Category: Books

Defined by Hormones

A week ago Rach and I went to the library after her piano practice. She wanted to pick up some old favorite audio books to enjoy while she was drawing. When we got there we found that while working on the teen section of the library they had put all the audio books, all the manga and comic books, and about half the other YA books in storage. All that was available was a smattering of popular and “improving” print books. A whole library of space– room for a huge magazine room for adults, several computer rooms, several open rooms in the basement, a huge new music area, and plenty of other available spots and they had stored away the vast majority of things the young adults actually used instead of finding a place to leave them out while they worked- the project started in April and won’t be done until at least November. Rach was understandably frustrated. I was frustrated and angry at the lack of respect for young people (they had recently done similar work on other sections and never stored any of that away. This is an ongoing issue at this library- if it is for teens then it is easy to push aside.)

What made my blood boil was the response of the librarian we had questioned told Rach, “Just listen to some of the grown-up audio books,” then she looked at me and said, “She is just being a teenager.”

As if Rachel’s righteous frustration at not being able to get to the audio books she wanted because of the thoughtlessness of others was due to her age or hormones. Her genuine irritation at the situation and their treatment of teens was discounted as just being her age.

I want to take a moment and say that our children’s librarian is excellent and genuinely enjoys working with young adults as well as children. He brings in a lot of excellent books, audio books, comics/manga. He has introduced game days and movie nights for the young adults and made the library a natural hangout and friendly place for young people- but he can’t change attitudes. The other librarians as well as the majority of volunteers will quickly sweep aside the concerns of the younger generation, have been known to cancel activities for them for the sake of activities for older adults, and so on. This treatment is reprehensible but it is the comments that irritate the most.

This is something we run into everywhere. Not just at the library, at the store, at the Y, it is everywhere we go. Perfectly ordinary people who have never met either of my daughters automatically discount their very legitimate negative feelings when things go wrong or people treat them poorly as “being a teenager”. Yes, hormones do affect the way we feel- they act like a megaphone for our feelings, especially when we are in the worst of it, but that is just as true during menopause, during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy. I know the majority of the women I know would be very unhappy if their feelings were regularly discounted because of hormones. “Oh, ignore her, she is just pregnant.” “Oh, she is just cranky because of her period.” “Oh, she just is crying because of perimenopause.”

No. In general teenagers are the only part of our population who regularly have their feelings discounted because of the hormonal stuff going on in their bodies. Everyone else gets the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder how this older librarian or any of the other older ladies who have made “teenager” comments recently would feel if I referred to her regularly as middle aged or a “middle ager”. What if I discounted her feelings regularly because she is dealing with perimenopause. “Oh, you aren’t really upset because you are having a bad day and people are treating you like crap. It is just because you are perimenopausal.” I don’t think that would go over well. And if everyone was doing that to her, after a while she would become pretty sensitive to it.

Our society as a whole tends to treat both young adults and children as second class citizens. We push them to do this and that, to grow up as fast as possible, and then refuse to acknowledge their maturity until a single age when suddenly we expect them to be all grown up. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different. We all grow and learn and mature at different stages. We need to respect one another, recognizing that everyone, children and young adults included, are dealing with different things. We all have struggles. We all have frustrations. We all have good days and bad. And as our children grow, we can gradually help them work through the rough spots, encourage them in their strengths, and treat them from early on with respect, recognizing them as fellow human beings instead of second class citizens. I think if we did that we would find that the vast majority of what we call “teenager” behavior would be eliminated.

Oh, and we solved the problem with the library- I suggested Rach go ahead and order the audio books from all the other libraries in the system. Sure it will be inconvenient for the librarians. Sure it may take an extra day but maybe next time they will leave them out instead of storing them away.

I’m that Mom

Joining in on an awesome, impromptu blog carnival over here.

(I am deliberately not reading everyone else’s until I have finished writing mine, except for the 2 I saw that made me realize that this is a cool thing that I actually want to join in on because I suspect a lot of us overlap and I want to share who I am without worrying about that it may be a “YEAH, ME TOO.”)

I am that mom who, when the kids ask if we can please go visit our friends 5 hours away tomorrow, says yes, starts packing, and goes.
Rachel and Kayla

I am that mom who upon finding out the the oldest’s best friend (who lives 2 days away) might be able to come stay for a week says YES.

I am that mom who on 4th of July goes fireworks chasing with the kids, driving all over tarnation looking at everyone’s awesome displays,  instead of taking them to sit in a huge crowd and watching one display.


I am that mom who would rather take the kids to the pond to swim or sit and watch hours upon hours of anime, Dr. Who, favorite movies, or As Time Goes By with the crazy, wonderful kids than worry about what the neighbors think of her children’s nearly dead flower/veggie garden and too tall grass.
I am that mom who when the kids decide to build a tent/tree house/whatever in the back yard says nothing or helps them find the needed materials, knowing that again the neighbors will wonder about the people next door ruining the view from their perfect yards.

I am that mom who runs outside with the kids in the pouring rain to look for rainbows.

I am that mom who, when the kids find their long lost roller blades and ask if they can go somewhere to roller blade, suggests they roller blade in the house on our fake hard wood floors and allow them to continue to wear them for everything for the next week.

I am that mom who lets her kids turn her entire kitchen into a restaurant for days at a time and play with their food.
Larry the Cucumber

I am that mom who, when her son asks to take all the blankets from all over the house and use them to jump on, says yes.

I am that mom who takes a camera wherever her kids go and takes pictures of all the awesome things they do.

Super straw

I am that mom who, when her kids want to mow the grass says yes and then says nothing about the stripes of extra tall grass left behind and the odd, rather like a maze, style of cutting grass her oldest prefers.

I am that mom who, when a kid says “come see this cool thing” stops what she is doing to go see (and it always IS really cool!)


I am that mom who realizes that her middle child loves the stage and when she asks signs her up and takes her to a performing arts camp the very next week.

I am that mom who still loses her cool, who still gets frustrated when the kids have totally trashed the place (not a problem) and then don’t clean it up (a problem), who has bad days and does not cope so well when the kids are fighting, again.
Issac room

I am that mom who still has a long way to go but loves where her kids are exactly where they are regardless of the stage they are in, loves being with them, and thinks they are totally awesome and fun.
Alameda Park 2010
Yes, this is an extended version, I got started and kept going (which anyone who knows me in person knows this is VERY typical.)

Where we are and what we have been doing

  • As you already know if you have been reading at all, my mother passed away on July 31 so that has colored our days a lot recently (especially as conflict arose with certain family members due to some emotional issues.)  The amazing thing is watching how the kids have dealt with all of this.  We were blessed to find that they were not at all about the stuff, are mourning naturally, and are, in general dealing with things in a wonderfully healthy manner.
  • Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins.
    Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins looking on.
  • We have been spending lots of time with family and friends and now that we have a minivan are doing a lot more going and doing.  The kids are thrilled that this includes the library, some small trips to local national parks, and trips to IKEA.  It is exciting to see how their interests have developed since we last were at the library and their excitement about going to the parks and IKEA.
  • The kids have been on a fossil kick (lots of limestone around here), set up a stage in the basement and are planning a talent show of sorts for this Saturday at noon for whoever shows up, have been reading a ton, still programming on Scratch, playing the new Bookworm adventures and Boom Blox, hanging out at the pond with Pappap and Uncle James, and Essie is tweeting regularly.

    James and Issac
    James and Issac down at the pond.
  • Because I picked up a pile of “educational” workbooks, games, and books at the Target $1 bin today they have been working on those and quizzing each other on Wonders of the World.
  • I now have my mother’s sewing machine so the girls are clamouring to be allowed to sew again.  I will have to teach them how to use this machine first but I suspect much sewing will occur in the next few months.
  • Yesterday we discovered a cicada that had just left its nymph form.  It was awesome and the kids immediately had to research so they could remember which type of cicada and what each stage was called.
  • cicadacicada
  • I updated to the new version of Ubuntu yesterday.  It was the simplest upgrade I have ever done–took me less than an hour start to finish and most of that was copying my Home folder over from the backup drive.  The new version is AWESOME.  Just saying.
  • I finished a random painting that has been floating around in my head for a while.  This may be the beginning of a flower series since I am in the middle of one of a butterfly bush now.

    Queen Anne's Lace
    Queen Anne's Lace
  • Issac finally lost the tooth that has spent the last month hanging by a strand.  That same tooth got broken when Essie kicked him while swimming, bled everywhere and STILL didn’t come out.  The next day Rach bumped him in the mouth with a swivel chair and out it came–no blood, nothing.
James and Issac
Issac and James and the missing tooth.

Herbal recipes

I have had several tweets, email, comments, and facebook comments from people requesting recipes for the things I make at home. So several bits of info and then I will share.

  • Disclaimer: The information I have I have gleaned from the Internet, books,  experience, as well as specifically this ebook which I heartily recommend though I have taken the information she has provided and adapted it to our needs.  I also recommend The Rodale Herb Book (which I found for 50 cents at the library sale and LOVE).  I am by no means qualified to recommend anything from a medical standpoint.
  • I don’t follow recipes.  Well, maybe the very first time if I am nervous of how it will turn out, but after that no.  I adjust recipes according to taste, what I have available, and my mood.  This means that my recipes are NEVER the same twice and it makes them hard to pass on.  I prefer to come at food and herbs from a chemical standpoint–I know how various starches respond, how various fats respond, how various catalysts work and I cook and mess about accordingly.  It has taken a great deal of mistakes (thank you to my mom who put up with my messes in the kitchen, the constantly being out of certain things because I would use them up, and for not scoffing at my mistakes.)  I still make mistakes, a lot, and my husband and kids are rather forgiving when things don’t go so well.
  • All recipes provided are adaptions and should be treated as such.  Also, they are not perfect measures, I go by look and feel.  If it looks too thick melt it back down and add more coconut oil or some other oil, a little at a time till it is soft enough to suit you.
  • top to bottom, left to right: Cough syrup, chapstick, headache salve, Itchy cream
    top to bottom, left to right: Cough syrup, chapstick, headache salve, Itchy cream

And so, now that I have scared you out of actually trying any of my recipes or home remedies here they are (at least a few.)  Gather your supplies before starting–nothing like making something and realizing you have no container to suit when it is ready to pour. 🙂 And so, you will need a container.  I purchased a bucket of the little tins used for weddings but if you have them you can use old tins from candy (like Altoids–though as a friend who tested  another recipe mentioned–don’t fill it past the hinges) or small jars (like those that you get from Burt’s Bees).  I don’t recommend plastic but then I NEVER recommend plastic, but especially not since you will be pouring hot liquid into it.  All but the cough syrup use bees wax.  I bought mine on sale at Michael’s before I realzed that a friend of my brother HAS BEES and therefore HAS BEE’S WAX.  Dur.  It goes a long way though so is well worth it.  You will also want coconut oil (I buy mine for cheap at Walmart but there are plenty of places to get it online.)  Essential oils can be gotten at health food stores or online.  Bottles of juice concentrate can be gotten at health food stores or you can make them yourself.

Flavored Chapstick

Essie modeling the chapstick.
Essie modeling the chapstick.

This is the simplest chapstick though it does require a *blender or, even better, a hand blender.

Take 1 part melted bees wax, 1 part melted coconut oil (or if you want a creamier texture use a bit of olive oil, we added a bit of vitamin e oil to ours).  Blend well with the juice concentrate of your choice–add it a drop at a time until desired consistency—any that does not blend will bleed out.  We also added a drop of honey (for its antibacterial benefits, and flavor.)  This chapstick adds just a hint of color which the girls appreciated. 🙂

As you can see in the picture we added a bit too much cherry and blueberry juice but it tastes good and really makes your lips feel nice.  In the future I plan to try using cocoa and shea butter in it with a bit of peppermint oil.

* Word of warning–when melting bee’s wax–use an OLD pan that you don’t plan on using for anything else–it is REALLY hard to clean.  It is also hard to clean out of the blender–we have had to let it soak with boiling water to get it out–this is one reason I ecommend using a stick blender–easier to clean.

Salves (Headache and Itchy cream)

Both of these are adapted from Tnfarmgirl’s ebook. In the case of the Headache salves I used essential oils, in the other case I made my own oils first, THEN made the salve.  The itchy cream is an antitch salve with the primary herbs being calendula and plantain though, since I didn’t write it down when I made it, I know there are more things in it but can’t remember what.  On the other hand, I know EXACTLY what I put in the headache salve.

Melt together 1 part bee’s wax and 1 part coconut oil.  Add equal amounts mint, spearmint, and lavender essential oils.  (I used about 5 drops each to about 2 Tbs of wax which was actually a bit weak but good since the kids can use it as well.)  Pour into a tin when melted.  Allow to cool before using.  If it is too thick you can remelt and add some more coconut oil or some olive oil or vitamin e oil.

Note: do NOT get this in your eyes, trust me, don’t. On the other hand, it is excellent rubbed into temples or into cheek bones or neck for headaches.

Cold/flu Syrup (a more exact one that is suitable for smaller children can be found here.  )

Once again, for the syrup I used a recipe from Tnfarmgirl’s ebook–she lists potential uses for each herb which is important to know.  Essentially this is a tea cooked down to a syrup with plenty of honey.  Cook it down more and you get a cough drop.

This is not the first we have made and each time we use different stuff depending on what she (Rachel–since she is allergic to most over the counter meds, even the ones at the health food store) needs, and the herbs included are for various things but all ones we know work for her–so think of this as more a stuffy nose, upset stomach, coughing, sneezing, everything syrup.    For herbs I don’t have on hand (unlike thyme and garlic) I use tea bags and 1 tea bag is a serving so I use 1 tea bag for each as a way of keeping some feel for quantities.

tea bags: Calendula (general healing, in this case for her stomach), peppermint (stomach, general health), muellien (ear ache),  feverfew (fever and headache), rose hips (vitamin c)

about a Tbs of slippery elm (sore throat), a tsp of  fennel seeds (stomach ache), tsp garlic (promotes healing), thyme

About 1Boil all of the above in 1 cup of honey and 2 cups of water.  Allow to boil for about 1/2 hour.  While it boiled I poured about a 2 Tbs each  of elderberry and cherry concentrate plus 3 capsules of zinc powder (the only form of zinc she can take) plus a tsp of magnesium powder into a glass jar.  Allow the tincture to cool for about 10 minutes before pouring.  With a funnel and strainer pour  the tincture into the jar with the concentrate.  Stir.

Essie reluctantly holds a spoonful o</p>

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Essie reluctantly holds a spoonful of Rachel's cough/cold/icky feeling syrup. She tasted it afterwards and said it wasn't nearly as bad as Buried Treasure ACF.

All of these don’t seem frugal to start but once you have the stuff essential oils etc go a very long way.  And if you get the ebook (no kickback for me–I just love it and my kids love it.)  It has really helped me find herbal remedies that grow naturally and which most people call WEEDS and spurred a love of herbal identification and making our own remedies in the kids.

It’s Very Edumacational

Every once in a while we have a day that can be described as nothing short of educational, which we usually call “edumactaional” to make it more fun.  These are the sorts of days that I dreamed of when my children were still babies and I thought about homeschooling them as they were older; fun and spontaneous learning–reading books together , doing experiments, talking about science, reading, math in the course of the day, and lots of other very traditional types of learning going on without fuss and with joy.

The sad thing is that, back then, my young mommy brain was kind of confused about how those sort of days would happen.  In fact , you may even say that I was brainwashed by all the teacher training I had (most of which had the goal of good classroom management rather than good learning–regardless of what we are told, but that is another story).  I thought that the fun , spontaneous, pain free learning would come with lots and lots spontaneous (on my part) “school” things.  For instance I would wake up in the morning and say, “Hey, lets work on this and this and this and this today!” which would then lead to lots of tears of frustration on all of our parts because the kids were so overwhelmed by the stuff I had planned.

And so I listened to the homeschooling gurus who told me that learning would only take place if it was planned.  So I set about using all that teacher training and planned our school days.  Which, may I add, led to even more tears of frustration, refusal to work, and anger.   Where was this beautiful, peaceful, happily learning together family life I longed for?  When I asked others the answer was the same–the peaceful, happy learning is a myth, all kids have days where they refuse to work, complain, HATE math, science, history, language arts.

That didn’t make sense to me either. As a kid I LOVED science and art–except in the classroom where they never answered the questions I wanted answered.  The science books were too dumbed down about anything I was really interested in using only “suitable” language for each year, covering the same information every year but adding a little more vocabulary, a little more depth, but never what I was really interested in WHEN I was interested and the teacher was in too much of a hurry to “get through the book” to stop and answer questions for one child when most of the class didn’t care. The same went for art.  Our art classes were designed to expose us to a wide array of media and art history but most of it was busy work.  Glue this leg here, glue that arm there.  Later it was “lets paint a happy little snow scene” or make a pointillism bird.  There was never the opportunity to really explore the medium or one’s own interests, because most of the kids would just mess around and didn’t really care.  It was all done in the name of classroom management and “getting through” the curriculum.

And then it occurred to me.  Why was I using classroom management techniques designed to deal with large classes to train my kids at home. Growing up  I spent all summer exploring my interest in science and art and later in reading.  I spent all summer running around, playing, experimenting, discovering.  One summer I spent everyday out on the pond on the paddle boat.  My cousin and I sent our Barbies diving into the depths of the pond, created a lagoon for them, a beach, a resort.  Another summer I spent everyday out in the woods with my green backpack full of lunch, homemade lemonade which I figured out how to make on my own),drawing materials, notebooks, reading books, field guides, and my Cabbage Patch Kid, Sharon Renae, as my fellow adventurer.  Yet another summer I helped my dad build us a tree house, and another I helped dig a trench for a pipe and pump to draw water from the pond up to our house so we could water our garden with pond water.  During those summers I read tons, learned all about rocks and plants, learned to draw, got tons of exercise, and learned to enjoy my own company.  For my birthday (at the end of summer) my mom always planned a birthday party which I looked forward but barely remember (loved the idea of it but HATE parties as a rule) and my dad always planned a trip to whatever museum/zoo/state park I wanted (usually within an hour drive).  I almost always chose the art museum but sometimes the children’s museum or the zoo or better yet the science center or a bike trip at the state park.  And those trips I remember.  It wasn’t an educational trip, it was fun, it was a gift.

We also, when I was young, often went camping, and usually did so someplace with educational value (most homeschoolers would call them field trips–we called them vacation.)  We went to Washington DC, Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, Hershey,  Lancaster.  Only occasionally did such trips include an amusement park and if so then it was most likely Idlewild–a park not far from us which has a wonderful history and isn’t all show, in fact it has one of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the US as well as one of the oldest wooden roller coasters.  These activities were mostly spontaneous (unless my mom and grandma took us-then it was well planned and included lots of bus tours, because my grandma likes bus tours).   We, my brother and I, preferred the spontaneous day trips or the sudden camping, canoeing, biking trips.  They were fun, satisfied our curiosity, and we didn’t have too much fuss about them.

And that is what I wanted our home to be like.  I didn’t want our home  to be divided between school and life.  I wanted life to be educational, spontaneous, fun.  I was tired of the fighting (especially with our high strung and very determined oldest).  If homeschooling was God’s plan for us then it should, as part of our life, help us develop the fruits of the spirit , not hinder them.  It should help our children learn contentment and a longing for growth, not promote whining and complaining.  As God changed my heart about what school should look like our lifestyle became our learning style.  No longer did we daily get out a pile of books (though occasionally we do–a pile of books to read or books ful of potential activities to do).  No longer did we sit at the kitchen table with pencils at the ready or in the basement school room.  The basement school room became a playroom where the kids “played” school and later where laundry got stored as it was ready to sort.  The kitchen table became the place where we ate and where the kids did various crafts and activities they found in the piles of books strewn around the house.  Shamus and I became facilitators and question answerers, mentors if you like.  Our focus changed from making sure the kids “knew what they needed to know by a certain age” to dealing with heart issues, character development, and encouraging the kids in the areas they showed interest and making sure they had on hand what they needed to grow that interest.

And sure, some days the kids spend the day playing a video game (though may I mention that video games are an excellent place to learn economics–especially RPG or Sim style games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing) and some days they spend all day watching old movies.  Other days they spend all day playing pirates, dolls, practicing a play they have created themselves, baking, building, reading, playing board games, whatever captures their interest on that particular day.

And on Monday Issac and I spent much of the day together, cleaning up, doing laundry, reading a very boring and not nearly informational to suit his tastes science text book and then jumping up and doing all sorts of experiments that weren’t in the book to answer the questions he asked like: What is erosion and how does it work?  What is sedimentary rock and how does it form?  How did our area form? (the book didn’t use those words, deeming them too hard to read for a 2nd grader–Issac asked the questions because he likes studying volcanoes and knows that volcanoes form islands and wanted to know how our area was formed and shaped and what sort of rock we have–the answer is glaciers and sedimentary rock so I him showed him using  flour and water) .  A section in the book on plants got us talking abut how plants soak up water and nutrients from the soil so we got out the celery and dye and made bright blue and green celery.  In one day we went through an entire science text book only reading the bits he was interested in–he knew most of the stuff anyway and wasn’t interested in the other stuff–in fact he had already done most of the experiments they had on his own.  Issac later explained all about both experiments to his sisters who enjoyed seeing them (though Rachel was upset that we had used much of the celery as she was planning on using it in some soup for dinner.:)) For dinner the kids and I made curry and Chapatti from  an Indian cuisine cookbook we had picked up at the library sale.   Later, after our Bible reading  during which all three read aloud Psalms of David)  we read a beautiful picture book  about Washinton crossing the Delaware river.   It was a rather dry factual account with gorgeous oil paintings for images so the kids enjoyed it and Rachel added to the information by enthusiastically sharing all she knows about George Washington (one of her favorite people about which to read .)

And when I looked back over the day  I realized that this was the sort of day I had dreamed of, and the sort of day that homeschool gurus had insisted would never happen without careful planning, and yet, there had been no tears, the children really loved learning these things for their own sake, their natural curiosity and love of being together made all of it possible.  There was no need for any classroom management because there was no classroom.  We were living life together and loving each other and spending time together and it was very good.

Wordless Wednesday and then some

It has been raining here–a lot.  Took these shots over at my mom’s place of my dad’s pond.  This is my childhood place. *End Wordless Wednesday*

Things are suddenly crazy busy.  I finished moving the big web site over to the new server and suddenly have tons of art projects, all vying for my immediate attention.

  • Working on a picture book with hubby.  It may go no where but regardless it is a fun project and since my husband is a wonderful word-smith, it is as funny as heck.  We are having a great time and this is shaping up to be a very cute and funny book.
  • Working on illustrations for another writer who sent me a cute story.  Don’t know if anything will come of it but it is a fun project as well.
  • Working on the art classes, still have several more to write plus interacting with all the great kids, and adults, who are involved.
  • Have a commission to do–got it in the email last night.  Need to get printer up and running so I can print out the image so I can get started.  It is a beautiful photo and I can’t wait to work from it.
  • Came up with another story idea for hubby to work on last night–based very loosely on an illustration he had me do for a mini-comic he is posting (probably not safe for kids–his site is a geek site about games and whatnot and I would consider most of his writing PG.)
  • Have some more website work I REALLY need to do, several need designed, another needs information added, another needs some basic maintenance.
  • Need to produce some children’s art that is sell-able (hubby says not to sell the bunnies) for a children’s art gallery/sales site that has shown interest in my work.
  • The kids?  Oh yeah them.  They are happily keeping busy playing outside, reading TONS of books (got 20 out of the library yesterday and Rachel has already gone through 4 of them), playing Wii, playing board games.
  • Finally, I have moved over to Imagekind from Zazzle (Zazzle didn’t play nice with my Ubuntu with Firefox 3 and when I emailed them they told me to install IE7–um, no.  They didn’t even bother to read that I CAN’t–not theat I would if I could.  Ick.)  I am THRILLED with ImageKind.  It is an art print site instead of a product site.  I am really enjoying it all around and have had no trouble with any part iof it.  If you do photography or art and are interested in having prints available to customers I would definitely recommend them–Danielle, this means you.

Buy my art at

Mail time

Today I reluctantly went to the mail box. We had spent several hours at the pond yesterday walking around and I was taking it easy today. I didn’t really want to stop reading my book and go check the mail. Yes, my life is so very hard. 🙂


In my mailbox was some random junk and a package. Now normally packages aren’t a big deal–U do Swapadvd and Paperbackswap so they are pretty regular. However this package was not from either of those–it was from a bloggy friend with whom I occasionally share snail mail and projects. This time it wasn’t a cool craft it was a book. A gift for Rachel. The perfect gift.


The Prairie Girl’s Guide to Life: How to Sew a Sampler Quilt & 49 Other Pioneer Projects for the Modern Girl

To start Rachel looked the book over–“Mom, this book is really well made. The paper is really good quality and it has a beautiful cover. ”


She opened it up and ooed and awed as she browsed the pages. She then settled back in her chair and began to read, every once in a while exclaiming over another thing that it explains that she wanted to be able to do.


As most of you know Rachel has a crafty/project streak. She loves making and building things (she has a go cart in the works from The Dangerous Book for Boys) as well as cooking and baking. What you may not know is that she is an outdoors-woman at heart. She longs for me to let her camp out for a week in a tent all buy herself. She wants to build a shelter, live in it, make her own fire, and make her own food. A long time ago she told me she felt called to be an old fashioned missionary–the type that not only goes out and witnesses but also has to make her way in the wilderness. She also wants to fly.


The Importance of Play

I ran into this news story over here and it surprised me that it was even a story.

Watch any child who is free of schedules, strict socially structured and planned activities, and the freedom to use the materials on hand and you will find that child playing. Any parent who has watched and listened quietly as their little one plays can tell you that that child is imitating and working out what is in the world around him. What parent hasn’t been surprised to find their 2 year old more interested in the wrapping paper than the brightly colored toys it hid? What parent hasn’t noticed a baby’s joy at a set of keys or a spoon?

The only reason older kids don’t play happily with what is on hand is that they have been told they need the latest toy or that cool kids don’t play that anymore. They have been trained to need entertainment, to demand it, and have been taught to be bored without it.

We don’t need to teach children to be creative–we need to keep from killing their creativity by smothering them with talking or overly specific toys and too many scheduled activities.

Yes, I am ranting.

I want my children to grow up happy and fully intact. That means I let them loose with how-to books and the supplies on hand. Rachel has a list of things she wants me to buy at the craft store and I tell her that she can buy it if she saves but otherwise she has to make due with what we have. She has made old fashioned can stilts, a fishing pole with a hook made from a jewelry find earring hook and paper fish, a riding horse from an old broomstick and a sock. She made a card board and clothespin ring toss, and a plethora of clothespin dolls. No, they aren’t high quality but she and her siblings love them because she made them herself. In fact, she is amazed at how wonderful these old fashioned toys are compared to the junk she used to buy all the time at the thrift shop.

Sure my kids play games and watch movies, and other than an occasional “that’s enough, go find something else to do” or a request that chores be done first they are free to play as long as they like. They get sick of it pretty quick when they have that much freedom. Boredom is not tolerated and pretty soon they are engrossed in something else.

Now that they are older they love to plan out games and spend much longer organizing the activity and preparing for play than actually playing. They, at 6, 8, and 10, still spend plenty of time really playing. The girls have a doll house and their cabbage patch kids, Issac has his marbles, race tracks, trains, Legos and Construx–they all play with all of it so when it comes down to it they are only divided by rooms . Every time I enter the girls room I see the dollhouse rearranged–their Only Hearts Club Kids stand in some new fashion–it always makes me want to take a picture as there is so much thought put into the setup. In my son’s room , well it is a mess. They love building things and use all sorts of random objects to build elaborate structures. One day it is Lego vehicles, then next it is Construx, the next it is race tracks. (And, as you can see from the photos, my son likes to play with our rock collection.)

They don’t own any toys that all go perfectly together. They wouldn’t keep them that way if they did. Marvel Super Heroes and Villains often make their way into the doll house alongside my vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls. The ceramic tea-set my in-laws got the girls are as often used with miss-matched plastic kitchen things and foods and Cabbage Patch Kids as they are used for real dress up tea parties elaborately set up by the kids. Wooden blocks and train tracks are often used with matchbox cars and the old fashioned Little People from my Sesame Street set. And that is just inside–you wouldn’t believe the mish-mash of toys that litter our yard in the summer months. (And you know those boots we went to find–those were so my ten year old could go play in the giant mud puddle that fills the valley out back every spring.)

Yes, it gets messy. Sure it isn’t as nice and neat as those little craft kits and running them to t-ball and every other thing under the sun that kids under 12 can be involved in. Yet somehow it is right and it works and the kids are learning and enjoying and growing in ways that they wouldn’t if they were on a schedule and played one kit at a time.