Chore Chart for Kiddos

For a while now I’ve been wanting to make some sort of chore chart for Gwen.  I figure having the visual helps reinforce the things I ask of or expect from her on a daily basis, as well as motivate her to complete tasks. 

While searching for homeschool resources, I did come upon various printable charts – but most of them were pretty basic graphs with simple word descriptions, not very impressive for a kiddo who doesn’t yet know how to read. 

Earlier today, when going through my binder of craft ideas for the kiddos, I came upon an article I had ripped out of a Parents magazine for cute chore charts with corresponding pictures – just like this one.  To my frustration, the one pictured in the article was not on the website – but there are some other blank charts.  Then I thought, why not make my own?

Earlier today I was delighted to find this Funny Font Book, which helps younger children differentiate between letters when there are so many typefaces and versions of the same letter.  I immediately downloaded it, re-sized the pages so I got four per printout on photo paper, cut out the pages, punched holes, and secured them with a metal ring.  Hm, metal rings… maybe I could make a similar flipbook for chores.   

I googled “flip chore charts with pictures”, and though it’s not what I originally had in mind, one of the results landed me at Proverbial Girl Duck and her post about positive rewards and chore charts.  I love the system she implemented, and was even further delighted when I realized she downloaded it from Homeschool Creations – already a favorite of mine!   

I printed out the chore chart (in purple) along with the chore cards on photo paper, picked out a few of the cards that might go in each category (morning chores, afternoon chores, or those for reward), and cut small pieces of velcro to attach to the front and back of each card. 

On the backs of the cards I put a star sticker, so when the chore is completed it can be turned around and – voila! – you see a star. 


I also pasted the main chore chart onto a piece of purple construction paper, just for fun.  I was going to put her name somewhere, but I’m not sure if I want to use marker, stickers, whatever – maybe I’ll leave that up to Gwen.

Tomorrow I’ll introduce her chore chart, along with Proverbial Girl Duck‘s idea for “warm fuzzies” – pom poms earned for doing reward chores or good behavior during the day, which when the jar is full can be turned in for a movie night or other surprise.  


I’m not sure where it would best be displayed – figured it would get messed with on the fridge, and she would probably end up playing with it if left in her room.  Can’t wait to see what she thinks of it – getting “warm fuzzies” just thinking about it!

The Garden Experiment

In the past Phil and I have done a tiny garden, tomatoes in a pot, container herbs… but this year is the Garden Experiment.  We decided to build three raised beds with a variety of vegetables (mostly from seed) and see how they fare. 

 
 

The kids quickly decided this was their new playground/sandbox.  What fun it was trying to keep ‘em out once we actually planted seeds.  Especially Josiah, whose main goal in life is to get as dirty as possible. 

 

Phil rigged some metal fencing as climbing posts for the eventual squash plants – but the kiddos saw its true potential.  They love tunnels.  A good ol’ cushion and blanket tunnel will keep them happily occupied while I do the laundry.  Or the dishes. 

Now I don’t have much of a green thumb, so just getting green shoots to come out of the ground is sweet victory to me. 

Sweet Victory…

 

Early on we enjoyed spinach and lettuce greens, and a couple weeks ago I was thrilled to notice some peas ready for the pickin’.  I hadn’t noticed them because they blend right into the greenery or hide behind the leaves.   

 
 

We enjoyed them straight from the vine, and I’m afraid the plant has since been picked clean. We love fresh peas!  I excitedly started checking the other plants, and found a whole slew of baby veggies which are getting bigger and bigger each day.  Just like the kiddos! *sniff sniff*  Many of the veggies have beautiful flowers that bloom before the veggies grow, and I love the little curly vines that – which just a little coaxing – hang onto the trellis for support. 

 
 
 

I’ve been very anxious at the state of my rainbow carrots, but every time I take a peek underneath the soil they’re still so tiny, despite a plethora of carrot greens growing above-ground.  We finally decided to thin them out yesterday so they would have more room to grow.  Some of them are so small, they can’t even be considered baby carrots.  I call them fetal carrots.  So sad, I hope they survive.  We did find one good-sized, beautiful red carrot.  It was delicious, but I was disappointed that the inside is orange like a traditional carrot.

 

In addition to the greens and peas, we’ve also picked some beans, potatoes, and onions.  It feels so good to be grow food from seed, take care of it, and enjoy its bounty.  Talk about health food!  I try to imagine what it was like when living off the land was the norm for people. 

So far, the verdict is that we need more garden space, so we’ll probably add three to four more raised beds next year.  This is a learning process for me, from deciding what, when, and how to plant, to taking care of the plants and deciding how to harvest them (pick from the bottom, top, pinch off the top before it flowers?).  In the beginning I was picking the spinach and lettuce while still small, but decided to leave them alone for a while and see if they thrived.  Now, the spinach is tall but I’m not sure how much more I’ll get from it and the lettuce is in abundance, but the bigger it gets the more bitter it tastes.  I need to find a happy medium!

I’m excited see what ripens next.  Besides adding fresh produce to our meals, I hope to try some new recipes for canning and freezing.  Put ‘em Up!, a canning and preserving book I got from the library, has some excellent ideas that I hope to try - including rhubarb pickles, of all things.  I’ll probably end up making salsa, ketchup, and sauce with the tomatoes, and pickles from the cukes.  And I’m dying to try zucchini relish, but need to get the recipe from a friend.  Do you have any favorite canning/preserving recipes?  Do share.  

While I was in the yard yesterday, I happened upon this butterfly enjoying the flower gardens.

In the Kitchen, Out & About

Though I’m eating probably as healthy as I ever have these days, I realize there is always room for improvement.  I’ve lost the baby weight I gained with the kiddos, but now I’m just hovering.  Stagnant.  I have no desire to add an exercise routine other than getting out and about when the weather is nice.  When I stop and think about it, I realize I get a lot of exercise just going up and downstairs, vacuuming, lifting Josiah, carrying bags and baby, bending over to clean food off the floor and retrieve the same toys over and over again.     

I like to browse magazines and websites for new and interesting recipes to try, though I tend to stick to familiar favorites.  I bookmark awesome craft ideas, thinking one day I’ll get around to making that.  In just the same way, I earmark healthy tips and resources for making changes; save an article here, bookmark a blog there.  And the more I find out, the more I realize, not only are these changes beneficial, but necessary.  It scares me, how much crap we as society are literally fed from the Higher Ups; there’s always an agenda, and it’s not in our best interest.

I’ve been especially concerned with the amount of carbs we take in, even in the form of whole grains – pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner.  I’ve been trying to find a way to improve upon this, at times substituting ground nuts for flour, as in the case with the fluffy flatbread (though I didn’t know I was supposed to add the egg yolks back in – oops!). 

I frequent a number of blogs, one of them being Passionate Homemaking, where I originally found a recipe for homemade toothpaste when I was on a quest for healthy toothpaste.  I got to browsing, and discovered her section on soaking grains.  Initially, I was overwhelmed just reading about it – I don’t always know what we’re having for dinner at dinnertime, how would I plan ahead and soak my grains hours in advance?  But I decided to try… and have been excited at the results.  I already use wheat flour, and often grind oats and brown rice for flour, so I was already a step ahead in the game.  

Somewhere along the line – I don’t know if it was related content on one of the websites I was browsing or just leafing through my cookbook – I decided to make a sourdough starter for bread, which is basically building on the idea of soaking. 

I used the simple recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, something like this one, though I used wheat flour instead of white.  It’s been brewing for over a week now, and I’ve already made a plethora of goodies – pancakes, muffins, pizza dough, and finally… bread.   

In Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (love the title!), I was excited to read the many benefits of fermented foods, the traditional method of preparing things such breads, yogurt and other dairy, vegetables, beverages (beer, anyone?).  Though we don’t drink milk anymore, I’ve started making yogurt again from whole milk, straining it to make what basically amounts to Greek yogurt or homemade cream cheese – yum.

I’ve been leafing through Nourishing Traditions, taking note of the fact that saturated animal fats (as well as tropical sources – coconut and palm oils) such as butter are actually healthy for the body (in moderation of course), especially when compared to all the popular fat sources we have today, namely vegetable oils, margarine, shortening, fake spreads.  Grass-fed beef and eggs from free-range chickens are also one of the healthiest protein sources, whereas the kind you get in the store is missing so many essential components.  I’ve known that milk from the store is basically crap - but more than that, it’s actually harmful, in the it leaches nutrients from the body while trying to process it.  On the other hand, raw milk is “white gold” – and I’ve been disappointed to learn that buying raw milk is illegal in my state.  Discover the truth about milk at Real Milk.

For dinner, I decided to try one of the recipes in Nourishing Traditions.  Sourdough bread fresh from the oven accompanied the brown rice that had been cooking on the stove with a lovely aroma of spices, carrots and chicken broth.  The kiddos and I devoured the rice – it was so good!  It will be my new staple rice recipe, and I’m already thinking of ways to tweak it. 

The family has been excitedly awaiting some green to appear in our garden after planting lettuce, spinach and peas.  Just the other day we finally saw some green poking out of the ground.  And in the kitchen, I’ve been experimenting with microgreens and sprouts, which I’ve been researching here and there.

I always forget that we have a year-round, indoor farmer’s market, but I get excited about going when the weather is nice and plants and produce are plentiful.  We’ve already been to the markets a few weekends now, and last weekend the kiddos and I were delighted to see baby bunnies and a baby goat. 

We had to get a bag of kettlecorn for Gwen and Josiah to fight over… er, share… and I picked some carrots and a big ol’ parsnip.  We kept going back to the baby animals.  I had rabbits growing up, and we’re considering getting ‘em for the kiddos. 

I take Gwen to storytime at our library every week, and last week we were fortunate to have it at local farm.  Gwen got to plant some seeds and flowers…

we looked at the horseys…

then peeked in the greenhouses at the gorgeous flowers.  It feels so good to get out! 

Healthy foods, sunshine, the promise of a self-sustaining crop in the future – invigorating!  Looking forward to the weekend, even though Phil will be working Easter Sunday (boo).  Continuing to read Benjamin’s Box leading up to Sunday, and Gwen has a little wooden box where she keeps the treasures from the Resurrection Eggs. 

What have you been up to?

Simplifying

I have never thought of myself as materialistic, but then I see how much stuff we accumulate.  Just thumbing through magazines, I pine for all the lovely things I could buy if we had the money.  If we had the money.  Why can’t I just be content, rather than looking at that greener grass next door?  And besides, who says it’s actually greener?   

Recently I wrote about my love of organizing, weeding and pruning those rooms in our homes that are overgrown with excess stuff, putting things in their places.  When I find it hard to cope, when I struggle with life and motherhood, having things in order gives me peace of mind and helps me feel more in control.

I find solace in simplifying, as if I’m clearing my head at the same time.  Simplifying is… freeing.  Simplifying my eating habits, simplifying hygiene, simplifying my hair.  Simplifying my routine has remained a challenge.  I keep wanting to start each day with prayer and devotions, something that only seems attainable on my kid-less Thursdays when I have most of the day to myself.  In the past I’ve made a rule for myself – no computer until naptime so I can devote my attention to Gwendolyn and Josiah.  This lasts for a while until something comes up, I need to check e-mail, we have a rainy day and the kiddos are on my nerves and I just want to do something else other than read and chase them around the house. 

However – I did simplify internet!  A while back I said farewell to Facebook, apparently a growing trend.  I was wasting time on trying to keep up with superficial relationships.  The change has been refreshing, and just like fast food, I won’t be going back.  Now when I’m on the computer I use the time to catch up on e-mail, share family pictures, shop for gifts or necessities, and jot down whatever musings my be rolling around in my brain.    

How about simplifying possessions?  At first blush, this may not seem all that difficult.  We all have a pair of skinny jeans lying around, some old books unread on the shelves, dusty knick-knacks we remain ambiguous about but still display on a bureau somewhere.  But what about all that other stuff, the stuff we think we need?  I felt the need to simplify these very things in my life, and when I read about one wife and mother’s approach to downsizing I was intrigued. 

I had already begun to amass a pile of things to purge – books and toys borrowed from Meme and Pepe’s, duplicate kids’ books and toys, clothes that don’t fit and some that will hopefully never fit again.  I’ve tried to approach our possessions with these questions:

Do I/we love it? 
Do I/we use it?
Will I/we use it in the near future?      
In the case of clothing, Have I worn it in the past year?
If something is torn/broken, Do I want to repair it?

Even if I’m not using something right now, I tend to think, You never know – we might need it later!  I used to have a mental list of things I needed for the kids, before they even needed them - Winter clothes!  Shoes!  Activity books!  But wouldn’t you know it, they get hand-me-downs, gifts from the grandparents, and somehow they are provided for.  I have an ongoing Amazon wish list, adding to it every now and then to keep track of things I’d like for the family.  I’ve been able to pare this down by swapping media, checking things out of the library for free, borrowing from friends.  

When my grandmother passed away last year, we went through the process of going through her things, cleaning out her house.  I ended up with her dining room hutch, which meant I was able to clear my cupboards of the fancy glasses, extra dishes and serving pieces. 

I chose only those things I wanted to keep and display, use on occasion, and the rest is being given away.  It’s so nice to be able to see those beautiful things every day, rather than have them stuffed away in the back of a cabinet; I used to have to kneel on the floor and crawl inside the cupboard when I was looking for something! 

As I read what others have to say in their journey, in their mothering adventures, I’m hearing more and more about Minimalist Parenting.  In a world of so much stuff, the idea of getting back to basics excites me.  I love how my kids can spend hours outside on a nice day, just playing with bits of nature in the yard.  Sure, it’s not always fun doing their laundry afterwards, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  *grin*  Think of the simple things that catch their interest: cardboard boxes (How much fun are they, seriously?  My babies always preferred the wrapping as opposed to what was inside the box!), a bathtub or sinkful of water and some plastic cups, a baby doll for their nurturing side, some cars or trucks to go vroom! vroom! with.

Yeah, I have a bunch of toys that we’ve received over the years, but these don’t come out all the time.  It’s interesting to see what they choose to play on their own.  I’d rather cultivate their natural curiosity, let them learn and think for themselves, rather than have them be entertained with all the bells and whistles of technology.   I do, however, rely on the occasional Praise Baby DVD or kids’ movie when I need to get something done; we might not watch television, but we love movies!

This year we hope to start a vegetable garden, and in the near future raise chickens for eggs.  Teaching our children and imparting our values, being self-sufficient, eating healthily, simplifying our grocery shopping… these are all good things.  There is always room for improvement, and though I’m not ready to be car free, I’m working on all that other stuff.     

What in your life could use some simplifying?  Is there excess stuff that you need to purge?  What do you find hardest to part with?  How does it make you feel when you let go of these things?

Spring Is In The Air

*inhale deeply* 

It’s a gorgeous, sunny day outside, and I find myself in a tank top as I do a bit of spring cleaning around the house.

No more pile of Christmas decorations in the loft!

The kiddos are with Meme today, so it’s quiet around here and I’ve actually been able to make efficient use of my time.  I’ve even had time to start a new knitting project!

I am using a gorgeous skein of Jojoland Melody wool fingering weight yarn in a variegated shade of teal and green that I found while checking the newest local yarn store.  Eneri Knits is a small shop, but boasts a cheerful array of delicious yarns and yummy knitting books.  I felt like I was in a candy store!  I’m attemping a lacy scarf with yarn overs and wrap turns; it’s relatively simple, but I have to keep checking the pattern to make sure I’m in the right place.  It’s not the suggested yarn for the pattern in 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders, but I’m hoping it will be a nice substitute. 

Some of the windows are cracked open, and the the mild breeze wafts in the windows, fluttering the curtains.  I’ve been in and out of the house, taking the trash out, returning some things to the garage, going to get the mail.  I saw some crocuses basking in the warmth of the sun.

Hello, little flowers

Phil has been taking advantage of the nice weather and cleaning up the yard in preparation for our vegetable gardens this year.  I hope my black thumb doesn’t curse the endeavor!  He’s using his manly chainsaw to take down a couple trees that will provide wood for our woodstove next winter; we went through the entire woodshed heating our home this year! 

Look at those sexy orange safety chaps

After getting the mail, I decided to walk down the street a bit to say hello to our horsey neighbors.

A few of my grandmother’s things brighten up our living room with a flash of color. 

I love changing things up with the seasons – or anytime, really, if I’m bored with them.  I’ve always got some project ideas in mind.  I got a few boxes of my grandmother’s old glass Ball canning jars in the basement, and I’m getting some good ideas for putting them to use.  I also have these wooden frames; Phil said he could get glass cut to fit, so all I need to do is fix up the wood. 

I’m contemplating painting them in all different colors to display Gwen’s artwork, and am also toying with the idea of trying to adhere fabric to the edges.  Do you think Mod Podge would work?

Well, it’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun.  It’s almost time to pick up the little monsters and start thinking about dinner.  Think I’ll see if I can knit a few more rows…

Unexpected Organization

If my house is a chaotic and messy, I feel out-of-control.  Putting things in their place, having things in order, gives me a sense of calm.  I don’t mind a little clutter here and there, but when books and toys and socks and who-knows-what-else are strewn all over the floor and trickling throughout the house, under cabinets, inside cabinets, underneath the beds quite possibly never to be found again, I can feel myself getting impatient and edgy.  Nevermind that I pick up the same things a thousand times a day.  But I digress!

I. love. organizing.  Especially when I get something new.  I’ll walk around the house, putting it here and there, trying to find The Perfect Place for it.  My husband looks at me and grins at Christmas-time, because he knows I won’t rest until all my gifts are safely tucked away in their new locations. 

It amazes me how much time one can spend just moving crap from one place to another, and when the job is a mandatory one (like cleaning out the attic or basement – UGH), I don’t always find pleasure in it.  But for the most part, I get happy fuzzy feelings when things are In Their Place. 

I’ve always found it refreshing to go through and sort things according to what we no longer need, what we can get rid of and/or donate.  After reading about a downsizing challenge, I got more strict with our posessions.  Fewer things to trip over!  Fewer things for the kiddos to fight over!  Less laundry!  I didn’t limit our wardrobe to ten pieces or keep two toys apiece for each child, but I have been a tad more merciless regarding what stays and what goes.  And when Gwendolyn sees me getting rid of toys (both old and new), it becomes an excellent teaching tool – we don’t need so much stuff, other children can’t afford all these nice things, we should be thankful for what we have.  She got so excited when she spotted some of “her” things on a recent trip to the consignment store where I dropped off some things; luckily she didn’t ask to take any of them home. *grin*

Home Made Simple sends out e-mails every now and then with some great tips, recipes, crafts, and so forth.  The last one showed some new uses for ice cube trays, and while I’ve seen similar things in the past, I actually decided to try it this time. 

Gwendolyn’s hair clips looks so cute and… well… organized!

While cleaning out my grandmother’s home, I found some snazzy vintage trim in her box of sewing notions.  We’ve already covered the fact that I can’t sew, but I took it anyway, just in case.  

I love how her orange walls seem to coordinate with everything!

Why buy a barette holder? Just hang some ribbon & you’re golden.

Gwendolyn’s room seems to have some of the most organizing potential; she has all these little-girl things that need a place of their own.  I love hand-me-downs, especially from family members.  The iron bed reflected in the mirror above was her Meme’s childhood bed that we painted white, and the mirror/dresser belonged to my grandmother.  A couple other recycled treasures:

 Dress-up jewelry in one of her great-grandma’s jewelry boxes.

 Great-Grandma’s trunk stores her dress-up clothes. Another trunk serves as our coffee table – great for game storage!

Josiah gets kinda jipped – his room houses his crib and clothing, but it’s more of a common playroom for the kiddos.  Here we see some more traditional, yet ever-so-handy, organizing components: bins and baskets.

Tupperware bins store toys – especially those you don’t want readily accessible to the kiddos (e.g. playdough).

Have I mentioned how much I love baskets? I have some in every room of the house.  They’re just so handy, and come in many shapes and sizes.

Small basket of toys in Josiah’s crib. I keep hoping these will keep him occupied when he wakes up at 6 in the morning. *sigh*

I get this immense satisfaction when I find just the right container for something. These lullaby CDs fit perfectly.

I am forever finding new places for their hygiene accessories, like wipes, lotion, powder, and so forth. Sometimes I keep ‘em on the changing table, then I move them to the bathroom, then I need them in the kitchen. I have gotten spares for each room… but sometimes I want that specific brand or scent.

Currently the baby powder & related paraphernalia are stored in a little metal bucket on the back of the toilet.

In the upstairs bathroom, I have a couple baskets being put to work. However, one of my favorite little pieces that I often move from room to room is this twig plant holder that I repurposed:

The container with 3 spots houses deodorant, lotion, makeup brushes, & a decorative bottle.

I wish I could fix up furniture, upcycle odds and ends and make something totally new, but my craftiness extends only so far. However, I do like using pieces for things other than that for which they were originally intended. Think Outside the Box. Or, er, vase:

Purple vase from Homegoods holds toothpaste & toothbrushes.

I love form and function!  These old picnic baskets stacked on top of one another are great for stashing things:

Often used as a catchall since they hide stuff quite nicely; you’d never know it.

There are all different kinds of baskets, and I love the hanging plant baskets that I use for storing fruit in my kitchen:

Josiah is always pointing to these, asking for bananas. He thinks because he can see them, they’re fair game.

I didn’t take pictures of all my baskets, thank goodness, but I love the ones that are bin-shaped.  We have three on the stairs that we use as a sort of baby gate, since we’re not big on baby-proofing.  These hold legos, blocks, and other toys.  And this fabric-covered bin holds all of my knitting stuff – I love the splash of color!

Keeps my knitting stash handy dandy! And upstairs, away from the kiddos.

Another one of my favorite ways to combine decoration and organization is using bottles and jars for collections.  One of my gradmother’s old blue Ball jars serves as a bookend for some of my cookbooks:

Others store pennies, marbles, and a collection of feathers:

This Christmas, I used a big ol’ pickle jar, piled ornaments inside, and roiled some twine around the mouth:

In keeping with the holiday theme, you could try balling up a string of lights inside a jar. 

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve been wanting to make a time capsule jar – put in a favorite photo, and any other mementos or little treasures that tickle your fancy.  Kind of like a scrapbook-in-a-jar.  You could give it as a gift, or keep it yourself and change it with the seasons.

We love cheese and buy a couple blocks of it every two weeks or so.  We do not, however, have much use for a cheese cloche.  Since it looks so pretty, I decided to showcase some of our shells on the bookshelf:

Yes, we do have your average bins for clothes storage, reusable grocery bags that are strewn around the house for wrangling odds and ends, some laundry baskets for the ubiquitous piles of clothing, but these aren’t the things that make me happy.  I do like getting them organized and put away.  Out of sight.  

I’d love to hear some of your organizing ideas, especially the pretty ones.