Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Self-Confidence

My sister Pineapple is always sending me really great articles from Meridian Magazine. A few days ago she sent me this one, entitled "Establishing Authentic Self-Confidence through our Savior" by Carolyn Allen. It was really helpful to me, so I'm sharing it in case someone else needs it as much as I did. I think you'll be glad you took the time to read it.

It has been interesting to me to see the way the internet has affected the way we feel about ourselves and about others. Social media has all aspects of "social" in it, including popularity contests and the feelings of jealousy and inferiority that can come with comparing ourselves to others. I have had to deal with some emotional issues that I thought I left behind in high school because of facebook and even blogging.

But the internet also gives me access to emotionally strengthening resources that normally would be beyond my grasp. The online community has at times been my main source of interpersonal support, and articles like these have done a lot to lift me up and heal my emotional scars. I love the internet, though I am still trying to learn to use it wisely.

The Gymnasts at Home

Ever since I started the kids in gymnastics, my entire home is a gymnasium...


(Bean took this picture, which is why there is a camera strap in it!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Babywearing Happiness

I have always loved babywearing, but I probably don't love it as much as my babies do. They are so content when they are being used as a fashion accessory.

For long-term babywearing comfort my Hug-a-Bub carrier is the best thing in the world, but I've found that sometimes you need something fast and easy for a short-term babywearing need. Then a sling is totally the way to go. One of the things that has been on my mind since I had Peanut was that I needed a new sling. So I've had my eye on them. There are a lot of work-at-home moms who make them and sell them on etsy and ebay and I browsed through a lot of their stuff but nothing was grabbing me. I wanted it to be made out of a fabric that I absolutely loved. Everything I was seeing was made with really modern fabrics and while I really like some of those, many of them just don't do it for me. Most of my tastes are very traditional.

Last week when I had to go into the city for something I stopped by a quilt shop and fell in love with a new line of fabric from Moda-- "Pom Pom de Paris." And then, there on the wall was a sling pattern. So I made my own sling and Peanut and I both adore it.



Bean likes to take pictures of me pulling silly faces...


One of the great things about babywearing is that you can kiss their heads on the slightest whim:
And the awesomest thing about this pattern was that it also came with a pattern for a little girl's doll sling! I'd seen those on etsy too and they were also on my wishlist. It was a piece of cake to make and it's so darn cute:


Hooray for babywearing!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Family Store

It's been more than two years since we started the Family Store and it's just as popular as ever. It works so well as a motivator when I remember to use it. When I need something done and I'm frustrated that no one will do it if I can just remember to call out "who wants a Badger Buck?" then I never lack for willing hands. Lately I've been pretty good about doing that and remembering to write down who has how many Badger Bucks, as well as opening the Family Store consistenly every week or two (consistency is a huge key to successful parenting...)

Last time I got everything out of the bucket to do the Family Store I decided to take a picture just so you can see what it's like.


As you can see, it doesn't really look like a store at all, just a big spread of stuff all over my bed. But the kids don't care. They wait patiently outside my door while I set it up (even Rabbit) and then they come in one by one with a Christmas morning face to see what's there and spend their Badger Bucks.

When we started out I was trying to make it as cheap as possible and also as healthy as possible. I didn't want it to become a candy store, so I tried to only buy things like raisins and little tubs of applesauce. Those have been long-lasting favorites and they're still in the store, but I have to admit that more and more candy has been creeping in there lately. My kids don't get a lot of candy though, so it still has a ton of "wow" for them for very little cost on my part. And that helps because everything else in there is getting expensive. I used to buy little toys at the dollar store and the kids liked them, but I hated how junky they were and how fast they ended up in the garbage. So I've tried to budget and set aside a little money when I can to buy quality toys for the family store. We LOVE Schleich plastic figures. They are not cheap, but they are durable and realistic and my kids cherish them. And I mean cherish.

Art and craft supplies are also pretty popular and as the kids get older I imagine I'll be putting in more and more of that kind of stuff (skeins of yarn and embroidery floss are much better for a ten year old than a five year old.) The blank notebooks sell like hotcakes, oddly enough.

A few weeks ago I did a large order from Usborne Books (I pretty much have to do a big order to get the good deals for being a consultant) and instead of just giving the books to the kids or saving them for Christmas I decided to put them in the Family Store. That was a good idea. Fish has bought two awesome educational books and because he's so excited that he bought them himself he has gotten a lot more out of them.

I look forward to the day when my grown children will look back and say "Remember the Family Store? Those were the days..."

Yes, these are the days!
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Fashion Design by Roo

Roo has been wearing this shirt with this dress quite often lately. I think it looks cute. I think it should be a new trend.

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Spring Break

So, remember how Bean had an "off" day last Friday? Well, Monday wasn't a whole lot better and neither was Tuesday. I finally realized that he just needed a break. So I declared Spring Break from school on Wednesday.

It was perfect because I had been itching to work on a few projects (like the skirt for Peanut) and a school break gave me the time.

Bean has been bugging me for awhile now to teach him to use the sewing machine, but we never seem to have time. Now there was time. I gave him a sewing lesson and he took to the machine like a duck to water. (I knew he would-- he is SUCH a hands-on person.) He and I sat side by side and I worked on the serger while he worked on the sewing machine. With only a little bit of direction from me he very quickly put together a nine-patch.

I went downstairs to work on some other stuff (for some reason people around here think they need to eat from time to time, even when I'm busy sewing, if you can imagine!) Awhile later I came back to find Bean still at the machine and five completed nine-patches surrounding him. He chose the colors himself from my stash of already-cut quilt squares. And at that point he informed me that he had used up all my 4 1/2 inch squares and he needed me to cut some more.


I haven't had time to cut him any more squares and I'm debating whether or not he is old enough to use the rotary cutter and cut them himself....
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Warm Fuzzy of the Day

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The Chicken Tractor

We've had our chickens for six months now and everything's been fine, but recently the Badger has been working to improve our chicken set-up. He read a book about chickens a couple weeks ago that gave him all kinds of ideas about chicken keeping and ever since then he's been extra enthused about being a chicken farmer.

First thing he did was build a better laying box so the eggs wouldn't get as much manure on them. They are much cleaner now, which is nice. Here he is working on a brooder box with a wire mesh floor:


And here he is working on our chicken tractor, which is basically a moveable pen that you can use to let the chickens browse all over different parts of your pasture:


Here is the chicken tractor at work:


He put these cool wheels on it so it's super easy to move:


Now he's working on a contraption to easily transport the chickens from their main pen to the chicken tractor. Getting them out of there is easy: you just wait until its nearly dark and then you open the door and they run home to roost. But getting them in there is a little more tricky.

The other result of the Badger reading this book is that he got very excited about all the interesting breeds of chicken there are out there. Let's just say we're going to be adding to our flock soon when our order from the hatchery comes...
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Serge!

Six years ago I took an absolutely amazing sewing class that changed my life. One day, just when I was starting to finally get comfortable with my sewing machine, my teacher brought her serger to class. It looked terrifying. It had four spools of thread, for Pete's sake!

She said "you're going to serge now."

I said "NOOOO!!!!"

She said "YES."

I serged.

Then I said "I NEED ONE OF THESE!!!!!"

A couple weeks ago, after determining what our tax return was going to be, I looked at sergers on Amazon. I didn't know if this would be the year, since I don't have a lot of time for sewing, but I just wanted to see what a decent one would cost. And I couldn't believe it: there was one that got really good reviews that was only $200. They said it didn't do everything, but it was an awesome machine for a beginner. "Come look at this, Badger!" I called. He came into the office, looked at the computer for a minute, then reached over for the mouse. Click, click, click, and it was on its way to my house. Two day shipping. (We're loving Amazon Prime...)

I was so excited, but also so busy. If you can believe it, the serger sat unused on my sewing table for a fortnight. I was still a little scared of it (it has four spools of thread!) and I needed to take a good chunk of time to watch the instructional DVD. Day after day went by where I just didn't have the time or mental energy to process new information.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I watched the DVD. Then I threaded all four spools of thread. Then I serged.

How did I ever live without this thing? (It's almost as beautiful as the Tiffany poster behind it!)



Peanut's skirt was the perfect project to practice on. I learned some very important things not to do and I also learned that seam ripping serged stuff is a lot of work, but I was so pleased with how neatly and easily the skirt came together.


(And the Badger is very pleased with his new air compressor that I let him get since he got me a serger!)
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A Skirt for Peanut

About a year ago, my mom made these obscenely cute skirts for my girls. They have loved them and have worn them nearly constantly ever since. So I got thinking that now Peanut needed one too. I called my mom and asked her if she still had enough matching fabric to do a skirt for Peanut and she said she did. Then she said "how about I send you the fabric and you can sew it?"

Well, since I have a new toy that would be perfect for such a project I was all over that. I got the fabric a couple days ago and then this morning I found out how crazy easy these skirts are to sew, especially with a serger. It's a little big on Peanut still and she's got to be able to sit up at least for it to really work, but it's all ready for her to grow into.

Laying down shot:

Sitting up shot, which I had to take quick because she kept flopping over:


Because she really really wants to be able to roll over and likes to practice every chance she gets:


Thanks, Mom! Here's one more shot just for you:

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Oh, and By the Way...

...it WAS really good bread!!!!

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Fish Bowls

Fish went bowling with his Tiger den last week. We had such a fun time! I haven't been bowling in years and I'd forgotten what a hoot it is.



After the game, they took us into the back to show us how it all works. It was fascinating. There's a conveyor belt that goes around and around inside that red thing and it picks up each pin and lifts it up...


...then this mechanism picks up the pins at the top and feeds them into the tray. Very cool!


Add this to the long list of things for which Fish will for all his life be able to say "I did that in Cub Scouts."
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Comes to my Elm Tree

Did you know that elm trees produce green flowers in the spring? I had no idea until now. They are absolutely beautiful and make for a very delightful view out my bedroom window.



My elm is also hosting a lot of different birds this spring. I love hearing the tapping of woodpeckers and all the other various cheeps and tweets.

All I used to know about elms was that they were beautiful but they had all been destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. I never imagined I would own a mature elm tree-- I'm so thrilled!

(Can anyone ever really own a tree?)
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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Good Rise

Ummm... I think it's time to put the bread in the oven!!!


And I think it's going to be a good bread day here at Toad Hall!
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The Miracle of Spring

As of yesterday, I was starting to wonder if our garden was going to grow at all. Nothing was sprouting and I do this every year: I think I probably did something totally wrong and nothing is going to grow. Maybe it's been too dry, or maybe I watered too much. I probably planted the seeds too deep. Or the birds ate them all. Or the seeds are all bad.

But then the boys came running to me this morning bursting with excitement. "Come see!" And I saw that suddenly everything had sprouted.

Hello, radishes!


Hello, onions!



Hello, broccoli!
Welcome to my world! I love you! I can't wait to eat you!
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Charity and Children

All this last week I have been talking to the boys about Japan: showing them some of the pictures and reading them some of the stories. We have also been doing a topical study on charity as part of our homeschool lately, which has involved reading and discussing scriptures on charity each day.

Then, yesterday, I took out an envelope and wrote "For Japan" on it. I told them that they were welcome to put in it any money they felt they would like to donate to help the people of Japan and then I would take it and donate it to LDS Humanitarian Services (where 100% of donations go directly to people in need). I told them it was entirely up to them.

An hour or so later, there was $24 in the envelope. This is pretty much all the money my boys have. They have been saving for weeks to buy some things they want. They gave it all up for people they've never met in a place they've never been.

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:2-4

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Oklahoma Redbud

Ever since I've moved here I've been looking forward to spring to see what blooms here. Throughout the summer and fall I discovered that some of my favorite vegetation just cannot survive the Oklahoma extremes (like raspberry plants-- waaah!) and that made me even more curious to find out what spring was like here.

A couple weeks ago things started blooming and I was very happy to see some dear old favorites. Like redbud trees. I love redbud trees. They are a perfect landscape tree because they are dainty and elegant and extremely lovely in the spring. And so I was happy to see that, as in other places I have lived, redbuds abound in Oklahoma yards.


On the way to the library today, I noticed that not only do redbuds abound in local yards, they also abound in the local wild woods! Maybe I am a nature geek, but the idea of redbuds growing wild is really thrilling to me. Suddenly, my esteem for Oklahoma took a measurable surge.


Then I got to the library and by chance I ended up thumbing through a book on Oklahoma. Guess what? The redbud is the Oklahoma State Tree! Isn't that wonderful?

Okay, yes, I really am a nature geek. And I'm not quite an Okie yet, but I'm getting there.
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Blooming Spring

I was feeling a bit worn out this morning, so I decided that our drive to the library I would stop and take pictures of all the beautiful signs of spring along the way. There was a lot to see!

Ornamental flowering pear trees are very very popular around here as a landscape tree. Roo is enchanted with them and points them out wherever we go. As you can see, they've been blooming here for awhile and are starting to leaf out.


This was in my neighbor's yard. I think it's a hawthorne. I hope so, because I love hawthornes. (Found out later it's a crabapple. Oh well, I like those too!)


And forsythia! Forsythia is always very cheering. Remind me to plant some somewhere on my property. Everybody needs forsythia.


And then there's the daffodils, my very favorite flower in all the world. One neighbor told me that daffs and tulips were hopeless around here because the rabbits ate them, but these made it just fine, so I'll be ordering me some bulbs this fall.


I am so thankful for spring!
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