Friday, 27 September 2013

Focusing and Visiting

Another great week. School - for some reason sadly unknown to me - is going so smoothly this year. I've thought about it a lot and have come up with two possible reasons for this.
First, my second son has always had a problem focusing. This slows him down in his schoolwork which frustrates him. It also makes me nag him a lot which irritates both of us. Apparently this is not an isolated problem among boys. This summer I was reading one mom's solution. She has her son wear an ipod which is playing classical music. So in desperation but not holding out much hope I asked my husband to load an ipod with classical music. The theory is that with the music playing directly into their ears through the earbuds it helps to drown out other distractions, and listening to classical music is good for brain development.
Well, let me tell you - it works. About a week into school the ipod battery ran out so we had a day without it. I could not believe the difference. I was back to nagging every five minutes, and it took my son so much longer to get through his work. I'm sold. I'll be interested to see if his overall average this year is higher than last year. I think it might be. Even though he's finishing faster, his marks are the same or better than last year so I know he's not finishing faster just because he's rushing through to be done.
Secondly, I've come up with some activities for my toddler that he can do on his own or with minimal input from me. This is important. My toddler is a high needs little guy. I'm going to do a post soon on all the activities we've come up with for him to do. He's so much happier this year - less tears = less stress. Now if someone could only tell me how I can cut his hair without him acting like he's enduring unspeakable torture.
My baby is working hard to grow up faster than I think he should. He pulls himself up now next to furniture and occasionally lets go to free stand. He's also climbing the stairs so we have to keep an ever watchful eye out for that. He's also in the middle of his first cold. True to his nature, he's the happiest sick baby I've ever seen.
I've lost 24 pounds now on my diet and I'm seeing numbers on the scale that I haven't seen in about eight years. It feels so good.
My oldest son is still visiting cousins, and I miss him a lot. It's so wonderful though that he can have this time to cement his friendship with his oldest cousin (on my side) especially. I know he'll come home with a lot of good memories, and I can hardly wait for that day.
Pretty soon I will hit the 100 posts mark. My husband and I have been talking about what we can do to make this special - since I never thought I would make it this far. So be on the lookout for that announcement.
That's about all for now. A great all-round week. How do you help your children focus? Does your toddler scream when he gets his haircut (at the same time he was assuring us that it didn't hurt. I ask you then - Why scream?)?

Recap from this week:
  Library Time Week 9
  Triple Twist Bun
  Tradition, Tradition

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Tradition, Tradition

I love the opening scene from "Fiddler on the Roof". Tevye explains that life for the Jewish people is like a fiddler trying to play a fiddle while balanced on a roof. What keeps them up there? - tradition. If you haven't seen this song, you should watch it. Watch the whole movie. Our family loves it. I was watching "Tradition" just to get the feel again, and my children said we really need to watch the whole movie again soon.
Thanksgiving comes early for us as Canadians. Our is the second Monday of October. I usually try to have our decorations up by the beginning of September. It didn't happen that way this year, but then Thanksgiving happens to fall in almost the middle of October this year so that's okay.
Yesterday we put our decorations up, and when my husband came home from work he took over his part of our Thanksgiving traditions. Every year he draws a tree for us. Then we ad"trd leaves to it - one per day per person. The leaves tell something we are thankful for. The children look forward to Daddy drawing our tree. There's always giggles, laughter and more than one "Daaaaaddy". He has a funny sense of humour that comes out in his drawing. There are innumerable requests for how the tree should be embellished. It's a fun time and we enjoy seeing the tree fill in.

It take a lot of concentration to get it just right.

starting to detail
the finished product


I love traditions. We have several in our family. I think they are part of the glue for our family. They are part of what makes us unique. Another Thanksgiving tradition is a giant 3-D turkey that we make. Part of the tradition is that more than half the time it doesn't stand up. We have fun anyway. Maybe sometime we'll get the recipe down perfectly so that it stands up every time but I'm not holding my breath.
Some families have pizza night or movie night or they have a special thing for birthdays (the birthday boy or girl is excused from all chores in our house and gets to pick the supper menu). Some families have traditional vacation spots. Some families let their children stay up as late as they want on Christmas Eve (I think this is so they won't disturb their parents too early on Christmas morning.). Whatever the traditions your family has it's important to have them. Children love routine. They love to know what's coming next. Yes, the odd surprise is fun, but I have learned that things go more smoothly when we know what's coming.
Many cultures have a rich heritage of how they celebrate different holidays and life events. I love to read about these traditions. Our lives are so much better when we put time and effort into making these meaningful times for our children. It's something they'll look back on and say, "Remember how..." or "We always..."
We can have a daily tradition of praying before we eat or a bedtime story; a weekly pancake breakfast; or the same way of treating a change in seasons or preparing for a holiday. Whatever you do have some traditions. They can be as simple as holding hands when you pray for a meal or as elaborate as several traditions done at the same time of year to celebrate something like Thanksgiving.
adding the leaves
Since I'm always looking to add to our family's traditions, what is your favourite tradition in your family?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Triple Twist Bun

My girls love to have their hair up in a bun for church, but I get a little tired of that. I'm always looking for ways to switch it but keep it simple. This hairstyle is a variation of one I saw on the internet.
To start with separate the hair into three even sections.

I start with the middle section and start twisting it. Keep twisting until it starts to twist up on itself and you can pin it in place.

Do the side pieces in the same manner.

It usually takes a couple of minutes longer to do these three small buns as opposed to one, but the result is much more dramatic and elegant. This would look pretty with a couple of small flowers or a row of baby breaths along the top edge. Or just leave it "undressed". It's still pretty.

Do you have a favourite quick but elegant hairstyle?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Library Time Week 9

Fall is here. The weather is cooling off and school is in full swing. It's a little harder to fit reading in now with school taking up several hours of our day, but since we are all bookaholics we manage.
I read an incredibly sad memoir of a female doctor from Darfur who was tortured and managed to escape to England where her husband already was. Let me tell you - it really puts my "problems" in perspective. How incredibly blessed we are in North America with the freedoms we have.
My children's reading...
15-year-old daughter - The Secret Keeper by Beverly Lewis and Robin Hood by Paul Creswick. She's on a Robin Hood kick right now.
13-year-old son - He's in the States right now visiting one of my sisters and her family. Before he left he was anxious to go so to pass the time he was devouring some books by Jake Thoene - Shaitan's FireFirefly Blue, Fuel the Fire.

Fuel the Fire (Chapter 16)
 Shaiton's Fire (Chapter 16)Firefly Blue (Chapter 16)

11-year-old son - King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Combat, a book of soldier stories

9-year-old daughter - still going with the Roman Mysteries

7-year-old daughter - What Do You Say, Dear by Sesyle Joslin and  Grandfather's Wrinkles by Kathryn England. This is one of my favourites. It was a library prize and the story is beautiful. Every wrinkle on Grandfather's face is attributed to a special day in the life of the family.

5-year-old son - Millions of Cats by Wanda Ga'g. He is in love with this book. I think he likes the big numbers.
2-year-old son - Life in the Great Ice Age by Mike Oard. The text for this is way over our toddler's head, but he and his dad have made up their own story for the pictures. He has literally worn this book out.

Do your children have any books that they read over and over again endlessly?

Friday, 20 September 2013

Flying Teenagers and Buttoning Toddlers

This has been a wonderful week. Three weeks in and school is still going smoothly. I've finally found a way of arranging our school week that makes things less stressful. My two year old has also started to learn how to occupy himself a little better although we still do use Baby Einstein on Youtube when I really need him to leave me alone so I can teach something - usually phonics to my five-year-old son.
So far this fall we've dehydrated, canned and frozen two bushels of peaches, frozen ten heads of cauliflower (chopped up) and tomorrow I'll be doing about six squash. I think I'm going to bake them, puree them and freeze it for adding to muffins, soups, etc. I'd like to get a pressure canner so I can can vegies and meat. I wasn't going to can peaches but my middle daughter really wanted to. We ended up with only four jars since we dehydrated and froze so many. We're saving them for something special - maybe have them with homemade vanilla ice cream.
This week was a major step forward for me as a mom. We sent our thirteen year old son off on the plane to visit my sister and her family. Let me tell you, for this terrified-of-flying mom it was a huge step forward. Everything went well and my son enjoyed his first time flying. Now he's enjoying time with his cousins.

I was happy to see him happy and safe.

For my Pinterest project this week, I made felt strips that button so you can put them together like a paper chain. These are for my toddler to play with during school. He can learn his colours, counting and how to button. I saw several variations of this. Most used Velcro. One used buttons which is what I decided to go with. They don't really need instructions. You can see from the pictures how easy these are to make. I hope to add more toddler activities this year as his attention span lengthens.
So do you have any suggestions for activities for my toddler who does not particularly like toys?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

DIY - Baby Wipes

I can't believe I waited so long to make wipes. For years I've thought about it, looked up recipes, but never tried. I finally took the plunge. Don't wait. These are so easy; it's unreal.
You need a roll of paper towels that you cut in half. After cutting my roll in half I pulled out the cardboard tube. It's a little tricky but can be done. I'm getting better at it after my third batch. Some say to soak the roll in the solution then pull the cardboard out, but I didn't want to waste my solution on something I was going to pull out and not use.
Then you need some baby wash/shampoo and some oil. I use sweet almond oil. The recipe I was using said to use  one tablespoon of the shampoo, but I found this was way too much. It makes the wipes really soapy. I've cut it back to one-half to one teaspoon.

So you need one teaspoon of baby wash/shampoo, one tablespoon of oil, one cup of water and a half roll of paper towels.

I mix the water, shampoo and oil right in the wipes container I have.

Then just put your roll of paper towels in and turn it until all the water is soaked up.

That's it! Now just pull the towels out from the centre. It only takes a couple of minutes to make. I haven't taken the time to figure out the cost compared to store-bought, but it has to be cheaper. As well, if you use a good baby shampoo it will be healthier.

So do you have some DIY project that you waited a long time to try, but then were glad when you finally did?

Monday, 16 September 2013

"These Are a Few of My Favourite Things..."

I'm a little tired, but I still wanted to post something so I put together a list of some of my favourite things to do that I've written about. Here they are in no particular order. Perhaps there is something that will catch your fancy to learn something new or do something you love. Have fun.




Baby Wearing





What is something you enjoy doing?

Friday, 13 September 2013

A Busy, Fun Week

This has been a good second week of school. I signed up for a blogging event where I have to visit about 50 other blogs and about 50 bloggers visit me. Wow! I've been busy visiting, commenting, learning and having fun. If you check out my post "School and Grace" you'll see that I've been getting a lot of comments.
I was finally able to sign up as a doTERRA associate and my introductory package came today. Along with some start-up info I ordered two bottles of lemon, two of TerraShield (an insect repellant) and Deep Blue (for rubbing into sore muscles). I am excited to have these. I know that there are dozens of ways for using the lemon so I'm going to be doing a lot of experimenting in the next several weeks.
I also had another fun package in the mail. In August I signed up for a giveaway on Facebook with "foodforthewarrior". Surprisingly and happily I won. Part of the giveaway was her cookbook - Food for the Warrior: Mission to Cook Healthy. I've had fun looking at it and I'm looking forward to trying some of the great whole food recipes.
I'm trying to do one or two things every week that I've pinned on Pinterest. I mean, why pin things but never use them? So today we made "Nut Butter Sourdough Cookies".  Next time we'll double the batch. I had sourdough starter because one of my goals this year is to make good sourdough bread. I'm not there yet, but I keep trying. This was a fun and easy way to use some starter.
I also accomplished a craft project. I made a valance for my kitchen window and covered the chair I use in the kitchen for sitting at my computer. I should have taken a before picture of the chair. I'm sure you all know what a ripped up vinyl seat looks like though. It's been ripped for months now so I was glad to get that covered.
I've been using my mai tei wrap more and more. Today I used it in the morning while the baby was sleepy but I couldn't take the time to rock him because I had to get some bread going for lunch. He was totally content on my back while I was kneading the dough. He didn't go to sleep then, but as soon as I took him down he nursed and drifted off - so sweet. I never tire of having my babies fall asleep in my arms.
I'm also gathering ideas for things I can make/do that will keep my toddler busy during school with minimal attention from me. I'll let you know how those go. Right now he's really into Mega Bloks. The only problem is when he gets frustrated when pieces don't go together the way he likes.
Anyway, that's my week. I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have more my toddler. He's really not one to play with toys. Legos and Mega Bloks have been the first toys that he has consistently played with day after day. How was your week?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Star Braid

This is one of our favourite hairstyles because you can dress it up or keep it simple.  It's called  a star braid because it makes a star pattern. I learned it from a hair blog that no longer exists.
I've found the parts on this style work best if the hair is slightly damp to start with. You will need eight elastics. Sometimes we do all the same colour. Sometimes we use two colours or four or eight. It's part of the fun - choosing the colours. To start part the hair down the centre and then find a middle point where all your other parts will come out from.

From the middle point make a diagonal part to the front of the head and put the hair in an elastic. Do the same on the other side.

Now make another part from your middle point to just behind the ears on either side adding the hair from your first set of elastics into the second set. My biggest struggle is always to get the elastics even. I don't always get it very well.

Divide the hair that is left in half with a diagonal part. Again add the hair from your last elastic into this elastic on either side.

Add the final amount of hair into elastics on either side of your main part.

Can you see the star?

Her hair has grown so much since we started doing this braid about four years ago. Sometimes we put bows at the top of the ponytails.

You could also take a little hair from each ponytail and put them together to make a third strand so you can make a braid.

Four years ago when she was starting kindergarten she opted for all different colours.

Sometimes the elastics stay in well enough that this hairstyle lasts for two days. That's a bonus when you're a busy momma.

Do you have a go-to hairstyle that is simple but can also be dressed up?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Quick Sewing Tip

I learned a new way of doing ruffles about five years ago, and it is so easy.
You need thin cotton yarn. Centre your string in a line where you want your ruffle to go. Use a wide zigzag. This pins the string in place without sewing it down. I try to stay close to the edge so when I sew my 5/8" seam the string isn't caught in it.

This is what you have.

Now you gather your ruffles along the string. I have found this to be faster and easier than a double row of stitching. I'm usually able to carefully pull the string out once the ruffles are sewed down and save it for another project.
Have you done this? What's your best sewing tip?

Monday, 9 September 2013

School and Grace

Homeschooling, as I have been finding out to my great surprise, is not for the faint of heart. Actually, nothing about motherhood is for the faint of heart. Sometime in the dim past I thought being a mom would be so easy. I loved babies and children. I had lots of experience with babysitting. I knew how to cook. I had this down cold. Then I had my first baby. Suddenly I realized that I knew so very little, and that while babysitting is good experience it doesn't even come close to preparing someone for being a 24/7 mommy.
Flash forward fifteen years and eight babies. I know so much more, but the most important thing I've learned is how little I really know. Baby #7 was and still is a huge challenge. Adding him to our school life took so much energy because he only wanted human arms - no swings, baby rockers, etc. Thankfully I had long since been comfortable wearing my babies so that helped. Still though it's tiring to teach five children of various ages, keep a preschooler happy and wear a baby. By the end of the 2011-2012 school year I was a little tired of school. Of course, my newest pregnancy was probably contributing to the fatigue.
I started school a couple of weeks earlier than usual in August 2012 so we could take extra time off when our new baby arrived sometime around the end of the year. Things were going pretty well until I started having complications with the pregnancy in late October and had to severely cut back on outings, housework, any activity really. After a difficult two months we finally welcomed our new little one just before 2013 started.
at 10 pounds they're still small
Baby #7 was not impressed with our new addition, who incidentally has been our easiest baby. He is happy and laid back with a beautiful dimple in each cheek. However, I was tired - tired of school, tired of always trying to figure out why my toddler was crying this time, tired of marking papers and being on a schedule, tired of never having time to sew, just plain tired. I don't know if this was burnout or just some heavy post partum fatigue due to a difficult third trimester.
check out the dimples
When school ended in early June I think I was happier than all of our children combined. Usually we do a little math three to four days a week just to keep up on the basics. This summer I decided that we'd just do some extra review in the fall. Then the reading lessons I was doing with my kindergartener slowly petered out over the summer. It was only about twenty minutes in the morning, but it started to feel like a burden.

I finally decided I needed to give myself some grace. It's okay if my children forget a few facts over the summer. It's perfectly fine if it takes my third son a little longer to learn how to read than it did his older siblings. If I want to sew because I enjoy it that's okay too - especially since so much of what I make is for my children anyway. I needed to try to not be so perfect for a while.

You know how it is. You read this and that blog. Their lives look so perfect and you think you have to implement ideas x, y and z to be the perfect mother. But that is such an unattainable goal. I needed to give myself the grace to quit trying to be perfect or to implement every idea that I thought would make our lives easier. I needed to relax and enjoy my family. So that's what I did this summer.
I did so much sewing. I love to sew and was surprised at how much I accomplished when I gave myself permission to just go at it. I went on errands with my husband when he was off work...something I can't do during the school year. Who knew grocery shopping could be a date? It was fun. We enjoyed lots of time together this summer. I let thoughts for a new chore system perk in my brain until I came up with something workable the week before we started school. And I slowly here and there started preparing for a new school year but without much enthusiasm.
one of my sewing projects

About two days before we were to start school I was finally getting excited. The children were excited to start a new year. My toddler is settling down so much. He's easier to keep occupied and the baby has worked into our school life quite easily.
So I've come to the conclusion that I should have given myself a dose of grace a long time ago. I'm so much more relaxed now than I was just a few months ago. I feel like I've had a fresh start. Our first week of school has been the best week I remember having in a long time. I had been feeling like I couldn't go on with homeschooling, but now I think I'm ready for another good long while. That's a good thing since I probably have almost another twenty years of it.
getting set up
starting her Bible lesson

Next time I'm feeling burned out I'm going to step back and see where I need to introduce some grace into my life.
How has homeschooling gone for you? Have you felt burned out and what helped?