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sugar city journal

Updated: 2018-04-20T02:40:46.351-07:00


Hi! And goodbye! I'm moving (virtually)


our daughters (cousins!) jumping into a big cold lake

Hi there. It's been a loooong long time since I've posted up here...  In case you are interested, I am jumping into something new and moving my online home to this new site where I will sporadically post about various adventures in painting, family, and whatever else may randomly come to mind, when I remember to do so. (I know, I've made that sound tempting).

I speak for both Melissa and myself when I thank you so much for being a part of our lives for the past few years. Your comments have made us laugh, stimulated thoughts, and supported me through my random, stumbling self-improvement projects and various maternal crises. Thank you so much for being a part of our lives and for never judging us. Thank you for reading my rambling run-on sentences and for letting me tell you weird stories about my children. Thank you for enjoying Melissa's gorgeous photographs, furry clay creations and clothing designs with me. Thank you for teaching us so many things and sharing your insights and your favorite books. We feel amazingly blessed to have connected with a community of such tremendous women.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Favorite things


The other night a small group of friends came over for a favorites party. Have you heard of these? Everyone brings five of their favorite thing (under $5, or homemade) and after putting your name five times into a bowl, you draw five names of other people - and you bring their favorite thing home with you. So you come with five of your favorite, and go home with five new favorites. Get it?

(le diner)

So much fun. I love learning details like this about friends. A sampling of the favorite things people shared: a great bar of dark chocolate plus organic chapstick; mini colored enamel colanders; bags of pink lady apples; homemade lemon sugar scrub; stationary for writing thank you notes; packets of homemade cards with a great pen (nothing is better than writing with a good one!); and basil + tomato plants with an amazing recipe for a summer no-cook spaghetti sauce (which I can't wait to try).

I brought - 5 small packets of loose leaf herbal tea from Teavana, packaged in muslin bags with a tinier bag of sugar cubes inside. (The citrus lavender is my most favorite flavor but the wild orange blossom is pretty great too).

Summer reading: updated book list for kids


Vincent Van Gogh, Still Life with Three Books, 1887Only two weeks (!) of school to go for my kids. I'm starting to plot our summer plans and a big part of that is summer reading. Awhile back we collectively came up with a list of favorite children's books that I'm re-posting, with lots of updates. As you add your comments I will incorporate your recommendations into the list. (Please tell me what category you think the books you add should fall in.) And since my oldest is 11, I'm especially looking for ideas for him - he's at that awkward not-quite-a-teen-not quite-a-little-kid juncture. Any favorites appreciated!{List after the jump - it is long!}Classics (or should be so considered, in my opinion)Usborne's Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare (the illustrations in this are so lovely)Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, by Betty Macdonald Mary Poppins, by P.L. TraversGinger Pye, by Eleanor EstesThe MoffatsJust So Stories, by Rudyard KiplingBlack Beauty, by Anna SewellThe Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth GrahameThe House on Pooh Corner, by A.A. MilneThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz series, by L. Frank BaumAlice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis CarrollPeter Pan, by J.M. BarriePippi Longstocking, by Astrid LingrenCharlotte's Web, by E.B. WhiteStuart LittleTrumpet of the SwanHenry and Ribsy, by Beverly ClearyThe Mouse and the MotorcycleRamona seriesThe Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall (I LOVE these books)The Penderwicks on Gardam StreetThe Secret Garden, by Frances Hodson BurnettA Little PrincessLittle Women, by Louisa May AlcottLittle House in the Big Woods and series, by Laura Ingalls WilderCheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Ernestine Gilbreth CareyMandy, by Julie Andrews (this one is a gem for little girls)Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by Ian FlemingMr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence AtkinsThe Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-ExuperyThe Cricket in Times Square, by George SeldenWhere the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson RawlsSummer of the MonkeysFive Little Peppers and How they Grew, by Margaret SidneyHarriet the Spy, by Louise FitzhughPoppy, by AviThe 13 Clocks, by James ThurberBetsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart LovelaceShoes series, by Noel StreatfieldShel Silverstein (poetry)Lost Queen of Egypt, by Lucile MorrisonRoxie and the Hooligans, by Phyllis Reynolds NaylorThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jaqueline Kelly (another new one that I loved)Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth EnrightMy Father's Dragon series, by Ruth Stiles GannettClarice Bean series, by Lauren ChildAnything Louis SacharAnything Judith ViorstMy Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead GeorgeMysteriesFrom the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. KonigsburgThe Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler WarnerNancy Drew series, by Carolyn KeeneThe Hardy Boys series, by Franklin W. DixonThe American Girls SeriesFantasyThe Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. LewisMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, by Robert C. O'BrienThe Book of Three and series, by Lloyd AlexanderThe Giver, and series, (any really anything) by Lois LowryThe Return of the Twelves, by Pauline ClarkeFive Children, by E. NesbitIt, by E. NesbitCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald DahlJames and the Giant PeachThe TwitsThe WitchesFantastic Mr. FoxThe BFGDanny, Champion of the WorldMatildaThe Phantom Tollbooth, by Norman JesterThe Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizziThe Princess Academy, by Shannon HaleThe Goose Girl (and series)The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamilloThe Mysterious Journey of Edward TulaneThe Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee StuartDragon Slipper Series, by Jessica Day GeorgePrincess of the Midnight BallCity of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrauPeople of SparksEmily Windsnap series, by Liz KesslerGuardians of Ga'Hoole series, by Kathryn LaskyGregor the Underlander series, by Suzanne CollinsFunnyTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy BlumeSuperfudgeGoosebumps Series, R.L. StineThe Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry (I thought this book was funny but my kids were totally creeped out[...]



I've been a little obsessed with making paper flowers over the past couple of months. It is the perfect quick thing to do with your hands that doesn't require too much thought and I love how delicate and stretchy crepe paper is.

our flower chandelier

our fancy animals

Great instructions for making paper flowers are on Martha Stewart and Oh Happy Day (btw, Oh Happy Day contains a treasure trove of other ideas for what to do with your paper flowers. Many, many festive ideas!).

Happy mother's day this weekend!

capturing a family


(all photos, Monika Elena)If you have read this blog for any amount of time you might remember seeing the photography of my brilliant friend Monika Elena. She's been featured on Design Mom (be sure and click the link there - such beautiful portraits), LMNOP, and La Petite Magazine. She's shot for Dagmar Daley, Wovenplay, and tons of other gorgeous kids' clothiers (look at these she took for Noro Paris - they are insane). We have been lucky enough to have her take our family pictures once in Sacramento a few years ago - and then in a crazy great stroke of fate it turned out that she was in Maryland the summer my sister Ann got married in Virginia, and she was able to shoot my sister's wedding (the pictures are so romantic). Monika has a relationship with beautiful.If you live in Northern California/Sacramento area, Monika will be here from the beginning of July through mid-August!!!! Schedule her now - she'll fill up quick! In my opinion investing in beautiful family pictures is a tremendously worthwhile thing, something you will have forever. And Monika (in addition to being the nicest person you will ever meet - which helps if like me you are camera- sensitive :) ) is just extraordinary. See you in July, Monika![...]

Sister Boot Camp


This week my 8 and 5 year old girls are grounded, for fighting.
(They look so idyllic in these pictures.)
But fight they do.
So we are having sister boot camp this week.
I mean business.
That's right, I'm calling in the big guns.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Forced viewing of Little Women.
(Save us, Marmee, with your pacifist ways!)
I'm so desperate that I might even be forced to adopt some kittens, because kittens make everyone love each other.

Mean or magnifique?


(such a concerned baby.)

Bonjour friends!

Since we last talked, my two year old has become so very... two. And even though this is my fourth time raising a toddler, the irrationality caught me off guard all the same. I noticed that I was spending a lot of time attempting to bargain with her. Situations like this, for example: daughter thrashing on floor of the room, while I waved two diapers (different colors) frantically around, pleading, "which one? pink or white?" hoping her anger over needing to have her diaper changed would subside by being given a choice. Or: "If you let me buckle you into your car seat" [instead of acting like I'm asking you to sit on a lit bonfire], "you can look at this book, or this one!"

One day in the midst of this exhausting process I remembered an article I read awhile ago that talked about how we give small children far too many choices, and that parents need to have more authority with less apology. I agree with this concept 100% although I can't even begin to tell you how engrained in me is this choice-giving habit. (Before I had kids, I took a couple of child development classes where that seemed like the main theme - empower your kids to cooperate by giving them choices. Do you remember learning that too?) So, I said, very firmly: "Wren. My angry baby. Sit down in your high chair. Now." And, do you know what she did? She meekly said, "otay," and obeyed. In truth she seemed a little relieved. Why did I forget that I was the one in charge?

So this whole thing has kind of been going on in my mind, and then this morning I came across this blog post about french mamans, which led me to this article, and now I am officially fascinated by this discussion. How do you incorporate appropriate levels of authority and discipline into your homes? To what degree are you firm? (and can you be specific in the how's because this (being firm) is hard for me and I want to be more convincing to my wee children.) How do you teach your children to be polite and respectful? Discuss, please.


Carpe Diem


(image) A friend and I were laughing the other day about how it's kinda annoying to be bombarded so constantly with the message of "being present" whilst engaged in mothering young children. Sometimes I feel like my present-ness is precisely the problem (I'm thinking of an incident that occurred 52 minutes ago involving the 5 year old, a cookie, and a very long time-out). This article from the Huffington Post has been making the rounds and I thought it was spot-on. Kairos is a word and concept I hope to remember.

But that being said, I do appreciate the occasional gentle reminders I periodically encounter that help me to embrace the very worst moments within this time of my life (which to clarify, I am enjoying :) ). My cousin Emily sent me a copy of an adorable children's book, Oscar, which describes a bunch of bad and true things the author Amber Tayler's son did - like burying her jewels in the backyard during a game of pirate (so bad) and pouring milk in the grandma's purse (again, so bad). The book is told from the child's perspective and after describing the awful thing he's so innocently done, he follows up with statements like "I had to remind Mom to use her quiet voice" and "I had to remind mom we should love all of God's creatures." So cute and if you think about it very touching.*

What have been your worst parenting moments, a la Oscar? I never tire of hearing the naughty things little ones do.

*when the child is over the age of 7! :)

Dusting off the old brain


Hey there! So I've been seized once again by the January desire to dust off my old brain, dull from the comfortable routines of carpooling and errand running and negotiating. I found a free online class that I am here committing to finish . The one I chose, about Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, is good for me because it doesn't involve reading tons of books (just 4 short-ish ones) but I foresee that it will push me out of my reading comfort zone and make me think a little (I can tell you that I would never normally pick up Uncle Tom's Cabin for some light reading). Here's the site if you are interested in seeing all the great free online classes that are available. The list keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So! If you, like me, need a little Huckleberry Finn in your life this winter, take the class too, and we can discuss. I'm hoping that as an adult reading these books by my own choice I might get a little more out of them than when I read them as a distracted note-writing high-schooler (although, come to think of it, constant distraction is still a main theme in my life - which I totally blame on this dude

and this lot, now)

Happy New Year!


Hey! I hope you had a great Christmas. We had a lovely time, and now it's time to take down Christmas here, do a bit of cleaning and get onto the New Year! But first I want to say that I have been thinking about how I have come to rely a great deal on your insights and advice as we've discussed parenting, books, home & hearth, etc. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of yourself. I really feel like if I knew many of you in person we would be great friends (in addition to real-life friends who pop in here, of course). So thank you! This blog has kind of evolved into a tool for self-improvement for me and I appreciate your opinions, ideas and support so very much.

See you in the New Year. It will be a great one.

Christmas Nativity


I've only put out like 60% of our Christmas decorations this year, mainly because most of the time when I think about it, the garage seems like it would be too cold and at this point that ship has probably sailed. :) But we did manage to finally make our nativity movie yesterday, which is total chaos but so fun. Here's the link if you are interested (it's six minutes).

Have a great day!

Wabi Sabi: Christmas


This December my goal is to worry a lot less about how Christmas looks, and more about how Christmas feels (I am so easily distracted by pretty). And if that means that I let my naked toddler eat the candy off the advent calendar bottom two rows on day 5, so be it.

Here's a great quote from Janene Baadsgaard:
"Like wishing for the fancy images in the women's magazines [or beautiful websites], we often look in all the wrong places for that elusive something that will finally make our life complete. If we make Jesus Christ our dearest friend, we don't have to search any longer. That first Christmas night long ago had a simple cast of characters - a mother, a father, a child. Yet there is nothing in the entire world that can surpass the mission of that tiny babe born on that holy night. Jesus triumphed over sin and death, and because of those gifts we can face anything that comes our way with faith and hope. A picture-perfect Christmas is a tinsel illusion. Coming to Christ creates a rich reality."

Isn't that lovely? Just the re-focus that I needed. I hope you have a great day. Merry Christmas!

Minding the Unruly: help from books


I was reading Tricia's beautiful Home Made Happy blog the other day and she made reference to parenting wisdom gleaned from parent-characters in her favorite books. I thought, I can totally relate! Is it weird that much of how I try to parent comes from fiction? Do you do that too? Some of my fictional parent heroes:-Mr. Penderwick: (the Penderwick books are my new favorites). Lots of room for those girls to be independent and free, and he gives them such intellectual riches in their conversations and home life. Sympathetic and funny, yet still a moral compass. And he's so funny (did you read the second book? Marianne Dashwood?)-Marilla Cuthbert: (Anne of Green Gables) tough love, baby.-Matthew Cuthbert: (Anne of Green Gables) tough love is great but sometimes you just really need to get your kid some puffed sleeves.-Mrs. Comstock: (Girl of the Limberlost) She got off to a rough start but it's never too late to make changes. Usually the damage isn't too permanent, nothing that a few great lunch box meals can't fix.-and of course, we can't even have this conversation without talking about Mrs. Ingalls. On this I will quote an email sent to me by my dear and brilliant friend Alexandra:"I have developed a mothering ideal based loosely on doing whatever best fits the answer to the question: What would Ma Ingalls do? It falls short often because it is so hard to translate across the century of change, and maybe I just don't have all the data on the psychological health of the kids of that generation, but I tend to think that it was sort of a good thing that Ma was so wrapped up in keeping them all from starving to death, freezing to death or being torn apart by wild animals that she was not able to spend all her day in play with her kids. Probably good, too, that Laura had to help out to keep herself and her family alive. I loved those books as a little girl but when I reread them a few years ago I was struck by two things: 1) they are sort of boring and 2) the purpose of all they did was to survive. The idea that you live to not die is so foreign to me. I know we cannot replicate that in our homes and it is silly to try to do so, but that doesn't stop me. I was going to end that sentence differently, but the truth got in the way. Ma and Pa were devoted to their kids and talked to them and taught them and spent all sorts of time (Pa didn't have a job, after all, he just hunted for food and then stored it) together. But they didn't dote on their kids. And I don't think they even worried about their feelings or emotions so much as their not-dying or their characters. And I think their characters benefitted from their parents not doing much more than trying to keep them alive and demanding that the kids do their part in ensuring family survival, too.I think that we love our kids so much and want to give them all we had and more--all the things that went wrong for us or that our parents did wrong we want to do right. Those are natural impulses, but if we go too far with them I think we do ourselves and our kids a disservice. Life is tough sometimes. Other people live here, too, and their feelings and pursuits matter, too. If we are always sacrificing our everything for our kids, how will they learn that they are strong, independent people? How will they learn that the world does not stop for them, or revolve around them? Or, would we want our own kids to entirely drop their skills and interests to cater to their children's schedules and demands? Sometimes it helps to get out of the too-child-centered approach to the world to ask the question that way: would I want my own child to grow up and live like this (in this marriage, job, mothering pattern)?" gets so hard because I don't mean [...]

Minding the Unruly: the trouble with homemade Christmas gifts


I have a fantasy each Christmas of my children taking time to carefully consider each other's likes and craft sweet, thoughtful presents for one another.

This has unfortunately never quite played itself out well. Probably because I have been a smidge too hands-off in my role as adult over-seer. For instance, last Christmas my then-7 year old made a personalized sash (yes, that's what it is. see above photo) for her 4 year old sister. I'm so sorry to say that it was not received with delight.

This year, I'm going to try ONE MORE TIME to salvage this fantasy but I'm taking the bull by the horns: each child will choose something they can make in a batch for their siblings and that thing will be a cool thing they can choose off of a list of projects that I will assemble.

My ideas so far have mostly come from careful perusal of Design Mom's trove of DIY sibling christmas projects. I'm thinking especially of the bleach shirts, pocket hand-warmers, decoupage sketchbooks, and bubble bath. Also great could be jewelry boxes, jewelry, or frankly, cookies.

Ideas? Once more pinterest is a valuable tool for such research... I'd love to hear things that have worked well for you!

Things I've learned starting a school art program


(Klimt inspired, gold paint and pastel)Hi! So many things that make kids into happy adults are impossible to measure: people skills, grit, and I believe an appreciation for beauty and trust in their own ability to think creatively. Whatever we can do to nurture those things in children is time well spent, don't you think? We are in the third official year of the Parent Art Docent Program at our elementary school. I feel like I've learned a lot through trial and error in the last few years about getting something like this going, so I thought that I would write a little about my experience in the hope that it might save someone out there wanting to do a similar thing a few headaches. (Warning - it's super long and rambling).First of all, in California, our state budget is in dire straits and our district has had to make huge cuts to survive the last couple of years. There is no money for art education (although we are still very fortunate to have a music teacher at our school), so four years ago I began volunteering in my son's second grade class each week teaching art history-based art lessons that I found in books or on museum websites. It was really fun and not as hard as I'd worried and everyone had a great time - me, the kids, the teacher - so at the end of the year I went in and talked to the principal about starting an official program where parents came in and taught art-history based lessons in as many classes as possible. She was on board and so I spent the summer putting together binders of lessons, mostly from museum websites, and powerpoint presentations for visuals to go with each lesson (all of our classes have LCD projectors that hook up to teacher laptops) that could be emailed to the teacher before the lesson was presented. (animal mummy, before getting wrapped in gauze and decorated. clay)The first official year was okay. We had a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers (the volunteers have been incredible. When I say "okay" that is in reference to my work figuring out the program, not to our volunteer docents) and at the end of the year we had a tiny little display of art in the school cafeteria. I hadn't done a great job of organizing the art during the year, so some of the art ended up not having names on it which I felt so badly about. We have since implemented a really obviously simple way to keep track of the art: we buy a bunch of poster board at the beginning of the year, and every student participating in the program gets a portfolio (poster board folded in half and stapled on the sides). All art made during the year gets put in the child's portfolio, and the portfolios stay IN THE CHILD'S CLASSROOM. Before the spring art show the kids choose their favorite piece to display, and at the end of the year the portfolios go home. Another thing I learned: the binder lesson system I slaved over for the docents was totally unnecessary. Many of the volunteers discovered that they loved researching and finding their own lessons - which is so great! - so we ended up creating a school art docent blog, where we put pictures of finished pieces and links to lessons that we found online that worked with our supplies and classroom set-ups. There are zillions of amazing blogs out there that art teachers around the world maintain, which really have been our very best resource. A few favorites that always deliver: deep space sparkle, incredible art department, and art dish. Lately I've also been finding great ideas on pinterest. Last year was much better. The program became clearer and simpler in its goals - mainly, to provide each class in the school with a parent art docent (hopefully regularly, but for sure at least once), and to h[...]

Fall re-arrangement: art room


My re-arranging/cleaning kick continued! One of the places I really needed to tackle was my tiny and very narrow art room. It's a funny little space, because it is technically part of our family room: (see it, all the way at the end of the room through the kinda disco wall cut-out?)(my knitting is always casually draped over the couch like that :). Just kidding, I totally put it like that for the picture)The art room has traditionally been a shocking mess, which is unfortunate since you can see a lot of it through the wall cut-out. Would you like to know just how messy? I will show you because I have no dignity. (Mom, if you are reading this shield your tender eyes. It is very terrible.) Yup. There it is, folks. To actually get anything done I had to bring it out of the art room onto a different table. The irony.As abused as the room is, I love having a spot for all of my random art and sewing stuff. And that big table at the end is so great for the kids (when there is room on it to work) - but in the six years we've lived here I never really felt like I had a good system to keep everything successfully contained and every time I cleaned it, the room just went back to looking like these photos after, like, a day. (view from the art room into the family room. It is nice to be able to supervise things while standing over here)But now: hopefully we are getting somewhere. Over the years we've bit by bit been adding sections of elfa shelving to the wall (the newest addition being the narrower shelf holding the small jars).(my sketchbook actually fits on the desk part!)I requisitioned some more baskets and jars for separating art supplies for the kids. (This will not stay this clean. In fact as I type this, I can see it, and it's messy again. But that's ok with me, it's easier to clean up now that I have places to put things back into).I have my easel set up in the corner where I never have to take it down (these days it takes me several months to finish a painting. Carissa - there's a sneak peak for you! Not done yet but in progress!), and space for the dangerous stuff on a high shelf.And I've finally moved my bulletin boards to a level where a baby can't toddle by and tear off a tasty paper treasure to chew on (this has been an ongoing problem for about four years. Only the baby changes.)So, wish me luck to keep it clean. Any tips on containing all of your creativity? I've started a pinterest board on studio spaces that inspire me to be neater (and, hopefully more productive. Because pinterest totally increases productivity! :) ). Melissa, where do you keep all of your painting stuff, and your whirlwind 8 year-old-mad-sewists' materials??[...]

Fall re-arrangement: entry way


Lately in my internet moments I've been totally loving the charming and ever-so-helpful Little Green Notebook. I love Jenny's down to earth approach to decorating and how generous she is with her vast amount of home-dec. knowledge. Did you see her recent tour of the home of her college friend Emily? I loved it because (1) they did so much of it themselves gradually and on a budget and (2) because Emily pays attention to all the little nooks in her home and takes the care to arrange things beautifully. (And - she is an amazing sewer! She did most of her window treatments). Go check it out if you haven't seen it. It is such a friendly and warm house.

Seeing Emily's pretty rooms stimulated me to look at my home with fresh eyes. When you enter our house from the garage through the laundry room, we have an awkward little entry area. (I should have taken a before picture so you can truly understand how boring this wall was - a crooked picture hung here and this chair was piled with bags, things to be recycled and stray preschool papers). I gathered up some homeless frames from the garage and now I am so happy to walk into our house and see this little gallery.

(My mom sent me this little one below. It means that you should think of yourself third, after God and your fellow men. I love that simple recipe for happiness when I come in and out.)

Next up, radical clean-up of our art room...

Halloween (with the spooky filter on the iphone camera)


Hello out there, friends! It's been a long time.October is totally my most favorite month of the year. Where I live in California we have seasons but they are on the subtle side - and so the way you really feel "fall" approaching is through the halloween decorations that begin to pop up on lawns and houses around us.(I especially love the ghost my girls made and taped on our door. Scary!)I find Halloween decor to be somewhat of a slippery slope. Years ago I began with the classy natural approach: a bare grapevine wreath, candy corns in a jar on the counter, blown-out eggs painted with semi-spooky Martha Stewart designs.But soon pine cones and pumpkins no longer satisfied my who-knew-they-were-so-bloodthirsty children so I bought a tombstone for the lawn. The next thing you know we have an upsidown (presumably being tortured?) skeleton hanging from the limbs of a sweet little tree in the front yard and I find myself participating in a dinnertime conversation with the husband and children wondering if perhaps it might not be a good idea to make a pretend fire beneath the dangling skeleton. What?!But really, it's hard to compete when you have this across the street from you:and this:Yes, those are zombie BABIES behind the dismembered bloody man. My friend Liz has I think found the perfect middle ground. Check out her flock of paper bats, flying across her family room:Spooky and yet not something that would be forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Happy October![...]

Made to Play - giveaway


The winner is Sue!
** ** ** **
Hello out there! Happy Friday! My girls and I are going to watch "Anne of Green Gables" tonight and I have been excited about it all week but also kind of nervous. Will they love it as much as I did?! Will they cry when Matthew gives Anne her puffed sleeves? The suspense is killing me.

(image) Anyhow, onto the business at hand: I have a fantastic giveaway - Roost Books sent me a copy of Joel Henriques' Made to Play. It is so great! This book is full of genius ideas for simple projects that kids love playing with. For instance, I spent a very exciting hour today with 3 cute and extremely irrational four year olds making animal finger puppets.

(image) See? So much fun.

(image) So leave a comment and I'll do the random number thing and post the winner next Wednesday. Have a great weekend!

minding the unruly: a mother's time (during summer)


my mom and my 18 month old at Point Lobos (Okay, ladies, I'm going out on a limb here - I don't normally post such personal things, but I'm really interested in your experiences on motherhood/time/balance...please don't be too critical of me for my honesty below.) I recently read a quote on Courtney Kendrick's blog from writer and poet Emma Lou Thayne, about a phrase the writer often said to her children: "I love you with all my heart, but not all my time." It made me stop and think. This summer, I have loved my children with all my heart, and also with pretty much all of my time. And consequently I have felt, to be brutally honest, a little out of balance, and to be even more honest (in the hopes that maybe there are others out there who might relate?), an undercurrent of irritation (gasp. I can't believe I just put that out there on the internet) with my children as we've flown through our summer, our days packed with swimming, play-dates, cleaning, cooking, blah blah blah. All day long we go because that's what kids do - and when I force my unruly lot to stop for a quiet hour or two I am usually still right there going- putting a little one down; squeezing in one more load of laundry, folding another batch of clothes or trying to speed-clean the car. And overall I feel a little brittle, strung too tightly; less able to appreciate those sweet moments of brilliance you can experience watching a child grow. All the while I am acutely aware of the fact that my children's smallness is day by day slipping away from me as they fight their way forward to independence and (another gasp!) toward junior high. On one hand the pragmatist in me is not sure how I can agree with Emma Lou Thayne, at least not yet. If I don't give my family all my time right now, really, who would feed the baby? Who would make sure the 4 year-old learns good manners, or help the 7 and 10 year-olds learn to do their chores consistently? I want so much for them all to be hard workers. Who would keep the TV off, and make sure that everyone is fed, and fed healthfully? Who would make sure homework gets done and instruments practiced? Who would make sure we have fresh clothes to wear and a home that is clean(-ish)? I've been so fortunate to be the main at-home shepherd for my little flock, and I'm exquisitely grateful for opportunity to do these things for my family. I love it and am satisfied by it, even on the hardest of days. But I also absolutely see the beauty of what Emma Lou Thayne said, and I wonder: is it the ages of my children that don't allow for personal time, or my parenting style? And, would I be a better mother (and, woman) if I was better at somehow carving out more time to continue developing parts of myself that I think are important, too? It's funny how many of us spend the formative years of our lives acquiring skills and talents, and then at some point when we become grown-ups, kind of stop. One example of this -- we've talked before about music lessons on this blog, and my mother worked very hard to make sure that I was shuttled to, and prepared for, my own years and years of piano lessons. I love to play but very rarely sit down to seriously practice now. It makes me feel like somewhat of a hypocrite that I diligently set the timer each day for my own children and yet don't require the same from myself, and although my mother never asks me about it, I wonder if I'm kind of mocking her efforts by my own failure to keep up what she worked so hard to help me learn. You could maybe apply that same reasoning to any of the tale[...]

Quebec? Si!


I was so lucky to go on a trip with my mom and sisters this July to Quebec. Quebec is really, really old, and very pretty. And, people speak french there. Because of the break-neck speed of our summer I didn't do a lick of research before hopping on the plane to go there - and I was totally taken aback (and delighted by!) the frenchi-ness of the city. All the french being spoken unleashed the motley barrage of high school french I have carefully tucked away in my little brain - but unfortunately not before I answered si a couple of times to some horrified shop-keepers. Ah, american pretty little sister [...]

Minding the unruly: 8 year old party


I was excited to throw my little-now-big 8 year-old a party this year, since last year we had to forego (it turns out you don't get a birthday party in our family if you cut all of your little sister's hair off). It was so fun and I was so, so proud of her for having a scissor-free year. (a blind-folded birthday girl)Elements of a successful party in our household include a very very loose theme (in this case, color), lots of balloons, games (bobbing for donuts - hands tied behind backs; button button who has the button; smashing dyed eggs filled with glitter; freeze dance); and candy. What kid doesn't love candy? (my daughter is a cheater! look at those hands.) a toast to the birthday girl! thanks for being such a delight, little one.[...]

party poppers


Just a tiny bit of summer left for us - hooray for school and more peace and quiet, but boo for homework and the return of running around after school! Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with summer vacation? :)Our last(-ish) summer project is my daughter's birthday party this week. We made invitations inspired by these festive party poppers......out of toilet paper rolls, tissue paper, wrapping paper, glue, and string. These are pretty simply constructed and you probably don't need me to show you how we did ours but just in case, I will.Cover one end with a little square of tissue paper glued down around the edges of the tube (I used hot glue)...and then fill the tube with confetti and a skinny little invitation.Before you glue tissue paper on the other end of the tube to seal it up, poke a little hole through the tissue, thread your string through, and tie a big knot (this will be the pull string, to open the popper). Glue the tissue paper on the other end of the tube, with the string hanging down outside of the tube (I'm writing that because I totally glued one of the strings inside a tube by accident). Once both ends are covered with glued-down tissue paper, cover the body of the tube with wrapping paper (or any interesting paper you may have laying around). Voila! This could also be a fun idea for Valentine's Day* *if your little one had a very small class.[...]

making an ugly lamp not so ugly


All you need is a bag full of interesting buttons, an old ugly lamp and lots of hot glue. An easy, satisfying summer project.


There the button lamp is in situ. Do you like the dear head? It's actually an antique pub sign. Anyone for some game pie or Welsh rarebit? We love English pub food.


This is where the seven-year old sits every morning for her ritual piano practice. And I sit next to her, with a jar of bribery skittles. Helping her focus is my daily patience exercise. Do any of you have any music-lesson bribery ideas?



...a quick follow-up to the photo keeping post - I just saw that snapfish is having a sale, 99 prints for 99 cents through July 8 (code JULYPENNY99). (!) That is one great deal and I am going to get some prints made.

ps: has anyone ever ordered prints from hipstamatic? I love my hipstamatic iphone app - my iphone is fast becoming my camera of default - but have yet to try printing pictures through them (it seems a tad expensive, but maybe worth it for a few favorites?)