The Kids’ Gardens

After intending to for far too long, I am finally sharing with you our kids’ little gardens, today!

All 4 of our kids help in our family gardens at some point or other through the gardening seasons; although some do with more joy and ambition than others. There is always some weeding, dead-heading flowers, or picking vegetables, that needs tending to. I do much of it myself, but sometimes I could use another pair of hands, and the company is nice sometimes, too.

But just prior to the gardening season in 2013, I pitched the idea to the kids, of having their very own little garden.
I explained that they could plant and grow whatever they wanted, but they were also responsible for keeping it up. That meant keeping it weeded, watered, dead-heading their own flowers, and generally tending to it with love.  Not only that, but after their father built the frame base, they had to be a team and prepare the bed themselves. They all loved the idea, and each have had their own little garden ever since!

It may have been more work than they anticipated, that first year!  Because although we have had loam brought in by the truck full for our other garden beds, we had a perfectly good dirt pile next to the driveway that we didn’t really want there.  It had been overgrown with weeds and grass, though. Basically, it was less of a dirt pile any longer, and more like a grassy hill, riddled with rocks! So they did work hard, like a team. The boys dug the hill up, pulling and shaking out the grass and weed clumps, and putting shovel fulls earth onto the handmade screen on the wheel barrow.  The girls sifted the dirt through, to remove all of the rocks, and then wheeled the barrow over to the garden bed, and dumped the dirt in.

That was the less than fun part. But they made the most of it, and it was good and done for many years to come.
Now let’s look at their gardens, today…. [Read more…]

Our First Homeschooled Child Graduates from High School: College Bound

When she started out homeschooling, we felt like we had a lifetime ahead of us. Certainly any thoughts of high school, graduating from high school, or possibilities of heading off to college, just seemed like….another lifetime.  It was something I would always be prepping for anyway, for someday. But, it was so far off. And there was a whole lot of living, loving, and learning to do, in each day, between now and then.
01_2005_As-First-Year-Homeschool And we did a whole lot of all of those things. But like any of the most precious times of your life, in what seems like the blink of an eye……

Well, here we all are.  On the other end a lifetime, I guess, with the oldest of our four children. With our first homeschooled child. The one we always called our ‘Trail Blazer’.  She is graduating from high school, and definitely college bound.
We’re here at the end, and yet, a whole new, beautiful beginning.
[Read more…]

Back-To-School Mantels / Home Decorating Ideas

There is something about the back-to-school season, that I have always loved.  With all of the fresh new supplies and clothes, and the whole new school year stretched out before us, with so much yet to be learned, it’s just always been an exciting time to me.  Even though we homeschool, and even school right through the summer, we (even the kids) still love the excitement that the start of a whole new school year brings!  All new books, fresh supplies, new experiences, and a new season to grow academically.

It’s that love for all things ‘back-to-school’ that inspired these mantels in our home! It’s a theme that fits just right, through the month of September!
I used [Read more…]

Decorating with Autumn Leaves; Door Garland and Candle Jars

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on God’s green earth, who appreciates the foliage that Autumn brings, more than I do.  I am mesmerized by it, from beginning to end.  Ask my kids.  They are often amused at how taken I am, with the beauty of this season.  And they’ve certainly come to understand that I don’t want them to miss one bit of it, any more than I do. I get especially excited when we are driving here and there, which with 4 kids I can tell you, we do a whole lot of.  “Oh!! There’s a tree starting to change right there! Do you see it guys?” And as fall progresses., each week is more full of awe than the last. As we go along, I’ll burst out “LOOK!….at that GORGEOUS tree guys!! LOOK AT THE COLORS ON THAT THING!!”  I’ve startled them. And they’ll be like, “We know Mama! Watch where you’re going!”  It’s true. I probably shouldn’t be driving at all in the Fall. Certainly not during peak foliage week.  There is just a span of weeks in this season, where the trees are all I can talk about, everywhere we go. Sometimes, I feel God made Autumn, just for me. Perhaps not. But gosh, it sure feels like such a gift of love.

The peak beauty of the season, is really all too fleeting for me.  I want it to stay just as it is in those weeks, forever.  At least, I want to save as many beautiful leaves as I can.  But I’ve never found a great way to preserve them for a while, until this year. Oh yes, there was the waxed paper trick but, I heard that never worked all that well.  And besides…..Confession of Domestic Shame:  I really hate ironing.  So when I learned that using Glossy Modge Podge really worked well, I was so excited to try it.  And I immediately started dreaming up a very simple, very rustic leaf garland for my home.

The kids helped me Modge Podge countless leaves they had collected for me, over the weeks.  We had them drying and being pressed between the pages of newspapers and magazines all over the house. I’m willing to bet we’ll be finding several we missed finding again, well into spring.  But I found you can actually Modge Podge a fresh leaf right away, anyway.  I do recommend the Glossy medium. I tried the Matte finish just as a test, and it seemed to strip the color, and not look very impressive once it was dry either. Something about the Glossy really does enhance the color of the leaf, and add lustre.  To Modge Podge (MP) the leaves, we just poured some MP in a non-pourous bowl, and used foam brushes to apply it to our leaves, doing the back of the leaves first.  Then you can lay them on newspaper or whatever, until they dry. They don’t really stick anywhere as drying, because they are not flat or heavy.  MP is so easy to clean up anyway.

I wanted my garland extremely simple and rustic.  Jute was just the kind of string for the job. I love this stuff.

I took 4 pieces of equal lengths of the jute, knotted the ends, and twisted the quadruple strand quite a bit before push-pinning it over the frame of our sun room french doors.

Then, I just stuck my leaves in between the twisted jute string, arranging as I wanted to, all the way across.

There it is. Done in like, . . .a couple of minutes.
And I didn’t fall off while standing on the chair I had to keep moving, even once.
(Although I think I had my husband and kids nervous, because they kept reminding me to be careful. That might have to do with the many happenstances I have had. But not this time!)

Look how pretty!  Honesty….my heart is racing a little bit right now, just looking at them. 
No two alike….such beautiful shapes and colors.

Do you see that long pointy leaf? After being out and about collecting leaves, the kids came running in, so excited to give me that one. They call it my giraffe leaf.  I love giraffes, and they saw a giraffe skin pattern in it. I do too now.  I felt the love, and that leaf makes me smile even more than all the rest now.

I also used the glossy Modge Podge to apply more leaves to jars.  I love that you can just slap that MP all over the jar with a foam (or flat bristle) brush, and everywhere it dries where there is not a leaf, it looks like frosted glass.

Isn’t it beautful?
I’ll warn you that this project took a little more patience than I had anticipated. Certainly not as easy as my garland! It’s worth the little bit of trouble I think though! It’s just that the leaves, which I had MP’d the back of, as well as the jar, don’t want to lay down flat right away. It’s all kind of slippery. It’s only once the MP glue starts setting a little, that is starts sticking as you need it to.  You need to MP over the leaves too anyway, so I kept kind of poking the leaves down where they were sticking up. Once the whole jar was dry, I did one more final coat.  Oh and I just let stems hang free off the glued down leaf. I liked them that way anyway, if they didn’t want to stick.

They give such a warm glow of radiance.

I can see myself doing these same projects with leaves every year, from now on. And other preserved leaf projects I’ll think of I’m sure now too. 
I so enjoyed every minute of working with the leaves, and I am so very happy I found a way to preserve them, and let the beauty live on in my home, as the world around us outdoors drains colorless.

Thanks for coming by, and listening to me go on and on about my love for the colors of Autumn.
It sure was an amazing Fall season this year, and I thanked God for it every day.
Do you get a colorful foliage season where you live, in the Fall? And if so, have you done anything with the leaves?

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Customizable Sketch Book Journals

The kids and I are well into a new school year here, and things are going really well so far.  Our oldest is a high school sophmore now, and the 3 youngest are fifth graders.  So naturally, each year has gotten more academically involved, deeper and serious for all of us;  myself as the teacher, and they as students.  But I can freely admit that I am learning almost as much as they are, and enjoying my re-education as we progress with each year.  I love finding new ways to keep their homeschooling experiences fun. 

One new idea I came up with this year, actually came about as I was brainstorming a gift idea for a special-little someone-else in my life.  While that gift is more elaborate and expensive, and personalized from me, it occurred to me that it might be fun to incorporate the general idea into our schooling, on a more budget level, for my own kids. So I mentioned the idea to them, of keeping their own sketch books throughout the year, and was not prepared for their level of excitement about it! I also wanted them to customize their very own a little bit, so they treasured them more.

The intentions for these sketch books are for the kids to just use freely whenever they want to, to practice drawing, write a little poetry, journal some thoughts, or even just doodle as they feel like it. But I did let them know I may ask them to use their sketch pads to express their thoughts or feelings in any way they’d like, following field trips or other home schooling or life events worth noting, in an artistic way. These pads are for dry medium only, but naturally you can adapt the general idea to any kind of pad, as well as customize the cover using any material you’d like. But today, I’m just sharing with you what we did.

Here’s the basic supplies we worked with:

  • Inexpensive spiral bound sketching pads
  • Modge Podge
  • Foam brushes
  • Scissors or an X-Acto type blade

And, 12″ x 12″ patterned scrap booking paper.  These are the sheets my kiddos picked out for themselves.

Now things are about to get ever-so-slightly-messy. Especially with kids. So I thought I would tell you my cheap little trick I use for protecting the table for all of our craft happenings . . . . . .

TIP: Plastic party table covers, from the Dollar Store!  One usually lasts us for many, many projects. When we are done working, we make sure any paint or glue on it is dry, and then we just roll it up in a ball and put it away for next time.  (You could fold it, if you really need to. I know some people are like that. Hey, I have my own weird issues, but they are different. I’m not judging! lol)

So the first step is putting a quick layer of Modge Podge on the back of the patterned paper.

You don’t want to put any excessive amount on, or go over and over it, or the paper will get kind of soggy, and buckle.
But you do want to go right to the edge of the paper.

Then also put a layer all over the cover of the sketch book.

Then carefully place your Modge Podge’d paper, onto your Modge Podge’d sketch pad cover.

You can line up your paper evenly, by using the spiral bind as a guide. 
Be sure to smooth out any air bubbles in the paper.

Now, the paper was not cut to size on purpose. You could figure out and prepare the exact size paper you needed ahead of time. But it just seemed easier to me to just put it on their, and then either trim off the excess, or just fold it over into the inside of the cover. 

These particular sketch pads were conveniently 12 ” tall, but only 9″ wide, so we had 3 extra inches to fold in.  The putting Modge Podge on both surfaces is just a preference, and may not be necesarry.  I just know with my kids, these sketch books were going places, and going to take a traveling beating. So, I figured the more secure the paper was adhered, the better.

Granted, not all of them came out with the paper put on perfectly straight anyway, because they are kids, and doing the best they can. And perhaps not as particular and picky as I am! (Which really, has got to be a nice feeling, sometimes!) They just had fun making them, and were really excited about the whole project. Which is really the best part:  Kids being proud of what they made, and caring for those things that much more, because it is their own creation, from start to finish.

I’ll tell you, it’s been weeks now, and these sketch books have proven to be a really great idea for my kids. They have really used them, on their very own whims. Regularly! Every day. It’s a beautiful thing to catch your kids sketching this or that.  Sometimes really working on a particular one over time, trying to make it come out just right. This is how all of my illustration skills were born! 

As you can see, we further personalized their sketch pads, with their initials. Those were all cut in vinyl for them, but they each specified the exact initials they wanted, colors, design and arrangement. I think they all came out so great!  And each cover really does well express their individual styles and personalities.

 I hope this idea inspires you in some way. I know that for me personally, any notebook or sketch book full of blank or lined paper, gives me the butterflies.  IS there anyone else out there, who understands what I mean? The opportunity for expression just laying before those two covers, is exciting!  So consider making yourself a special one of your own, and just let whatever wants to come out of your head to your hand, come out. See what happens inside! You may be surprised, and you may just enjoy every minute of it. Everybody should just take time to chill and doodle, sometimes.

Thanks for coming over. Please share this idea if you are so inclined.