Sunday, May 18, 2014

Red Stick Summertime- Part One: Around the House

With the arrival of summer break upon us, I am already anxious over having two restless littles in the house and under foot.  

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having my kids all to myself during holiday and summer breaks.  It just seems that Aubrey is in a very good play stage, but I am her only playmate.  And Jude needs tons of interaction and stimulation to maintain his development.  Plus Louisiana summers are anything but mild, and it won't be long before I hear "it's too hot" from the mouth of my little girl.

Last year when summer began, I was so excited.  This was the first summer I had ever had a walking/talking child.  The years before, Aubrey was a baby, or I was pregnant and tired, or Jude was sick, etc etc.  I had expectations that last summer was going to be a wonderful time of new experiences and fun in the sun.


The thought and intentions were there...

But the fun? It was sparse and replaced by stress and frustration.

Turns out that even though Aubrey was walking, it was just as hard to get the kids ready and out of the house for anything.  I vividly remember sitting in their disaster of a bedroom and sobbing tears of disappointment and frustration wondering how much longer until school started back and I found glorious routine again.  

The days were so long and not at all the fun I thought they might be.  

What happened?

Well this year, I don't share that same excitement.  I feel kinda worried that a repeat of last summer's misery may be creeping around the corner.  So to counteract my worry, I decided to schedule some fun things for my family.  I think that was my biggest problem last summer; I didn't make a plan.

So I am making a summer planner for my kiddos and activities with them.  If you think that's kinda over the top, let me just put it this way:  Everyday we keep planners so that we can make the most out of our work and social time, so it's very reasonable that keeping a summer planner will allow us to make the most out of our time with our children.  

I have three categories in the planner: 
Around the House
Little to No Cost Around the Town Activities
Events and Activities In the Area

This post will be about activities Around the House.

I don't plan to fill every day with an activity away from the house. I think summertime should be full of backyard adventures.  And I want to have several types of activities.  Some that need my help so I get to interact with them, some that require them to be independent so I can get things done too, some that involve sensory play, some that create learning experiences, and some that are just plain fun.

So here are some activities for around the house:

Fingerpainting on the porch- the mess rinses right off with a water hose
Picking real food from the garden 
Pulling out the baby pool and sprinkler- makes for a great nap time
Setting up the Jump 'n Slide in the evening
Evening blanket picnic- simple things are extraordinary to littles
Playing with sidewalk chalk and bubbles- my favorite
Bean bag toss - making boards is on my hub's summer honey do list
Playdough playtime at the dining table- for days that are just too hot
Story time- not just for bed time; a good transition activity 
Dance Party - turn up the music and get the wiggles out before lunch and nap time
Activity sheets- tracing letters, counting items, matching colors
Teach age appropriate chores with chore charts- my other favorite
Have a tea party
Cooking Lesson- let them help make lunch or a snack
Hide and Go Seek- Jude and AL love "seeking" Lane and me
Bible Lesson- can be story time
Craft Time: Paint a canvas or complete a craft from store kit
Make a paper chain 

This is what I've compiled so far.  Honestly, the possiblities are endless for around the house play, especially with the help of Pinterest.  Some activities need prep and planning, but it's never a good idea to wait until there is nothing to do to find something to do (hence last summer).  I have a craft cabinet in my dining/kitchen area full of fingerpaint, acryclic paint, crayons, water color, chalk, playdough, construction paper, brushes, sponges, glitter, glue, stickers, activity sheets... you get the picture right.  It's our Craft Command Center, and I will be printing activity sheets and heading to Hobby Lobby and Michael's to make sure it's fully stocked by the end of next week when the final school bell rings.

A friend of mine helped me do a trial run during a play date with Aubrey Lane and her twin boys.  Thanks to a well stocked craft cabinet and a mom armed with dinosaur foam stickers, not only did we keep 3 almost 3 year olds busy for nearly 3 hours, but they kinda enjoyed themselves too.  We scribbled on paper with chalk and covered it with stickers, completed a quick construction paper craft found on Pinterest, and made a paper chain to countdown the weekdays of summer.  Then hung it all up for display in the dining nook.

 I don't care if my house looks like a preschool; that's where I am in life right now and I want to embrace it.  BLOOM! Right?

Don't get me wrong, there will be those rainy days where we pop in Tangled or Frozen for the 100th time and snuggle on the couch. I just don't want those days to become the standard summer day.

I want to encourage you (and myself) that this is a very precious season of your life.   Before you know it, that little prince or princess will be a teenager and off with their friends or working a summer job, and that special one on one time you had fingerpainting or singing nursery rhymes will be in the past.  Be present in these sweet moments because this season, like others, will be over before we know it.

If you have a house full of littles, I hope you found this post helpful.  You might have some ideas of your own and I would love to hear them.  And if you have older children from preschoolers to preteens, I'd love to hear your summer game plan for them because it won't be long before I am in that age group as well. 

Well I hope you had a good weekend.  Stay tuned for Part Two!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Growing and Remembering

With the late arrival of this year's spring (you don't even want to get me started on how much I dislike Punxsutawney Phil), we are getting a late start on the planting... which I'm sure is okay because it was 50 degrees a couple nights ago and it's MAY... IN LOUISIANA!

Plus the passing of Lane's sweet Maw Maw Nell and the events that followed didn't actually leave us in the gardening mood.  For the past couple of years, we have bought her a tomato plant upon her request. This year, we bought our plants while she was in the hospital just a handful of days before her passing.  Lane decided to go ahead and buy her a tomato plant- he was confident she would get to come home and tend to it.  

After her passing, I mentioned to my friend, Beth, that I was so sad about all the selfish things I wanted Maw Maw here for and that it breaks my heart that Aubrey Lane may not have any vivid memories of her.  Well Beth had the sweetest idea- to plant the tomato plant we bought for Maw Maw and talk about her to the children.  And to maybe do it every year.

So we did.  

We planted one for Maw Maw who was laid to rest Good Friday. We planted one for Paw Paw who was laid to rest Good Friday last year.  We adorned one container with a yellow pinwheel, the other with a blue.  We plan to do the same on Good Friday next year, and the next, and the next...

We talk about it to Aubrey Lane because she often asks where she is.  I don't know how much she understands, but we have explained that Maw Maw is with Jesus, and that Jesus lives in heaven and and in our heart so that is where Maw Maw lives.  So now when we walk past her house on the way to and from the mailbox,  Aubrey Lane will simply state "Maw Maw's in heaven."  It's not a complex or sad thing for her.  It just simply is.  Kinda beautiful to witness that child like faith so many of us seek for ourselves.

Okay back to planting and a lighter note before I pull out more tissue...

This year Lane built me another raised garden.  It's a little smaller than the first so I decided to use the garden for herbs and tomato plants.  I am already excited thinking of the tomato basil soup full of fresh ingredients from my garden.  

As time passes, I hope to eventually add more gardens or raised beds.  Not only do I love the idea of cooking veggies grown in my own garden, our family life seems to thrive in the outdoors.  Lane and I will actually call dibs on who gets to cut the grass.  My only worry is Jude- he loves being outdoors when we can give him undivided attention like in a swing or wagon, but since he can't play independently, being outdoors while the family is tending the garden or picking up sticks isn't appealing to him at all.  We used to pull out a pack and play and let him play while we worked, but he doesn't seem to like that anymore.  He has also outgrown the toddler swing, so Lane and I have talked about saving money and getting the children a nice swingset for Christmas and an adaptive swing for Jude. 

In the meantime, we are making sure that Aubrey Lane understands the importance of including him in her playtime: rolling the ball with him, blowing bubbles with him, even driving him around in the Power Wheels which is pretty adorable.  Any other outdoor activities or playtime ideas for Jude would be greatly appreciated.

It's truly a season of growing for us in many areas... hope it's the same for you as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Homestead Needs a Name

Happy May, y'all!

So the last time I gave an update on working towards homesteading, I was in a turmoil over choosing the right house plans.  I just kept stalling.  First it was waiting on Lane to finish and pass his training (a 10 month process).  That ended in September.  Then it was the holidays and vacations and so on and so on, realizing that I was finding excuses to stall.  So after lots of praying and lots of discussing with the husband, I decided to wait until I felt comfortable moving forward with house plans.  

As the time went by, we would revisit the planning process only to realize that the same initial problems were still there- little problems like the orientation of the house, the placement of the carport, the decison on stock plans vs custom plans, and so on and so on.  

Through advice from my friends and input from people who had recently build, I came to realize that I would never find the "perfect house plan".  Even with a limitless budget, there would always be a compromise or priority that ruled out something that I think I can't live without.

So we decided to have custom plans drawn inspired by a coastal cottage design I mentioned in a previous blog post that you can read by clicking HERE.  We listed the things we needed in a house and went with that... everything else we desired would be considered a bonus if it happened.  We know we need the following amenities in a home:

1. a master suite with lots of privacy so Lane could sleep through the day uninteruppted when he worked nights  

2. a downstairs bedroom and bath for Jude

3. a bonus space or extra room  for The Mustard Seed studio

So we met with the a drafting design company and listed all the things we need and the things we want with lots of pictures of the style we want.  We really like our designer's ideas, and when the preliminaries came in a couple of weeks ago, we were very pleased.  We still have some tweeks and decisons to make like shingles or metal roof, porch size, doorway details, etc... Then we will meet with the designer and move forward with the final plans.

So. Exciting.  

When this whole process was just a dream, I found a blog called That New House.   The author, Anna, blogs the details of building a home similiar to ours from beginning to end.  The blog was so helpful and insightful as was Anna in answering all my questions.  I may have emailed her a time or two or three or four.

During their process, Anna and her family decided that their homestead needed a name, Okra Hill Farm, in which she blogs about their life after the build.

Well she inspired me and I think our homestead needs a name as well.  I want the name to capture the essence of Louisiana as well as Coastal Georgia and South Carolina.  We have several ideas.  First we have planted a couple Red Maple trees over the past few years so I like the name "Maple Cottage".  I even have a Pinterest Board with the same name full of ideas for our new home.  Lane wants to plant Dogwood trees and their is a young Magnolia tree that greets our driveway.  So we thought of the names "Dogwood House" and "Magnolia Cottage".  I want a chicken coop and a few more gardens, so we could always use "Farm" in the name somewhere- thought of "Mustard Seed Farm", but I would like to keep the business and home separate entities since my business is in my home.  

Our property is very close to the Comite River so "Comite Cottage" is an option.  And our property used to be Lane's family's back cow pasture and is still referred to today as "The Back Pasture", so that is an option as well.

So many possibilities... what do y'all like?

I hope to have a name for our homestead the next time I blog on this subject so that all my house building adventures can fall under it's title.  It's all so thrilling (right now) to think about.