Colorful transparency…

When I began this blog more than six years ago, my husband Joe and I were raising four kids aged six to fourteen. With a little spare time early each morning, I began sharing here what was happening in our home: some practical, some decorative, and some of eternal significance. My desire was and is that the Lord might use this glimpse into His work in our lives for His glory, and that it might be a blessing and encouragement to others.

Over the past few years, blogging faded appropriately into the background as the Lord added two little girls to our family, bringing our current age range to teensy-tiny-three to halfway-through-college-twenty. We continue to enjoy homeschooling them all, apart from our graduate, of course.

With our youngest child now gaining some independence, time is slowly making itself more available again than it does when babies rightfully demand my nearly constant attention. With that liberty, aside from venturing back into more frequent blog posts, I’ve also returned to quick and simple crafty pursuits.

My most recent projects are pictured below. With a mixture of a little Mod Podge and a few drops of food coloring (thanks for that idea, internet) some lace and ribbons, along with attaching some odds and ends from around the house, I changed plain glass bottles and jars to something more cheerful.

The picture directly above highlights my personal favorite, solely for sentimental reasons. It features the one postage stamp that was left over after addressing our wedding invitations. I’m enjoying seeing it displayed after having kept it tucked away all of these years (the price tells you it has indeed been a long time.)

All of these projects were created by painting thin layers of the Mod Podge/food coloring combination onto the jar or bottle, blow drying them, and repeating, until the jars each had the depth of color I was after. If it is applied too thickly it will run. One other word of caution: when you mix the food coloring into the Mod Podge, it will look like neon goop, and the color won’t resemble the finished product. You can easily experiment with the colors on your glass object, because Mod Podge is water soluble. It is no problem at all to wet the bottles down and peel off your mistakes. (I speak from experience.) For that reason, this project would not be suitable for anything you need to allow to get wet in its function in your home. Paintbrush strokes will show, so I didn’t fight that. I worked with the particular contour of each bottle and accepted that they would be seen. In the case of the rainbow set, I added texture by stippling with my brush.

The ribbons and lace were applied on top of a layer of the Mod Podge where they would be placed, with a layer or two over top as well. They were white, but I loved how the color used for the bottle looked on each of them, a bright and cheerful version of each. The postage stamp was sealed with plain Mod Podge. Other embellishments were attached with hot glue or wire. There are so many possibilities!

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Super-sized mealtime reminder…

I have wanted to add a favorite scripture to the walls of our kitchen for a few years now, but had not yet found just the right way to do it:

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” (Proverbs 15:17)

It is a pointed reminder of one of the blessings we enjoy as a family no matter what our circumstances: a home full of love. (And no, displaying this verse is not an attempt to manipulate our children into eating their vegetables.)

Separate from that crafty conundrum, I bought an over-sized spoon at Hobby Lobby several months ago, and hung it up in our kitchen all by its lonely large self. It needed something. On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby I brought home its buddy, a giant fork, and pondered for a week or so how to display them in the I-know-it’s-kitschy way I intended, rather than something straight out of Marie Barone’s kitchen on Everybody Loves Raymond.

The Lord brought it all together in my mind’s eye. With some simple geometry, simple-but-time-consuming painting, and the addition of ridiculously large eating utensils, that verse is now boldly proclaimed:

proverbs mural proverbs mural 2

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Scale model project for kids…

As part of our homeschooling, our three middle-school aged kids created 1:12 scale models of a room in our house of their choice. They were given a budget of $20 each. Any balance left of that would go into a pool, along with $20 extra, to be awarded to the creator of the best room model. With a trip to Hobby Lobby, creative discussions among the designers, careful measurements, and lots of ingenuity on their part, they all accomplished the task on time and with plenty of their budgets left to go toward the prize money.

AudraNo parent should have to make such a judgment among their children’s work, so we turned to Facebook for help. I posted three collages of the kids’ efforts, and allowed 24 hours for my Facebook friends to vote for their favorite. It was close, but the ultimate victor was our daughter Audra, who is now $60 richer.

Audra made a model of our master bedroom, our son Zach created the garage in which we are building an airplane, and our son Daniel made his own bedroom:

blue room garage green room

I enjoyed watching these come together so much that I’m tempted to make one myself! We have plans to re-do our kitchen after our airplane is completed (and yes, ladies, my husband has repeatedly offered to do the kitchen first – it’s my choice to wait.) I just might make myself a miniature dream kitchen for now.

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An easy new cover for our glider…

The pastel patchwork quilt you see under these two precious baby boys of ours has always been special to me. My parents gave it to me along with a queen-sized bed as a college graduation gift almost twenty-two years ago. I met and married my husband soon afterward, and the bed and quilt came with me. These little guys, babies numbers four and five, are resting on top of what was quickly becoming a beat-up-but-still-lovely quilt nearly a decade after receiving it.

Another decade later, it was relegated to just decoration. I loved the way it harmonized with my sofas. I loved the way our sweet Amelia, baby number eight, looked in front of it. But it wasn’t practical. It was falling apart, but I could not bring myself to get rid of it. (Or to let anyone use it.)

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Enter the other item I could never part with, the glider you see below. Every Wilbur kid in our home has been rocked to sleep there in their infancy. The chair has been with us for so long, but has never worked with the light and airy look I prefer. Doesn’t it look like a lonely, awkward bachelor cousin who dropped by for a visit, but just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the family?

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I have finally brought my quilt out of retirement and solved both of my problems: the cherished-but-fraying quilt and the drab-but-special chair just needed to be brought together.

Simple as could be for this beginner seamstress, I created slip-on covers with no closures for the two cushions, the top one with the best part of the quilt facing out, and the seat with the white back of the quilt facing out, since those pieces were in worse shape on the colorful side. I traced the existing cushions on the wrong side of the quilt with it folded over, leaving an inch for seam allowance, and two inches at the bottom of each cushion’s cover in order to create space for slipping the cushions in as well as a sturdy hem. I pinned some ribbons in place for the top piece’s loops that hook onto the chair, and sewed it on my sewing machine with upholstery thread for extra strength. After turning them right-side out, I slipped them over that dated and wrong-for-me navy blue scratchy fabric.

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And it promptly brought the admiration of the same baby who sat in front of it two years ago. She still makes it look good.

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“Why do you leave them like this?”

Comfortably clothed and barefoot as usual, I plopped myself into position in my usual spot on the floor for our nighttime routine of a Bible story, singing, praying, and bedtime for our two toddlers. Two-year-old Amelia came along, squatted down, and grabbed my toes. Naturally I looked in that direction, and with my tired eyes saw my forty-three-year-old disturbingly dry and worn-out feet being handled by the soft, dainty hands of my precious baby, as she asked, “Why do you leave them like this?”

I shook my head in shame and said, “Lack of attention to detail,” which translates to, “I stopped making myself look my best more than twenty years ago.” I was embarrassed, but it was not the first time a little daughter of ours had made a comment like it. At about the same age as Amelia, our now ten-year-old Audra had touched those same toes and said, “Mommy, your toes have crumbles on them. You should really put something on that.”

Rehearsing that story and the current one in my mind, I looked up at Amelia and heard the follow-up comment she had to her question, “Why do you leave them like this?”

“You should paint them!”

She wasn’t commenting on my skin’s moisturizing needs at all. She thought my feet required the decoration her little toes get on a regular basis: nail polish.

Ordinarily if I shared a little story like that on my blog, like my chicken-smell story, I’d feel compelled to find the deeper meaning, the life lesson, the revelation gleaned from such an exchange. This isn’t one of those times. I’ll leave that part to you.

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How to make a diaper stacker out of a pillowcase…

This diaper stacker was an unused, unwanted pillowcase half an hour before it had its picture taken.

Using any standard pillowcase, a small scrap of fabric, a sturdy coat hanger with a swiveling hook, a sewing machine, and very basic sewing skills, you can stitch one together quickly as well. (I can guarantee the claim about “basic” sewing skills, as these are all that I possess for the time being.)

Lay the pillowcase out flat. Center the coat hanger on top of the pillowcase with the top of the hook poking its head just above the open end of the case. Trace the silhouette of the coat hanger, leaving about half an inch for the seam to be sewn later. Do not trace around the hook, just around the main part of the hanger. Take your line all the way to the sides of the pillowcase, even if your coat hanger is not that wide.

Cut through both layers of the pillowcase, following your traced lines. Cut straight up on either side of where the hook will be. (I created this project as I went along. The better way to do this step would be to draw your two lines all the way up to the open end, making sure the hook was still centered. I just eyeballed it.)

Fold the remnant of the pillowcase’s wide hem inward.

Sew each of these flaps in place with a straight stitch. Do not stitch them to one another; this is where the hook of the hanger must come through later.

Turn the pillowcase inside-out. Sew together the curved cut sections. A zigzag stitch will give added strength to an area that will have to bear a lot of weight. A straight stitch just  inside of it will give it a finished look when turned right-side-in.

Lay the pillowcase flat. Find the center and cut a long slit on one side of the pillowcase from just below where you stitched the folded flap down to just a few inches above the bottom of the pillowcase.

Turn the case right-side-in. Fold under the cut edges of each side of the slit and finish them with a straight stitch. Then pinch together the fabric at the top of the slit and run about an inch of a zig zag stitch for added strength. Repeat at the bottom.

Insert the coat hanger through the opening.

Observe that the pillowcase-turned-diaper-stacker now bears an unfortunate resemblance to an awkward preteen forced to wear her Great-aunt Madge’s hand-me-down loud turtleneck…

Erase that mental image with a scrap strip of fabric, edges finished with a fun curvy stitch or the look of your choosing. Wide ribbon would be pretty, too. Tie it in a tight bow around the “neck” of the diaper stacker.

Hang it up on the edge of a changing table or other convenient location. Two columns of diapers should fit neatly inside. (We have two children in diapers. Our size 2’s fit nicely back to front, and the size 5’s side-to-side.)

Enjoy!

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When they’re climbing the walls, let them…

This monkey is our son Zach. He is eleven years old, and he is spending much of his summer vacation climbing the walls – not out of boredom, but because they’re there and he is able. Within reason, we’re allowing it.

This is what boys do; they climb stuff. We firmly believe boys should be boys and girls should be girls. You can read more about that here, in a post from the early days of this blog.

But long before there was a blog, we were not only allowing such feats – we were encouraging it:

Moms, it may not always be easy, but do yourselves and your adventurous sons a favor: just bite your tongue and clap your hands.

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Our first graduate…

Scott's first day of kindergarten

This is our son Scott back in September of 2001, a month shy of five years old, on his first day of kindergarten. It was our first “official” day of homeschooling. He is holding his LeapFrog Phonics Bus, because, as he put it, he “wanted to ‘take the bus’ to school.”

In the years since we started an unofficial and unconventional method of education in the most official and conventional way possible, we have slowly but steadily broken away from the traditional school model and created a style of education better suited to our home environment, tailor-made for each of our kids as they were added to our family. But that little boy was the guinea pig. The test case. The pioneer. And he willingly adapted to each change as we experimented with his education and his future.

And now that future is the present. Our now seventeen-year-old Scott is finished. I wanted to celebrate this momentous occasion. But I knew there would be an obstacle: Scott.

You see, with all that throwing-away-convention over the years, he learned to do the same thing. Scott has little patience for social obligation and for false praise. So he made it clear that he wanted no celebration, because, “It’s not an accomplishment to finish high school.” He wanted no party, no family dinner out, not anything that even resembled a marking of the occasion in any way. He said that perhaps someday when he finishes college, if he gets good grades, and lands a good job, maybe then we can celebrate. Maybe.

The “official” end of the school year was the last of Scott’s two AP exams. The courses he taught himself at home; the exams he had to take in a conventional way, at the local high school. (That makes me smile. I love a funny ending.) My husband decided that bringing in some Chinese take-out for the two of them, the only two in our family who like it, would be a fitting end to that day. (And to the thirteen years of homeschooling. But Scott maintains that it’s just dinner. Like any other dinner.)

Scott's last day of school

And I am left with no celebration. But this path of homeschooling we have chosen isn’t about me: it’s for our kids. It was only fitting to let the end of Scott’s homeschooling be what worked best for him. Writing this post is the only true marking of the occasion. He will likely give me a little latitude for that.

Scott Wilbur is a wonderful young man. He loves the Lord and studies His Word. He treats his parents with respect and looks after his younger siblings with care. He is smart, funny, reliable, and hard-working. It has been my great privilege to teach him whatever I could. I will miss it, though it is only my role as his educator that I am relinquishing. I am grateful to be his mom.

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Throw-it-out Thursday: Conclusion…

Every Thursday, for the past several weeks, I have been posting pictures and descriptions of some organizational efforts I have been making in our home. I have thrown away what wasn’t useful and reorganized the keepers. Today is no different.

“Throw-it-out Thursday” has served its purpose, spurring me on to looking at things differently and knowing when to let go of them. I hope it has encouraged you to do the same.

It has also proven to me that a commitment to a weekly day-of-the-week-labeled post series is not the right fit for me or this blog. I tried it, but it doesn’t work for me. I prefer to write only when I’m sure I have something to say.

And now, like the old make-up, unused recipes, sentimental scraps of paper, and assorted other items, it’s time to throw it out. Just the feature; not the blog. That’s a keeper.

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