Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Slow Advent

Oh, this poor little neglected blog of mine.

Our Tree (9)

This Advent has not gone exactly as planned.  Not at all as planned, actually.  There’s been a month’s worth of sickness and many, many things have just been laid aside.  I am ashamed to say I’ve turned to store-bought craft kits to keep M busy.  There is nothing wrong with these really, but they aren’t exactly the memory-making activities I had hoped for.  Maybe we will get to them during the actual Christmas season (which lasts from Christmas day to Epiphany), or maybe not.  I am thankful to just be well and functioning again, to be honest.

M was sick the first week of Advent, and then for almost two weeks it was my turn.  I was couch-bound, watching the house get messier and messier through feverish eyes, and not caring.  That nasty flu finally caught up with this anti-flu-shot girl, and gave me quite a beating.  We all had it to a degree, but somehow I was the lucky winner of the worst case.  Poor M was getting his own breakfast and lunch most days!  He felt very proud, but it hurt this mama’s heart a tiny bit to see him taking care of himself like that.  And then I had an awful case of pink eye, you know, just to round things off nicely.  That meant no cuddling or snuggling with anyone, which after being sick for a long time is just incredibly depressing! 

But somehow I was given the grace to realize that Advent is all about waiting and hoping and remembering just exactly where to look for the joyI woke up on Joy Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent), unable to go to church, again.  And I wondered, just what was it I was supposed to be joyful about? None of my plans were actually happening, the house was a disaster, and I was being treated like a pink-eyed leper. 

But time and time again, these past few months, I’ve been brought to a place where I’m gently reminded that fulfillment, joy, etc. are not found in plans, good times, or even health.  Joy is found in placing hope – confident hope – in God and His goodness and love and mercy.  Hoping for what I know is coming… Who I know is coming.  Each evening of this Advent when we’ve managed to have our little devotional time, M places a straw (length of yarn) in our manger and whispers, “Come, Baby Jesus, be born in our hearts.”   The simple and even boring Advent that has been our lot this year has, in the end, become a greater blessing in a way than a lot of fun and good times could ever be (although fun and good times are blessings too!).  Our emptiness is slowly being filled with an amazing sense of anticipation – the joy of knowing that what we truly hope for, what we most need, is coming soon. 

We are better this week, finally getting back to normal.  But we are not going to try to fit a lot in.  We are going to work on preparing our fantastically messy home and our hearts for the Love that is on its way.  I’m just going to go slowly through the days, and savor the sense of anticipation as much as I can.  tree decorating (49)

M has recently discovered Johnny Cash, and as I write this, Hey Porter is on (blaring even, you might say), and these particular lines are perfect:

“Go tell that engineer to make
that lonesome whistle scream.
We're not so far from home,
so take it easy on the steam.”


Friday, December 16, 2011

Magic Bubble ARt – review



Growing Tree Toys recently sent us this fun little kit to use and review. 

We’ve done bubble art before – with dishsoap, water, and food coloring – and truly the fun part of this is the bubble blowing.  So, yes, that’s simple to do at home without a kit; but I noticed that the colors this time, with the kit, turned out to be much more vibrant, and the included crafts were a bonus.

Here’s everything the kit includes:magic bubble art (1)The picture is so very bright it isn’t showing the tons of punch out pieces that came with this.  There are 90 shapes and stickers included, and a little booklet that gives ideas of things to make.

Also included: pipe cleaners, dye, a stir stick, straws, green embroidery thread, paper cups, and a large bottle (much more than we needed) of soap with gold glitter in it. 

I was not sure about the glitter soap, but it did sparkle up the bubbles (as long as we occasionally stirred it), and looked so pretty on the paper after it had dried!  I’m afraid my photos aren’t good enough to show this, but take my word for it – very pretty!

The basic concept is to fill the cups about 1/3 full with water, soap, and dye; then stick in a straw and start blowing bubbles onto the papers and shapes.  This MUST be done over some sort of covering – we used an old towel – because the dye will stain.

M really had so much fun doing this.  I wish the kit had more disposable cups because they got very soggy very quickly, what with the bubbles spilling over the sides, but obviously regular cups could be used also.

magic bubble art (6)

magic bubble art (11)

Blowing 4 colors of bubbles all at the same time proved to be a lot of fun too:magic bubble art (17) Take a look at that towel – definitely a good thing we used it!  Fingers were stained too, but all in the name of fun, and no worse than when dying Easter eggs.

Now, M would have been content to blow bubbles all day long, but he knew this was a review and very seriously did every single craft included.  In one sitting.  He is a sucker for punching perforated shapes out of cardstock, so I think that had something to do with it. ;)

Here is a look at about half of the bubble prints he made:magic bubble art (14)


A few things he crafted from all this colorful goodness…

A crown:magic bubble art (19)

A hot air balloon:magic bubble art (20)

Flowers:magic bubble art (22) 

Stick puppets, a fish, a door hanger, and some pretty patterned paper to use in the future:magic bubble art

As we were doing this (yes, I did get in on a little of the fun too!), I kept thinking about how perfect this would be for a birthday part, or any group of children.  More cups and straws would have to be used, but there is definitely enough soap and dye mixture and paper crafts to make this fun and engaging for a group of 4 to 5 children.

M ended up loving this much more than I anticipated!

Have a beautiful day! :)

*I was provided a free Kid Concoctions’ Magic Bubble Art kit in exchange for writing a review.  This review is entirely my own, honest opinion of the product.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you are all feasting away today with family and friends, and enjoying life’s many blessings!  Fill your tummies with good food and your hearts with happiness. :)

A photo of our finished Thanksgiving Tree:This year's Thanksgiving tree                        (Forgive the rotten exposure.  It looks better in real life.)

M wanted to place our leaves on the tree with our lists facing outwards, which made me wonder, why did we bother decorating them?  ;)  But the littlest person usually gets their way about this type of thing, so this year we have white leaves on our tree.

Each night for the past week we’ve written things for which we are thankful on leaves, and then tacked them to the tree. 

I thought you might enjoy M’s top 7 things he is thankful for this year:

  • Our house
  • Our farm and apple trees
  • Mommy
  • Christmas
  • Food
  • Cupcakes, and Mommy, and Cake
  • Fish and Fishing for Fish (he has never gone fishing, by the way, but why get hung up on details?)

There is a glaring omission here, isn’t there?  ;)  Why did Mommy end up on the list two times (and what is the “Mommy” in between cupcakes and cake all about??), but no mention of Daddy?  I giggle about this, mainly because I am not Daddy.  I’m sure the thought of Daddy was in there somewhere.  I think next year perhaps we will list our thanks for two weeks – to give us time to make sure everything is covered, and no feelings are hurt. 

Just for the record, I did put Daddy on the very first of my leaves, and he is very loved.

Now, I’m off to stake out a place for my post-dinner nap. ;)


Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A garden of Gratitude

image (Heh, heh – this vintage picture makes me smile!)

This is the month to be mindful of our thankfulness, a wonderful idea.  I’ve been trying to set aside time each day to list my blessings.  How neat to find that paying attention to my blessings and focusing on being grateful has worked to increase my gratefulness and my blessings!  I decided to list things a little at a time, each day, and will share these as one post sometime around Thanksgiving.

I am thankful…

  1. For the sense of empathy M has… his heart for poor children, hungry children, babies we know and don’t know, neighbors… and the specifics he’s able to articulate in prayer for them.  I worry about his tender heart so much, but I know that this is really a blessing and I’m learning to be thankful for it.
  2. That my 5 year old “big boy” has begun taking my shirt to bed with him (like when he was a baby – does he even remember?) to snuggle with and smell as he sleeps.  That is love. 
  3. For all the beautiful nature surrounding us, and for a renewed eagerness to be out in it as much as possible.
  4. For good books that prove how amazing and inspirational words can be when the right person puts them together in the right way.
  5. For a husband that comes home from work tired, and still finds the time to read a chapter or two of Hank, the Cowdog out loud, sometimes with only one tired eye open.  And still knows how to make us laugh at all the silly parts.
  6. For being closer (not there quite yet) to making peace with the possibility that no more babies are in my future.
  7. For a small house that only takes a few hours to clean.  I’m convinced God knew what he was doing because he knows how I am about cleaning.
  8. For magic erasers.
  9. For my new sewing table and the little sewing / mama-craft nook in our home that I finally found a way to make.
  10. For forgiveness, from everyone – God, my husband, my son… everyone.
  11. For glorious autumn days that help me remember to be joyful.
  12. For coffee.
  13. For Coke.
  14. For an oven that still bakes lovely things like pumpkin bread and apple crisp even though it is ancient.
  15. For routines and good habits.
  16. For wisdom when I (remember to) ask for it.
  17. For intuition.
  18. For our neighbors and our friendly little lane.  
  19. For traditions.
  20. For the books we read out loud and the friends we make with the characters in them.
  21. For the women I meet with every Monday morning… they have each become so important to me.
  22. For friends that remember to ask about specifics in my life, showing that they are sincere in their care.
  23. For such good role models as the people in numbers 22 and 23.
  24. That so many people have taken a look at our Jesse Tree packet and have downloaded it or printed it to use with their families.  It feels good to share wonderful things with others and it’s humbling to think of helping someone “out there” with something our little family does.
  25. For occasional, unexpected moments of peace and quiet.
  26. For soft, thick, cozy yarn and the pleasure of making something out of it, just for me.
  27. For the joy of making things for others too.  {Lest you think #27 was selfish. ;) }
  28. For catching the moment on a windy day when yellow leaves are falling so quickly and thickly that you can’t see past them.
  29. For catching sight of little boys trying to hula hoop.  :)
  30. That the worst thing my 5 year old has to worry about is finding where he mislaid his newest and most favorite rock.
  31. For children’s audio books.
  32. For the library, and that it is so close to our home.
  33. For my husband’s job, and his willingness to support us while I stay home.
  34. For a better understanding and appreciation of the work of a stay-at-home mom.
  35. For my health and the health of everyone I love.
  36. For my weekly hour in our church’s adoration chapel.
  37. For visiting relatives.
  38. For turkey dinners and naps afterwards.
  39. For a warm, cozy bed.
  40. To live in freedom.
  41. For our military, the sacrifices they and their families make.
  42. For the beauty of falling snow.
  43. For the pure joy snow gives to the children I know.
  44. For the cozy inside feeling snow gives me.
  45. For second (and third, and fourth…) chances to get things right.
  46. For the gift of being a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, and every other role I’ve been given – I am truly blessed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Art Time – Oh the things You can do with Melted crayons

Our Thanksgiving tree (find the pattern here) was up and ready to go, one week before Thanksgiving:thanksgiving treeBut no autumn-themed scrapbook paper to make our leaves from!  Target dollar spot, you really let me down this year. I checked other places too – and could not find a single (cheap) autumn pattern anywhere – sigh.  I just love those scrapbook leaves. 

Ah well, this was a great opportunity for an art project I’ve been meaning to do for ages – coloring with crayons on a warming plate.  decorating leaves (2)

We used scrapbook scissors (pinking and scalloping) to cut leaves from white cardstock; covered our little cup warmer with foil because melting wax tends to leak through paper, even cardstock; put the leaves on top of the foil and slowly drew with the crayons.decorating leaves(I do not have a warming tray, but this little cup warmer works great for small projects like these leaves.  You could also use a cookie tray taken from a warm oven, but make sure little hands don’t get burned!)

The crayon melts as you draw and begins to glide across the paper.  There’s something very relaxing about doing this!  M enjoyed it so much, he stopped making designs and began to just color entire leaves.  The smooth movement and the deep saturated colors on the paper put him into a sort of trance. :)  I think this would be a great rest time activity!  After he was done we turned the warmer off, crumpled up the foil, and were done.  No mess, which is always a plus, right? :)

Our leaves (mostly):IMAG0015


We also made some great little autumn shapes by melting old crayons and pouring them into cookie cutters… this is always fun because it involves SMASHING crayons with a hammer or piece of wood, or whatever you may have lying around that would make a good smasher. ;)

Sort:autumn crayon shapes (4)

Smash:autumn crayon shapes (5)

Melt and pour:autumn crayon shapes (12)

Let harden, then pop out:autumn crayon shapes (23)

A little wax leaked out the bottom of the cookie cutters, but everything turned out okay.  Still, I would use the flexible, non-stick muffin trays in place of cookie cutters, if you have them.

abc button

Have a beautiful day! :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Art Time – Autumn Glitter Shapes


We made these last week, using some autumn cookie cutters from Target’s dollar spot.

Glitter is always so much fun, isn’t it?  And so pretty as it makes its way around the entire house.  Isn’t it fun to see a dusting of glitter sitting there, shimmering away on your couch as the sun hits it, two weeks later?  And then you realize you most likely had glitter on your bottom when you wore your black pants to church that morning, and you feel so thankful to have given someone behind you a pretty little treat like that.  Ah glitter.  We all need a little sparkle in our lives, don’t we?  ;)

So we gathered up some colored construction paper, glue, our cookie cutters and some glitter.  Trays were helpful for keeping the glitter under control, but apparently not helpful enough.


We had a saucer full of glue, into which we dipped our cookie cutters (wide side down).  Then we let them sit on our page for a while to let the glue drip down enough.  Next up was shaking on the glitter and then tapping it off.  I could have sworn I’d taken photos of actually doing this…


After they dried, M punched holes in the corners, we strung them up on ribbons, and added them to our oil pastel leaf banner, out in our breezeway:

Pretty, yes?  A great outside activity too, if you ask me. ;)

Have a beautiful day! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fun with Math and Wiki Stix

wikki stix and number mats (2)

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned our Wiki Stix before.  We’ve had them for ages, and I bring them out once in a while just for “something to do” – M loves them.  He kind of forgets about them, but when he sees them, he loves them.  They keep him busy for a loooong time, if that helps sway your decision to go buy some. ;) 


I put out simple activities for M most mornings.  Occasionally I am stumped for something new to do and go through my craft and school supplies for inspiration.  So one morning last week I gathered up our autumn-themed play dough mats (placed in plastic page protectors), and our Wiki Stix and set them out for him:wikki stix and number mats (3)


He really enjoyed this!  This would be wonderful counting practice for younger children.  I can’t say M really counted as he did this, because that is no longer a challenge for him, but he enjoyed making little spirals out of the Wiki Stix and sticking them to the pages.  This is good fine motor skill practice!  The best part about this, and what I intended it for, was that it helped him work on forming the numerals, an area in which he needs practice.

 wikki stix and number mats (4)Honestly, I can not look at those little hands without
wanting to kiss them or have a little nibble on them!

I love when something comes together that is so much fun for him he doesn’t realize he is working on anything. :)

abc button

Have a beautiful day! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011


I struggle with depression.  Have I mentioned that before?  I meant to write about this, especially in relation to post-partum depression, at some point this year, but well, the year seems to have gotten away from me.  I’m not going to write much about it in this post either because, oh la la, it is just not something I want to get into today.  Some day though, I promise! :)

{By the way, it is not uncommon for women who have fertility problems to have trouble with depression too – an imbalance in hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies, minds, and souls in many ways.}

I am usually able to keep it at bay, without drugs, although I do take a very, very mild dose of an antidepressant to help me sleep.  Sleep is so important.  So are vitamins, outside time (I need to work on this!), finding the right pace for my days (not too busy or over-extended, not too empty), time spent nourishing my soul with prayer and inspirational reading, keeping a focus on goals, and making sure priorities are kept in proper order.  It is possible to still be a good mother and wife – a wonderful mother and wife – and fight depression at the same time!

One thing I’ve often noticed about myself is that keeping all of these things going (the things mentioned in the paragraph above) is much easier when I am in the middle of reading some sort of helpful book about motherhood, the spiritual life, homemaking… anything along those lines.  And if I’m not currently reading and enjoying something like that, lack of motivation and then depression can settle in pretty quickly.  I’ve always considered this to be a weakness of mine…  And then I began reading Jamie Martin’s book, Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.  (You can find Jamie here, here, and here.  She is amazing.) 

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for ages.  Recently, it finally seemed like the right time to pick it up and immediately I was struck with her acknowledgement of the power of words.  And it’s true.  Words put together in the right way can have real power.  I feel like this is something I’ve always known, have perhaps even mentioned myself, but somehow this time I realized it in a completely different way.  God uses the words of others to lift us up and encourage us and keep us going.  It’s a wonderful gift to have these words, and it is not a weakness to need them!

Jamie mentioned making a box full of quotes that inspire her.  If it is good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. :)  Just thinking about doing this made me feel more calm and peaceful… the idea of having something to look to on those days when I need an extra nudge upward so I don’t find myself spiraling downward… what a blessing that would be for my whole family.

So I bought a little wooden box at Michaels and decorated it with some paint pens: Hee hee – it looks to me like something my 10-year old self would have made, not exactly the piece of beauty I had envisioned, but it will work. :)

And I began filling it up with inspiration:

Now I’m off to tell Jamie about it and give her back a little of the encouragement she has given me. :)

Have a beautiful day! :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Art Cart – independent artwork

~a sampling~ ;)

The weather has taken on a definite it’s-still-fall-but-winter-is-nearer-than-you’d-like-it-to-be feeling here, which is strange, seeing as how it must still be mid-July, right?  (Have the past few months just flown by or what?  Please tell me it is not just me!)

And so of course we’ve been spending more time indoors and the art cart I made for M last spring has become popular again.  I love seeing what he makes all on his own with no interference or direction.  I love, love, love it.  I love it for many reasons, and two very small reasons are because it keeps him busy and happy and requires no work on my part.  I’m sure there are more noble reasons than that, but I am so giddy about him keeping busy and happy and it not taking any work on my part that I can’t think of those right now.

I just wanted to share a little of what is hanging up around here that M has done completely on his own.  I miss doing those Art Box posts, darn it, so you may all have to sit through a post like this from time to time.  (Well, you don’t really HAVE to, just let me imagine you are.)

A little sparkle:

Newly discovered magnetic tape (by M, I’ve known about this stuff for ages) has inspired all kinds of new magnets which just appear here and there: 

This… thing (the hole punch has been discovered also): 


And, I believe, some works in process: 

Super-cute Mr. and Mrs. Frog (M did ask me to draw the hands and feet for these, but everything else was his, including the idea:

And a homemade kite, with string wrapped around a tp tube, hee hee:

Have a beautiful day! :)


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