Category Archives: toy making

kindergarten in the garden

Honestly I sometimes resent the amount of time and energy it takes to homeschool the older boys.  We now have one at middle school level and one high school.  That is a lot of work, not just for them, but for me as their teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy teaching them, very much (well, most of the time!  There are days…).  Add in a third grader and baby and my days are full, full, full.  I’m sometimes nostalgic for the quiet, slower paced days when we could just “do kindergarten” all day long.

Mairi Rose had a challenging summer.  I spent a lot of time meditating on how to approach the coming school year with her, trying to figure out what would nourish her soul, ease her troubles and hopefully nurture her into a calmer phase of development.  It didn’t come all at once, but eventually, what became clear to me was that this girl needed a deeper connection to the natural world around her.  I set about planning ways to immerse her in the magic of the ever changing seasons, to give her the chance to be grounded by the earth.

After much frustration last year, I decided it was better to do one thing in a day well and with great care and attention then to be frazzled and frantically trying to create a “full day” for her.  We now have one yoga day (I’ll try to post more on that at a later point), one project day, a nature walk day, baking day and story day where I try to do something a little special with, say, props or puppets.  I do wish we were getting out for walks every day, but right now that is just not happening.  I try to make our one day as unhurried as possible.  Even if we do make it out other days, this is the day where we don’t have to rush back home, in theory anyway.  Even with this simplified arrangement there are days and even the better part of weeks that we miss.

In the notes section of my calendar I jot down the planned projects and baking items assigned to each week.  I’m working from a general theme that everything is related to.  We started off with “herbs” and have moved on to include both herbs and the harvest.  We made dream pillows full of sweet herbs from the garden.  Rosebud has been enjoying mixing her own herbal tea blends and takes great pride in serving them.  Together we made lavender-chamomile lotion for the girls bedtime massages.  Actually Elijah swears by it for sore muscles after riding!  We’ve planted garlic and daffodils.  I’ve been sharing stories about herbs with her.  After learning that chamomile is good for teething, she began bringing in bunches from the garden for her sister, whenever she thought her uncomfortable.

Together we made a garden loom.  I was going to make it myself and just show her how to weave with it, but we had the gift of time together, apart from the others and I thought I’d give her the chance to do some building herself.  She really got into it and again showed a lot of pride in her work.  These are her special things.  They are dear to her heart.

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Leslie Tierra has been a wonderful resource.  I have two minor criticisms regarding this book.  I wish they used more natural sweeteners in the recipes and maybe less sweets in general.  I also feel like occasionally they ruin the magic of the stories by over-explaining at the end, stating exactly what you were supposed to have learned, instead of just letting the lesson sink in through the power of the tale.  But both of those things can be altered for personal preference and otherwise I find it invaluable.

I try to keep a list of ideas on hand to give our life and lessons some continuity while kind of rounding things out for her, so if I have a spare moment I can implement them.  Little things like harvesting some herbs to go with dinner, playing a game of Wildcraft, turning her normal bath into an herbal bath or simply brewing a pot of tea together.  At the moment we have one day a week where all three boys are at their own nature program for a full morning and afternoon and I take advantage of that time together trying to channel that laid back all day kindergarten mindset of yesteryear.  It’s rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.


little Rose Cheeks and how need became want

This year, when I started my Christmas gift planning, I was feeling a little scattered.  Some random ideas for random people, but no real cohesive plan.  I’m sure that by now, everyone has seen that “recipe” floating around the internet for holiday gift giving for children; something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need.  More to just straighten things out in my own head then anything else, I decided to try breaking things up that way to see if it helped.

Something to wear was easy: Christmas pajamas for all.  We had something to read covered as well.  We kind of have a standard stocking formula: a book, a new deck of playing cards, candy canes (depending on the age of the child), some B-fresh gum (again age dependent), and art supplies.  This is generally how we replenish our homeschooling and art supplies each year.

For want, we tracked down a ping pong table on Craig’s List for the older boys to share.  Carrot the Prince was made for Galen.  Dear sweet Galen who always claims that he doesn’t know what it is he wants until he receives a gift, then, as if by magic, it always turns out to be just what he wanted, he just didn’t know it before!  Màiri Rose got a new tea set, as her beloved old one was missing several key pieces at this point, like, you know, a tea pot.

For need we replaced Iain’s old watch, which was to the point of being held together with duct tape and only sometimes actually telling time.  Elijah got a new winter hat (more on that later).  Galen recieved some buckets and boxes to organize the art supplies in his room.  And Màiri, oh Màiri, well Màiri is where things got tricky…

The original plan, that was well under way, was to make her a quilt for her bed.  There came a day where it was just the two of us home alone.  I went to throw in a load of laundry before reading her a book, only to find her poking about in my craft bags.  The canvas bags that I keep tied shut at that time of year, generally each containing a gift project, to be picked up and worked on whenever that particular child is not around.  She was holding the inner head for Galen’s doll.

The conversation that followed went something like this:

“what’s this?”

“that’s none of your business”

“I think it’s a doll.  I think you are making a doll.”

And then my reassuring her repeatedly that whatever it was, it wasn’t for her.  And from that point on, it was very common for her to say in a loud, exaggerated whisper, when I was just within hearing, “Oh, I hope I get a doll for Christmas!“  Right.  Now I had thought about Galen’s getting a doll and her not and how she might react to that and decided that in the excitement of the morning she wouldn’t much mind.  But now that the expectation of the possibility was there, well, that was a whole new ball game.

And so, a week or so before Christmas, I shifted gears, the quilt was abandoned and a relatively quick little dolly whipped up instead.  When I told Steve that it would go fairly quickly because the doll wouldn’t really have a body, he looked at me in horror and said, “you’re giving our little girl a dismembered head?!?”  I tried to explain, but finally told him he’d just have to wait and see what I meant.

She named her Rose Cheeks.  And yes, many a request for “Rose Cheek stories” have been made.  Turns out she is a cousin of Carrot the Prince.  And goodness, between the two of them this mama has been kept on her toes and needing to think fast.  The children decided that it would be fair if I told one story for each, every other night.  I’m really not sure that my tired brain can pull together 365 unique stories a year!


Carrot the Prince

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Galen who loved to hear stories.  When he was not more then 2 or 3 his mama started to tell him a story.  A story about a prince who’s true name has been long forgotten because as she began her story and introduced the hero, there was a small interruption as the little boy said, “yeah, but everybody called him Carrot”.  His mama laughed and said, “Carrot?  Alright, Carrot the Prince it is!”  And so Carrot the Prince was born and many, many a tale of his adventures have been told.  Sometimes the stories are very royal and magical indeed and sometimes they are a bit more ordinary and eerily similar to things that are happening in our own lives.  Either way Carrot the Prince, along with his father King Turnip and his mother Queen Rutabaga, are quite popular in these parts.

I’ve often thought about making Galen a Carrot the Prince doll.  As he is getting older and maturing rapidly these days, I thought this Christmas might well be my last chance to do something of that sort and have him really and truly appreciate it.  I’m so glad I did.


christmas pajamas and other things

Waiting for the phone to ring for the annual reading of T’was the Night Before Christmas with Pop-pop.  The waiting is so hard.

But then…

Little squishy wax people are a specialty of Màiri and Galen’s.

I found a hand-carved crochet hook and some knitting needles in my stocking.  Only in this house!

Iain and Elijah made the little ones some cool bath toys.  (instructions here)

I had five kids up at 3:30 in the morning on Christmas day (5!), though I’m pretty sure I was the only one being kept up by the littlest.  Thankfully I was able to convince them to go back to sleep for another couple hours at least.

I’m still bored with the usual red and green Christmas pajamas.  I went with robin’s egg blue instead.  The boys were made from the same old (now out of print I believe) Kwik Sew long john pattern that I’ve made at least 20 times now.  It required quite a bit of altering for Iain who outgrew that pattern long ago.  Elijah’s in the largest size now.  Finding sewing patterns for pre-teen/teenage boys is not easy.  Màiri’s leggings were made by tracing another pair to use as the pattern.  Her nightie is Kwik Sew 3105, view A, modified for length and without the bottom edge ruffle.  The bonnet is the Angry Chicken one, only with no brim and a chin strap and button instead of ribbon tie.  The stretch fabric made it lay a little funny in the front.

Back in November the Wee Girl asked if I has started making the Christmas pajamas yet.  When I replied that I had picked out the fabric, but hadn’t started sewing yet, she told me that I better get to it because Christmas was actually really quite soon.  Then she proceeded to inform me that she required a new nightgown, since she had grown out of her one from last year, and a new sleep cap and something for her legs “like the boys get”.  Yup, that’s my low maintenance girl.

Iain and Elijah seem to have appointed themselves as heads of the holiday cheer committee.  Despite the fact that they are well past the doll play stage, all of the dolls find their way back out and get dressed up for the occasion and special decorations show up for all of the toy people.  All to make things festive for the little ones or maybe to pretend, just for a day or two that they are little ones again?  It’s very sweet.


deep into advent

Dates covered in home-made chocolate with orange zest as an advent treat.  YUM.

On the agenda today: the hand-me-down dress that was deemed “just perfect” for wearing to ‘The Nutcracker’ but that as it turns out needs quite a bit of mending to make it wearable.

We’ve been filling jars with chocolate covered raisins for the neighbors, with bows finger-knitted by Galen and Mairi.

An answer to the age old question of exactly how many sets of hands it takes to knead a batch of shortbread.

We’ve had so much snow already this year.  Galen has to wear snowshoes to take the compost out.

As far as I can tell there are finger knit garlands pretty much everywhere there isn’t snow.

There is a good deal of crafting going on here.  Woodworking, painting, sewing, you name it.  I’ve made a couple dolls, several hats, one birthday sweater is complete with the second well underway.  I seem to have stalled out on my quilting project, but three sets of Christmas pajamas have been folded up and tucked into their fabric gift bags, all ready for Christmas Eve.  The fourth is all cut out and waiting for me to find a quiet moment to sit and turn it into something.

My sister arrived a couple of days ago, Galen is currently teaching her how to make apple sauce, with a second sister due in this afternoon.  All is well here, merry and bright.


40/52 and Halloween

Halloween was wet, very wet.  But we managed to have a good time anyway.  Not the best conditions for pictures, as you will soon see!

Most of the costumes this year came from the dress ups box, with bits and pieces borrowed from siblings or me or Steve.

Any guess as to who he’s supposed to be?  Think about movies from the 80′s.  Anyone?

answer: Micheal J. Fox a.k.a. Marty McFly from Back to the Future.  My main contribution to this costume was doing his hair, which you can’t really see much of in these pictures.  You need 80′s girl hair?  I’m there.  80′s boy hair?  Well, that was a new one for me.

Elijah as Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen from Back to the Future III (you know, the one with the horses), but I’m sure you all got that one right away….uh-huh.

My kids have very little knowledge of current popular culture, but they are surprisingly (alarmingly?) conversant in ’70s and ’80s pop culture.

Really I think the beard is the only thing out of the ordinary for him.  Everything else is pretty much every day wear.

Oh, and the snarl, that was part of the costume too.

I really don’t like the toy gun.  I don’t like it being in the house, I don’t like seeing him with it, everything about it just bothers me.  I realize this is all somewhat irrational, but it’s true all the same.

Our little fox.  He’s so stinkin’ cute!  I made him a set of long-johns, with lots of room to grow.  I really like useful Halloween costumes.  Then all of the accessories were just kind of improvised.

All of the fiercest pirates cuddle their hooks.  It’s a fact.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one.  We told her to look fierce for a picture and she smiled benignly.  No, no, like Galen ate all of your caramel…

Yup, there it is.  But it didn’t last long :)

Our first Halloween with no bonfire!  But when the rain let up a bit at the end of the night, there was some excitement involving torches made from mullein stalks dipped in tallow.


The little one…

Completely unrelated to Halloween.  Maybe I should have let the kids paint a Jack ‘O Lantern face on my tummy?

Your big brothers painted the changing table so that it would be all fresh and new for you.  I had just enough organic cotton yarn left to make you your own tiny Blackberry Beret, so now you can match Mommy and Me-Mom and Brother and Sister.  Which may be getting just a bit ridiculous.


Boobie’s Birthday Suit

Yeah, there’s all kinds of things wrong with the title of this post.  I see it.

A while back we were visiting some friends when an older child made one of those sweet impulsive gestures that kind children make and offered Màiri one of her old dolls.  The exchange happened before I even knew anything about it.  After the fact with my glowing girl holding her new baby I was asked if it was ok…to which, as I looked at this plastic doll, while thinking of all of our lovely Waldorf ones at home, I probably replied something along the lines of, “err, uhm, yeah, yeah of course it’s fine.  How kind of you!”  But it kind of caught me off guard, I confess, as this is not a situation we’ve ever had before.  People don’t think to give little boys dolls, so we lived in our little cloth doll exclusive world for 13 years or so.

And then Boobie came along.  Yes, Boobie.  That’s what the Wee Girl named her.  Though I don’t think it’s what everyone else reading this thinks it is, as we don’t usually use that term in this house.  I think it’s just a variation on “Baby”.  Like if you were baby talking to a baby and called them a “cute little bubby” or well, “boobie”.  For the sake of people in public staring at us less I try to encourage the alternate pronunciation (bubby), but of course everyone else in the family thinks the name is hysterical and corrects her if she (or I) ever says anything other then Boobie.  So Boobie it is.

And for quite a while she became a great favorite with Rosebud.  As hard for me to accept as it was that the doll she loved, truly loved, wasn’t the beautiful handmade German doll that I bought her as an infant, or the doll that I stayed up all night hand-sewing for her second birthday, or even the rag dolls that her grandmother sent her, all which are soft and sweet and cuddly, but this thing that poked her in the ribs waking her up, when she rolled over in her sleep.  It’s change a bit lately and she’s gone back to playing with her other dolls too, but it looks like Boobie will be a fixture for a long time coming.

Once upon a time a little girl who loved a doll named Boobie was very, very cranky.  She woke up cranky and stayed cranky all the morning long.  Finally her mama decided that something had to be done.  She told the little girl to go fetch her basket of yarn.  When the little girl came back her mama told her to pick out what yarn she wanted for some clothes for Boobie.  The little girl got very excited and sorted through every last ball until she decided just what she wanted.  Then she told everyone in the house that it was Boobie’s birthday and that they all had to come to the party.  There was a dress code; everyone had to wear blue because apparently that is Boobie’s favorite color.  And lots of pretend food.  And a little bit of real food.  And lots of decorations and setting up.  The little girl spent the rest of the day making grand birthday plans and forgot to be cranky.

And while her birthday knits (a sweater and pair of pants) weren’t done that very day, Boobie had 4 or 5 more birthdays that week, so it was easy to sneak them in to one of the celebrations.  While she may not be made of wool, at least I can take some consolation in covering as much of her in wool as possible.  Though I must say that I’m rather glad the Wee Girl seems to have forgotten about the yellow linen dress and green wool sunbonnet (?) that I was also supposed to knit.


birthday sweaters, in the garden…

on a cool spring evening.

 Fear not, I’m not going to completely ignore our wedding/vow renewal and the many, many, many craft projects therein.  There will be pictures.  There will be so many pictures and so much written, that you will swear off ever coming here again for fear of being forced to endure yet another vow renewal related post.  You will be begging for mercy and longing for the days of a nice boring post on Waldorf math.  But while we wait for the professional pictures to come, there might as well be some catching up.  For I missed a great deal of posting over the winter and early spring.

Case in point, Miss Màiri Rose’s birthday sweater, with matching sweater for little Rose of course, gifted on 1/5.  Rosebud’s is The Mira Sweater, by Elizabeth Murphy, made from the yarn that Galen and I dyed so long ago.  Rose’s sweater is the Luna Doll Sweater, also by Elizabeth Murphy and made from scraps of yarn in the same shade’s as Màiri’s.


7th birthday gifts

General swing instructions here.

‘I Love You Raspberry Cheesecake-Mousse’ (raw, dairy free)- hers are ever so much prettier then mine!

Galen’s sweater pattern (shown in several pictures here both inside out and backwards).

Yarn for both Galen’s sweater and Teddy’s sweater (color: honey).

Teddy’s sweater and both sets of pants were improvised.

Fabric: random striped canvas found at a yard sale by my Mother-in-Law.


Birthday Crown


let’s pretend…

~the view from my window this morning~

Let’s pretend that since I last posted that I just carried along with my semi-idyllic bed rest, reading to little ones and playing games and keeping spirits up.  Not that I ended up in two different hospitals with consultations with countless doctors at both and in between.  Let’s pretend that I’m not still recovering from the general anesthesia and  surgery for something other then the surgery that I am still, as of yet, trying to avoid.  Let’s pretend that I, who never so much as takes cough syrup aren’t on a barrage of medicines that when I’m not in too much pain, knock me out for hours on end or that I wake up crying, for reasons no one, including me understand, before falling back to sleep again.  That the vivid dreams I have during these times aren’t impossible to distinguish from reality.  Let’s pretend that I don’t have another consult for yet more potential surgeries.  Let’s pretend that there are actually days when I’m lucid enough to enjoy my family, that attempting to knit 1/4 of a row or lifting a hardbound book doesn’t exhaust me.  Let’s pretend that I haven’t lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks because between the pain and the pills I just can’t convince myself to eat.  Let’s pretend that on top of it all everyone else in the house, including the main caretaker aren’t in various stages of a nasty cold.  Let’s pretend that none of that is true because I’m having an ok-ish day.  I don’t want to tempt fate by declaring I feel nearly human, but I’ve managed to drop one pill from my regiment (for now) and this is the first day in a while that I’ve felt like my mind and my body are at least a little bit my own.  And so I want to think and talk of anything else…any pretty little everyday thing.

For Christmas this year we couldn’t really think of anything much that the kids needed or really anything that would enrich their lives.  At least nothing that couldn’t be used as stocking stuffers (i.e. art supplies).  And I am still very much on my not wanting to bring random stuff into the house for no reason kick.  So instead of several little gifts, we decided to give one big gift for everyone.  Steve built an ice rink in the front yard, and we updated ice skate for those who needed them.  Building an ice rink is a long, slow process, much more so then you might think, with layer upon layer added over the course of many days, but worth the effort I think.

These pictures are from just after Christmas.  It was really the first official time skating for the younger two, while the other two zoomed in circles around them.  Such a fun first.  I’m so glad I was able to be there.