Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Is My Dollhouse

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I grabbed this book at the library a while ago and it is so cute.  It's all about a little girl who builds her own dollhouse out of a cardboard box and other random bits of this and that and then compares her experience to that of her friend who has a "perfect" plastic store-bought dollhouse.  Spoiler alert:  they have more fun playing and creating things in the cardboard house.  It reminds me of my own dollhouse as a little girl and how I was always making things for it out of odds and ends.  Of course mine was not made of cardboard, but a lovely three story wooden Victorian but the sentiment was similar.  It's so much more fun to make things for your dollhouse than to just buy it all.

The kids love the book so much I think I may have to add it to Margaret's birthday list.  John just about burst into tears when I told him this is our last week with it from the library--we only have an eight week max before they make you bring things back :)

Now Margaret's new dollhouse isn't exactly made from cardboard either but I thought I'd share an update on the renovations in case you haven't been following along on her dollhouse's Instagram account.*

I wanted to giver her a dollhouse for her birthday, because clearly two is the perfect age for a first dollhouse, so I grabbed this little beauty on Craigslist for $15 without any of the furniture or people.  And by "I grabbed" I mean I sent Chris on a three and a half hour journey to pick it up along with the amazing patio furniture I also found for a steal that same day.  Both things needed a little sprucing up.  I tackled the dollhouse and Chris handled the actual furniture which in his words "was not in the best condition" to which I responded, "that's why it's in our price range."  It was all worth it.    I'm sure Chris would agree.

I might have gotten a little carried away with my sprucing.  Obviously the dollhouse needed paint and shingles, and a brick chimney, and wallpaper.....and popsicle stick shiplap,  I mean, what would you have done?  I did have to order some specially sized furniture on Etsy because apparently Melissa and Doug decided to make these fold and go dollhouses a completely different size than any other toddler dollhouse in existence.  The beds and little chair I found are adorable though and fit the little chipmunk family perfectly. I even went ahead and ordered the "diy special" so I could do all the bedding and upholstering myself.  Sewing dollhouse bedding is surprisingly satisfying.  Well, dollhouse crafting in general is satisfying.  I would do it all day if these children didn't keep needing things like being fed and bathed and homeschooled.

I'm almost done but I'm still trying to decide if it's lame to have a dollhouse with no kitchen in it.  I could make something out of wooden blocks, or order an actual wooden kitchen and just use the parts that fit, or I could do no kitchen and put in a cute little fireplace I saw at the craft store for three dollars. I was also considering making a felt play mat similar to this to go with it since I have a giant sheet of green felt in my basement that someone passed on to me a while back.  That might be a bit ambitious though.  Ambitious but adorable.

Besides the great kitchen decision of 2016, I have a few little things I still want to put together before the little miss is presented with my masterpiece and I have to give over control of my house to a newly minted two year old.  Every time I pull it out to work on it though, the boys immediately swoop in and commandeer it for their own.  It would be precious if I didn't have things that need to done.  Those tiny pictures aren't going to frame themselves, am I right?

I think the main draw is the stash of dollhouse accessories from my childhood that I've managed to save.  They love to put them all in and rearrange and rearrange and rearrange some more.  I totally understand the appeal.  I'm going to simplify what very tiny things are in the dollhouse though and pack most of them up for when Margaret is old enough to have an actual, real, hopefully three story Victorian, dollhouse of her own to work on--hopefully with me--you know, if she's into that sort of thing, which I may or may not be desperately hoping that she is.

No pressure sweetie.

What do you think?  Kitchen, no kitchen?  Play mat?  She might really need the play mat.  And don't fret, I'm sure I'll have at least one more update with the whole completed work of art once it's totally finished.  Well, as finished as a diy dollhouse ever is.

*Don't judge me, making dollhouse Instagram accounts is a completely normal thing to spend my time doing.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

On Getting Away

Last weekend Chris and I went away for the weekend and I managed to leave my actual camera behind and return with just one picture on my phone that really doesn't do our destination justice.  We went to Solomans Island, which is on the water.  This is a cornfield. With some cars.  

It really was a beautiful place though.  All boardwalk and crab cakes and old men singing Jimmy Buffet songs.

Before you get too jealous of our escape from the children I'd just like to point out that this was the first time Chris and I have gone away together since 2007 when his ship pulled into St. Augustine and I drove down to meet him for a couple of days--before we had children.  You might say we were overdue.

Elizabeth offered to come and watch the children so we could get away and I'm pretty sure on her way out she said something about how wonderful it was and how well behaved my children are and how absolutely no one pooped all over themselves, their sheets and everything in between their bed and the bathroom.  Absolutely no one.  You know, just in case any other family members were thinking of offering their services.  Of course I might have still been coming down from our post alone-time high so I can't be held responsible if I'm not remembering her exact words.,,,,,

We spent the weekend at an adorable bed and breakfast situated right behind the local Catholic church eating in restaurants where no one was yelling at me, walking along beaches where I was completely unconcerned with the potential of anyone drowning, and perusing little stores along the way where no one asked me approximately one hundred times if we could leave already.  We also got to have the fun of watching strangers' reactions when they asked if this was our first baby and we got to say that no, actually it was our fifth.

It was pretty amazing.

Especially the part where no one was yelling at me.

It's the little things.

Now we're home and I'm feeling very rested and recharged.  Well, I suppose as rested and recharged as a very pregnant person can feel.  Hopefully it won't be another nine or so years before we can sneak away for a couple of days again.  I could certainly get used to this whole taking vacations thing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On Summer Weekending

We've been packing a lot of family bonding time into these summer weekends.  We've had to, since Chris's current summer work schedule involves being gone every morning before anyone else is awake and getting home just in time to put the boys to bed.  Margaret is mostly out of luck and has to get in all her daddy time on Saturday and Sunday.

It's super lame but almost over.

Last weekend that meant that we all went to the quilt shop together (and by "together" I mean I went inside while everyone else stayed in the car and listened to Chris read Lord of the Rings) and then out for a rainy picnic/playground/geocaching adventure (this time I stayed in the car and read while Chris and the children frolicked in the downpour).  Togetherness.

Once we were home, Chris and David also spent a good bit of time out in the yard adding a tailgate to the thing-a-ma-jig.  It's got some sort of pully system and it's pretty spectacular.  David also wanted to add a license plate or eight so that it could be "street legal" as soon as he also gets a driver's license.  And an engine.

Instead of helping with what was clearly a male-bonding project I sacrificed myself and staying inside in the air conditioning and worked on hand quilting baby Christopher's quilt.  I wanted to try out quilting with perle cotton this time but when I went to the store to get some they only had size 5 thread in the pretty colors when what I actually needed was size 8.  Since I just wanted to start my project right then I got the size 5, too thick, thread thinking to myself, "how bad could it be?"  Well, it's been fairly difficult to work with but since I'd already brought it home I figured I'd just go with it.  I think it's looking pretty cute even if it is doing a number on my fingers trying to pull it through all the layers.

It's actually quilting up pretty fast and I think it will be done soon, which is good.  My third trimester fatigue is combining with my lack of husband to create one very tired mom.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Having and Reading Little Men

"Yes, I know many people think boys are a nuisance, but that is because they don't understand them.  I do; and I never saw the boy yet whom I could not get on capitally with after I had once found the soft spot in his heart.  Bless me, I couldn't get on at all without my flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads, could I, my Teddy?" and Mrs. Bhaer hugged the young rogue, just in time to save the big inkstand from going into his pocket.
Nat, who had never heard anything like this before, really did not know whether Mother Bhaer was a trifle crazy, or the most delightful woman he had ever met.

At a recent trip to the used bookstore I picked up a copy of Little Men, by Louisa M. Alcott.  When I brought it home I realized that I already had a (sadly unread) paperback copy on my shelf which then led to a purging of my bookshelves of doubles and other books that probably weren't worth reading again as well as promises to myself to do a better job at actually reading the books that I already own, but all of that is neither here nor there.

The important thing is that I am so glad I finally sat down and read this book.

I'm going to go ahead and say that Little Men should probably be required reading for any mother who finds herself entrusted with her own "flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads" but especially if she's also attempting to homeschool them.  When I read Little Women as a girl I obviously wanted to be Jo, but now reading this follow up book about the school she founded, grown up me desperately wants to be grown up Mrs. Jo.

Since I finished reading it I've found myself asking, WWMBD (What would Mrs. Bhaer Do?) daily.

When David wanted to set up a popsicle stand in the front yard on a random weekday, WWMBD? Well, obviously she would encourage him and his entrepreneurial endeavors.  When I find myself about to scream at my unruly brood, WWMBD? Um, probably she would not scream--that was never actually addressed in the book but I'm going to go out on a limb and say no, Mrs. Jo is not a screamer.  Should I spend a(nother) *quick* five minutes (hahahaha) checking in on social media instead of engaging with my little ones?  WWMBD?  Also not explicitly addressed, but again I'm thinking no.  

"It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands or lonely little hearts."

I am so glad I listened to my inner Jo and let David run his overpriced popsicle stand.  He was able to earn the twenty dollars he was shooting for so he could finally buy the lego train set he's been begging for since he found out there was such a thing as lego train sets and he's so proud of himself.  It was also adorable to watch him take his scissors and cut the tops off of the popsicles for his customers.  Incidentally, Henry wanted to earn money too, but instead of selling anything he asked me if I would take the label off of the mail box he had made earlier that day and replace it with one that read "Poor Box."  Um, no.  It would have been interesting to see the differences in earnings between the two of them had I let David slave away selling popscicles in the sweltering heat while Henry lounged in the grass beside him with his poor box looking for donations but in the end I thought not.  In our neighborhood Henry might have actually come out ahead and that's not exactly the lesson I was attempting to impart.    
In short, if you're looking for a little mothering or homeschooling inspiration I would definitely read Little Men--also, my own little men have very different temperaments :)

Have you already read Little Men?  What did you think?

"I am not so ambitious as that, father.  I only want to give these children a home in which they can be taught the few simple things which will help to make life less hard to them when they go out to fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, industry, faith in God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves; that is all I try for."

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Trip to Our Favorite Spot

With the foot injuries and car repairs we've been dealing with, my poor children have gone just about nowhere for the past two weeks.  When the van's in the shop we're pretty much limited to things within walking distance since I can neither drive Chris's vehicle nor can I fit all the children inside it--that is if I remember to get the stroller out of the van.  Which I didn't.  

By the end of week two of housebound status, Henry was begging to please go to the beaver park once we got our car back.

Wish granted.

He even got John dressed in an outfit matching his own in honor of the occasion.  The beavers at this nature preserve are allowed to completely run amok which is pretty amazing.  You can see in that first picture where they've taken over that bench with their epic construction skills.  The beavers are nocturnal so we've never actually seen one in action before but this time Henry spotted one sitting just off the path in a little pocket he carved out of the crazy summer growth.  I took several very unsuccessful pictures of the beast in which I was able to capture a bit of his fur and that's about it.  I really wanted to pet it to see what his fur actually felt like since it looked like it might be pretty prickly but on the whole I decided against it.  Wild beavers are probably not as friendly as Narnian beavers.  Although I suppose Narnian beavers wouldn't appreciate being petted by strangers either.

The best part of the trip though was watching Henry ask Margaret if she wanted to hold his hand as they walked on ahead of us.  He was really concerned that she not jump into the marsh.  As were we all.

We ended up the morning by swinging by the pet store so that David could buy a fish bowl, food and water drops for his newest acquisition, a pair of marsh fish that he and his daddy netted.  He's got big dreams of breeding them Henry Huggins style and then selling them for a profit.  I'm supportive, especially since he's financing this endeavor with his own money.  I'm not sure what the local market is for minnows though, maybe as bait?  I guess we'll see......

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