Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DIY Rainbow Clothespins for Dramatic Play

We tend to love brightly colored things around this house. Cole and I both do, and our girls seem to have picked up the same love! While looking through the Nova Natural catalog that recently came, Meghan was excited to see the rainbow colored clothespins being used on her clothesline (which we purchased for the girls from Nova Naturals). The price was more than $1 per clothespin - but since we hang dry most of our laundry, we have hundreds of clothespins at our house and I couldn't see any justification for paying so much for something we already have. That is when I came up with this idea, and it has worked swimmingly!

First, I took apart several clothespins and put out a work mat to protect the table.

Then I carefully, while listening to a book, colored four wood pieces with each of several brightly colored Sharpie markers. I left them out to dry for about 4 hours and then put the clothespins back together. I put them all in Meghan's clothespin storage basket and she was THRILLED!

She has been having so much fun using her colored clothespins to hang clothes on the clothesline! Using clothespins is such a great way to build fine motor skills, so I love that activity in addition to just loving how cute it is to watch her play that she's doing the same work I do! 

Such an easy project and so much fun! I hope you'll give it a try and have just as much fun!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Simple Clothes for Children

Your little one's clothes don't have to make a "statement" beyond the obvious ones: "I'm dressed and ready for school" or "I'm comfortable and ready to play." Your child has better things to do than be a walking advertisement for mall stores or brands.....Having fewer choices simplifies getting dressed. Young kids can still adopt all sorts of flash and style, playing with different looks, roles, and fashion statements in their dress-up play......"Choice" is often a false distinction when a child is more interested in what they are going to do, once dressed, than in the clothes themselves.
-- Kim John Paine, Simplicity Parenting

I love that quote from the book Simplicity Parenting (one of my all time favorite books!). It articulates quite nicely the way that I think about my girls' clothes.

I try not to have their clothes be a walking billboard for companies. Whenever possible, I try not to have their clothes say anything at all (there are the occasional cute little saying or Kansas State tees, but in general my rule is becoming more and more "no words"). My goal is to have a few simple, weather and size appropriate shirt/pant or dress/legging combos for each girl.

(Meghan's shirt collection for this fall/winter - a dress with leggings, 5 tees (four appliqued by my mom!), and a denim shirt for layering. Minimal. Simple. And she loves it!)

I try to purchase basic jeans/jean shorts or yoga pants. When it comes to shirts I pick stripes, dots, or other patterns as well as basic single color tees. My mom has an embroidery/applique machine and LOVES to make the girls custom shirts according to their interests on single color tees. (I know, seriously, how lucky are we?!?) Thus, the only "statement" that my kids clothes might make is "I like dragons" or "Ask me about butterflies" because of the images my mom has added to their shirts.

I feel like these kinds of clothes can be hard to find. But, I spend the time and energy to seek them out because I would rather my kids clothes not make a statement for them (especially since the statements on many shirts aren't ones I would want my kids to make anyways!). I want my kids to make their own statements with their own actions and words.

(Katie's shirt collection for this fall/winter - she has more than Meghan since she will be in SMO's and needs onesies to wear with them. Katie has a dress with leggings, 3 tees (two embroidered/appliqued by my mom), and 5 onesies. She has two words on a few but they were special exceptions - she's a rainbow baby & is great at making us smile!)

I also choose not to have super cute frilly clothes for my girls (though, I drool over them when they are on Zulilly!). They have some super cute (though still simple and comfy) clothes for church that fill that "Awwwwwww, how cute" need Mamas of girls have. I would rather my girls be free to play and be wild than burdened by super nice or restraining clothing.

I've found that with simple clothes for the girls, I'm less stressed as well. I don't have to think about their outfits and what we're doing for the day and what outfit would be best for that purpose, etc. etc. etc. I simply grab whatever outfit is in front of their closet or allow Meghan to choose which shirt she wants to wear today, and we move on. No stress. No nice clothes that can't be worn to play outside. No clothes that we  don't wear out in public. No stress. I like having one less thing to stress about!


Homemakers are busy people. I think it's very important for us to have routines for the mundane tasks whether they occur daily or every few months or once a year. I share our routines not because I think they are perfect or will work for any other home than ours, but as encouragement that we can find routines that work well for our families. It's always something we can be working to improve. I also share our routines as a springing-off point for planning a routine if you don't have one in place. I often find that reading what others do, trying it, and tweaking it for our family's needs can be a very helpful way to grow as a homemaker. I pray that these peeks into how we do the mundane are a blessing and an encouragement to those that read them!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Art Sensory Supply Storage

I recently shared how we store all of our homeschool things in the heart of our home.

Shortly after I made that video, I determined that I needed to move the sensory play materials to the kitchen area so that I would remember to use them more often. I also thought I should bring up the paint from the basement so that it would be easier to do paint activities.

Cole and I picked an additional cabinet in the kitchen that we could empty. We now have an art cabinet and a sensory play cabinet. (All my canning things are now stored in the basement food storage closet - they really don't need to be in the kitchen when they are only used a few times a year).

These cabinets have lots of things in them, but they are certainly not exhaustive of all the things that one could have in their art and sensory supplies. This is what we have and what fits in our space.

So, without further ado, here's what we have:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How I Plan Our Homeschool (Or, No. I don't have it all together!)

I hope this video will be an encouragement to other homeschooling Mamas - particularly if you are doing this for the first time. While I am a first time homeschool mom, I am also a former special education teacher and had a classroom for students with autism - it was a lot like homeschooling 9 boys. This system  that I  use at home now is an adaptation of the system that I used in that setting - it worked well there and it's working well here! Hooray! 

A simple system for keeping the supplies I use on a regular basis organized and available at school time makes it easy for me to prepare our learning activities each day. About 20 minutes before we start school, I look through my basket and the things I have already done in the week and pick what we will work on for that day. It's simple! I promise!'ll get to see what curriculum choices I have made for our preschool this year! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Homemade Block Crayons

Block crayons are great for helping kids develop fine motor skills while coloring! They are also just a ton of fun to use while coloring and drawing. The price is steep for these crayons on Amazon, but we made some for ourselves for a total of $2 with back to school sales! I'll share what we did - it was a fun simple project that Meghan and I were able to do together during Katie's nap.

First, I peeled and broke the crayons - I used 3-4 crayons for each block crayon. I packed the small pieces into a Tovolo square ice cube tray (I used to use these for making and freezing baby food - this did "ruin" on into being only an art project tray). 

I put the crayons in the small convection oven at a low temperature until they were melted through (about 30-45 minutes). Then I removed them and put them into the fridge to cool. 

(I made two sets of crayons - the ones that I did not put in the fridge had some clear wax settle to the top while cooling - that wax had to be scraped off before it would color.)

After they were good and cool, I popped them out of the ice cube trays onto a drying rack to finish curing. After a few hours they were completely hard.

Once the crayons were completely hardened, I tossed them into a basket and we set to work coloring!

It was such an easy process to make these fun crayons! Next, we might experiment with making swirl crayons by not completely melting the wax of multiple colors in the same cube. We'll have to see what other fun ideas we come up with!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Video Tour of Meghan's (minimalist) Preschool Bedroom

I love Meghan's bedroom! It's a beautiful blue color that is both bright and peaceful. The toys are minimal and inspire hours of play per day.

This room is sort of "in transition" as far as decor goes. The bunting, name sign, wreath, and pillowcase all match the crib quilt that I made her as a baby (I've made each of our girls a quilt with matching accessories at their first birthday.) Those have been combined with a bright comforter that we got very inexpensively from friends to use until we made the girls their shared room. The wall art is from an IKEA children's book....I love it!

Soon, hopefully in 2018 (when Katie is ready for a "big girl bed"), we will move the girls into this room together and they will have bunk beds. My mom has gorgeous fabric that she is making into quilts for the girls' beds (seriously, her quilts are AMAZING). I also have some of the fabric that I will use to make little decor touches. It will be such an incredibly adorable little girls room!

(I mean, just look at these fabrics - so dreamy! Picture from Amazon.)

But, right now it's Meghan's room only. This is the space where she sleeps, reads stories with Daddy before bedtime, and the space where she spends roomtime (our name for quiet time during Katie's afternoon nap). The space works beautifully for all of it's needs!

Here is a video tour of the space:

I forgot to mention in the video that under Meghan's bed are 6 sterilite boxes storing clothes that have been purchased ahead for the next four sizes of girls clothes. That way, by the time Meghan needs a new size of clothing, we have most of what we need and need to seek out very little. (I've blogged about that system here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekly Cleaning Routine Sheets

I love the way Ma Ingalls (and homemakers of bygone eras) had weekly chores that they did on the same day every week. That rhythm was good for helping them maintain their homes. I also believe that predictable rhythm is good for children. I've been working to create more of a sense of rhythm (not a schedule, a rhythm) in our home this year.

I would love to have a daily chore "theme" such as kitchen day, cleaning day, etc. But I'm not there yet. I can say that these sheets helping me get closer, though! It's definitely helping me maintain a cleaner home with less mental effort and exhaustion.

These are my weekly cleaning routine sheets. I print one sheet per week, add tasks that need added, and then work my way through it.

Tasks are divided by type of work that could be a "themed" day.

Except for laundry - I have laundry tasks assigned to days. This system works incredibly well for us as I try to hang dry as much laundry as is possible to save on electricity use. I couldn't do one laundry day because I don't have the hanging space. With this simple system though, the washer (and if it's a load that I dry, the dryer) is all done working before 9:00 in the morning so laundry is never a really big ordeal.

I have cleaning items, deep cleaning items, gardening work, kitchen work, and office/homeschool work. These are the hats I wear around the house and seeing them organized on my list makes it easier to see what needs done. (And when I feel like I'm getting nothing accomplished - remind me of how much I do!)

These sheets also give me some grace. If I don't get to vacuuming upstairs this week, it's okay, I know it's on the sheet again for next week. Or, if I don't get a chance to touch up/organize closets during week one of this month, it's okay, it's on the sheet again in a month's shouldn't get too out of hand before then.

This is also the place where I keep our weekly menu plan written so that Cole and I can both see it. (I am great at menu planning - still working on the following through part!)

Each week has a deep cleaning focus and I rotate through four different weeks. Other than the deep cleaning section the sheets are the same from week to week.

The longer I use these sheets, the more I am working my way towards the efficiency of having a day when I mostly clean, a day when I mostly work in the kitchen, etc. Because of my fairly free-spirit personality, I doubt I will ever have those days completely nailed down, but these lists help me be much more efficient with my housework time.

Without further ado, here are my weekly cleaning routine sheets:





Okay, so my husband is awesome! And he taught me how I can share my Google Docs of these sheets with you! Below I will put the links to all four sheets. If you like this format and want to tweak it to fit your home, all you need to do is make a copy and edit to your hearts content :) Here come some links......


Hopefully this information has been encouraging and inspirational to your homemaking. Remember that I share what we do to encourage and never to say this is the right and only way to do things. These sheets have changed my homemaking life profoundly - if another system works for you, keep going, sister! 

Any questions? Feel free to ask!