Larkspur’s Snowy Ninth

We celebrated Larkspur’s ninth birthday last week during our biggest snowstorm of the year.  As birthdays do in our house, the day revolved around food and of course, gifts.  Lark always wants a fruit salad, which isn’t that easy to pull off in early March.  I suggested a citrus salad, but she really wanted melons and begged me to buy them even though they aren’t in season and wouldn’t be the best.  The salad turned out just fine as did the rest of her requested foods, including her new tradition of banana pudding rather than a birthday cake.

I have sewn birthday dresses for several of the girls’ birthdays, and that has created an expectation there.  This year in the weeks leading up to Lark’s birthday I started going through my fabric stash and trying to decide what pattern to make but it was really causing me some anxiety.  I just don’t sew very often anymore, partly for lack of space and time, and the thought of sewing a dress from beginning to end was a little bit overwhelming to me.  Larkspur was also hoping that I would make her the Topsy Turvy doll from this book, but the thought of that was stressing me out as well.  The bottom line for me is that crafting is only good when I am enjoying it and it is helping to relieve stress rather than create it.  Where I am at right now, the only craft that I find good for me on a regular basis is knitting.  Everything else seems to require too much mental power and prep work.  In an effort to simplify I came up with an alternate plan that I thought would still make Larkspur happy.  She’s been bugging me to make her Dandelion Doe softie ever since I bought the kit, many months ago.  I am a huge fan of kits (particularly Alicia’s, so pretty), more so now than ever.  They take much of the decision making and prep work out of a project and that can be very appealing at times.  Of course my brain is clearly not functioning at a high level right now because I managed to omit certain portions of the directions for this particular kit.  I knew something must be wrong when I ran out of floss for sewing the body when I was only halfway through it.  You’d think I would have remembered to only use two of the six strands of floss considering the fact that I have made two of these kits in the past.  Boy did my fingers hurt (for days) after sewing the whole thing with six strands (I used multiple shades of tan and it really worked out fine despite the pain.)  My plan was to downgrade the birthday dress to a skirt and have the colors match Dandelion’s dress.  I ran the skirt versus dress idea by Larkspur and she expressed concern that a skirt would really be too easy for me, and not quite worthy of a birthday!  Thank goodness that she was super excited with Dandelion (and surprised too!), because not only did she not get a birthday dress, there was no skirt either!  I just ran out of time.  I have promised to make her a First Holy Communion dress (what??) and I think that is why she let me off the hook.

Larkspur is very sweet, and really, she’s easy to please.  She likes lots of fun and artsy things, making the shopping part great fun.  My older boys are sooo specific and buying their gifts usually means Jonny hunting something down on Craigslist and going to pick it up.  No surprises.

So, I kind of went overboard with gifts for Lark this year.  I started stashing things months in advance and by the time her birthday rolled around, I had a little more than I meant to.

Outside of some basic art supplies like pretty paper and some bird stickers, I also bought Larkspur a set of nice watercolors, at her request.  She specifically wanted this set from Nova Natural.  She has been painting with them every day since her birthday.  I think these paints were her most expensive gift outside of the Dandelion Doe kit, but well worth the money.  She is taking her paintings so seriously now, and I know she is having a lot of fun.  She is especially interested in birds, so I pulled this book on keeping a naturalist’s notebook off the shelf and she’s been using that to help guide her bird paintings.  I also bought her this beginner’s guide to eastern birds, and we are really liking this little field guide!

I surprised Lark with a Saint Kateri necklace from this shop.  She has really fallen in love with this North American saint over the past year.  I also bought her, at her request, my favorite little garden hoe.  (I don’t even know how many of those I have purchased for both myself and for gifts over the years.)  She is so excited about her garden this year.  I think maybe even more excited than I am about mine!

Other gifts included refill loops for her pot holder loom, and a copy of Heidi, that I am actually planning to return despite it’s pretty cover. As I started reading the first chapter, I became concerned that it was an abridged version because I didn’t recognize it. A little research, and I realized it was just not the translation that I am used to. I really dislike this one, the language is just not beautiful. Can someone recommend a better one? I don’t remember what I had as a child.

I’m just so glad that she had a happy birthday and that she didn’t let the snow put a damper on all her garden plans. Well, I’m also grateful that Jonny waited until the next day to go break his collarbone.  He’s already feeling so much better, by the way.  We’re sorting things out and it’s really going to be okay.  Thanks for all your kind words.

Little Larkspur, nine years old already!  I still remember the day that we learned that we would have our first little girl….

This is what I have been doing.

The funny thing is that I have seven kids, and before this week I had never dyed pasta with food coloring before.  But it’s “N” week for my co-op preschool class and we are going to string necklaces.  I debated calling the noodles “macaroni” and using them for “M” week, but noodle necklaces have the double “N” and I think that really works better.

This homeschool co-op and my little preschool class have really taken over my brain and much of my time since we began last fall.  In almost eight years of homeschooling, we’ve never participated in something like this and it’s been quite an adjustment.  I am hoping that eventually the getting prepared, going to, and then recovering from co-op, will stop feeling like quite such an ordeal at some point.  But then, it might not.  On co-op day we have to be up a couple of hours earlier than usual, not to mention out the door with books, pencils, snacks, lunches, decent clothing, and tidy hair.

And then there are my preschool supplies, mainly art supplies and Montessori inspired activities that I tote in bins to and from co-op each week.  To give myself some structure I am following, or rather creating, a letter of the week plan.  I make this slightly funny bulletin board up each week to support that.  Each week I print up coloring pages, and then I color them.  (Yes, I realize that there is something a little ridiculous about that.)  Next up they get laminated and pinned to my cork board.  There was a novelty to all that coloring at first, but it quickly wore off.  But what am I going to do?  I don’t have a color printer, and the kids really like my boards!  It’s the same every week: the letter itself, a letter themed coloring page from this site, a Jan Brett letter tracing page, a seek and find (the kids LOVE these), and a saint whose name begins with the letter.  I started out very ambitious, coloring one of the beautiful iconic style saints from this amazing stained glass saint coloring book each week. That took awhile though, and I’ve started laminating pages from this Alphabet of Catholic Saints instead, because our copy is falling apart anyway.

I try to find an open ended or process based art activity for each week that begins with our letter.  It hasn’t totally worked out though because I can’t always think of something.  For instance, letters “J” and “K” were combined in one week and while I have some ideas now for next year, I couldn’t think of anything at the time.  A friend told me that we should just do “Jrawing with Kulors” and I’d be fine.  I think that’s about what we did.  Thankfully, the kids love it when I supply them with simple blank notecards, scissors, tape, stickers, and some sort of crayons or colored pencil, often crayon rocks,which they love.  (Look-there’s a special Valentine’s day box of them!)

Anyway, this is what I have been doing:  coloring, making play dough, choosing books to read to the kids, and all sorts of preschool-y things while wondering just how to fit it all in along with everything else that makes up our days.  It’s good though; I think this is all very good, and just what I am supposed to be doing right now.