Super Sam Party

We celebrated Sam’s birthday with his classmates at a park across the street from our school. The weather was beautiful, but a bit windy, so we passed on the majority of the decorations that I was going to hang. Sam has loved superheroes for a long time, so this party was so fun for him. I am still learning to be hostess and photographer at the same time, so I felt like I missed a lot of opportunities for pictures, but here is the gist of it: 

We set up one of the picnic tables with cupcakes made by Sarah’s Sweets topped with toppers from Wants and Wishes Design.   

I used gobstoppers to decorate the table and give out as party favors also. I put a handful in small treat bags and stapled the vintage-inspired signs to the bags. 

The real party favors, however, were the felt capes I made for the boys and the supergirl masks for the girls. Each cape had the guest’s initial… Eighteen boys. Twenty girl masks. I free-handed the capes, but got the idea here

I ran out of fabric so the little boys got little capes with their initial in lower case. 

The girls were not as excited to run around the park with masks on as the boys were with the capes! I printed a free template and traced them on the stiff felt you can buy at a craft store by the sheet. 

I really wish I would have lined them all up for a picture, but here you can at least see them running around the park. The preparations leading up to the party were a little more time consuming than I anticipated, but it was so worth it! The park was fenced in and we kept the food simple, so I was able to enjoy the party with friends and the birthday boy! It was too windy for candles, but Super Sam was content to sit on Dad’s shoulders for the birthday song.

Valentine’s Day Tea

When Antonella was three years old, we hosted a small tea party for Valentine’s Day. It really had nothing to do with Valentine’s Day apart for the decorations, but any excuse for a tea party, right? It has become a tradition for us, increasingly important over the years as I realized two things.

I want to make sure that I am intentional in discipling Antonella in the way she views love from a young age. The tea parties started as an excuse to have a play date, but the last couple of years, as she has gotten older, we have used the time to talk about the love of God, and how she will be able to really celebrate Valentine’s Day when she is married. We don’t make a big deal about the actual meaning of the holiday, but as she grows it will be increasingly important to be able to talk about cultural expectations, feelings, and courtship.

The other realization I had was that over the years, boys were added to our family and no more girls. So anything to balance out the guns and tools and trucks is welcomed in our household!

This is the first tea party! Antonella was three and a half- the girls decorated cookies and played dress up after the tea party while the moms chatted. I had to dig through our harddrive to find these pictures and oh my, could I have spent some time down memory lane! Unfortunately I could not find 2007 or 2008- we moved three times in those years and who knows where those files are stashed.

In 2009 I made her a little flower shop out of an old table, a Japanese umbrella and some buckets. I filled the buckets with fake flowers and stocked it with twine, wrapping paper, pots and scissors. The girls played flower shop all afternoon, making bouquets and arranging centerpieces. They also planted flowers outside!

In 2010 we had all the girls in our family gather at grandma’s for tea. I’m sure there was a reason why I could not pull off a friend party, but I don’t remember!

This year, the tea party was very last minute- thankfully most of our guests live across the street! We served store bought cupcakes, popcorn, and peach tea. The girls brought over their dolls and had fun playing with each other’s dolls.

I was so impressed by their conversations. All the heart decorations led to a discussion about our words, and how they are the overflow of our hearts! Then they took turns encouraging each other one by one. The girls were so cute with reactions like, “I was hoping you’d say that!” and “Really?? Thanks!”

Every year we buy an antique tea cup and write the year on the bottom. We haven’t bought this year’s yet, but I hope that the tradition continues. And I hope that as the collection grows and she matures, Valentine’s Day will be filled with fun memories.

This Week: Quotes

Antonella: Your best friend came over to do school with us one day, and as she sat down you ran to your room and returned with something in your hand. “Because, you know, you said you wanted to go to Paris!” You said as you handed her a miniature Eiffel Tower. You have always done that–given away your toys to friends that visit you. I hope you never change.

Jeremiah: You got really frustrated with school at one point this week, struggling with concepts you know you know very well. “It’s just that my brain isn’t working today!” You exclaimed and crossed your arms. We talked through it and after a few sets of jumping jacks you finished your work. Later that day, you wanted to build a castle with a mote. I suggested you use the wooden blocks. You built the castle inside one of our cloth bins, and when I looked up from whatever I was doing you were pouring water into the bin… the mote. “Jeremiah! What are you doing?” I exclaimed, equally surprised and upset. You paused, looked at the castle, then at me, and with your bottom lip quivering said, “I told you my brain isn’t working today!”

Sam: You suddenly love to dance. Love to dance. We have been dancing a lot at Mamu and Tata’s house, your uncles taking turns playing everything from Vanilla Ice to Alan Jackson. We have all been impressed with your concentration and dedication to robot-like dance moves, and your grandpa has encouraged your gift. You paused long enough to lean over and whisper to me, “I might be famous!”

Augustine: You love to play chase, and this week we were running all through the house. “I’m going to get you, mister!” I shouted over and over while you laughed and ran up and down the hall. Suddenly you stopped, turned around, and yelled, “I’m going to get you, Big Girl!” I’m not sure how to take that.

Training

Putting Sam, our four year old, in Pre-K was a hard decision for us. We value so much keeping the kids home during the precious early years, and our older two did not start “official” schooling until they were six. There were several factors, however, that really made the choice clear, including the fact that his teacher is amazing! Another thing we took into consideration was knowing how much I would have to focus on the older two kids’ lessons, and I really did not want to neglect him during the at-home days. Sam being in Pre-K has been a blessing on so many levels, and it has allowed me to give him individualized attention. So many of the activities that he got to do as part of his curriculum are things that we have done in our home, especially with the older kids. But with the older two in school, I am not sure I could have, or would have, made the time for him to experience as much as he did. He loved his activities and looked forward to them every day.

I took pictures with my phone of several of the activities and I wanted to share them because they are simple, hands-on things you can do at home with your little ones. They all reinforce areas of development during the toddler years. Most of these activities are found in the book Mommy Teach Me by Barbara Curtis. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to add some purpose and perspective to at-home activities. In the book, she clearly explains how to go about each of the activities, making the connection to the significance of training our children in the Lord.

Nine times out of ten, the other kids would want to join in also! We usually have some sort of hands-on activity right before lunch, either from Sam’s lesson or an art project, and as a side note, this is what keeps them busy while I make lunch!

Practicing letters in rice- other options are flour, sugar or sand.

Sorting Legos with salad tongs.

Transferring water from one container to another with a sponge.

Peeling carrots!

Slicing apples for apple sauce.

Transferring water with a dropper. I saved one from a medicine bottle. Adding food coloring to the water makes it more interesting!

Transferring beans from one container to another… Always left to right.

Sam has practiced and developed his hand-eye coordination, left to right sequence, sorting, handwriting, patience, attention span, and so important at this age–self-control! But it is clear to Sam, and became clear to us, that the purpose of all these activities is one thing… mere training for the more important things in that boy’s life…

 

The Magician’s Nephew Cake

Our school finished reading The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis last week, so of course we had to celebrate! The kids got to come to school dressed up as one of the characters from the book, and enjoy some Narnian activities during lunch.

At morning assembly, the headmaster planted a piece of toffee in a big pot, telling the kids that it was soil from the land of Narnia. At lunch time, we pulled back the curtains and lo and behold, a full toffee tree had grown, with toffee ready for picking! The kids went crazy- it was awesome.

There was also a trivia game that the classes competed in- winner got the silver apple. It is an actual apple, dipped in white chocolate, and spray painted silver. The first grade won, and sliced the apple into twelve pieces!

The lion was molded out of rice krispie treats by my husband. He is so talented, no?

This week…

Our street in Chicago

 

This week I am missing fall in Chicago. I’ve been missing the way the air smelled and the anticipation of the first snow.

I have also been thinking that I want to record more of the simple moments in the kids’ lives. It is easy to post about the parties and big events, but I hope to try to capture glimpses into their lives that are just as important. They are, after all, my bumper crop.

Antonella: Your teacher encouraged you in front of the class, thanking you for being helpful. You ran out after school and told me all about it. You got new glasses, and I sat in the background simply listening as you talked with the opthamologist. You explained to him why we only need four days of school. He turned and looked at me with raised eyebrows. I just smiled and nodded.

Jeremiah: You read. You really read. You’ve wanted to for so long. During an on-campus day, you stealthily slid your foot and pulled out the chair of the girl who sits next to you. She sat on the floor. You told me you didn’t do it to make people laugh at her. And you told me it wasn’t a mean trick. I’m not sure what your motivation was. During a bathroom break, you showed all the boys in your class how to spike up their hair with water. Your very patient teacher explained to you that although it wasn’t a good choice, you found out what a great leader you are. Yes, you are.

Samuel: You have been captivated with pilgrims and indians this Thanksgiving season. You told your teacher you’re pretty sure you want to be an indian when you grow up.  You made an indian headdress at home with your brother. At school the next day, making a headdress was one of the activities, but you already had yours. The whole class made matching ones and you wore the one you made at home. It was just a reminder to me that you don’t care what everyone else does, just like when everyone was playing and you quietly came into the kitchen and asked me if you could help me with anything. You greased the cake pans.

Augustine: You lay your head on my shoulder and whisper, “I love you, mom, ok? … You’re welcome.” Please stop growing.

 

This summer at the park

Charlotte’s Web Party

Jeremiah’s kindergarten class finished listening to Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White this week, and to celebrate I helped organize a simple party. I was able to snap a few pictures of the activities while running around helping!

We divided the class into four groups and had them rotate through different stations in the room.

First, was Zuckerman’s Farm, where Charlotte hung on her web. The kids dug through the “dumpster” trash, like Templeton, and had to find words that describe Wilbur.

 

Then they each had to write the word out with white pipe cleaners and place it on the web to make it look like Charlotte wrote it!

These are some of the words they found…

The next station was the Somerset County Fair! The kids played a few carnival games and won prizes.

The prizes were small plastic pigs, rings with scenes from the book, “ticket” candy, and crazy straws.

For the next station, I brought our farm animals, small blocks, and a carnival Lego set. They got to build their own scenes from the story on the floor.

The last station was set up for coloring. We printed coloring pages and provided crayons… a few little girls asked if they could stay at this station!

For snack they had popcorn and pig cake pops!

The kids really enjoyed the party, and after sitting quietly all semester through the whole book… they deserved it!

Two things I simply forgot to do… I wanted to bring buttermilk for them to taste, and E.B. White has written a letter to children that I wanted to read to them. Oh well, I’ll have a kindergartener next year!

Three Boys, One Room

It took a while, but we finally got the boys’ room done! I was inspired once again by Ana White. When the time came for August to switch to a big boy bed, we decided to put all three boys in the same room. We looked for some time for bunk beds, triple beds, and all different combination of beds to accommodate all three of them in a small space, and we really didn’t find anything that we liked and could afford. So, although what we hoped to be a weekend project took a little longer, we are happy with the results!

We used the plans for the hanging daybed and modified them just a bit. The beds are hanging from the walls with thick rope from metal hooks and also bolted into the wall.

This is Sam’s bed. I cannot remember for the life of me where I found the rock poster, but I ordered it online when we first moved into this house about three years ago. (Kideko!) The bed is about four feet off the ground and has a nice space underneath that I plan on adding to in the future…

The bed linens are from Ikea, including this embroidered map of the world pillow. Neil rigged these outdoor lights to work as battery-powered LED lights that you turn on with a button. I will have to do another post altogether on his amazing work of genius.

August sleeps on the bottom and Jeremiah sleeps on top.

Jeremiah has a ladder and a rope that he can climb to get in bed.

Jeremiah takes art as his elective at school and I framed one of the stamp prints that he made.

The corner under Jeremiah’s bed- table from Ikea, vintage lamp from a garage sale, with some books and a few toys. We store all of our toys in the playroom, although they do get hauled all over the house, it makes it easier to clean up and keep things organized. The boys have book time every day on their beds, so they keep whatever books they want in these baskets.

This is the artwork by August’s bed. A vintage print of the Dumbo book cover, and a piece depicting an Argentinian poem that I grew up with.

And, yes, they have bed rails… The older boys sleep with these and August with this. I was nervous the first few nights about them getting down to go to the bathroom, but we haven’t had any problems!

Even though Neil and I both enjoy projects and have fun building and decorating, it doesn’t compare to the joy of putting the boys to bed at night in the same room… Their voices singing and praying together, their whispers long after the lights go out… and the not-so-whispered demands from the youngest to the oldest for “more song!”

Update: Thanks for your kind comments! To answer some of your questions… The beds are secured into the wall with five inch lag bolts drilled through the frame of the bed and into each of the wall studs. The ropes hang from big eye hooks that are drilled into the wall and into the top of the bed frame. This is a picture of  the underside, you can get a better idea how the beds are drilled into the wall. The beds that are stacked are approximately 2 feet off the ground and 6 feet off the ground. We measured to the bottom of the frame, but I am not certain that they turned out exact, we kinda eyeballed it. The beds are heavy! The stool is from Ikea, spray painted with something like this.  Even though we put much effort into making sure the beds are secure, we have given the boys strict guidelines as far as safety is concerned. They are not allowed to jump on the beds, jump from one bed to the other, and Jeremiah is not even allowed to sit at the end of his bed, just in case. My husband and I have both climbed up on the beds and they haven’t budged, so they are sturdy, but we do not want them loosening up over time. I will post the wall color tomorrow! More info here

Check out the Room Tour on Ohdeedoh and a complete list of resources at Apartment Therapy Marketplace!

Lunch Ladies

We had an unusual homeschool day last week. Some of Antonella’s friends came over for the day and completed their lessons with us. They are a sweet group of girls and I am so thankful for the friends that she has.

For lunch, the girls requested “crazy kabobs”. We got creative and they had a great time preparing, and eating, their lunch!

They made mini meatballs…

Peeled and sliced hardboiled eggs…

Chopped and selected cheese, fruit, and veggies…

Cooked up the meat…

And got to work on their kabobs! Blueberry, mozzarella, green pepper, meatball, egg, tomato, avocado, grape, repeat!

So what if lunch took up most of the afternoon?

They were developing fine motor skills and self-awareness, practicing sharing and taking turns, learning kitchen safety, mathematical concepts of fractions and division, patterns, along with the intense scholarly discussion on the combination of fruits and vegetables… I’d say it was a successful homeschool day!

Nursing Back to Health

I woke up with a sore throat this morning, and after trying to ignore it the first half of the day, by lunch I was feverish and fatigued. I diagnosed myself with strep and climbed in bed. Neil, who worked from home all day, was gone when dinner time rolled around. I sluggishly went downstairs to get dinner started.

Antonella stops me and says she would make dinner. I pause… I tell her not to use anything made of glass and head back to bed. She quickly delegates tasks as I walk up  the stairs; August to his chair with some crackers, Jeremiah to help with sandwiches, and Sam to get drinks for everyone. Just like I would do.

I slowly shut the door behind me and decide that I feel well enough to sprint downstairs in case of an emergency. It seems strangely quiet and I am tempted to sneak a peek. But I rest… and moments later I get the report. She leans on my door and calmly recounts. Peanut butter and jelly for three, turkey for one. Crackers and carrots on the side. No spills. And for dessert, ginger snap sandwiches filled with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips, an original creation.

Before shutting the door again she asks, “Can I get you some buttered toast?”

My mind races back to our first winter together in our basement apartment. Snow piled up all around us and she wore a pink snowsuit to sleep. Teeth clenched in never before felt pain, I was committed to nurse the chubby girl. She needed me. Tonight, I need her.

Wonder and fear, the good kind of fear, fill my heart as she runs off to play pirates with her brothers. What a gift, what responsibility. What sobering joy–the kind that fills you and empties you of all power at the same time.

This article helped me so much tonight. For a seven year old, I think she rides with grace.