Mothering tool kit

Neighborhood Nature Walk


When the kids have abundant energy, and the weather is unusally dry, it’s time to bundle up and walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  The kids brought a basket to collect items for the nature table on their way.


We’ve been reading books about Thanksgiving, but also about late-autumn as we prepare to shift into the winter holiday.  The kids were anxious to add items to the nature table while it is still decorated for autumn.  (At the end of the month,  the table shifts over to Advent and Winter decor.)


George had more fun jumping in the leaves than collecting them.


Bea brought her whittling gear, so that she and Grandpa could make spoons when we arrived at his workshop.



Ruth, enjoying the crunch of the leaves.

More soon – crafting and good things from the kitchen!


Play Kits to go

Joining Nicole’s KCCO this week with a project I finished before the holidays, but am just now getting around to photographing.

The toy baskets were getting out of control.  One of the children would be rummaging through, looking for all the pieces of a playset, and end up dumping over the whole basket in frustration just to find a missing piece.

Christmas was coming, and I knew something had to change before the chaos in the living room got worse.

My solution:  just before Thanksgiving, I retrieved a  little coat rack from basement storage.  A dear family friend had made me when I was a very small child, and it used to hold my dress-ups.  I screwed in the rack at child-height next to the play kitchen.

Then, during George’s nap one afternoon, I made some drawstring bags of different thrifted prints and of varying sizes.  Into each bag went a playset (wooden tools, Playmobils, finger puppets, flower fairies, cars…you get the picture.)  The most frequently-used sets went up on the rack, and some others were tucked into my purse and into the car for “emergency” situations (church, doctor’s office, waiting in line at the post office…).

So far, the system is working well.  The kids can find the toys they want to play with, and when they are finished, it is easy to scoop the pieces back into the bags.

Back tomorrow for the Yarn Along.

Stockmar afternoon

Late afternoon -that time in the hour before dinner, the hour before Daddy gets home – is so often a strain on family harmony.  We’re all hungry, low on energy, short on tempers.  I struggle to find ways to keep the children occupied, finish dinner, and keep squabbling to a minimum. (I remember Grace relating a similar frustration at that time of day, and feeling relieved that I wasn’t the only mom on the verge of pulling her hair out and yelling at the the top of her lungs come 4:30 or 5.)

When the children aren’t out playing with the neighbor boys until dinner, I try to rotate through special handwork activities they all can enjoy.  Modeling beeswax is a favorite reserved for the most trying afternoons.  After a whole day of sibling disharmony, we all have to reconnect, so while the split-pea stew simmers and bread bakes, I sat down to join them.

This was the first time George had used modeling beeswax.  It took a while to convince him that this yummy-smelling stuff was not, in fact, a snack, but he eventually figured it out.

(The green out the window is the swath of cover crops now fully established.  The only food going up front right now is volunteer chard and Tuscan kale.)

As the last rays of sun came through our front window, we had an opportunity to chat about the day, anticipate delectable Thanksgiving dishes, and sculpt together.  Finally, sisters are laughing together instead of grouching at each other, and little brothers are encouraged instead of teased.  This time was just what we needed to get back to our proper selves and work (play!) as a family.

Modeling beeswax one of the kids’ favorite media (especially for Ruth, who made the autumn fairy, above), however it is quite spendy.  We were given our original set years ago by a dear friend who had gone to Waldorf school as a child, and knew how magical modeling wax could be for kids.  Over the years, I have replaced individual sheets one at a time as needed, but we try conserve and re-use every precious piece.

I recently learned that you can make your own modeling beeswax for far less cost than those lovely Stockmar sheets.  Maybe sometime (if I can find an affordable source of local beeswax), we’ll give the recipe a try.

As the sun sets, and we settle in to the weekend.  I’m looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow, to catch up on housework and sewing projects, and read-aloud with the children as a late-autumn storm is forecast to roll through.

Blessings on your weekend.

Tuesdays are for PJs

During the school-year, Tuesdays at our little farmlet are PJ days.  It is a day of the week in which we do not have garden volunteers here, or any scheduled lessons or activities outside the home.

(Our budgie, Mr. Chirples, snuggling with Ruth.)

We all look forward to PJ days.  In the morning, we can make a big, hot breakfast, catch up on lessons, read loads of books, and play games.  (Here, Bea is playing with the “Math Generator” multiplication tool.)  Sometimes we watch a documentary or listen to a book on CD in the afternoon, or work on a special craft project.

Tuesdays are a chance to not drive anywhere, not purchase anything, not be frantically busy and over-scheduled.  It is a chance to take the time to actually do all those things that get squeezed out or forgotten in the busy-ness of the rest of the week.

We step back from other responsibilities just for one day.  We make use of our resources at home, cultivating our relationships with each other, retreating a bit from the rush rush rush of the world.  We use this time make a conscious choice to enjoy being a family.

Are there rituals in your home that help set the rhythm of your week?


Nature Play and a Lunch Recipe

The past two mornings, the kids and I have worked on harvesting the end-of-summer lavender, which we will use for winter craft projects.  (More on that next time).

The lavender plants are all in the front yard, which is unfenced, and we are along a bus line.  Keeping a busy toddler safe and occupied while we work on front yard projects is a must.

George was kept very happy by his big sisters, who were dead-heading dahlias for me, and bringing him the spent blossoms to play with.   He had such a grand time shredding the flowers, flinging petals in the air and giggling to himself.

After harvesting lavender for quite a while, it was time for lunch.  The older three children take turns being my lunch helper on different days of the week.  This gives me a chance to get some one-on-one time with each of them and teach them culinary skills safely.  This lunch couldn’t have been easier, and it was a hit with all four kids.   Here’s what we made:

Bea’s Bacon-Peach “Pizza”

Preheat oven to 400 F.

For each person, you will need:

4 slices cooked bacon (leftover is fine)

4 slices of fresh peach

2 slices stale rustic bread (we had leftover levain)

a few tablespoons of pizza sauce

mozzarella,and Parmesan

fresh basil leaves (optional)
Directions:  Place sliced bread on a jelly roll pan.  Spread sauce, add 2 slices of bacon per piece of bread, top with cheese, then 2 peach slices, then more cheese.  Garnish with basil leaves if desired (kids prefer to leave it off).

Bake at 400F for 8 min.  Place under broiler for another 1-2 min or until cheese is caramelized and bubbly.

Serve with salad and a fruit smoothie.  Viola!  Lunch!  And happy kids!

Who needs toys when you can shred and fling and mash and revel in blossoms?

While some moments are rough, and we’ve had our stresses and hiccups the past few weeks, we are doing our best to be intentional with each other in our homeschooling, our living and being together, and in celebrating the last breath of summer before the return of Oregon’s inevitable grey, rainy autumn.

We love the snuggly, wooly, apple-cidery things that will come with the coming chilly weather, but for this week, we’re holding on to the blossoms, the lavender bottles, the juicy fresh peaches, the playing outdoors together while we can.


For a long time now, our oldest has been interested in the art of massage.  She has made a study of the subject, reading everything she can find on types of massage, anatomy and physiology, physical therapy, and stress relief.

Ruth is an intense, and typically high-stress individual (she has been since infancy), and I think she naturally gravitated toward the topic because she herself needs a lot of help with the tension and anxiety of every day living.  This has also made her a very empathetic person in this regard, and frequently asks family members who seem stressed, tired, etc if they would like a massage from her.

I had been collecting little jars at the thrift store for some time, and knew Ruth would make good use of them.  She filled the jars with various carrier oils (olive, sweet almond, grapeseed, etc) and a few drops of one essential oil (tangerine, rose, or patchouli (my favorite) or herbs collected in the garden.  I picked her a wide assortment from lavender to hyssop, rosemary to hops, spread them out on the kitchen windowsill, and let her nose guide her.

After a few days steeping in the sunshine, they make great massage oils.  Ruth’s favorite is olive oil with rosemary and a drop of tangerine oil.

If you have a collection of herbs in the garden, harvest them now, before the temperatures drop, and make a simple oil infusion to soften and repair dry, overworked hands and feet this winter.  Simply add a tablespoon of any one herb (simple is better) per 1/4 cup of light or unscented carrier oil, cork and leave in a warm place for several days.  Strain out the herbs, label, and store in a dark place for up to six months.

Falling into a Rhythm

Now that we’ve started our homeschooling year, we have again begun our Thursday ritual of serving afternoon tea and snacks in the breakfast nook.

Sometimes I bake something fancy, like a linzer torte, or banana whoopie pies or gingerbread with whipped cream, but this time, since we’re just getting back in the swing of things, I kept it simple.  Bea made graham cracker and Nutella sandwiches, and we put out tangerines and a bowl of tamari almonds and called it good.

We’ve been doing this since Ruth was  preschooler, and the kids really enjoy the ritual.  We pretend like we’re practicing our best manners, but its a time of silliness, faux British accents and lots of giggling.  It is also a time we can sit down and reconnect during the busy week.

Summer and all its freedoms are such a blessing, but it is good to slowly be returning to the rhythms of  fall.

15 minutes




“This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Nothing To Do


The children are really enjoying this book.  It’s those days where we have “nothing to do” that the kids engage in deep, meaningful learning on their own terms.


This week we’ve been playing a lot of card games (Bea’s favorite), which reinforce cooperation, strategy, addition, subtraction, memory recall for the girls, and help Hal ( age 3 1/2)  with number recognition.



Our friend Dr. Ellie gave the children this paper punch-out book, and Hal has particularly been enjoying the city play mat in it.  It has been really neat to see him maturing in his play, and listening to the detailed conversations his toys have with each other.  🙂


In the mornings, when it’s been too cold for the kids to play outside, and we have down time, all of the children have been sculpting with Bendaroos.  Bea likes to create her own designs (a “long neck” dinosaur, above), while Ruth prefers to follow the directions in the pack (a Toco Toucan, below)


What learning are your kids engaging in when they have nothing scheduled to do?

A bit of comfort


When you’re having a bad afternoon (the watercolors and brushes fall off the shelf onto your head, you have a fight with your sister, you mess up the eyelashes on an otherwise gorgeous portrait you’re painting, your brother whacks you with a toy), nothing gives comfort like snuggling with a sweet little chick.

(That’s Cookie, the Buff Orpington, btw)

Early May Garden Update


Happenings in the garden this week so far:  Mustard greens, lettuce and kale are all getting big!  (Red Russian Kale in the foreground, with Mizuna mustard behind.)


A volunteer and I got 20 tomatoes planted this afternoon – half in front, half in the back.  (I have room for another dozen or so, but am out of cages and will have to jury-rig some bamboo supports – the cages were donated, and I’m trying do as much free and homemade as possible.)


I got 7 De Milpa tomatillos (they have beautiful purple fruit) in the ground, and am trying to find room for three more in some sunny corner.  While I planted them, I kept thinking about roasting tomatillos and making purple salsa verde with chips, or chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce  – can’t wait!


Most of the front yard beds can be seen here (I still don’t have good pictures of all of the backyard, since it’s a mess) – beets and chard and peas are really coming along.  We are harvesting lettuce every day (despite the continuing slug issues).   Pole beans and pumpkins are just beginning to peek up through the soil, and the wildflowers are germinating as well.


Baby parsnips in the backyard are putting out true leaves.  Only 90 more days or so, and they’ll be ready to eat!


The summer squash in the backyard cold frame is coming along beautifully – looks like we’ll have lot of starts to give away to any volunteers that want them!

IMG_7463On the right is a new veggie I’ve never tried before (thank you, Patty!) – variegated garden cress.  Can’t wait to get it established and try some in a salad!


The first of three potato beds out back are really going gang-busters.  I have to mulch them almost every day (cutting tall grass from the yard and quickly using up our last bale of straw).  The second bed planted will soon catch up – the leaves are 6 inches high.  And the third bed potatoes are just barely peeking leaves up through the straw.   Looks like we’ll need to run to the feedstore for another couple of bales soon!

Not pictured – 3 types of mint planted in pots buried around the garden

-bronze fennel starts and lots of chives transplanted around the garden; cilantro and lemon balm starts planted out as well

– bulb fennel, Waltham butternut and Golden Hubbard squash germinating

-  Scarlet Runner and Kentucky Wonder pole and  4 types of bush beans planted in the back, along with Christmas limas on the side yard.

-3 dozen Fordhook Giant leeks were transplanted out  in the front and side yard and another 30-odd Walla Walla Sweet onions in the side and back (wish I had room for more!)

– And many, many flower starts inter-planted amongst the tomatoes.

And -just as importantly- many, many people have stopped by and talked to me this week about our gardening project – I’ve met a half dozen new neighbors, and am connecting more with many others – the garden is building community, not only amongst volunteers, but also in our neighborhood, and that’s really encouraging to me.

As my next-door neighbor said, “It’s starting to actually look like a garden!”



The past month has been an opportunity to re-evaluate what we value as a family – to really examine what we strive to be and to accomplish.  Although unintentional, the blogging break these past several weeks has been very therapeutic for our whole family.  (Actually, it was a break from all computer-related activities).

I realized how much time was being spent every week blogging, and reading other beautiful, but consuming, blogs.  I realized how much more time I spent reading, knitting, sewing, being still and quiet when I tuned out technology.  My stress level went down, and we were all less rushed and more at peace.  Most importantly, I spent so much more time  communicating and interacting with my children in a positive way.

I am going to continue blogging, still for the reason I began – to be an encouragement, and reminder of the value of being a mother, and a keeper of the home and a member of the greater community.  There is priceless value in the small, everyday moments of raising a family.   But, for the next few months, at least, I’ll be scaling back the frequency of  posting and dramatically pruning back the amount of time spent on the computer.


So, that’s it for this week.  I’m not going to spend the next hour reading other mama’s blogs (as inspirational as they are) while the baby naps – getting neurotic and feeling completely inferior about this humble little blog and our domestic activities compared to what I see elsewhere.

Instead,  I am going to put on some mint tea, and sit down with my girls and enjoy our tea with oranges, Nutella on graham crackers, lively conversation.

Blessings on you as you connect with your loved ones today.

I’ll be back next week.

The joy of a nursing toddler



Oregon is a wonderful place to be nursing a toddler!  Tum Tum is nearly 18 months old, and I am very grateful to live in a place where doing what is normal and healthy is culturally accepted as normal and healthy.   Granted, this being my third nursling, nursing past the WHO minimum recommendation of 2 years – and comfortably nursing an older baby in public – is an accepted reality for our family.

The other week, we were out at the library, Tum Tum was tired, cranky, and it was naptime, so I sat down to nurse him while the girls looked at books.   A woman actually came up to me and said, “Way to go on breastfeeding your toddler.  I breastfed my daughter until she was 2.  Keep it up!”   Seriously, I love Oregon.

I am glad my son and I can continue to share the benefits of breastfeeding as long as it mutually benefits us both.  (By the way, did you see the CDC’s recommendaton? – Keep breastfeeding to protect your child from H1N1.).


If you haven’t checked out the classic, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, and also Hilary Flower’s book, Adventures In Tandem Nursing, both are helpful resources.

Tum Tum highly recommends Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy by Cecilia Moen.  🙂

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Scripture verses – I love how God uses the imagery of a nursling and his mother to show His comfort, peace and provision for the people of Israel.

10” Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her abundant breast.

12For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

– Isaiah 6: 10-12

Feels like Autumn



The wind and rain have settled in, and the nights are getting pretty chilly.  It is finally feeling like fall, so this morning the girls and I did some dusting,  got out a few fall decorations, and put the autumn cover on the duvet.  I hope to get the window hangings and more decorations out by the end of the week.



Many of these items would normally go on the nature table. We are still figuring out how best to have a nature table with a toddler in the house.  He puts everything in his mouth, and loves to “deconstruct” things with glee.




Our current compromise is to put all of the chokeables and breakables on “high shelf nature table”, where the girls can reach if they use a step stool, but the baby can’t.    So, here is the first incarnation of our fall nature table, and as the leaves continue to fall and we do more autumnal crafting,  I’m sure it will grow and change and reflect more of the girls’ creative character.


How is your fall nature table taking shape?

Family Bed and Cloth Diapering


Some friends recently asked how we share sleep with our youngest while he’s in cloth diapers.  Overnight leaks are a worry, even with doublers and the “good covers” saved for night time.  To safeguard the mattress, we don’t use expensive wool mattress pads (which sound fabulous, but are way out of the budget) or those awful rubberized crib pads that don’t breathe a bit.



Our simple solution is to use some thrifted wool blankets that I ran through the wash a few times in order to felt them up nice and thick (from twin size down to about 3 x 3 1/2ft).  They are breatheable, natural, and very waterproof.  I double up just to be safe – and wash on warm, tumble dry.

It’s that easy!  I’d love to hear any tips on how you make the family bed work for you!

Healing Touch


Little Hen found this book at the library two weeks ago.  The topic is one that has interested her for a long time, and she read the book , cover to cover, as soon as we got it home.


The basic massage routine takes 5-10 minutes, but there are several techniques described in the book, and massage for different purposes.  The book runs the gamut from massage to relieve anxiety/stress all the way to reflexology for hay fever.

(Although we don’t ascribe to the philosophies of reflexology or acupressure, Little Hen has been fascinated with the topics, and studies the reflexology chart intently – she keeps asking Firecracker if she’d like a foot rub for her respiratory issues, to which Firecracker replies, “Don’t get near my feet!”)

Although I wouldn’t initially have thought of a “massage for children” book as parenting aid, this book has been helpful in helping me mother the children more effectively and compassionately.  Little Hen tends to be a high-anxiety child, and Firecracker full of energy with a fiery temper, and we’ve found this book to be a great tool to facilitate calming and connecting and having a more peaceful home.



We have tried to make some time a few days a week, in the afternoon or evening, when everyone is tired and tempers tend to flare, to get out the book and get a massage from Mama.  Little Hen likes to give Firecracker a back rub, too, reading the directions as she goes.  I think it diffuses a lot of sibling rivalry and helps everyone mellow a little bit during what can be a grouchy time of day .

By caring for the children in such a small way, I am modeling and learning compassion and service.  Such small acts go a long way in creating peace and  we are all blessed by them.

What mothering tools do you utilize to comfort your children and foster harmony in the home?

Onion Biscuit Recipe


Here’s my mother’s super simple recipe for onion biscuits.  They go perfectly with roast chicken, or a bean soup, and the girls love to help make (and eat) them -  a great way to occupy the children with something purposeful while I’m trying to get dinner ready.

You’ll need:


2 tubes of biscuits, 1 stick of butter, and 2 packets onion soup mix.



Cut the biscuits into quarters (yes, an almost 5 year-old can use a knife safely – we practice “fingers BACK”  and I supervise closely.)


Add the onion soup mix to a large bowl.


Melt the butter and add it to the soup mix.  Stir to combine into salty, buttery goodness.



Add the bicuits, a handful at a time, and roll them around until thoroughly coated.


Place on a Silpat or parchment paper, and bake at 450 F for about 5-7 min.  Watch carefully to avoid burning.

What do your kids enjoy creating in the kitchen?



We were recently, unexpectedly, blessed to be able to trade a family friend some homemade jam and brownies for a Kelty his son had outgrown.  Best barter we’ve ever made, if you ask me!

I love my Ergo and use it daily, but the Kelty is a much better fit for my husband.  We’ve been on two good hikes in the past week or so, and both he and Tum Tum have been quite comfortable.

More on our hikes tomorrow with Friday Nature Table sharing.



(Pictures by Hubby.)  Another birthday gift from my parents – a comfy Ergo to carry my big boy around in (he was just getting too heavy to tote around in the sling for long).



The carrier was purchased at Milagros Boutique in Northeast Portland.  So far, I am finding is very comfortable, and Tum Tum thinks he’s big stuff riding on my back.  It’s going to take a little practice to get accustomed to flipping him safely up onto my back, but I am already very glad to have my new Ergo – thanks Mom and Dad!!

Helping Hands


I keep finding these tucked in places around the house.  Little Hen’s Daisy Girl Scout Troop has been asked to do various tasks and things that “need to be done around the house” without being told, or asked, to contribute.  She was only supposed to do the project for a week, but she’s continued it, reusing her cards over and over.

I have come into the bathroom to find the counter and sink washed down, or entered the girls room to find a bed made without a reminder.  Here,  I came into the kitchen and found that a fresh table cloth had been put down, some art work laid out on it and this little note set on top.

She never brags and draws attention to what she’s done.  Only the note let’s me know.  It’s so sweet, really a blessing in my day.

A lesson in germs

We are all sick with a cold and sore throat, spending most of yesterday and today resting on the sofa, listening to this peaceful music and reading together. Coincidentally, this month’s Spider and Click are all about germs and being sick.   We’ve been reading all about bacteria, allergens, playing doctor, and of course the ever fascinating “magnificent mucus” (the girls keep snickering about the phrase “snot rocket” in the article about sneezing).

I thought this might be a good opportunity to reinforce good handwashing technique.  A long while back, I had read of this lesson in on of our kid magazines, and Little Hen wanted to try it out.  You will need:


Apply cinnamon all over your child’s hands (about 2 tsp).  The cinmamon will represent bacteria. 

Now, let child wash hands in warm running water with soap until all the cinnamon is gone.  It will take at least 30 seconds, which is the minimum time a child should spend washing his/her hands. 

Little Hen said she would think of “invisible cinnamon” every time she washes up.  I think it provided a pretty great visual aid for the necessity of good handwashing, plus, my bathroom smells like lovely cinnamon now.

Wishing you good health today and through your weekend!

Fruit of the Spirit

First – Ninny Noodle Noo is having a giveaway for 3 Ostheimer chickens. Check it out here!!

About a year ago, I read on a gentle Christian mothering blog (can’t remember whose), about a wonderful parenting tool.  She and her daughter learned the verse:

Galatians 5:22-23 (English Standard Version)


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When her daughter had a difficult time with her behavior, her mama would ask her which fruit she might be needing “a bite of”, and they would pray and ask God to help her develop that fruit.

I thought this was such a wonderful idea, that Little Hen and I made our own cards with one “fruit” per card.  This is how she’s decided to use them – she’ll be in a really grouchy mood, and she’ll come to me with “peace” and “joy” tell me that she needs some of each.  Then we’ll talk about how how she’s feeling and if she wants to she’ll pray about it, if not, usually a long moment in a “squeezy hug” will give her that peace she’s needing.

This week, we were waiting in line at the library, and I watched her pull the cards out of her bag, thumb through, find “patience”, and look at it (meditate on it?) until we got to the front of the line.    

 It’s a great way for Little Hen not only to strive to develop those good character traits, but also simply as a communication tool, to let the cards speak for her when she has trouble expressing her needs. 

Little Hen Fall 2008

Love you, my sweet, sensitive girl.  And thank you, gentle Christian mama, for your super idea.  If I find your blog again, I will bookmark it!