My Prayer for Evangeline

Evangeline was extra helpful this evening while Ryan was away working on our house; she bathed the baby on top of her regular evening chores. As a thank-you, I let her stay up and extra half hour after the others went to bed, choosing whatever she’d like to do (provided it wasn’t loud). She chose to read her encyclopedia.

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She may be a dork, but she’s my dork

As homeschool parents, we have the fear that our children will be weird. By not socializing with other children every day, our kids run the risk of not quite fitting in. Like how you can spot a European in America – there’s just something a little bit different. It is not vanity that hopes our children will be liked but a sincere desire for our children to find happiness in community.

I do not usually have specific prayers for my children, just the general parent wishes – let them be safe, let them be healthy, let them find happiness in truth and please let them grow out of this eternal biting phase. But tonight, I have a specific prayer for Evangeline.

Lord above, please send to my daughter a good friend. Let her find someone who does not mock her dorkdom; let them not only embrace it, but share in it. Give her someone by her side who understands her and does not for a moment give her pause about being her full true self. Do not let her feel that she must hide herself from society, but rather give her the society of a kind, loving and true friend. Send her a like-spirit and bosom companion.

Lord, let her find a best friend like I had. And if that means coloring her hair blue with kool-aid or suffering a “British-phase”, well, ok

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Pinterest Challenge : Crayon on Wall

Three-year-olds! Am I right? So recently, Evangeline decided to play “teacher” with a black crayon and our lightly painted wall. Her penmanship was pretty impressive, I’ll give her that. I won’t admit to how long I left her art work stay on display, I’ll only say today I decided I could no longer live like that.

This went on for the entire length of the wall

So I did what any modern parent does when faced with a common problem, I went to the internet. I found a number of magic cleaning solutions promising to quickly and easily remove the crayon. Since I had a lot of space to work with, I decided to test a few of the different methods to see which worked the best. I discovered that no mater what, it was going to take some elbow grease. Our walls are moderately textured and, well, it’s was black crayon. I tried:

Crayon on Wall

Magic Eraser: This was one of my favorite methods. It did quickly and fairly completely remove the crayon with minimal scrubbing. It smeared a lot and I had to keep stopping to go rinse out the eraser and start again. I was using an x-brand eraser and it just fell apart entirely before I was finished. I’ve used both the name brand and the knock-offs and have found them to be pretty comparable. I can’t say for sure if the name brand would have held out better or not.

Baking Soda: I actually had high hopes for this one, I can’t tell you why. But I found that it did like nothing. I dipped a wet towel into a bowl of baking soda and rubbed the paste-clump into the wall. It barely lightened the crayon. After scrubbing harder, it started to come up and smear. It would have taken a lot of work for minimal results and it left all kinds of clumpy baking soda paste on the floor.

WD-40: It worked a little better than the baking soda, but Holy Accostic Smell Batman! Maybe if you were in a pinch and had a small area to clean, this would have worked well. After I sprayed and wiped my small test area, I just put the can away. I knew I didn’t want to use it to clean an entire wall. The smell would have been way too strong.

Toothpaste: The clear winner! I’m glad I tried this one after the WD-40. The minty toothpaste helped cover up the smell. I was really surprised how well this worked. I almost didn’t try it because, well, our toothpaste is kind of expensive to be smearing all over the walls. Luckily I found a small nearly full travel size tube of non-gel tooth paste. I didn’t have an old toothbrush so I used an all purpose scrub brush. On the one hand, the bigger brush was good since I had such a large area to clean. On the other, I think I ended up loosing a lot of toothpaste because it got pushed down so far into the bristles. Nonetheless, I wet the walls a little, then globbed on the toothpaste. I came back over it with the scrub brush and immediately the crayon came up. It took a bit of scrubbing to get all the little specks out of the texture, but the bulk of the marks came up easily. It smeared quite a bit and I had to come back with a clean wet rag to wipe the wall down.

toothpaste winner

Ultimately I used the toothpaste method on the whole wall, then went back with the magic eraser to help with the last lingering specks. When it looked good enough, I wiped the whole wall down a few times with a clean rag. I suspect I’ll still have some back smudges in the morning, but they should come up with just a wet rag. The only real draw back to this method was that it required more elbow grease to let Evie help with the clean up. Although I suspect it won’t be long and there’ll be more for her to clean.

Back in the Saddle

Thus begins our fourth week since Ryan’s returned to work. I had to check the calendar and count because it has all blurred together. The first day was probably the easiest because the kids were so shocked by my constant presence, they were on their best behavior. The novelty wore off by the second day.

Dad’s in charge this summer

Overall, however, things have been going better than I expected. As I laid in bed convalescing over the summer (read: dreading the end of Ryan’s vacation time) I started thinking of ways to make this postpartum transition easier than the last. I concluded that I need to be proactive about my own sanity. Keeping myself calm has become my new priority and that’s made for a few changes.

I’ve worked to get back into a routine around the house and so far I’ve been successful every other week (I’ll take it!). When Ryan was home this summer, and exclusively in charge of the oldest three kids, he managed to get them all to nap at the same time each day. I have become the protector of this schedule! Our days are much more structured and predictable now. What a relief! This also means that I have a better sense of what’s going to happen each day and can pick when the best time would be to do a craft, watch a movie, unload the dishwasher or exercise. A little bit of foresight goes a very long way.

We made a castle and royal family out of paper towel rolls and clothes pins!

Having a weekly schedule also helps keep me from becoming frazzled. The points in the day when the kids are occupying themselves without fighting are short and sweet. I have to be on top of my game if I want to complete a task before they notice I’m not hovering over them admiring every tower they build. When these times come up, I know what needs to be done. There is a lot less frantic bouncing between half done chores when I can say “ok, today is Tuesday; I just need to keep the laundry going and the bathrooms will wait until Thursday.” More importantly, it helps me find “me time” during the day. Rather than trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity, energy and willpower out of myself to do one more chore, I can recognize that what needs to be done for that day is done and I can (gasp!) sit down and relax. Hello sanity!

Some of the biggest changes, however, I had to make within myself. Come to find out, I’m a pretty uptight person. It only took 4 kids in 4 years to realize I need to loosen up a bit. The kids have areas in the house that are almost exclusively for their use. And I’m not so worried about keeping those areas pristine.  I’ve found that it doesn’t bother me too much to see a messy play room, backyard or hall bathroom and if the kitchen, living room and master bedroom are picked up and kept neat then I feel much calmer. I’m happy to let the kids play throughout the house, but I’ve become more protective of those spaces and make sure they get straightened up throughout the day. So when Evangeline eats her breakfast at the living room coffee table and somehow manages to get every pillow and blanket thrown on the floor amid her trash and dishes, I don’t freak out. I can better accept that where kids are, there messes are also. But when  breakfast \ morning TV time is over and she’s ready to move on to the next thing, she has to pick up the living room first. She can make the mess, but she doesn’t get to leave the mess.

Seriously, though, where do these blankets keep coming from??

This brings me to my second major mental unclenching:  allowing Evangeline more freedom. She is one of those toddlers who is too smart for her own good. Since she began walking, Evangeline has forced us into this very delicate tug of war. We want to encourage her personal growth and curiosity, but we don’t want to have to keep cleaning up the honey she climbed up on the counter to get off the top shelf and spill time and time again. I am trying to better direct her energy and skills. It is now her sole duty to check for eggs each day, a chore she delights and takes pride in. She is also able, willing and allowed to help fold clothes — something I never let her do before. She and Felicity are in charge of switching the laundry over. God bless a front loader! By loosening up just a little and allowing Evangeline more (guided) freedom, we’ve all been getting along much much better.

Big Helper

 

I’ve been enjoying my children much more. More often than before I have the feeling that I can do this. It’s exhausting and there’s no way around that. Genevieve is doing great, but not so great that she’s sleeping through the night and feeding herself during the day. Reuben is still the girls’ rag doll they carry from room to room despite his shrill whining. And big mama micromanaging hen, Evangeline, can’t take the hint when Felicity tells her to just leave her alone. But somehow amid the chaos we’re finding a little bit of order, a little bit of freedom and a lot of stories for the blog!

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Toddler Craft — Beach Scene

Our summer gallery wall is growing.  It’ll still be summer for a few more months, so we are getting our money’s worth out of these crafts. The girls got a special treat this summer and went with their grandparents to visit their aunt in Florida! This was their second encounter with the ocean, and it went over much better this go around. Beach theme and sea animal craft ideas are all over the internet, but it wasn’t until this past week that I figured out how I could incorporate some into our gallery wall.

We did this craft in two stages, mostly to spread out the art time to fill up two days. First we made the ocean scene, then we made the sea creatures.

Beach Wall Collage

Ocean Scene :

  •  1 Blue Poster Board
  • ~ 5 sheets of Sand Paper
  • 1\4 sheet of Green Tissue Paper
  • Glue Stick
  • Scissors

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I first cut a blue poster board in half, then went along the top cutting peaks that would be our “waves”. I glued these together so we had one long strip of blue “water”.

For the sand, I cut my sandpaper into about 2″ strips, then cut a wave patter on the top.  Evangeline covered the back of the strips with glue and Felicity stuck them down, running the full length of the bottom.

The “sea weed” are strips of green tissue paper cut in a wavy pattern, then glued into place.

Sea Creatures :

  • Small Paper Plates
  • Scissors
  • Paint \ Crayons
  • Tissue Paper (Optional)

There are thousands of ideas to make sea creatures out of paper plates, construction paper, toilet paper rolls anything you can imagine. I decided to do ours this way because I could cut the shapes out ahead of time and bring them out ready to be colored. Besides the crab shape, we didn’t have to add anything on to the paper plate. It was more of a one step craft for the girls. Sometimes that’s nice.

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I cut jelly fish, fish, star fish and crab shapes out of my small paper plates. For the crabs, I cut the claws out of scrap paper plate edges and used a dot of glue to attach them. I tried to make an octopus, but I just couldn’t quite make it work.

Evangeline (age 3) used makers and Felicity (age 2) used crayons to color the fish, star fish and crabs. For the jelly fish, I tore up pieces of blue, purple and pink tissue paper and the girls stuck them on using a glue stick. They just as easily could have colored them, but this was a little more fun.

* I thought I had googley eyes in our craft box,  but I didn’t. I may come back and add some on later because how fun are those? For the time being, I just colored black circle eyes. I saw an idea to use tin foil on the fish to look like scales. I came close to doing it, but at the last minute opted not to for no real reason at all. I still think that would look really neat.

Since the sea creatures are small paper plates, I was able to just run a glue stick along the backs of each and stick them on the poster board. Voila!

Ocean Scene

 

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Evangeline is having so much fun with this beach scene up on the wall. She goes under it and plays like she’s at the beach; she runs in front of it jumping over the waves. I think someone really misses the beach! I’m glad this craft is helping her hold on to the vacation dream a little longer.

Summer is so long and our wall is getting smaller. I still want to make letters to spell out “summer” but haven’t decided how to do it yet. Other than that, I’m tapped out for summer craft ideas. I’m not sure what we’re going to do until October.

Summer Gallery Wall

 

One House, Six People

Here we are, three weeks out from expanding to a family of six. It has been an interesting transition so far. I had to quickly and unexpectedly go to the hospital, then I had to stay an unusually long time. The kids stayed with grandparents, which they love. After a while tensions and tempers started to run high, however, as everyone just wanted to be back at home.

Since we’ve all been back home, we’ve tried to resume as much of our regular routine as we can in an attempt to get back to “normal”.  We’re still having to tread gently though around the very big feelings of our toddlers…all three of them. The older kids are now aged 3, 2 and 1 and each one of them has very big and powerful feelings.  Add to that the excitement of bringing home a new baby and we’re in a typhoon of testy temperments.

It is becoming clear that Evangeline is an anxious little person. She’s such a good mother hen, concerned with everyone and everything. This makes her a great big sister and helper. However, it would seem she’s over stressed with so much going on in the house. It feels as though no one can take a step without Evangeline freaking out into full on melt down. We are trying to find ways to help her stay calm and save our sanity.

We feel it’s important with so many people in the house, that each person have some little spot that is just theirs. Their own little corner in their own little chair where they can be whatever they want to be. Right now Evangeline has her bed. During the day when she starts getting overwhelmed, we can send her back to her room with a stack of books to be by herself. The problem is, her bed is soon to become her and Felicity’s bed and we’re running out of free corners. I’ve been turning over the idea of a reading tent like this one from Sawdust and Embryo’s.

click picture for link

I’ve found other tutorials online, but let’s be honest, it’s not going to happen quickly. Hopefully giving Evangeline more space to be by herself, and consequently, separating her from her siblings will help us all get along better. At least until the next crisis comes along.

Do you have a lot of people living in your house? How do you all get along?

Looking Patriotic — 4th Of July Toddler Crafts

Since I’m not 9 months pregnant as originally planned, I’ve decided to embrace the Independence Day patriotic spirit and add some red white and blue around the house.

I’ve already posted about our American Flag Banner and the simple how-to-instructions. Now we’ve added some firework rockets to our Summer Gallery Wall!

click picture for link to instructions

Rocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firework Rockets:

I found this idea in last month’s (at least I think it was last month’s) edition of Parent’s Magazine. Theirs were more involved and would actually spill out confetti when you pull a string — which is way cool, but a bit above our pay grade around here. So, I simplified it a bit and we made hanging firework rockets.

The project is simple enough. Evangeline painted toilet paper rolls red, white and blue. She also painted circles I cut out of thin cardboard (I used a cereal box) red. The circle were about 3 inches in diameter — essentially a little bit bigger than the top of the toilet paper roll.

When the paint was all dry, I cut from one end of the circle up to the middle, then folded the edges over one another to make a cone shape. I then used a staple to hold it in place. And we set them aside. The original directions said to use glue to make the cones, but I didn’t think anything short of hot glue would hold it. Maybe I don’t have enough faith? Moving on.

Firework Rocket

We then added the tissue paper to the bottom of the toilet paper rolls. I cut strips out of red, blue and sparkly white tissue paper roughly 2 inches wide by 5-6 inches long. I just eyeballed what size would work. I placed a strip of double stick tape around the bottom and Evangeline stuck the tissue paper strips in place.

(Side Note: While this was just meant to be a fun craft, it turned into a “teaching moment” as I talked Evangeline through what patterns are. We stuck the tissue paper on in the same order: red, blue, white etc. Don’t know how well the idea sunk in, but there you go, teaching when they least expect it.)

The hardest part of this project, was attaching the cones to the rolls. The original directions said to use glue, but we made a hellova mess proving that doesn’t work. Again, maybe hot glue would have worked? Instead, I used more double stick  tape. I stretched two pieces across the top of the tube, folding over the side, then stuck the cone on. Time will tell how well they hold. If I find a better way (or if you have a better suggestion) I’ll come back and let you know.

I punched two holes in the side of the tube and threaded fishing line through and tied it off to hang from the ceiling. The project took some time, but it was a lot of fun and they look neat hanging up!

4th of July Wall

These were our biggest projects. Other than these crafts, we stuck some flags along our side walk and tried to make stars in the front yard a la Pinterest, but they didn’t really work.

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The idea is to make a large stencil in the shape of a star, then using a flour sifter, sift flour over the stencil, filling in the shape. You’re supposed to be left with a bright white star on your grass. We got close, but not really close enough. I don’t know if our grass was too tall or if our stencil was too small, but we called it quits after our yard was littered with flour piles.

But there you have it. The Carruths are trying to be patriotic. We hope to spend Friday eating with family, reading Paul Revere’s Ride and watching some real fireworks. Seems pretty American to me. And on that note, here’s a picture of Felicity “helping” make the rockets. Yes she’s wearing a leotard and yes she has paint on her face. That’s just how she rolls

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Rolls…toilet paper rolls…that just happened.

Father’s Day Gift

This post is obviously coming well after the fact, but I still wanted to share the Father’s Day gift the kids and I put together for Ryan. I wanted to do something special for Ryan, something thoughtful that included the kids. I had seen this picture frame idea on Pinterest. In each frame, is one of our children, holding the letters to spell DAD, which makes for a very sweet and unique gift. I made it a little more personal, however, by staging each picture and child in some attribute of Ryan’s personality.

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DAD Picture Frame:

  • two white poster boards and an art medium if you want to decorate
  • camera / prints
  • triple opening picture frame (preferably landscape orientation)
  • willing participants

First, I made the DAD letters. Honestly, I just free handed them, using a serving tray to get the curve on the D. They by no means have to be perfect, just big. I got three letters out of 2 poster boards.

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Once they were cut out, I let the girls paint and color their letter. For Reuben, who is not yet trustworthy with crayons, I painted his little foot and did footprints all around.

For the pictures, I decided on three personality traits of Ryan and staged each child accordingly. I just had their letters standing up as a part of the picture, rather than having them hold the it just right. This made the picture-taking process go much smoother.

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Evangeline, our own little bookworm, took a scholarly picture.

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Felicity, always the party animal, set up a drum set and went to town.

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Little Huckle-Buddy Reuben, surveyed the homestead for his picture.

I ordered prints and bought the frame from Wal-Mart. That, plus the poster board came to about $10 total for the gift.

Later I got the girls to color on some computer paper I taped together as a banner. Then I added “We <3” and taped the DAD letters underneath. I set it all up late Saturday night to surprise Ryan when he got up Sunday morning for Father’s Day.

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This was a fun and easy gift to put together. It gave us the chance to spend some time thinking about Ryan and what he would enjoy. The girls are at such a great age where they like giving gifts, especially gifts they’ve made. I was surprised how co-operative Evangeline was, especially during the picture taking part. Once I told her it was a gift for Daddy (and that it was a secret) she was so excited to help!

I figured this would be my last year to be able to do this gift, unless I want to wait and see if a Carruth baby #5 comes along to be able to spell out DADDY. As is, I’m glad to have done it now. I’m also glad we got to celebrate Ryan for a day. Especially since I went into the hospital the next day in preparation for having Genevieve! At least Ryan got that one day. It’s 2 and a half weeks later and the banner and letters are still up in the kitchen. I guess someone liked their gift 😉

DAD Picture Frame