Monday, January 21, 2013

Felt Playhouse

I had a blast making my little one a felt playhouse for Christmas and I imagine we will have a blast playing in it in the months to come!  Already all three of my boys think it's lots of fun!  Even my 9 year old gets excited about it- though my older boys' ideas of playing are a little different than mine.  (Think robbers breaking in to steal carrots compared to picking apples from the orchard and eating them at our pretend table.)

We had a little knit house that covered a card table growing up.  I remember pretending all kinds of things inside our "house."  So I've wanted to make one for my kids for awhile but never seemed to find the time. 

Then I saw this adorable felt house at homemadebyjill and was inspired!  I loved the idea of having a garden and apple tree where they can pick fruits and veggies.  I also loved how she put mesh in the windows since it can get a little stuffy in a felt house.  I copied a lot of her ideas with a little personal twist of my own.

 My lettuce leaves are a little too plumb : )  But I think the pumpkin vines turned out pretty good.  I still need to finish the actual pumpkins!
  Here's the other end of the garden with one loan corn stalk.

I had fun with my flower garden!

I decided to leave off the dog since my son has lots of stuffed animals he can carry in and out of the pet door.

In the future it will be fun to put some mail in this little mailbox.

I still need to finish the pumpkins and a few more apples and tiddy up a few thing- I think mine is a little too loose around the edges but all in all, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  And it was really a lot of fun to make!!  

Friday, January 18, 2013

After Dinner Chore Chart- Spinner Style

I think the time has come for me to pass on some of my dinner chores!

 Hallelujah!  This is why I had children, right?  Just kidding!

But I have hoarded dishes and dinner clean-up for myself long enough and I think I'm ready to enlist more help.  This is not only for myself (though part of me thinks this will probably not be any easier for me) but for them, too!  I think it's important that my boys learn how to do some housework.  It will make them better husbands and men.  (And my daughter-in-laws will thank me someday.)

So I got this idea to make an after dinner chore chart with a spinner.  Nothing fancy- I made in the Paint program.  I laminated it, cut out the circle and arrow (spinner) and attached the spinner with a brad in the center.  Every night each family member takes a turn spinning the spinner and where it lands is their chore for the night.  I'm hoping the game aspect of it will make this more fun, at least at first.  

We  presented the spinner at our Family Council on Sunday.  And so far the boys are excited to take part.    


Well, I am VERY HAPPY to report after almost 2 months, it has been a huge success!  At least with me : )  No, really, my boys were actually pretty excited to do this at first. And though they've certainly lost some of that enthusiasm and there have been a few complaints, we have stuck with it and it has become "the norm."  The spinner has made it more fun, eliminates fights over who gets to do what or anyone getting tired of the same chore, and everyone gets to learn how to do all different chores.

What I like best about it is most nights we are all in the kitchen working together on cleaning up.  Even my two year old tries to help.  And when we all work together it goes fast and I feel unified instead of like the exhausted, unappreciated maid who has spent too many hours in the kitchen.  Not all of my kids can do all of the chores and they still require some help from my husband and I but I know they will eventually get the hang of it.  Meanwhile we are all learning some valuable lessons.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I just finished reading How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen and found it inspiring! I don't consider myself to be a practical, business-minded person, but maybe I am more than I think.  I liked how he applied business and management principles to real life.  As a homemaker, sometimes I feel like running a family is like running a business- just because there are so many different aspects to it, but of course it is more than that.  Despite the successful business background, I found Christensen to be compassionate, as well as honest and very smart.  Overall, for me, I felt like he was stressing the importance of living life on purpose, with a definite and clear purpose- being more deliberate and focused in everything I do.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Real strategy in companies and in our lives is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about where we spend our resources.  As you're living your life from day to day, how do you make sure you're heading in the right directions?  (p62)

"With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money you are making a statement about what really matters to you. (p75)

"You will be constantly pressured both at home and at work, to give people and projects your attention.  How do you decide who gets what?  Whoever makes the most noise? Whoever grabs you first?  Overcome the natural tendency to focus on the short term at the expense of the long term." (p80-81)

"Our default instincts are so often just to support our children in a difficult moment.  But if our children don't face difficult challenges, and sometimes fail along the way, they will not build the resilience they will need throughout their lives... You should consciously think about what abilities you want your child to develop, and then what experiences will likely help him get them.  So you might have to think about engineering opportunities for your child to have the experiences you believe will help him develop the capabilities he needs for life." (p155)

"When the kids come home for a family reunion, I like to listen to their banter back and forth about the experiences they had growing up, and which had the greatest impact on their lives. I typically have no memory of the events they recall as being important. And when I ask them about the times when Jim and I sat them down specifically to share what we thought were foundationally important values of our family, well, the kids have no memory of any of them. I guess the thing to learn from this is that children will learn when they are ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them….Your parents most likely weren’t thinking consciously about teaching you the right priorities at the time—but simply because they were there with you in those learning moments, those values became your values too. Which means that first, when children are ready to learn, we need to be there. And second, we need to be found displaying through our actions the priorities and values we want our children to learn.” (p137)

I think my favorite part is when he talks about setting a culture in our family.  We all worry that when we aren't there our kids won't make the right choices and even though they will always have their agency to choose for themselves and they may not choose what we think they should, we can instill certain habits and "autopilots" in our families.  This is through consistency, repetition and basically stating "We want our family to be known for kindness" or whatever else you want your culture to be.

Christensen says: "It's not as simple as setting family rules and hoping for the best.  Something more fundamental has to occur- and it has to happen years before the moment arises when our children are faced with that difficult choice.  Their priorities need to be set correctly so they will know how to evaluate their options and make a good choice.  The best tool we have to help our children do this is through the culture we build in our families. (p159)

"Forming a culture is not an instant loop; it's not something you can decide on, communicate, and then expect it to suddenly work on its own.  You need to be sure that when you ask your children to do something, or tell your spouse you're going to do something, you hold to that and follow through.  It sounds obvious; most of us want to try to be consistent.  But in the pressures of day-to-day living, that can be tough.  There will be many days when enforcing rules is harder on a parent than it is on a child. (p169)

"'s easier to hold on to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time.  The boundary- your personal moral line- is powerful, because you don't cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there's nothing to stop you doing it again.  Decide what you stand for.  And then stand for it all the time. (p191)

"I came to understand that while many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics...the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people." (p203

Monday, January 7, 2013

Birthday Cakes

We have three birthdays in our family within 18 days of each other, intermixed with Christmas, New Year's, my Mom's birthday and our anniversary.  So the end of December/beginning of January is PARTY time at our house!  That also means lots of CAKE.  
I thought I'd share some of those with you.

My husband always loved ice cream cakes growing up.  The price tag on those store bought ones can be really pricey so this year I found a recipe at for Ice Cream Crunch Cake that I tried and- WOW! it was good!  It really was easy - you just need time to freeze each layer and room in your freezer.  Mine doesn't look as beautiful as theirs but I'm sure it tastes just as good!

My second son requested the Motor Cross cake again this year.  I know he had it at least one other birthday, as well as my oldest son, and my oldest son made it for his Cubscout Blue and Gold Banquet last year.  So this is certainly a favorite around here!  I like it because it's pretty easy and even if you have crumbs in your frosting, you cover it up with cookie crumbs and cocoa puffs and all other kinds of goodies.  We never seem to be able to find the chocolate donut holes so we use peanut butter cups instead.  This year it got a little lopsided but my son thought it was awesome!  Plus he likes that he gets a motorcycle to keep!

On my youngest son's birthday this year I came down with the stomach bug and we'd just returned from traveling to visit family so I didn't have ingredients to decorate a cake.  My sweet hubby ran to the store and got some Elmo cupcakes and of course my son loved them!  

But I thought I'd share his cake from last year.  It's from Betty Crocker I thought it turned out cute.  Super easy- I really only do easy- and yummy!