somewhat addicted to baby/kid/little thing knitting. It's so nice to have something to show for your efforts in a short period of time. I still want to get into something that requires more of an investment, but using up small amounts of yarn and finishing some comissioned items before winter (ahem) seems to be where it's at for the moment...Maybe if I finish my other projects soon, I can justify my big project, right?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

May I remind you how lame I am?

Because I am lame, and you need to know that to explain why I get so excited about little things. Like taking something not very pretty and making it (I think) prettier. Take this notebook, for instance:
I've used these notebooks for sometime now as my daily to do list and general notetaking. I call it my brain, and it goes almost everywhere with me. But it's not pretty. Granted, coloring in all the white speckles is fun. but that wasn't really doing it for me anymore. So, I went to my sewing room, found some fabric in my stash that would do the job, and came up with this:
At first, the cover was plain, and I liked it well enough, but it lacked umph. Also, I was regularly getting confused between the front and back, top and bottom (lame, I know), so one of Martha Stewart's cute little stencils came to the rescue. I traced the little birdy to some card, used it as a template to cut out some more scrap fabric, ironed on some fusible interfacing to give it some backbone, and stitched it on.
And now, I'm happy. I may at some point in the future add some extra visual interest (like a branch for birdy to perch upon), but for now it makes me happy. I consider it a mark of good character that it takes so little to make one happy - wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We have a guest

A little over a week ago, we welcomed at temporary guest to stay with us. Fred has been a very pleasant guest to have in our home, making no mess, being very easy to get along with, need very little attention and being overall a rather fascinating fellow. Oh, and Fred's a ball python.

Fred's family is enjoying a wonderful cross-country road trip, and it's been so nice looking after him while they're gone. The kids all love him and are keen to keep his tank misted, and even Toby (the least snake-interested of the lot of us) finds him utterly fascinating.
Fred eats only once a week, and Friday was the day. The kids had been eagerly anticipating it, and Tobes wanted to witness the event before he left for work, so we woke them up this morning with the rally cry, "It's Feed Fred Friday!" That got them moving.
Once the frozen mouse (otherwise known as "breakfast") was thawed, Fred was removed from his home, placed in his feeding container, and provided his meal. Being a constrictor, it didn't take long before he coiled around it and got down to the business of getting it in his belly. I thought it was going to be pretty gross, but actually, like most of what Fred does, was just downright fascinating.
We get to enjoy Fred for another week before his family returns to claim him. After that, I fully expect to be petitioned to get a snake of our own, and perhaps some other caged critters (Abi has been interested in getting a mouse for years). And I gotta say, it won't take much to convince me - Fred has been an ideal pet: he doesn't shed, bark, get underfoot, or leap up at guests. He's been pretty easy to care for, not very expensive, and it's much easier to have someone look after your contained pet when vacations roll around. Any thoughts (like how we must be nuts)?
Does anyone else have some weird and wonderful pet experiences to share?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Link Love

  • Even if you don't sponsor a Compassion child, you can still write to one!
  • I'll be making note of these ideas in my yard sale-ing this summer...
  • These bookmarks are so cute and perfect for the kids to make on their own. And what (homeschooling) family doesn't need more bookmarks??
  • The dark side of the blogs we don't see.  Yes.
  • I wanted to start this before I found out I was pregnant, but I'm totally gonna do it after baby!

Monday, July 2, 2012

An 8th Birthday

Anna's 8th birthday was Saturday. We spent her day:
Making a fuss of her and enjoying her goofy faces
 Playing at the beach
 Eating cake - she approved
There were also presents and a wedding (without power!) thrown in for good measure.
By all accounts, a good day.