Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happiness. Lately. (vol. 3)

Happiness.  Lately.  August.  My monthly collection of "Happiness" - appreciating God's goodness in the little things and seeing his grandeur in the simplicity of my life and "Lately" - what I've been into and up to.

Happiness is...

the Chardonnay and Cracker Jacks I'm enjoying while writing this.  I'm serious!  See...

"Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes?
...That's nice to know... It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing."

** Seventeen gold stars to you if you can name that movie **
(one of my favorites!)
Actually, if you know it don't name it... just leave your favorite quote in the comments to play along :)

mini crochet bunting in my kitchen...

fresh summer fruit on ice cream...

fresh summer fruit for freezer jam...

plastic roller skates...

brothers enjoying their new basketball hoop from Dad...

Little Miss Action Shot...

kids' morning snack on a day when was feeling particularly generous and sweet-toothy (I don't even like bananas, but that didn't stop me from having some peanut butter and chocolate chips :) )...


We've been blueberry picking and blueberry baking...

We enjoyed our family tradition of going to the Erie County Fair on opening day... We do the fair on a budget - opening day is $2 parking, free admission with a canned good, kids are free, we are that family that brings a packed dinner comprised of healthy foods like vegetables, everyone gets to go on one ride, and we buy a snack (or two!) to share - pretty much always cotton candy and kettle corn:)

I've been making up some cotton dish cloths...

a gift set of three dish cloths and a hot pad :)

The boys spent a week building an awesome gift for their grandma's Birthday (my parents were married in Paris, so those crazy international love birds appreciate this sort of thing!)  (the guys used this non-Lego set)

We've spent a couple mornings at the creek - one of our favorite places on a hot day!

James first time in the creek :)

Gave my guys end-of-summer haircuts.   They were getting a little too shaggy-dog for my taste.  Here's a little something fun we do mid-haircut...

I've been reading...

    Still Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
    Starting These Beautiful Bones: an Everyday Theology of the Body, Emily Stimpson

    Books with the kids... some great Usborne "look inside" books that I ordered from Molly!  Look how much they're into them, Molly!  Thank you! 

We had read about the Sydney Opera House in "Inside Famous Buildings" and about a week later the kids identified it
*without any prompting from me!* in a frame at Hobby Lobby!  Be still my beating homeschool mama's heart!!  

I've been listening to Loreena McKennit's haunting and beautiful version of The Highwayman quite frequently.  Like... probably daily.   I love that poem, and I think her musical setting is perfect...  


I have an illustrated picture book of the poem that I got a library book sale.  I wonder if the kids are old enough yet for such a poem??

My Dad and sister planned a birthday party for my mom's 60th!  The exact minute the party "started" it started to downpour.  My Dad leaped into action getting the "walls" up on the tent in their yard.  He was awesome!  I really wanted to share more pics, but I'm pretty uncomfortable putting up pics of people, even family, w/o checking with them first, and checking with them was the furthest thing from my mind during such a fabulous party...  So here's just a few.

Hero Dad!

James partied hard =)

And finally, lately... James has been up to some new tricks during his diaper changes.  (You're lucky he had one on when I snapped these shots ;) )

**  Feel like joining me in reflecting on the past month and sharing some of the moments that made you happy and the things you've been up to?  Link up your August list of Happiness. Lately.  I'd love to have you join me! **

When My Kids "Embrace the Ordinary" (vol. 7)

"Children are born naturalists, with a bent inherited, perhaps, from an unknown ancestor; but every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage; for, but few children are equal to holding their own in the face of public opinion; and if they see that the things which interest them are indifferent or disgusting to you, their pleasure in them vanishes, and that chapter in the book of Nature is closed to them."

(Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, Charlotte Mason)

 *   *   *   *   *   *

Linking up with Gina at Someday (Hopefully) They'll Be Saints for another week of seeking out and holding tight the simple moments that make this life (and my family!) extraordinary.  

"...there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary
situations, and it is up to each on of you to discover it."
Passionately Loving the World, St. Josemaria Escriva

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Five Favorites (Back to School Edition)

Heather hosts Five Favorites now!  You know Heather, right?  Of course you do!  So do I... she's a friend in real life and in living color (and she sure is colorful, let me tell you!)  I'm linking up with said friend because I love her, and let's be honest - who can resist a good old Back to School anything?  Not me!  This is my time of year!  And, I mean, she mentioned me in her Five Favorites list thereby prompting me to panic about the "you scratch my back I'll scratch your back"  subtleties of blogging, only to realize one second later that Heather and I are friends and are way too cool and mature to fall prey to that sort of thing ;)  

So here are some of my favorite things to use in our little one room school house that are not books (because ohhhhhhhhh you know I love books and there's no need to write a whole other post about that right now...)

Five Favorites for Homeschool That Are Not Books or Curriculum


I might have this laminator even if we didn't homeschool, but I can't even begin to tell you how awesome it's been for flashcards, and DIY dry erase worksheets, and just protecting stuff that I don't want ruined.  Besides making flashcards nearly indestructible, one of the best things I've used this for has been my chore board magnet system - the kids know what they need to do each morning, they move the magnet when it's done, and the magnet stays in tact because - hard melted plastic:

used to do this with lessons to, but have a different system underway this year...


Melissa & Doug Write-a-Mat place mat: 
United States Presidents

Last year the boys memorized all the American presidents (to the tune of Yankee Doodle).  They would sing or say the list and ask, "Mom, was that right?" and though I have a Master of Arts in American history, I was never quite able to say "yes" or "no" with certainty.  I bought the place mat for $2 at the grocery store and learned the song.   It's been up in our dining room ever since.    


I've mentioned this before, but last year we discovered chalk pastels and really enjoyed learning how to use them.  This year we are going to get some more practice in using Tricia Hodges/Lucia Hames' book A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels.  

Here's a Monet copy-cat project the kids did with pastels last year:


Mason Jars

If you are not currently using mason jars for 50% of your homeschool storage needs, you may need an organizational makeover.  (The other 50% of your storage should be in the form of the best baskets in the world - click on THIS LINK and check out number 2 to see how I use the baskets for all the homeschool stuff that won't fit in a mason jar.

Mason jars are my go-to storage solution for science magnets, magnifying glasses, math counting stones, pencils, scissors, bits of chalk, glue sticks, and the cut flowers we sometimes have on the table.  And Mom's elixir of life - the afternoon iced coffee...


Like-minded Friends on the Same Crazy Ridiculous Awesome Journey

I don't think I could survive homeschooling in a vacuum.  An essential "favorite" for me and I think any homeschooling family is support - other families who are doing similar stuff, have a similar world view and similar desires for their kids.  I'm so grateful to have those friends here.  The past two Tuesdays, I've had the joy of spending the mornings with twelve amazing moms and 38+ fabulous kids at a local creek.  Splashing and socializing, conversation and crayfish.  A supportive community for myself, fun and edifying friends for my kids - definitely some of the most important tools for the start of a successful homeschool year :)

Don't forget to head over to Mama Knows, Honeychild to hear Heather dish on some of her back-to-school favorites :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Beautiful Lego Mind (Embrace the Ordinary :: vol. 6)

This week I'm sharing with you an unexpected joy of motherhood: the oft Lego-strewn floor and the intensely creative brain of the child engineer who could build, build, build and still come up with new ideas all day long.   Aaron has a unique brain.  I think.  And I get to see it shine when he's in his Lego universe.  What a blessing it is to be his mom and to watch him at something he enjoys so thoroughly and is so skilled at!

I had no first hand exposure to Legos when I was a child and always thought of them as the toys that strange little boys played with. It certainly never occurred to me that they would be a favored item in my own home one day.  It appears I was wrong in my assumptions, and I now understand that Legos are the toys of fantastically awesome little boys!  

I love "Embrace the Ordinary" at Someday (Hopefully) They'll Be Saints!  It's a gentle nudge each week to intentionally seek out God's goodness in the seemingly mundane. 

I was so very happy to co-host with Gina these last two weeks!  Please join her and me in celebrating the little things - the blessings sometimes in disguise - and link up your own story or photo of "embracing the ordinary" things that make every-day life awesome!

"...there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary 
situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it."
St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crochet Hook Size Reminders (best. idea. ever.)

At any given moment, I probably have four to five crochet projects going: large ones, like blankets that aren't very portable, small ones that I do carry around with me, experimental and pattern-trial projects, and usually a couple other things that I started even though I should have waited until some other project was completed.  

I always leave projects, take the hook with me to use elsewhere and then forgot what size I was using on the original piece.  I don't always use the hook recommended on patterns so there's no help to be found there, and I don't have enough hooks to leave them at the "project site" - especially my 4.00 mm, which has been my most frequently used hook lately.  Returning to a project after a week or two is something like this:  I'm positive I was using the 3.75 mm hook on this.  Or, maybe it was the 4.00 mm with really tight stitches?  I don't use the 3.25 mm very often, but I do recall picking it up recently... was it for this??  Yes, Yes, I'm almost practically mostly certainly positive!  This was the project I decided to use the smaller hook but the looser stitch on!!  Isn't it???  Isn't it?  Hello?  Hello, is anyone listening?  

So, I decided to solve my problem.  I packed my children up yesterday and took them to Hobby Lobby where they touched a lot of stuff like glass pumpkins and ceramic pilgrims, stroked fluffy fur-like fabric, flicked every dangly string of beads possible, didn't break anything but did attempt to fix a broken cash register, and tried to sneak candy onto the checkout counter hoping I would mistake it for yarn on sale and buy it.  

I got special pins and number beads.  

I had a lot of things on my to-do list for nap time yesterday.  None of them got done because I was obsessively focused on my concept: "marking" projects with the hook size so that I could walk away from it and not worry about what I was forgetting.   I made my new Hook Size Reminder Pins.  I am so excited about these!  Now, when I'm wondering what hook to grab for any of my works in progress, my wondering won't last long.  It's right there in black and white (with colorful beads, to boot!)  

There's no tutorial here.  It's too simple to insult your crafty intelligence with instructions.  The only things worth mentioning are * I tried it with plastic stitch markers first and it just didn't work * I was just going to use the color beads as the decimal point, but also ended up using them to "fill in" the space in front of and behind the number so they wouldn't slip around as much * I had wanted to color code the sizes with the beads, but a lot of the beads didn't fit, so I had to give up on the color coding and just use whichever beads fit on the pin * and it's worth going out to get the safety pins without the loop on the ends because then you can straighten them, put the beads on the "stationary" side of the pin and they won't slide off when you open the pin up :)

Note: I don't know why, but I find it much easier to identify my crochet hooks by size rather than letter (or number) code.  But if you're more comfortable with grabbing your "G" hook as opposed to "4mm", than these markers can easily be made with the letter and number beads instead of the sizes in mm.  (Here's a conversion chart.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Best of Internet Yarn Humor

I'm taking a break from writing about school-ish things and instead am writing hardly anything at all and am gifting you with some of the best internet yarn humor, much of which I found around the time I was organizing my yarn stash last month :)  


my alter ego, sans cigarette of course  :)
or maybe a Halloween costume if we ever decide to get into that ;)


(Dear Amusing Yarns, I emailed you to get your permission to post this awesome graphic here but didn't hear back from you :(  If you come upon this and want to slap my wrist for assuming you'd love it if I shared your work with credit,  please feel free to email me!)




from Stephanie at


vintage ad found in the collection of paul malon 




image found at (link to original doesn't work :(  )
Who's original artwork is this??  It's so cute!


couldn't find a link to the original artist.  clearly not my clever work :)





This reminds me of my own kids who occasionally say things like, "Mom, if you let us have a lollipop we'll get you any kind of yarn you like!"  It's disturbing how well they know me ;)
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