Lego Camera.

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I found The Lego Christmas Ornaments Book: 15 Designs to Spread Holiday Cheer by Chris McVeigh at the library and paged through it for the boys. When I saw the camera I knew I’d bring it home. Then I told the boys I wanted to make the camera for myself using their stash, if that was okay.

They said it was just fine. Little Fella decided he’d like to help. The little square book propped open on the floor, we dug for matching colored pieces and cheered when we located what we needed. Then Little Fella started suggesting doing things differently, taking the step by step directions as suggestions rather than rules. Then he grabbed it out of my hands and took over. Just like that it was complete (and a bit different than the one in the book). Now it sits in our bedroom on our tiny bookcase, our little homemade camera. Because in the end, books are just suggestions, right? I’m glad he learned that so young.

Favorite Book: Art Detective: Spot the Difference by Doris Kutschbach.

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Our night-time schedule is different now. I used to put both boys to bed at the same time after one reading. Now, our older son wishes to go to bed earlier than our younger son. The little fella is not ready to accept the single reading for both as the final show, so after we all read together, I read with just him. Except, I don’t really want to read another chapter book after just reading one (we read LOADS enough as it is.) I found this fabulous book and he and I worked together for a couple of weeks.

Art Detective: Spot the Difference by Doris Kutschbach uses famous pieces of art juxtaposed. One is the original, one has several “mistakes.” We had to look back and forth over and over at both pieces to find the errors. For a boy who loved Where’s Waldo and a tired mom, this book was just the ticket!

I’ve found the most fun way to expose the boys to great works of art is to engage them with a game or questions, both requiring searching the art for an opinion or answer. In this way we noticed funny animal poses and shy faces, weird historical artifacts and fabulous fabrics. We started sharing our opinions on the art, what we liked and didn’t, unprompted. But most importantly, it was fun and I find that’s a great note to head off to slumberland.

More Tidying.

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When we moved in this November, it was a bit rushed. We succeeded moving in before snow started stacking up around our Airstream. I got things unpacked and mostly organized, enough to get Christmas going. It’s not only until now that I’m really starting to solidify homes for items. I’ve spent time in the kitchen this past week (which is smaller than our last) deciding what needs to be in the immediate vicinity. I have overflow storage down the hall in the laundry room for the popcorn machine, ice cream maker, and a few other things I really do use, but not weekly. I’ve utilized our canning jars and label maker and a little Konmari folding for napkins too. So, this kitchen is settling in nicely and just feeling better.

Also, I just wanted to mention that we decided against a dishwasher for our plan. With the open shelving up top, we needed all the space below for food and utensil storage. We have one large sink which fills with dishes so quickly it can make my head spin. Some times I curse the decision, but more often I don’t. I grew up drying dishes that my sister washed every night. Now Dear Husband washes while I dry or the boys dry. I’ve never owned a dishwasher that worked amazingly anyways. We did put an outlet and have a spot for it if we do want one, but now, we don’t.

The Hall of Everything.

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While planning the house, the one thing I knew I wanted above all else was a wall of cubbies. We were reducing our living space by 1000 sq. ft. Instead of stuffing in a bunch of furniture to store our things, which we would continually have to navigate around, I wanted open space. I wanted our items in one place, along one wall in the house in floor to ceiling cubbies.

We originally planned for the wall of cubbies in the living room area. We talked about incorporating a built-in desk and TV stand. However, it became clear there was not enough wall space due to the wood stove and frankly a too short wall. We then thought about lining the hall with them. The trouble with storing items in a hallway is width, we felt we’d bump into each other too often while trying to pass by those using the shelving. Our architect had a practical solution, make the hall extra wide. From the wall to the front of the cubbies we have about 4’4″. It’s plenty roomy.

So, now instead of my wall of everything I have a hall of everything. We built the cubbies in 8 foot sections from gorgeous plywood. Dear Husband trimmed them out with chalkboard paint so I can label and change them as needed. What’s here? School books, other books, toys, sheets, records, games, yarn, fabric, batteries, flashlights and so on. You know, everything!

Frost.

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It’s close to one year ago we started getting permits for our house, which means spring is approaching. Temperatures are forecasted to 60 this weekend. We are planning on getting our chicken coop ready for new chickens. That doesn’t seem very far off now.

We did not get as much snow as we hoped for. I wanted to spend a day sledding with the boys. When it snowed, it melted off so quickly we never made it. Time marches on.

Now it feels like a 70 degree day when it’s 40 out. I laugh about that phenomenon every spring. Even Mack feels it. He wandered out into the middle of the farm field the other afternoon before we realized he was gone too long.

So, I’m slowly pulling myself out of the winter-cabin nesting into the spring garden feel. Today I’ll enjoy the frost and get ready for our first spring here.

Audiobooks.

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We follow Ambleside Online, which is a literature based curriculum. I read to the boys daily. I’ve found it’s helpful to get audiobooks to help me out at times. My throat can only do so much, and since a few of the books are classic literature, it’s pretty easy to get them from the library. Not only that, audiobooks have helped pass the time in the car, for long rides, but also just to the grocery store. When the kids start getting whiny, I press that play button as a saving grace.

Is it cheating? I don’t think so, in fact I appreciate it as a strong option in my arsenal of “how to keep them busy.” They are used to hearing and learning via being read to. Now I can join in and listen along or they can listen to someone else for a change.

Audiobooks conjure a special feeling for me, like being in the 1940’s and huddling around a radio for a beloved program or perhaps even longer ago, as someone on the prairie listening to stories around the campfire. Readers can add an extra element to the story, like an accent, that definitely enhances the experience. So, we are audiobook readers, too, and proud of it.

Here are some titles we’ve enjoyed in no specific order.

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti, read by Michael Page

Follow a wacky family’s daily adventures through the eyes of their butler who cannot wait for his term to expire. The reader’s voice is humorously uppity.

Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell, read by Tantoo Cardinal

Discover an island through a native girl who when tragedy comes she must brave each day alone. The reader’s Indian accent makes this story almost sound like a biography.

Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House title) by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read by Cherry Jones

Enjoy the not-so-mundane details of daily life in a log cabin like baking, syrup-making, and fetching water. Cherry Jone’s voice feels like she is your grandmother rocking in a chair recounting tales of old.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or any Harry Potter) by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale

Does Harry Potter need an introduction? The reader’s English accent adds life to the setting.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Branford, read by Megan Follows

Similar to the movie, with minor details changed, this story follows mighty brave animals through the Canadian wilderness.

The 39 Clues Series by multiple authors, read by David Pittu

Amy and Dan are good old friends over here. We read every 39 Clues title. To get through the books faster, because we just had to know what was going to happen!, we’d read at night and play audio during the day.

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Kate Rudd

We loved this mysterious adventure of a girl trying to figure out the absurdities of the town while the townspeople awkwardly try to snag a missing pie recipe for their own gain.

Zakka Buckets.

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We installed a pulley for the boys loft area, the hold up has been the basket. I didn’t know what to choose. I wanted something lightweight but strong. It needs to hold a lot, but not hurt someone if it falls. Flipping through the book Zakka Handmades by Amy Morinaka I found just the thing, a fabric bucket. Big, sturdy, super lightweight and soft.

With pattern requirements in hand, I made a Hobby Lobby stop and found some fab prints on clearance! Then I sewed. Then the boys joined in. Then I noticed I was walking away and they were sewing the bucket themselves! They would call once in a while for reassurance, but by golly that arrow print bucket they did a lot of work on. I’m so proud.

The thing is, it’s really too big. Not to worry, I had two more prints to go. I made them both into medium size buckets, about 12″ tall. I made two more needing only one of course, but anyhow, that size will be perfect. (The bonus is the boys will use them for Valentine mailbox swapping too.)

Now we can finish the rope and hook and get that project finished.

More Socks.

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My older son picked out the yarn for his first Mom-knit socks. (Ravelry notes here.) I was expecting him to go very dark and was pleasantly surprised when he grabbed this self-striping yarn. I got a ton knit on the road, but it stalled quickly when we were pushing to get the house done. Alas, all projects come to an end and this one did. He’s super happy with them. The bonus is his feet are exactly the same size as mine. So, when he outgrows them, guess who gets to keep these?

I’m working on a pair of gloves for him now and then I’m going to start the next pair of socks for Little Fella. I am starting to see the awesomeness of sock knitting! Easy to do, very portable, and the end result feels so great!

Projects.

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We’ve dived into a few different science experiments lately. We found a fun book called Labcraft Wizards, Magical Projects and Experiments by John Austin. It’s full of “normal” experiments presented with a magical twist. So the egg above has it’s shell getting dissolved by vinegar and is a “dragon egg.” We’ve also done “crystal courage” which was actually hard crack candy making – a sweet project. We had birthday balloons decorating the living room this week for Dear Husbands birthday. Those have all fallen prey to bamboo skewers, a noisy experiment to see if the skewer can go through the balloon without popping it. Little fella was successful once! Another “magical” experience.

Also, at Christmas the boys received a crystal geode making kit. It’s in its final stages, finally. That one has been a week-long affair.

Science is super easy to get the boys involved in. They love the hands on experimenting. It’s been a great way to motivate my older son to read as well. We listen to him dictate the steps (he’ll read recipes for us too). I used to be the one presenting the ideas, now I love that they can read through and pursue what THEY want.

Knitted Polar Bears.

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I’m in the middle of knitting socks for my older son and a blanket for my younger, so naturally when Christmas approached I thought, “I need to make something for the boys.” Yup, that makes no sense, but I absolutely thought it.

I saw an adorable polar bear come through an email from Red Heart Yarns. The pattern looked insanely easy and more importantly, seriously cute. I asked the boys in a very leading voice if they’d happen to want these fellas for Christmas. They gave the thumbs up. I dove in quickly.

The yarn is pretty interesting to work with, very bulky, but not like chunky yarn. Mostly I couldn’t see my stitches on the knitting needle because of the wispy loft. I made the smart decision to make two heads, then two bodies, and so on so I didn’t just finish one and declare they share. In other words, crazy yarn or not, I couldn’t give up.

The boys named them Billy and Wallace.

My sister says the boys are getting older and I won’t be able to make them stuffed animals much longer. That is probably a good thing because we have a large population of stuffed animal friends, but I’m going to keep churning knits out for them as long as they’ll oblige me. I mean, come on, they are my boys, I am compelled to make things for them. Perhaps even more so when it comes to holidays and birthdays. So now, it’s back to the original projects, I have to finish one heel and the socks are done and I’ll crank away at that blanket…. until the next birthday comes up.