Monday, December 26, 2016

Handmade Christmas 2016

Each year, during Advent, our family preps for Christmas in the usual ways: tree, lights, ornaments, ect.  But each of my children also work hard on handmade gifts for each other and mom and dad, and I also usually try to do a little hand-making myself.  This year, even though (or maybe because of?) my husband traveled for work, we managed to make quite a few gifts.

Fritter (age 10) made:

Fritter does quite a bit of work with leather.  We got him a starter kit a few years ago, and then Grandma got him more tools and stain this year for his birthday.  These are simple bookmarks, but they are really the best.  Plus, you can't beat the smell of leather every time you open a book.

This is a little drum for Teddy, it has a few beans in it, so it also makes a great shaky toy.  And the noise isn't terrible.

Perler bead play kitchen food, including mint Oreo cookies for Sunflower.

Fritter put together this little tool box for Froggy from a kit, and then spray painted it.  Mom and Dad contributed to the gift with a set of screwdrivers.  These may or may not have been used to disassemble part of the play kitchen yesterday when we weren't looking.

This little mailbox was part of a kit also for Ladybug.  Dad attached it to the play house outside and the kids have been busy sending letters to each other.

Ladybug (age 8) made:

This wreath was made by both Ladybug and Sunflower for Mom and Dad.  It colors up my bedroom door nicely.

I had been hinting all Advent that I really needed a matchbox.  I have one nice one for our prayer table, but nothing for the candles on the dining table.  We found this tin in our Celestial Seasonings Tea, and Ladybug snatched it. 

Much better than the ugly box I had.

This stuffed duck is for Teddy and has a plastic Easter egg with a few beans stuffed inside it to give it a gentle rattle sound.

Ladybug made five of these airplanes for Froggy.  Note to self: Glue first, then paint.

This might be one of my favorite things made this year.  I saw this made elsewhere online, and passed on the idea to Ladybug and she took over.  Five little fairies in a flower bed for Sunflower.

This is a Perler bead maze for Fritter.  Once it was ironed, we glued it into an empty CD case, added a small bead, and glued the case shut.  This is Dad's favorite handmade item this year.

Sunflower (age 5) made:

Froggy is really into magnets, so Sunflower made him this little craft, and Mom and Dad contributed the magnet.  Froggy has been running around testing everything to see if its "Magnets".

I know one of these pipe cleaner creations is a spider...I don't really know what the others are, but Sunflower made them for Fritter and he seems to like them.  :)

Sunflower sewed and stuffed this little bear for Teddy.  She really did a great job.

She made this little drawstring bag (with Mom's help) and made "story rocks" for Ladybug.

And I made:

I find it hard to buy presents for the baby of the family.  So this year I made him a little rattle, again with the egg and bean shaky inside.

These blankets are simple to make, but so satisfying and are probably the coziest blankets ever.  This one is for Ladybug.  I love the material.

And this is Fritter's.  Both Sunflower and Froggy were given blankets a couple of years ago.  I made these ones a bit longer for the bigger kids.
The best part about all of this handmade stuff, is most of the materials came from our home.  Very few purchases were made.  Also, these end up being almost everyone's favorite gifts (even if I do find myself repairing some of them). 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Waiting, Advent Style

This has been one of those years.  I'm often asked if my husband travels frequently.  Usually my answer is no.  Today I had to check that.  This year, he has traveled quite a bit.  This Advent is no exception.  He left almost two weeks ago and we still have close to three weeks left.  He will be home for Christmas.  And so this Advent is truly a waiting game.

I have often thought about how real Advent becomes while pregnant.  Waiting.  Waiting for that little one that you know so well and can't wait to meet.  We are not expecting this Advent, but are experiencing a different kind of expectation.  The joy of meeting again.  Of sharing Christmas together.

There is lots of talk around the Catholic web about not celebrating Christmas in Advent.  That Advent is a time of Penance, Preparation...Waiting.  There is not much chance this house could really celebrate Christmas early.

We had plans on how we were going to do things this year.  A few more decorations outside, perhaps a crèche, a real tree, or at least replace our little Charlie Brown fake tree we've had since the beginning.  Plans change and I'm learning to be ok with that.

Our little tree is up (I did replace the blinking lights we had on last year, talk about anxiety inducing!), the calendar is hung, we are adding our Jesse Tree ornaments (I couldn't find our little Jesse Tree and I am NOT climbing in the attic) and a few other ornaments slowly.  We always do it this way.  But this year, the most special ornaments are waiting to be put up until he gets home. 

So far, we've been so busy, (and we were blessed that Grandma came to visit for Thanksgiving and help us celebrate two! birthdays), we haven't had much time to really think.  And that's good.  But as our evenings slow down, our commitments drop off, even as we enjoy the quiet and the peace and the chance to read and write and...think...well then, we begin to think.  And for a melancholic like myself, my head is not always the best place to be.

And so this evening, after watching an episode of Doctor Thorne, I began to get in my head.  I looked at the Christmas tree that seems to fit my melancholic mood, and I began to feel it.  The loneliness.  The emptiness.  And the voices started swirling (you're not good enough, you're messing it all up, you, you, you).  Many times this will be enough to suck me into a dark place that's hard to get out of.

Maybe it's all the prayers offered up on our family's behalf (we are blessed to be part of a wonderful community of prayer warriors), maybe it's the grace of Confession from this past weekend, but whatever it is I recognized those voices and Audrey Assad's song Fortunate Fall began to run in my head.  And I began to pray.  And I lit a candle.  And instead of sitting in the darkness, I came here to write.

So thank you for being my little bloggy sounding board.  For helping me process the voices.  I am reminded that there is grace in the waiting.  And I can offer it up for all those who have longer waits than I.

PS - One thought I had this afternoon, even while the sun sets here, it is shining over there on my husband.  And the sun will rise again.

Monday, October 10, 2016

This Is Why We Live In Arizona

The weather right now!  Amazing!  The middle of the day is still hot sometimes, I think we maybe hit 97 on Saturday.  But the mornings.  And the evenings!  If it weren't for the mosquitos, I would be outside constantly.

I am one of those people that step outside and get 15 bites immediately.  I tried those repellent bands, and still got bit, so then put on repellent (a natural based one) and still got bit.  I think I'm doomed to use full strength DEET for the rest of my life.

Anyway, we have been spending quite a bit of time outside.  Yesterday, we took a picnic dinner to the top of a local mountain that overlooks the city.  Seems like everyone else had the same idea, but even with a bunch of other people, it was SO nice. 

The desert sunset.

We've also been spending lots of time in the backyard, way past all the littles bedtime.  Of course they are not complaining.

Doing a little star gazing.

Our weeks are filled to the brim with living, and other "extras".  Soccer, football, Atrium, American Heritage Girls, Troops of St. George.  It seems there is always something going on.  But as crazy as it's been, we have been enjoying ourselves, and when we are all back home we realize how much we love it here.

Cute little soccer girls.  Ladybug is #7.

In all my spare time (he-he) I've been reading and trying to keep up with my Well Read Mom group.  I've also been crafting in the evenings (or whenever, I'm kind of addicted right now.)  My mom sent me this book, and while there was a bit of a learning curve, I'm having a lot of fun with it.

This flower was only supposed to have six petals.


A flower scrubby.

A leaf scrubby.
 We're taking this week off for a unplanned break.  After ten straight weeks of school we could use a bit of a break, and our house could use a bit of attention.  We also have a few morning outings planned.  And I hope to have quite a few times of just nothingness, and some quiet mornings.  Here's to hoping!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Homemade Playdoh

My two biggest kids are in a homeschool enrichment program on Friday.  All day Friday.  Every Friday.  It's a very strange thing for me, you know?  I've never spent much time away from any of my kids.  So this is new.  But it's also good.

Anyway, so my big kids are gone today, and the smallest boy is napping.  What to do with the middle two?  Normally, I get caught up on house work, and they seem to enjoy the time that they get to play their games and not just the ones the big kids tell them to play.  So it works.  But today we needed just a little something more.

So we made playdoh.

As a rule, I don't like playdoh.  It's messy.  It dries out.  It's messy.  And they always mix the colors, so it's not even pretty.  Did I mention it's messy?

But these two.  Sometimes I feel as if they don't get to experience the fun mom that used to be. (Not sure I was ever really fun, but you know what I mean, I hope.)  Don't get me wrong, they get plenty of experiences the older two never got, simply because they have older siblings.  The learn faster, they are more well rounded.  Their older siblings have been HUGE blessings to them.  But still.  I realized I have never made homemade playdoh with them. (Or really allowed them to play with it much at all.  Ahem.)  So we did it.

If you have never made playdoh, here's my oh-so-easy tutorial.

First, put on an apron, to make you feel productive.  Next, get out a saucepan while the littles pull up a chair to watch.  Dump 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon oil (I used canola), 1/2 cup salt, 1 tablespoon cream of tartar (important for keeping the dough fresh for about six months), and food coloring.  Warm it all up on the stove while stirring.

When it's warm, take it off the heat and dump in 1 cup of flour.  Mix it in the pan until it comes together, and then dump it on parchment paper on the counter.  It will be hot.

This is the fun part.  Knead it by hand.  Yes it will be hot.  But it will be fun, and will help to take away all the anxiety from the morning.  Think of it as therapy dough.  Pound it, push it, knead it.

Soon it will come together nicely and you can form it into a ball and store it in a ziplock bag.

 But first, pull out a plastic tablecloth that has been designated for such messy projects, and let them have at it. 
Your kids will thank you, you will feel as if you accomplished something, and you can now sit guilt free on your couch and read, or stitch, or write out blog posts no one really cares about.  :)

Happy kneading! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Is Being Busy My Cross?

Yesterday was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  What better way to celebrate a Feast Day but to go to Mass, right?  So that's what we did.  In place of our morning walk, we walked instead to Mass.  I forgot that Wednesdays at this particular church are the school Mass so it was very busy and very...long.  Don't get me wrong, I love Mass.  It's just that I have a disaster baby, and a three year old (who is generally well behaved, but still.  He's three.)  Disaster baby likes to hear his own voice and spent most of Mass making sure everyone else heard it too.  I left my two big kids in the pew and took the other three to the back of church hoping that if I stood and swayed and walked with said disaster baby, he would quiet down.  No such luck.  So I retreated even farther, venturing close to the dreaded "cry room", but without ever actually going in.

I don't like cry rooms.

When Mass was over, I collected the older two and we headed up the stairs to exit the church.  Disaster baby spit up right on the top step.

Of course.

After cleaning up the mess (it wasn't terrible, it just...was) we left as quick as we could.

And that's why I still don't attend daily Mass.


We also made cross-shaped cookies, but I didn't take any pictures, because I was too busy...making.  Go us!

I'm dreading today and postponing it for as long as I can.  We originally had a park day we were going to go to, but I saw the schedule and crossed it off the list.  This afternoon, the girls and I have American Heritage Girls, and then we race from there to Sunflower's first soccer practice of the season.

We're going to be late.

Next week, though, it'll be even harder.  Fritter starts flag-football (what was I thinking signing up for two different sports?!  That will not happen again!) and guess when his team practices?  Yep.  Thursdays.  Also, Wednesdays, which was the only day during the week we didn't have something going on.  Sigh.

This introverted homebody is going to need a dark, quiet corner to curl up in by the end of the season.

So.  Got any advice?  How do you moms of many balance the schedule?  How do you allow your children to participate in extra-curricular things while balancing home life and keeping peace and order in your home?  Let me know in the comments!  Until then you might be able to find me in a padded room somewhere.

{Disaster Baby}

Bad cell phone picture, because he moves so much, it's hard to get anything else.
He's a Goop.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Backyard Water Park

Let me just start out this post by proclaiming the awesomeness of my husband.  He used his Sunday to build our family the coolest backyard water park I've ever seen. 

This was designed as a family project, so the first step was to load the whole family up and head to Home Depot.  Pieces and parts obtained, we headed home and put everyone to work.

The seven and nine year olds measured and sawed...

The little ones organized (and...ahem...dropped) parts.

Daddy glued all the pieces together, and made special joints (so named, super joints and cipher joints) so the whole thing could come apart and be stored later.

 Putting it all together...

 Attaching the hose.  Hope it works!
 We used stakes to make it stay put.  All that water pressure made it want to collapse.

There are three main sprinklers on top, and we drilled holes in the legs for more spraying fun.

Each leg has a valve to allow us to turn the side sprays off and give the top sprinklers more pressure.
 The best backyard water park ever!

 Of course, my children, after getting a taste of building, had to take things to the next level.  It's a house!
 And a car wash!
That'll keep us cool for a while!