Sunday, December 20, 2015

Homemade Gifts and A Christmas Wake Up Call for Me

Well, I was excited to make Christmas gifts for everyone this year and I almost accomplished that!!!!  

For the 5 little girls in my life I made snuggle mermaid tail blankets

For the women in my family I made pure silk pillowcases accompanied by modestly wrap bracelets I ordered months ago during a good promotion.  I was really excited how these turned out and that I didn't have any problems sewing silk with my $50 brother sewing machine from Walmart.  I did use a fresh ball point needle though!  And I learned how to do a French seam which was exciting!  Then my favorite added touch was the label I created for fun with a list if the benefits of using silk pillowcases on the back including care instructions tied on with a raw strip of silk remnants.  I ordered the real silk from

For my dad who has ALS, I made him a double layered fleece poncho blanket so my mom can easily adjust his layers when he is up for the day in his chair. I'm really happy with this because dad was always hard to know what to gift other than an REI gift cards to help add to his collection of mountain climbing and surviving gear and a lot harder now that he has essentially no mobility.

For a fun little Waldorf inspired gift for my little boys, I made a serving wooden minecraft blocks.  I love Grimms colored wooden building toys and my 5 year old lives minecraft (yeah a bit of a contradiction, I'm sure true Waldorf peeps wouldn't even have their kids play a video game...but I have sorta taken all the different educational philosophies that resonate with me and dumped them out of their boxes and onto the floor altogether for a flexible jumbled whatever mix of them all! Rather than climb into any one box lol!)

The square storage box was $3 at Michaels and I ordered the 1.5 inch wooden blocks from  I dipped them in food coloring mixed with rubbing alcohol like dying Easter eggs.  The black blocks I dipped them in my black Sumi Ink.  For the iconic grass on dirt blocks I dipped each side in brown food coloring leaving one side blank which I then dipped in green.  I think these will be a gift to both my boys even though my 2 year old doesn't play minecraft but for him they are still cool naturally colored wood blocks.  After they were dry, I dipped them in vinegar as I read that could help seal the color.  So now we have a cool Grimm Toys style natural minecraft wooden blocks! 

And in the works is a balance beam for our little gymnastics daughter that we started building last night and will probably finish assembling today and some snuggle shark tail blankets like the mermaid ones for my boys. They are cut and ready to sew! 

Update with balance beam:

I will say, as I posted on Instagram earlier this month we were going to take a break from our regular style learning for the month so we could basically do a unit study on Christmas time focusing on learning through living, creating, crafting, baking, card and story writing, pouring through as many beautiful Christmas and Winter theme books as we could get our hands on and focus totally on the season.  It's been awesome!  My kids have learned so much, improved their art skills and we've been able to incorporate a LOT of math into everything we do!  The more I learn about living math and understand the concepts and goals myself, the more I can incorporate it into everything we do without it ever feeling like smart lesson!  And the kids are totally getting it without and coercion.  I have still pulled out my daughters Brain quest book for some math page practice but it's been very interesting how mathy we can be outside of a text and have it be fun (VERY exciting for a math phobe like me!).  (Oooo...I just came across a term that describes our month very well...project based homeschooling).

I did have one set back.  It was the shark tails.  I was starting to stress about getting them done to mail in time and this past week my 2 year old must be cutting teeth or something...he's been totally irritable and fussy and it was rubbing off on everyone.  On Wednesday I was literally praying "oh Lord this feels too crazy please help us!!!" My daughter kept begging to go to the library, the baby kept getting up from nap and finally I was like "ugh yes fine lets go I have other errands we can run too then"...then as I and the kids stressed out and in a rush ran out to the car, I realized I left the keys in those house and locked ourselves out.  It was crystal clear what was going on...everything had been going so well with my plan to savor the season with the kids and then I still got caught up in being busy and stressed and suddenly realized what a beautiful day it was and we didn't belong anywhere doing anything else other than being outside enjoying it and connecting with each other!!!  It was The Lord putting me in an abrupt but good and needed "time out" and the kids and I played on the trampoline together laughing and being silly for the remainder of the afternoon  and evening until my hubby got home from work to let us in.  The kids had such a great time with me being completely focusee on them...chasing them around the trampoline and making gingerbread cookies out of them...cracking the egg on each knee (remember that game?) mixing it up with lots if tickles, adding LOTS of sugar (smothered in kisses) rolling then out etc....the said "Can we get locked out if the house everyday!!!!??!" 

The next day was an even more beautiful day and while I felt the pull of finishing Christmas cards and getting to the post office...I said ok I learned my lesson yesterday Lord, I'm not going to waste this nearly 70 degree sunny day to Christmas  errands.  So we went to the library (what the kids had been begging to do all week), stopped at ups to mail the cards and then went to the grocery store next door to buy lunch and snacks and we then spent the day at a little sandy beach that's apart if a big lake that is not far from us. It was like pretty much the best day ever. And guess what? By the end if the week I still got done everything I had been so distracted with...and the days I did do it the weather had changed to cold and rainy!  

Christmas is a joyful time of year but if we let all the self imposed to-dos....even though they are really good to-do's, interfere with the real joy of connecting with those we love and cherish most...then it's not really worthy of all the hustle and energy we put into it.  Now, I didn't end up sending all my gifts by the deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery but my extended family and friends know it's coming and that we love them and more kids know how important they are to me and how much I love them, and praise God for that when he woke me up by showing me how I was allowing myself to get frazzled by locking myself out!!!  

Seeing these pictures and all our nature finds we brought hone from that day reminds me to thank The Lord for allowing me to be a flexible person and for the ability to be home with the kids so we can even have these spontaneous adventures and be reminded over and over no matter how much we research great Homeschool supplies and resources...that learning is like breathing, it happens all the time! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

An AWESOME DIY Homemade Christmas

Well, Black Friday has come and gone and now onto the the non-stop deals on whatever crap people are compelled to buy in the hustle to get Christmas shopping done.

I have a different plan.  Nothing speaks to my heart more than a nice homemade gift. I love receiving them and getting them!  While there are lots of great diy gift ideas on Pinterest, I am going to share some of my plans for diy Christmas gifts this year.  Most of our Christmas shopping this year is going to be for supplies to make these.  I even did take advantage of Black Friday shopping by getting a great deal on blizzard fleece on Joann's website so I never even left the house!

These are not just cheesy homemade gifts that you make and then at the last minute feel like you should still buy something anyways to go with it...These are AWESOME stand alone great gifts that can replace whatever else you may have purchased otherwise!

For all the girls and boys in my life I am making either fleece mermaid tail blankets or shark eating me blankets.  I got the fleece on Joanns Black Friday cyber deal for $2.50/yard so these are a super fun gift to make and keep your budget down!  

You can get a tutorial here and here

but it looks pretty easy to figure out and just wing both without a pattern.

Howeverfor those who like to SEE examples and various ways to do it, shark blanket tutorials can be found such as this 

mermaid tail, blanket, ariel, mermaid tail blanket

or get a pattern to make both on etsy here 

For the women in my family, I will be making up some hair and beauty silk pillowcases.  There is a great tutorial on HowDoesShe that you can follow.  I may do mine a little different and try to embed some lavendar...we shall see.  I ordered the real silk on as recommended from the tutorial. I will make a cute litle printout of all the benefits of silk pillowcases to go with.With 1 yard per pillowcase this gift rings in at just under $10 each.

For my son who likes Minecraft and loves building with blocks, I ordered a set of 50 1.5 inch unfinished wood blocks from  He's 5 and I LOVE Grimm style wood toys, but instead of rainbow blocks, I am going  to dip dye the blocks in food coloring in the main minecraft colors and may get a little creative to make a few special blocks.  My son has a good imagination, and dying them with minecraft theme colors, he can enjoy building his own minecraft stuff but his imagination wont be limited to minecraft play.  If you want a more specific minecraft look check out this diy post on wooden Minecraft Blocks.  It's more involved with printing the skins, cuting, modgepodging etc but looks cool.
 diy minecraft block cube gregoryd

My daughter is making other minecraft things to go with the block set as her gift to her brother with perler beads.  She is just making them up based on how she knows minecraft looks but here is some inspiration...Check it out HERE

For any gymnastics loving girls, there a tons of tutorials online for constructing your own balance beam.  I plan on using a fun color combo with fun faux suede and paint on the wood frame.  There are LOTS of different tutorials to make them but it doesn't have to be complicated! Here's a simple tutorial here

For awesome balance beam color combo ideas, check out this pinterest board.

For our little gymnasts and doll loving girl, my husband is going to "help" our son make a gymnastics set for his sister for his Christmas gift to her.  He'll make a set of bars from pvc pipe and using a tutorial like this and we'll make some velcro grips so she can swing around.  

For a mat you could just layer some craft foam or get a small piece of thin foam padding and wrap it in cute duct tape.

Doll Beam (we'll make one that matches her beam)

For other great people in your life like friends, neighbors, teachers, of my favorite things to make is my mom's carmel popcorn recipe and then drizzle melted chocolate over top, package in cellophane bags and pair with a Christmas card.

and for the men....that's where I am still deciding!  Maybe homemade BBQ rub and custom aprons? i don't know but here are some great lists of ideas for the men here and here and here.

Shopping for the perfect gifts can be super stressful and time consuming and making a bunch of gifts can seem completely overwhelming.  But if you can consolidate projects by making all kids the same thin, all women the same thing, all men the same thing and all neighbors etc the same thing...then you just take a couple session focused on that one project.  The key to enjoying the season and meking homemade gifts is to be intentional about how you spend your time.  Less running around and more resting and making.  Less Christmas activities for more relaxed Christmas season savoring at home!  Don't feel like your kids are going to miss out if they don't attend every Christmas party and activity there is to do.  The kids will remember making a homemade gift while smelling cookies in the oven more than they will the blur of events and errands that sometimes englufs the entire season.  Order as much as you can online, even fabric if possible and only do the running around that is absolutely necessary!  That way we can be productive, give great gifts while still feeling the joy of the season and create lasting memories with our children.  

As for us as homeschoolers, I also posted about this on instagram under the picture of my daughter making a minecraft diamond with her perler beads...that since we HAVE the flexibilty, we are going to take the month off of regular school and learn through living and all the productive hands-on Christmas time things we do. It is just too much to maintain a regular homeschool schedule and then pile on top of that all the other things we want to do.  So we are making the season fun and learning through all our fun seasonal activities and gift making!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


As a sahm and especially a homeschool mom, I know for me personally, there are times I don't feel beautiful anymore.  I think of women who have to get ready for their professional career and polish up everyday or women my age who are not yet mothers and take great care of themselves with great shoes, clothes, regularly maintained and colored hair and the best makeup and nail polish!  Or especially other mothers who seem to do it ALL while looking fantastic.  Then I look down and there is pretty much ALWAYS something on my shirt, chipped uneven nails, just a little but of nail polish left on my big toes that's been wearing off for over a month, a year of highlights grown out, tired dull skin and eyes, and pretty much just feeling plain jane.  When your day starts with caring for a baby, toddler, sick or scared child who kept you up all night, rather than jump out of bed and get beautified for work and friends, it's a zombie walk to the kitchen for coffee first!  Then more kids appear, need breakfast, help, attention, direction...pets also start meowing or whimpering for a need as well.  Your day gets going and before you know it, it's well into the day, you finally catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror when you managed to get a bathroom break and it can be startling to see the tired, disheveled, unkempt, starting to age, worn out person in the mirror and feel like all traces of whatever former beauty have been lost.

I can also feel this way about creativity and art.  I wanted to be a couple things when I was in my youth...number one...I always wanted to be a mom but other dreams included being a fine artist, spending time in Italy as an apprentice to gain and polish professional skills, compose music for movie soundtracks and maybe a few other grand dreams.  When I glance in the mirror on those days and see an uglier version of myself, I sometimes feel that way about my creative and artistic abilities...lost in the wash...probably gone to the same place of no return that all those socks go to....which is why my kids wear mismatched socks a lot of the time! depressing and pitiful as that all sounds, thankfully those days are a small minority of the time because I am reminded that BEAUTY isn't merely a state of being and neither is art.  Both are an expression.  Both can be expressed and enjoyed in many non-tangible, non-capturable ways, all throughout our day...every day!

Motherhood and homemaking are sources of insurmountable joy and satisfaction yet at the same time very exhaustive, stressful and humbling.  Motherhood BREAKS you.  But, if approached with intention, unselfishness, humbleness, a willingness to learn from our children and pray over everything and seek out the Holy Spirit's inspiration as our main go to parenting resource that we can tap into anytime....from or brokenness, a new beautiful creature arises from within.  TRUE BEAUTY.  Expressed in our love for our children, how we teach them, treat them and give our unconditional enduring love, being teacher and students of our children.  Learning who they are, embracing who they are, cultivating their personality traits to work for their good so they can serve as strengths more than weakness...which is ultimately done through constant prayer and seeking of guidance.  This new beautiful strong creature is shed of some of her former self...and usually a lot for the better...shed of shallowness, selfishness, impatience and pride just to name a few.  

Art and creativity are also expressed in child raising and homemaking on a daily basis.  Living simply, unhurried and connected with our surroundings, creating quality time, being up to enjoy and go with the flow to enjoy the spontaneous and the planned moments together, exploring and discovering the world together, creating things together, creating an environment to cultivate their little hearts, minds and spirits....there is just so much that happens everyday that is an expression of art and creativity.  

My family and home are my canvas and God is the medium-blended into every color, coated on every brush and layered onto every part of the canvas that I work on everyday.  It all goes on smoother, blends better and has a better overall finish when He is a part of it.

Often when thoughts of not fulfilling or cultivating my gifts and passions, I'm reminded that right now, in this season, my family and my home are my canvas and my various paintbrushes are prayer, unscheduled time, nature, living books, beautiful homeschool resources, nature journaling, character development, devotional/hymn/poetry study, teachable moments, the right extra curricular activities for us, a handful of sweet friends, extended family, Holy Spirit inspiration and God is the paint medium, blended into every color, coated on every brush and layered onto every part of the canvas that I am working everyday.  It all goes on smoother, blends better and has a better finish when He is a part of it.  

Aside from drawing in our nature notebooks or doing art with my kids, using my rusty art skills, I am actually I am MORE than OK to wait until a season when more tangible art projects will be a part if my life...but for art is what it is and finding the beauty and joy in the messy and mundane moments.  (Have you ever walked into an painting studio?  It's messy and simple and bare...but then, in the midst of the unglamorous setting, stands a beautiful work of art in progress with someone spending hours upon hours, diligently working on it....that is just like life!)
Taking in the simple yet complex beauty of the world as we discover it again in new and profound ways alongside our children, our beauty is expressed through our simple joy and contentment, love of nature, love for each other and ultimately love of our creator.  

My personal beauty is not exactly expressed as it was in more youthful years through youthful glowing skin, flat ironed-still naturally blond hair, push up bras and citizen jeans that fit just so...but it IS expressed through creating a peaceful, loving home and a sanctuary for my children and husband to come home to. I cannot do that so well on my own strength alone-but through Adonai-a loving, understanding and creative Father and Savior who knows me and loves me just the way I am.  

This is the season I'm in and it is full of art and beauty and when I look at it this way I am in no hurry for this season to end, sometimes I with it would never have to end. I am content.