Friday, June 29, 2012

The Dress Project-- Another Prize and Another Highlight

Aubrey Marshall from the Southern Fabric etsy shop has generously donated a second prize for The Dress Project's Summer Challenge. With two prizes, that means two winners!  All you need to do is link up your entry and you'll be entered to win this fabulous Fat Quarter bundle in my very favorite colors! 

Southern Fabric has been in business for 7 years and has sold to over 75,000 happy customers worldwide.  If you just can't wait, you can order from them now and receive 10% off through July 5 by using coupon code tenpercent.  You  can also visit their Facebook page by clicking here

Allyson is our latest entry in the The Challenge.  She added a fabric layer to her toddler's skirt to make it longer and more modest.  To see more pictures and read how she did it, click on the photo below:

Is your entry ready for The Dress Project?  I'm excited to see what you can come up with.  Two prizes are now up  for grabs and with only two entries, they both have a 100% of winning!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Do You...Teach Sharing?


How do you teach sharing to your preschool crowd? Lately we've been struggling with sharing and kids fighting over toys.  We have an almost 5-year-old [boy] and a 20-month old [girl].  She is learning what sharing means and he is learning how to manage his frustration with a grabby little sister.  Any advice you have is great.
submitted by Katie

Sharing is a difficult concept for young children.  It's also hard as parents to help our children learn what sharing really means.  I try to think in adult terms before I work with my children. 

Pretend I am eating a piece of chocolate cake.  You come to my house and think it looks good.  Do you then have the right to take my cake and eat it just because you want it?  No one says to me, "Eat just one more bite and then give your guest the rest of your slice of cake." 

Another example: I buy a pillow for my sofa.  You come over and sit on my sofa and lean against the pillow.  Do I snatch it out from behind your back because it is my pillow? 

I try to use the same principles with my children as I help them work out their sharing woes.  I let them know that if they were playing with a particular toy, they do not have to give it up simply because a sibling wants it, too.  I do suggest that when they are done, it would be polite to pass it along to the next person who wants a turn. 

When dealing with toys or books that are family-owned, I stress that everyone has the right to use them and enjoy them.  When dealing with toys or books belong to a particular child, I am sensitive to ownership.  Just because Gavin is not playing with his Legos doesn't mean Owen is free to pick them up and take apart what Gavin built.  Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the right or wrong, I allow no snatching and no throwing.  That automatically makes the once-innocent child share in the guilt. 

I've found that with little children, I have to do most of the thinking and reasoning for them.  They do not understand the concept of sharing.  They only understand the law of selfishness.  It takes many years of consistency before children begin understand and appreciate sharing.

How do you work on sharing with your children?  Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why I Take a Summer Break From School

I've been in multiple conversations with friends and other bloggers this summer about homeschool philosophy and why each of us make the decisions we do for our homeschooling families.  (These are all happy conversations, by the way, not debates!)  

One of the decisions Brian and I purposefully made for our family is to take a break from school in the summer.  Though I know many families who choose to school year round and love it, we have chosen a break for these reasons:

1) I enjoy a different routine in the summer.  There are various activities that only happen in the summer-- library events, $1 movies, beach trips, sleepovers with grandparents, Bible school, horse camp-- and that altered schedule keeps us busy enough without trying to fit school into the cracks. 

2) The summer gives me a chance to evaluate our curriculum.  Is this math program working?  Do we still need focus on phonics?  Are there holes in our learning? Summer allows me a chance to step back and see what is working (or not)... and make a plan before we begin again in August.

3) I love a sense of closure.  Though we don't always finish every book by the end of the school year, we make goals and when we put our pencils down in the spring, things feel complete.  When we begin again after our break, we start new. 

4) Summer is an opportunity to focus on learning that might not happen during the formal school year.  This summer, we're learning all about the human body for health.  (I guess that means that technically, we're not out of school after all, but the learning is informal and the kids don't think this is school.)

Do you school year round or take a break in the summer?  How did you come to that decision?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Post-Civil War (by the books)

To read a brief overview of my history-teaching method, click here.  And remember: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.  They are a jumping off point for your own walk through history. 

When I was planning this time period, I was not thrilled.  It certainly didn't appear dull, but it was too...adventurous...too boy. We girls powered through, though, and even enjoyed it a little bit.  (I think.)

Cowboys by Glen Rounds
Where the Buffalo Roam by Jacqueline Geis
Buffalo Bill by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
Little Sure Shot by Stephanie Spinner
Annie Oakley Saves the Day by Anna DiVito

George Custer:
Custer's Last Stand by DennisFradin 

Advances in Transportation (Railroad/ Steamboats):
Iron Horses by Verla Kay
Mark Twain and the Queens of the Mississippi by Cheryl Harness
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Friday, June 22, 2012


It is no secret that I am not a fan of the beach.  More specifically, I am not a fan of sand or sweat or sunscreen or any combination of the three. My kids are bothered by this.  Maddie asked me  whether I liked going to the beach when I was a little girl and I had to tell her that, no, I didn't like it then either.  

"Mama," she said.  "Can you tell me at least one thing you like about the beach?" 

I had to think hard, but I finally said, "I like that you like it." 

And so, it was for that reason,  that we set off on Summer Beach Day #1 (of 2) one morning this week.  We took the ferry to get there which added to the adventure. 

We met up with my mom and sisters.  We know to get there early before the parking lot fills and cars have to park along the street.   We slather on sunscreen first thing to get it over with.  I managed to do it with a smile! 

Maddie collected shells and a small tan crab to bring home to show her daddy. 

Then she joined the older kids in the water where they stayed... until they came out to get a snack...and then ran back in the water until we called them to go home. 

Benjamin camped out in the sand, though he did play along the edge of the water from time to time. 

Alaine was not so sure she liked the beach.  I think maybe she's going to follow in her mama's footsteps because she squealed when her toes first touched the sand.   She did tiptoe down to the water and stomp back up with a not-so-happy face. 

The she settled into a beach chair where she contentedly shoveled sand for the rest of the morning.

We were especially glad for our early morning, front row parking spaces when it was time to leave and we had to lug our sandy bodies, sandy kids, and sandy beach buckets back to the vehicles. 

And this is me, looking sufficiently beach-weary, and very, very glad to be home.

I'll be sure to document Beach Day #2 later in the summer, proof that I love my kids! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Do You...Teach Stewardship?

How do you teach your children stewardship of their money? 
There are differences of opinion about whether children should receive an allowance or not.  In our family, we have chosen to give a $1/week allowance to any child, age 4 or older.  Though we expect everyone to do their part to contribute to the family (and not simply work for the money), we want them to have practice in earning, saving, and making good purchases. 

We try very hard not to influence what the kids choose to spend their money on (though Brian does a much better job than I do!).  We feel it is important for them to make their own choices and their own mistakes with their small bit of pocket money.  However, we do have two guidelines.

  1. You have to save $5 before you can spend your money on anything, even a cheap pack of gum.
  2. You have to think about your purchase for 1 full week before you can actually purchase it.
These two principles make them think and help curb impulse buys. 

How do you teach your children stewardship?  Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the Plain Jane t-shirt

Alaine was blessed with many hand-me-downs this year.  Between Maddie's saved clothes and clothes from cousins and offers from friends, we needed very little (a tremendous blessing for a large family).  After doing inventory, I decided to jazz up one of the plain T-shirts.  I downloaded  these PDF templates and cut the pieces out of fabric scraps.  I've never been happy with the stability of fusible web so instead, I pinned the fabric to the T-shirt and did a chain stitch around the edges. 

Alaine is happy because she loves "pree" clothes, and I'm happy because this re-designed shirt goes with so much...her tan shorts, her denim capris, her patchwork skirt...

Soon I'll have to show you how my girls can wear coordinating outfits, even though I can't find matching items in their varying sizes. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TIPsters: Television Viewing (What to Watch and How Often)

We're pleased to welcome another Guest T.I.P.ster this week! Sheri from Traveling the Narrow Road will be sharing her Television Viewing Policies, along with the regular T.I.P.ster hosts, Allyson, Christy, and me.  Please click over to her blog to read about her summer plans...and tell her we sent you. 

I've tried to write this post in my head about 200 times and every time, I write about a sentence and then go blank.  The problem?  We don't have official policies on how we choose what to watch and how often the television is on in our home.   There are standards, but we haven't put them into words or formal policy.  

Some families choose not to have a television at all.  We do own a TV, though we do not have cable.  We might consider a movie rental service (like Netflix), but we do not have unlimited internet access so most of our TV viewing comes via free library check-outs. 

Some families set a time allowance on daily or weekly television viewing.  I've never figured out a way to do that while 1) being fair to all the kids and 2) not having the television on all day while each child has "their" hour of viewing. 

Some families only allow G-rated films.  We've seen G-rated films that we found inappropriate and we've adopted some PG films as family favorites so I don't find the ratings overly helpful as more than a general guide.  Our children are very aware of our morals and family values.  They are quick to notice if a show  mentions evolution or ghosts or something equally objectionable and will either turn it off or ask Brian or me what to do. 

Some families limit TV to educational programs.  Unless Puss in Boots or Cinderella counts as educational, we enjoy television as entertainment as well as education.

So help me.  How do you set television standards for your home?  How do you decide what to watch and how often can the television can be switched on? 

As always...take a moment to visit my fellow T.I.P.sters,
AllysonChristy, and this week guest poster, Sherri!

Coming Soon:

July 3: Quick and Easy Summer Meals
July 17: Taking Family Photos
August 7: Schooling Kids of Different Ages
August 21: Teaching Kids to Read

Want to write a guest post on one of these topics? 
Leave a comment or e-mail me and I'll tell you how to get started.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

sunday at home

scrapple sandwiches for breakfast...watching the little boys put on a musical show... steaks on the grill, honey-glazed potatoes, corn, and chocolate cake... family board game on the living room floor... Wii tournament... early bedtime for littles with no naps... a quiet walk, just the two of us with the dog... Game 3 of the NBA Finals...

what did you do for father's day? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Dress Project-- Highlights

The Dress Project: Summer Challenge has its first entry!  Kati re-designed a summer shirt for herself.  She took a plain wear-around T-shirt and made it into something party-worthy!  I can imagine this looking wonderful in the fall and winter with a cute cardigan, too. I love anything that can be worn year-round! 

To see Kati's entry with instructions and more photos, click here

Is your entry ready for The Dress Project?  I'm excited to see what you can come up with.  A $30 fabric prize is up for grabs and right now, Kati has 100% chance of winning. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Do You...Keep the Bathroom Clean?

How do you keep your bathroom(s) clean, especially during the messy, sweaty summer months? 
My husband has a dirty, dusty, sweaty outdoor job.  He comes home from work covered in grass and pollen and much of that gets deposited in the bottom of the bathtub. 

My kids have a dog.  They take him out for a run three times a day.  They come inside sticky and sweaty and muddy...and most of that gets deposited in the sink and the bottom of the bathtub. 

I have three sons.  There are often "misses" around the toilet. 

My five kids share one sink.  After they go to bed, I find dried toothpaste  in the sink...and the counter...and yes, the wall! 

So how do I keep it all clean without losing my mind?  First let me say that keeping the bathroom clean is a big priority for me.  I can let the dusting go for weeks at a time if I have to, but I can't tolerate a dirty bathroom.  I do a big deep clean on both of our bathrooms once a week.  I try to keep the day consistent so I don't forget.  On that day, I scrub the tubs and showers, clean the toilets, scrub the sinks, and wipe the counters.  I also rinse out the toothbrush holders, clean the mirrors, sweep or wash the floors, and take inventory of the bathroom supplies (soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.).  When I leave, I light a candle because the candle scent signals clean to me.  Each bathroom takes about 15-20 minutes. 

Every other day of the week, I do maintenance work to keep the bathroom tidy.   If the sink is dirty, I'll wipe it out.  If the tub is gritty, I rinse it.  If the mirror has splatters, I'll clean it.  I refresh the towels as needed.  I generally spend less than 10 minutes a day refreshing the bathrooms. 

About once a month, I do a super clean.  On top of the regular deep clean, I wipe out the under-the-sink cabinets, wash the bathroom rug, wipe build-up off of the shower curtain, dust the baseboard, and disinfect the bathroom stool.  This super clean takes less than an hour per bathroom. 

How do you keep your bathroom clean?  Is there another area of your house that you feel is top priority?  Let us know in the comments.

If you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Beach Birthday Party

Having lived near the beach my entire life, you would think I would love it.  Think again.  I do appreciate the beauty of the ocean and I recognize that there are those who would gladly live where I do, BUT I can. not. tolerate sand.  I don't like it on me.  I don't like it in my car.  I don't like it in my kids' ears and hair and bellybuttons! 

However, last year when Maddie and Owen requested a joint birthday party with a beach theme, I got into the spirit of things and planned a wonderfully indoor, sand-free party!  

Here are some ideas for throwing an easy, beach-themed summer party:
  • Decorate with inflatable pool toys.  We found a pack of 3 tropical fish for $1. 

  • Hand out leis to your guests at the door to put everyone in a festive mood..  We bought a box of 100 for $3-$4.

  • Instead of a tablecloth, cover the food table or the gift table with beach towels.
  • Set up beach chairs for extra seating...or ask guests to bring their own. 

  • Play a summer game.  We found a Beach BINGO for less than $3 at a party supply store, but you could  go outside for a water balloon pinata or involve all your guests in keeping a big beach ball in the air. 
  • Line a beach bucket with a gallon-sized freezer bag and turn it into an ice bucket. 

  • Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top of frosted cupcakes.  Cut out small rectangles of Fruit Roll-up to lay on the sand.  Add a lounging Teddy Graham and a cocktail umbrella. 

  • Hang a summer wreath on the door.  I wish I had seen this idea last year when I had cocktail umbrellas to spare.  
  • As your guests leave, hand out beach-themed party favors as your guests leave.  We chose sheets of shell stickers, but you could hand out sand toys or one of these sweet treats instead. 
Enjoy the air conditioner and the gloriously un-gritty texture under your celebratory toes!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stories for the Preschool Set

When I mentioned that I have been intentional about doing projects with my preschoolers, several readers mentioned that they are not arts-and-craftsy-type moms.  While I do enjoy pulling out the markers, paint, and chalk, sometimes I'm not in the mood for mess and I shelve the crafts in favor of my very favorite toddler activity-- reading!  

I still have to be intentional  when I sit down to read to my preschoolers since I'm forever being presented with elementary-level stories or asked to read "just one more chapter" of our current read-aloud.  My preschoolers lose interest if I don't turn the page often enough and get bogged down with complicated plot lines, but they thrive on short stories that are both happy and comforting.

Tom and Pippo series by Helen Oxenbury
Originally published in the 1980s, we discovered Tom and Pippo when Gavin was a baby.  The stories of a little boy named Tom and his stuffed monkey, Pippo, are simple and endearing.  Whether Tom and his mother are walking to the park or reading a book with Daddy, the author brings a level of comfort to the text.  Even though there are only a handful of words per page, I don't get tired of reading them over and over, and considering I've been reading them for over nine years, that's really saying something!

Little Pookie
by Sandra Boynton
Fans of Sandra Boynton books for years, we were not introduced to her Little Pookie series until Benjamin's first birthday.  These silly stories of a pig and his mother are written in prose, with enough rhyme and lilt to keep little ears interested.  Also in our home library are Boynton's Moo Baa La La La which our toddlers have all learned to "read" to themselves and Blue Hat, Green Hat which older siblings like to read to the younger ones.

It's the Bear!
by Jez Alborough
Though it's actually the second book in this three-book series, the story stands on its own and it was the one we read first.  Eddie and his mom go to the woods for a picnic and meet up with The Bear.  Though Eddie is afraid, it is not a scary, bad-dream-inducing story. Told in poem form (which always holds my preschoolers' attention),  the story is light and happy. 

The Sam books
by Amy Hest
I always get the warm fuzzies when I read these books to my children.  I love the stories of Sam and his mother.  I love how they take a sometimes un-pleasant thing-- bedtime or an illness-- and make it seem pleasant.  I love looking for the little mouse on every page.  I love how Mrs. Bear showers little Sam with kisses.  I'll miss these books when my kids outgrow them. 

Henry and Mudge
books by Cynthia Rylant
Though containing far more words per page than my preschoolers usually tolerate, they make an exception for these books.  They soak them up!  We also enjoy Rylant's Poppleton books and my personal favorites, the Mr. Putter and Tabby books, but my youngest listeners prefer the tales of Henry and his big, drooly dog, Mudge.    The simpler Puppy Mudge books are also great for beginning readers to read to their preschool siblings. 

by Barbro Lindgren
Originally published in Swedish, these translated books are ultra-simple, with only two or three words on each double-page spread.  We love them anyway.  We rarely leave the library without at least one in our bag since this series is Alaine's current favorite.  They capture toddler behavior so precisely.  Dropping a cookie in the tub or having trouble sharing a favorite toy or not wanting to use the big potty?  We can so relate! 

What are your favorite preschool books?

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