Sometimes the best laid plans can get eclipsed.


Last week, our first week of school, went so smoothly.  I was sure, SURE, this week would be the same.  I had all the lesson plans written out!  The calendar is filled in until May.  I was all set to teach a few neighborhood kids our first science class of the year.  Then one by one, my children dropped.  It started out with little innocent coughs and sniffles.  Suddenly, high fevers and lungs threatening to burst with each breath.


It took us until the 6th day to have our first sick day.  However, Mother Nature stepped in  and took charge!  The clouds cleared just in time for us to put our pinhole projector into use.  In between rests, the kids came out with eclipse glasses in hand that a neighbor had generously given us.  We shared with other neighbor kids who were in and out of our back yard testing various pinhole contraptions.


The five year old even came out for a look despite being fearful of “ending up like Helen Keller.”  He survived with all senses working perfectly.


As a bonus, monarchs and swallowtails flew all around us and we found quite a few monarch hatchlings!  A container now sits on our windowsill with swallowtail larvae as well.  The kids and I were also given an opportunity to research how to get rid of aphids without killing monarch caterpillars.  Let’s hope soapy water works!

The kids are on the mend, so I think we may get back to our schedule tomorrow…or we can just wait and see what Mother Nature gives us.

Saint Coins Revisited

Cleaning out the classroom closet, I unearthed our old Saint Coins!!  I did a post about these seemingly forever ago.  I thought it would be a good idea to use them again with my younger children.  But when I told them about it, the older kids begged to be included!  They remembered fondly “the family store” on Friday nights.

I’m happy to report The Family Store is now back in business with a few changes.  We no longer use the laminated task sheets.  I implemented a hanging tag system a few months ago that works really, really well!  I can move tags around to give kids turns with chores and add in monthly chores, such as vacuuming the van, when needed.  When the chore is complete, the card is flipped revealing washi tape.  Once all the tape is showing on a kids’ row, they can have screen time, friend time, and almost earn their saint coin.  I say almost because the one other “task” they must complete to earn the coin is to joyfully complete school that day.  Bonus coins go to kids when I see them acting kindly or serving someone when they don’t think anyone is looking.

I’m surprised at how excited the kids are to earn that saint coin every day.  The family store is stocked with candy that costs 5 saint coins a piece. Awesome candy around once a week, sounds like a deal to me!

Some of my coins need to be updated, however.  I still have a Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and John Paul II.  I need to visit Happy Saints again!!  I’m sure I’ll find many new saints I want as well.  It’s so exciting to share these with my little kids while bringing back fond memories for my older ones.

Is it still time for a resolution?

January is coming to a close, and I’m not usually one to make New Year resolutions.  But this year I’d like to change that.  It took me almost the whole month of January to figure one out.  Are you ready?  I’m going to finish up all the projects I have going and *gasp* only work on one at a time after that, with the exception of knitting afghans of course since they take so darn long.

What a great idea!
What a great idea!

Why a light fixture?  That is one of the projects.  I updated almost all of the fixtures downstairs, but there is one that is still sitting in my garage in its box, waiting.  Waiting for either me to give it a go or to call and electrician.  Perhaps I’ll call this week…perhaps.

quilt sandwich
quilt sandwich

So here’s the tally of what I have going: 3 quilts in various stages (the one above is almost done; all quilted up waiting for binding), a knitted baby sweater, a knitted afghan that will take forever but be awesome, a wooden table and chair set for the kids that is built but needs to be painted, reupholster a couple of chairs, hang chandelier above breakfast table, refinish an end table, plant a garden, and build two sets of bunk beds.  OK, that last one is for the husband to do, but I may help him.

I firmly resolve to complete these all within the year!  Yes, I have to give myself a loooong time.  Remember I have 5 kids that I homeschool, so give me a break!  My “carrot” for finishing all of this?  Why, painting the Kitchen cabinets of course!  It’s ok if you don’t think I’m normal.  Neither does my husband.

**Quilt above is Anna Maria Horner’s Birdcage on a Chain pattern using Joel Dewberry’s Aviary 2 fabric.  The light fixture is the Star Ceiling Mount from Ballard Design.

You Ought to be in Pictures

I used to hate hanging framed pictures or art.  Measure this, nail that…I always hung them off center or crooked.  Then I saw a technique that cured my picture hanging hatred!  I think the geniuses at Young House Love came up with this.  I will now share it with you!

Materials needed: framed art/photos you want to hang (obviously), roll of craft paper, pencil, scissors, painters tape, hammer, nails

Lay the picture down on the craft paper and trace around it with the pencil.  Cut out the shape of the frame.  Flip over your picture (backside up), place the cut out shape on top and poke a hole where the nail will go in the back.  (See the dot in the picture below?  That will help me know exactly where to put the nail.)

Using painter’s tape, hang up the cut out paper or papers.  Painter’s tape can be re-stuck quite a few times, so you can move the paper around until you get a configuration you like.

When you’re satisfied with the location, hammer away!  Remove the paper and hang up the pictures.

I did use a level a bit to hang the photos in the picture above but only because I wanted them all hung evenly.  Here’s an example of a set of pictures I hung without using a level at all:

This is a Max approved hanging method.

And yes, I’m aware he’s lying on a girly blanket.  He just really likes Amy Butler fabric, OK?

**Black and white photos by Wallace Standard Photography.  Alice in Wonderland and other paintings by Emily Martin and my mama.


Another man’s trash…a little upholstery how to

I love walking the dog on trash night.  Can you guess why?  I bet you can!  I love looking at other people’s trash and imagining if I can make it new again.

Well I found the perfect old/new again piece while walking the dog one evening at the very end of my pregnancy.  I went straight home and told Jason which house to go to and what to pick out of the garbage.  All under the cover of dark night of course.

It was this hot pink pleather beauty.  An upholstered rocker for children.  Isn’t it screaming to be loved?  Well Jason agreed to trash pick it only when I promised that I would upholster it soon and not let it sit in the garage forever.

As you can see, it was pretty beat up.  So I carefully removed all the pieces of pleather.  I tried to keep them intact as much as possible so I could use them as pattern pieces.  I had to take apart some of the chair (it was held together with screws), but I made sure to document the order in which I removed everything.  At this point, I went to the hospital and had a baby.  This is not a necessary step, but I loved it.  I then laid out my new fabric and placed the old fabric on top and carefully cut around each old piece.  Going by my list, I worked backward to put the new fabric on.  For example, the fabric on the seat of the chair was the last I removed of the old, so it was the first I put on with the new fabric.  Make sense?  Most of the process was just stapling fabric on.  Only twice did I have to sew anything and that was for the back of the chair.  I also added a dust cover on the underneath of the rocker.  And the end result:

I think it turned out pretty nicely for my first attempt at upholstery!  The great thing was that the foam was all still in great condition and very clean, so I just reused it.  Now the kids can enjoy a cozy little reading chair!

I’m ready for my next upholstery project now!!  There are two chairs I got long ago from craigslist.  Hopefully I can get to them sometime this year.

the writing on the wall

A must have in a classroom is a blackboard or dry erase board, so I thought it would be fun to have a black wall in our classroom. After much research, I found that the most recommended chalkboard paint was made by Rust-oleum.  After using our black wall for most of the year, I thought I would share my experience and provide a little review of chalkboard paint along with magnetic primer.

We have textured walls in our home and in order to use chalkboard paint, the surface has to be smooth.  So the first, and worst, part of the job was sanding the wall.  After I got it smooth enough (read as gave up), I decided to use a magnetic primer.  I used Rust-oleum magnetic primer.  The directions say to stir until the primer is uniform.  And stir I did.  The metal had become a big ball in the can, so I stirred for over 20 minutes.  I suggest having them shake it in the paint shaker at the store then immediately using it.  This will save you lots of stirring.  And be sure to use a drop cloth because this stuff splatters more than regular paint.

As far as magnets sticking to the wall, I wasn’t super impressed.  I followed the instructions and used a dense foam roller while applying thin coats.  I believe I applied 3 coats of primer.  As you can see in the picture above, small magnets will stay, but they do sometimes fall off.  There’s no way these magnets can hold paper to the wall.  I was planning to hang art work with magnets, but I realized I would need really strong magnets to hold up paper.  Perhaps I’ll try that next school year.  For now, I’ll give the magnetic primer 3 stars for being not so easy to apply and not really holding magnets.  If stronger magnets work, I’d probably bump that up to 4 stars.

I was much more impressed with the chalkboard paint.  I was mainly concerned with two things: 1. will the chalk actually show up on it or will it barely write like with cheaper blackboards and 2. will the paint flake off when we write on it.

Neither of these things happened. I applied 3 thin coats with a dense foam roller, then I primed the board after it dried by rubbing a piece of chalk on its side over the whole board. It looks and feels just like the blackboards I remember as a kid.  And the better chalk I choose, the better the whole black wall is.  So far,  I’m super impressed with Crayola brand chalk.  And don’t be disturbed by how dusty my wall is.  It’s because I give the kids the cheap chalk to draw with (which they love doing) and we haven’t cleaned the erasers in a while.  However, the wall is easy to clean with a damp cloth.

So I’ll give the chalkboard paint 5 stars!  We love it and use our black wall daily!

What have you been itching to paint with chalkboard paint?


What a nice little unplug for the week!  A little recap…

  • Tuesday was our 8th wedding anniversary.  In those 8 years, we’ve had 4.99999 kids, moved 4 times (twice across the country), laughed and loved a whole lot.  Here’s to many more years!
  • Wednesday was Ash Wednesday.  This Lent I’m going to attempt this.  I’m interested to see if I can do it.
  • I had my loving husband trash pick a small, upholstered rocking chair for kids.  Awesome score!  It needs work, so I’ll post before and after shots soon.
  • I started knitting a new afghan.  I forgot how relaxing knitting is.
  • And last but not least, I’ve been in major pre-labor all week but still no baby.  What I’ve learned from all this…those women who say they just want to go through labor so they can meet their baby are all lying.  Sure babies are cute and all, but by the end of the pregnancy, we just don’t want to be pregnant anymore!  I just want to go for a run!  Is that too much to ask?!  And for the love of all that is holy, make these painful contractions stop already!  Having said that, I can’t wait to meet the little guy. 🙂

More crafty pictures coming soon of all my 1,000 projects.  Have a great weekend!

Frugal Friday

It’s no secret that I have a semi-large family.  4 kids and one due in about a month.  So I’m always looking for a way to save a buck or two and to not be wasteful in general.  I thought it would be fun to start what I like to call “Frugal Friday.”  I’m sure most of it will focus on those of us with kids, but there are also some great ways to save for those without big families.  Here is the first installment of Frugal Friday…

Five kids.  That’s a whole lot of diapers over the years.  However, when I was pregnant with kid #2, I discovered the world of cloth diapers.  I didn’t even know they still existed!  And the only image I had of cloth diapers was prefolds with those huge diaper pins.  No thanks!  After a bit of research, I saw how much the world of cloth had changed over the years.

There is now a huge selection of different styles, colors and many other things.  I settled on a brand called Bumgenius and haven’t looked back.  I’m sure there are other great brands out there, but we’ve never had a problem with Bumgenius.  As a matter of fact, I’m still using the diapers I bought almost six years ago (not on the same kid obviously).  I have added to my stash so that I have enough to wash every other day, even when I have two babies in diapers.  I’ve easily replaced the elastic when it went out on the diapers.  I’ve converted the worn hook and loop closure to snaps to give the diapers a little more life.  (They now sell the diapers with snaps as well as hook and loop.)  And I even cut up old flannel sheets to use as reusable wipes that I wash along with the diapers.  Finally, I make my own diaper spray to use with the wipes using Diaper Lotion Potion by Kissaluvs.  The concentrate lasts a loooong time.  Bonus: we hardly ever have diaper rash problems!

According to this site, the average cost of generic disposable diapers is around $1800 from birth to potty training.  That’s not including wipes and diaper rash cream.  For the 4.9999 kids that I have, that would have cost me around $9000 over the past 7 years.  I’ve spent around $500 (24ish diapers that include newborn and regular size inserts; diaper spray, etc) on all my cloth diapering needs (not including laundry detergent).

Total money saved: $8500!  Woohoo! Not to mention lots of disposable diapers kept out of landfills!

What are some ways you save on diapering?