Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Transition from Plastic Toys to Simplified Natural Toys

From an early age, I noticed that if given too many toys, Sugar Bear misbehaved. He dumped and threw toys- but never actually played with them. I narrowed down the amount of toys in front of him more and more until there were one or two toys- then he played. This was never an issue with Rainbow Girl who loved to sit in a pile of toys, playing with them all. The "buckets full of toys" organization was not working anymore once Sugar Bear was mobile.

Many months later, I read Simplicity Parenting. It inspired me to really simplify everything around my house. It has been a slow process. We had so much stuff, and still aren't where I want to be yet. I did not want to simplify too much, too fast. I didn't want anyone to get upset, so I have been going slowly, a little bit in every room.

Rainbow Girl is fantastic at donating things. She recognizes when she has not played with something for a while and usually volunteers items up.

Sugar Bear on the other hand has a very hard time letting anything go. Even things that he has no use for or has had no interest in for a very long time. When going through things, I have to do it without him.


When I began reducing the things in the house, I started with toys. I gathered all the toys in the house. That's right, all of them. It was quite a disturbing pile. I went through and threw out all the cheap-o toys, toys missing pieces or toys that were broken. Then I chose half to donate. Finally, I chose half of the keep pile to put away in the attic. 

When I was going through, I asked these questions of every item.
  • Is it broken?
  • Is it missing pieces (that I can not find)?
  • Has it ever been loved/ How long has it been since then?
  • Does this make a terribly annoying sound/song that has been bothering me for months? (I got rid of a few toys that were loved because of this reason.)
After a few months, I went to trade the keep pile with the keep pile in the attic. I felt the urge to donate again and was able to eliminate half of both the keep piles, still only keeping half downstairs.

I came to realize that toys that do things were toys that do not inspire imagination. Boredom is important! Constant entertainment is unnecessary. If a child is entertained constantly at home, how will they react to waiting in line at a store or while visiting family? Since that realization, I have donated 95% of the toys that do things. Much to my delight, I have seen nothing but positive results. The kids both play better, argue less, and use more imagination with the remaining toys. 

Even with the elimination of the toys that do things, 90% of the toys we had were still plastic. When you by wooden toys, you know they are nontoxic. You know that they do not contain PVC, phthalates, lead, or bisphenol-A that some plastic toys have been known to have. Natural toys are sustainable, biodegradable and generally more durable than their plastic, cheapo counterparts. Toys made of natural materials are so much more of a positive overall sensory experience. Time to reduce again, and invest in a few new toys!

know that we need to watch less TV. That is my New Years resolution. I feel like that is one of our final steps in simplifying the constant flow of entertainment. 

This is the phase that I am in right now. I am trying to eliminate the amount of plastic toys by at least 80%. Santa has been told about our hopes for natural toys, and I am excited to see what he brings! I can tell you that I know he did 90% of his shopping at the following sites. 

Ok, you pressured me enough, I'll give you a sneak preview of one of the gifts. 

Stay tuned. I'm very excited to show you all the natural toys and art supplies that Santa is bringing!

Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Tragic Sandy Hook Shootings and My Children


A little over a week ago, 1 innocent mother, 6 elementary school staff members, and 20 babies aged six and seven and lost their lives. It was a tragic, sickening day. When anyone is killed, it is tragic, but there is something much more incomprehensible when a child is involved. A child. Twenty children. Children who, as President Obama said, "had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."

In times like these, we, as humans, can not help to ask the questions, "Why?" and "How could this happen?" We look for reasons and sources of comfort. I do not believe or belong to any particular religion, but I do believe in a higher power. In her fantastic blog on the topic, Mayim Bialik discusses her views to the question “Where was God?”
"Am I a “Everything’s great in God’s world” blind faith religious fanatic? Not at all. That’s not my shtick. I simply don’t believe in a God that monitors the world and eliminates evil and makes way for good as I deem it. I think history has demonstrated that that kind of God simply doesn’t exist and although there are strains of religions that believe God is weeding out the unworthy and the sinners, that doesn’t fly with me.

The Judeo-Christian God is a vengeful one for sure. And the Old Testament God rains down terror on the unworthy and sinner left right and center. But that’s not the whole picture of God. God has a path for all of us, and the path includes free will, and it includes evil, and it includes mental illness, and it includes all of us living on this crazy planet trying to survive and thrive and procreate and make something beautiful from the human condition which is, frankly, very complicated.


God does not get to step in and save who we want saved, even if it’s small children in Sandy Hook who I wish could have been saved. We can’t understand God. That’s why God is God and we are not."

I found her words soothing.


I first heard a clue that something had gone wrong while on the way to my chiropractor around noon. The radio announcer on light 98 said something to the extent of "There has been an accident in Connecticut ...well, a shooting." She said to go to their sister station for updates and they continued to play Christmas music. I was worried, but very sadly, it would seem that I was numb to hearing "shooting" and I went along with my appointment and drove to my parent's house listening to a cd without a second thought. When I arrived, my parents had the TV on mute, which was strange. I greeted my kids who had stayed with my parents while I was at the chiropractor, then I sat down on the couch and read the caption at the bottom of the screen "At least 18 children dead in Elementary School shooting" and my heart dropped. The kids were both doing other things and not giving the TV a second glance. When the police held a press conference, I gave the kids the iPad in the other room to watch cartoons so that we could unmute the TV.

Through the next hours and the next few days, the news was just more and more tragic. When the pictures of the children started to appear, I had an even harder time keeping my emotions contained.

I held my babies tight and was so thankful that they were with me.

The first child's picture that appeared was that of 6 year old Emilie Parker. Already, I had been thinking how any one of these children could have been my child, then I look into this Angel's face and I felt it even more. Emilie. She was an artist who carried around pencils, markers, and paper to make cards for people.


My children rarely see any news, especially right now. I will not be telling them about this tragedy for a long time. Innocence only lasts for so long, and enough children were stripped on theirs that day. My children do not attend school, so I am not worried about them hearing it from somewhere else. If they do hear something and have questions, I will answer them as best and simply as I can.

Some have views about being completely honest with their children about everything that happens in the world. To them, not telling a child everything that is happening in the world is sheltering them. Knowledge is power after all right? In the matter of tragic events such as this, I feel that there is no benefit to telling them. The only thing that would happen would be added stress, fear, and sadness.

Rainbow Girl knows that there are bad people in the world. She is not oblivious to that. At this point in her life, there is no need to know much more than that.

Will you or have you already told your children about the tragedy at Sandy Hook? How old is/are your child(ren)?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

November 26- December 2, 2012 (the park, a visit with a firefighter, the Grand Illumination and a bonfire!)

Sorry for the delay in blogging, my dear readers. December first, I threw out my back. Very badly. I'm finally starting to feel better.

This week, we spent a lot of time outside. We visited our favorite park for running and collecting things for our nature table.

Dino Boy!

This week at Girl Scouts, we had a local female firefighter, Jenny, come to speak to the girls. It was a wonderful experience. Meeting a firefighter in a setting such as this was also something I fondly remember from public school that I was sad Rainbow Girl was going to miss out on. Not any more!

Jenny showed the girls the different components of her gear, all the way down to how she sounds with her mask on. She also spoke about fire safety and answered many questions from the girls. 

On the way home from the meeting, Rainbow Girl said, "I did not know that girls could be firefighters."


The time came to talk about how girls can have any profession that they want to! It's amazing what life discussions we end up having in the car.

On the same ride home, we saw a car on the side of the highway (going the other direction) completely engulfed in flames. Rainbow Girl said that we should call Jenny to help. 

The next day, Rainbow Girl had Spanish class in the morning. After nap, we prepared to go to the Grand Illumination. This is a special event where the city illuminates a million Christmas lights throughout the city, including a giant tree and many reindeer. We haven't been to the event since before the kids were born- although, they have gone to see the lights on a following weeknight. 

Rainbow Girl decided to write a letter to Santa to put in the "Letters to Santa" box. 

Her letter reads "Dear Santa, I have been good. I would like a candy cane please. Love, Skylar"

The area was packed. I haven't seen so many people in the same place since the Obama rally. Thank goodness the kids were good about holding hands and behaved while we made our way through the mass of people.

We mailed our Santa letters, went to the Starbucks, and went to the bathroom. All three things were in the same building, but took over an hour to complete.

Waiting in line for the bathroom

Then, we finally made it outside. Generally when we visit the lights, we go to the huge Christmas tree and take pictures beside it. This time, there was a band playing by the tree with a fence surrounding them, blocking us from the tree. Rainbow Girl was upset with that. We also always go find Rudolph. Always, one of the reindeer in the grassy area has a red nose. There were so many people there that we could not find Rudolph!! That was also upsetting.

It took a long time for us to get back to our car in the depths of the underground parking lot. We are looking forward to trying again soon and doing all that we wanted to do. (Starting with parking on the street.)

Now we come to Saturday. The day my back exploded. All that I did was pick up an angry Sugar Bear off of the floor in Target. I tried to deny it all day and tried to stay on my feet. Once I sat down, standing up was excruciating. 

I planned on having a welcome December bonfire that night, and did not want to cancel it, so I pushed through. With my mom and brother's help, Everything went on as planned.

Wonderful friends, magical fire, amazing conversation. It was fabulous. 

The next morning, I could not get out of bed. I am not exaggerating. My husband had to dress me while I was in bed, and it took over an hour to muster the strength to stand, and even then I was curved over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

I went straight to the doctor where I was diagnosed with a bad lumbar sprain. I was prescribed a pain reliever, anti inflammatory and a muscle relaxer- as well as told not to lift over five pounds for two to six weeks. I was heavily medicated for the remainder of the day- and very thankful that my mom and husband had off that day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November 19-25, 2012 (Thanksgiving)

You may notice- based on the pictures at least- that we only spend one or two days in our class room each week. Those days are usually spent alllllll day in there. (Minus meals and naps) The remainder of our week we spend outside, exploring the world. Between delivering produce, Girl Scouts, Spanish and Art class, getting together with friends, and unscheduled time (SO IMPORTANT!) - that's it! 

There is one day a week that my husband is off. We try not to plan anything on that day in hopes that we can spend time with him. Then there are three days a week that my mom is off. We try to spend time with her on at least one of those days- generally going shopping or on a fun outing. One day a week is spent delivering veggies, having a nap, and then heading to Girl Scouts. That only leaves three empty days!!! We have to manage our time wisely.

Unscheduled time is very important to me. I feel that is when my children can really be themselves and explore their creativity and imaginations to the fullest. Rainbow Girl wants to be enrolled in a sport, but with two extracurricular activities already, I've had to say no to that for the time being. 

This week, we worked on a few Thanksgiving crafts. One was a water colored turkey! I had the kids paint a half of a piece of water color paper brown, and then paint a full sheet whatever colors that they wanted. 

After they dried, I cut the brown paper into a shape of a bowling pin and the colored paper into feather shapes. I also cut out a triangle beak and a red wattle before gluing it all together. 

I ran across a couple of super cute heart stools at a yard sale a few months ago and thought that they would make great story time seats. All the needed was a bit of paint, and who better to paint them than those who would be putting their butts on them! 

They painted them with water colors. I have let them sit for several days to make sure they are completely dry, and I plan to finish them with beeswax.

Sugar Bear having a music show while Rainbow Girl finished painting.

Outside time is also very important here- even when it's very chilly!

Sugar Bear connecting clothes pins to my jacket.

After outside time, we went back into the classroom. We were going to do a cutting activity- but Sugar Bear's scissors were nowhere to be found! We always put the scissors back in the same place, and they weren't there- or anywhere in the room. I'm definitely not ready to give him big boy scissors, so off to Michael's we went. I needed a few other things, so I didn't feel bad making the trip down the road. Very much to my dismay, Michael's only had big kid scissors. Thankfully, Target was right next door and they had a great assortment of children's scissors. Sugar Bear was especially pleased that they had them in his favorite color.

The kids' favorite cutting activity is cutting free play. To do this, I give them their scissors, a bottle of glue each and an assortment of papers (including already cut up paper from precious cutting adventures). They go to town and just love it. This activity usually lasts thirty minutes to one hour.

Last week the kids painted watercolor paintings to be made into lanterns to celebrate Martinmas. This week, I put them together. They are very simple, but I'll tell you the process anyway. :) I meant to take step by step photos, but forgot! 

First, fold the painted paper in half lengthwise. Next, cut perpendicular to the fold every inch-inch and a half leaving about two inches uncut. Fold over the remaining uncut paper on either side. Open up your paper and then wrap it around, until the two shorter ends of the paper meet. I then used glue to attatch the ends together. Next, using some scrap paper from past projects, make a handle and a base. I used tape and glue to secure these two items. For the base, I made a circle with two inch wide tabs which I folded and taped on the inside of the lantern. 

After we finished constructing the lanterns and they were dry, I put in LED tea lights from halloween and we took an evening stroll through our yard. Rainbow Girl was so excited to be out in the yard, playing on her playset in the dark. Sugar Bear was a little apprehensive to be out in the dark. 

Most of my close friends know all about my recent need to purge items out of my house. I have massively minimized the toys around here, and have recognized that clothes are the next major problem. I decided to take every article of my clothing and pile them up in my living room. It was over seven baskets of clothes. I'm only telling this to you, and showing you a picture because you have to know where I started to see how fabulously I defeated it. I went through the pile, item by item, asking myself these questions:

  • Have I worn this in the last year?
  • Do I love how I look in this?
  • How many do I have of these (or something similar)? 

In the end, I brought two  baskets of clothes back up to my dresser, and donated the rest. Between my husband and I going through our clothes, I had seven bags and one box of clothes to donate. It is wonderful to be able to open and close my dresser drawers without having to shove things around to get it closed! It is also makes picking out clothes much easier when you don't have to dig through clothes that you know you don't want to wear- also, clothes minimizing helps a ton with laundry buildup. Now to do the same process with the kids. 


I am thankful....

1) for our perfect home

2) to have heat and air conditioning

3) to be married to my best friend

4) for kale. <3

5) for my mom. the best mom and grandma in the world.

6) for my possessions. shallow, maybe, but I am thankful to have what I have.

7) for my health

8) for my children's health

9) for my husband. he's not perfect, but he's perfect for me. <3

10) I am SO thankful for my amazing friends. I have kept in touch with very few folks from school, but those that I have only met in the past few years are friends that I can see myself remaining close with for the rest of my life.

11) that people love, respect and are interested in me and my life so much that they read my blog every week!

12) for Sugar Bear. My snuggly soul mate. I see myself so much in his emotions. I love this sweet, sensitive boy, and he is a joy to watch grow up. <3 <3 <3

13) for homeschooling. I am so thankful that I have the option to educate MY children myself.

14) for the ability to be a stay at home mom. THIS is my dream career. THIS is what I have always wanted to do.

15) for Rainbow Girl. The most contrary person, but also the most amazingly intelligent, sweet, sensitive, loving human I know. <3 <3 <3

16) for having lived an amazing, healthy life with many years to come.

17) for bamboo fabric. so. soft.

18) or my amazing sister in law. she is CRAZY, but she is a GREAT sister. I was honored to have her as my maid of honor, and I'm looking forward to being a bridesmaid in her wedding next year! <3

19) for my mother and father in law. they respect my wishes and are wonderful grandparents to my babes!

20) for my grandparents in law- Nana and Grandpa. I love them and am so glad I am part of their family!

21) for YOU (whoever you are reading this, I love you!)

22) for my dad. I know he will always be there for me- and he can build or fix anything :) <3

23) for my Grandmas and my late Grandpas

24) for my family. My MANY wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins!

25) for silence and for trees

26) for my brother. he is fantastic. <3

27) to be living comfortably

28) to be able to give my children a glorious christmas

29) for elmer's glue

30) for chocolate, berries, and wine

This Thanksgiving was my first vegan major holiday. I started off the day by making Classic (VEGAN!) Cranberry Banana Bread from The Breakfast Bachelor. This blog is hilariously written. Here is an example of one of the steps. "(6.) Pour the batter into the loaf pan, even it all out, and cover the top of it with the sliced almonds. These will get all toasty brown in the oven and you will like it. Your friends will like it too." Love it. 

The bread was DELICIOUS. It was festive, beautiful, and hearty.

After breakfast, we headed to my parents' house. Once there, the kids worked on a turkey craft I had gotten at Michael's. 

After craft time, we all went outside for some fresh air and a walk/ride in the wagon.

My mom made a delicious vegan apple pie!

My brother, his girlfriend and I are all vegan. This year, one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants was offering vegan thanksgiving items for pre-ordering and picking up the day before Thanksgiving. We decided to take advantage of that and ordered lentil loaf, mashed potatoes, stuffing, root veggies, brussel sprouts, billy bread, vegan mac and cheese, and cranberry sauce. They were all fantastic! My mom made a small turkey for herself, my dad, and my hubs.

Every Christmas at my inlaw's house, we do Christmas Party Poppers right before the meal. They contain a tiny gift, sometimes jokes or trivia and a paper party hat. While at Michael's earlier this week, I ran across Thanksgiving Party Poppers! They have the same contents, but with a Thanksgiving theme on the outside of the popper. My family loved it! It was fun to share a tradition from one side of my family with the other.

Last week in Girl Scouts, Rainbow Girl was asked what her favorite Thanksgiving food was. Without hesitation, she answered "Strawberries." I knew then that I should have strawberries at Thanksgiving! We've never had them with the meal before that I remember, but that is what she wanted!

My Love and I

My Brother's fabulous lady.

Sugar Bear wearing part of his turkey craft.
The day after Thanksgiving, the winery that we helped harvest grapes for hosted a celebration with food, drinks and T-shirts for all that harvested. They even ordered tiny shirts for the kids!! 

On the same day, one of my great friends was hosting a mommy get together. While my mom and the kids were enjoying the omnivore meal spread at the winery, I went a few minutes down the road to visit with a few great friends and enjoy some great conversation and wonderful vegan food! Major thanks to her for making things that I could eat! 

After visiting for a while, I rejoined my mom at the winery for my complimentary glass of wine for helping with the harvest. We then went for a quick visit with my Grandma before heading back to our neck of the woods.

A few days later, we headed to my inlaw's house mid-afternoon for visiting and belated Thanksgiving dinner. Nana and Grandpa were in town visiting from Canada and that made the visit even more special.

My sister in law took Rainbow Girl, my mother in law, Nana in law and myself to the location of her upcoming wedding. It was beautiful! The house is beautifully furnished and they have about thirty peacocks! I am very much looking forward to her special day. I will be a bride's maid, and Rainbow Girl will be the flower girl!

We took a beautiful walk around the property collecting peacock feathers to be used in the flower bouquets for the wedding.

We all went back to my inlaw's house for a gingerbread craft and Thanksgiving supper.