Thursday, June 26, 2014

Waldorf and simplicity?

I had an entirely different topic in mind for today's post, but then I read today's post on the Lusa Organic's blog and changed direction completely. She touches on the idea that all those fancy (and often terribly expensive) Waldorf loved toys are really not necessarily worth it in the end. Kind of a shocking admission from someone so heavily loved in the Waldorf community right? Well I think there is definitely truth behind what she is saying.

 As parents it is easy for us, even while spouting the merits of simplicity and minimalism, to go completely overboard with purchasing toys for our kids. Lets face it, buying stuff for our kids is fun. There are so many great things out there and it is easy to get swept up in all the fun. I know I've certainly caught myself doing the very same thing. Even in, or maybe especially in, the Waldorf circles I find this to be true as well. There are so many truly beautiful and magical toys that it is easy to want to copy those incredible looking Waldorf playrooms and everything in them. Surely a childhood filled with such wonderful and imaginative toys is the way to raise our children, right? I know that I found myself wanting the girls to have all these things that, if I'm being completely honest, they rarely loved as much as I did. I often complained about the number of toys strewn about, but I know now that often it was me who was at fault.

 I'm a member of several Waldorf related groups online and often see families lamenting over the price of the coveted "name brand" toys. When I started on this Waldorf journey I felt the same way they did, wondering how we'd ever be able to afford all the beautiful pieces that seemed to be a requirement in this lifestyle. Though I couldn't quite bring myself to purchase the expensive Ostheimer toys no matter how much others seemed to love them - and even though my head kept trying to convince me that we needed them. I suppose I can thank my mother for that frugal gene that saved me in this instance. After all, it was the simplicity and handmade qualities of Waldorf that drew me to it initially so why was I letting myself get sucked in by all the "must haves"? It had to be stopped. No matter how beautiful or natural the toys were, too much was still too much.

That isn't to say that there aren't beautiful toys that are cherished and loved, quite the opposite.  My girls have their favorites that they insist they will keep even as adults.  There are certainly purchases that were more than worth making.  Just, perhaps, there were a few more made than necessary.

You've likely all said something along the lines of "kids don't really need toys anyway" at some point on this parenting journey.  I know I have, very recently in fact.  We've all seen the child playing with the box rather than the toy and laughed over how it is often the simplest things that entertain a child.

Countless times over the years we have pared down the number of toys in our home, reevaluating what was really loved and cherished. Certainly some of the toys that were chosen to keep weren't what I would have thought. Sometimes I had to really let go and realize that they weren't going to love the same things I did, no matter how much I wanted them to.  And sometimes they surprised me even more by cherishing the simple handmade toys we crafted together above anything else.

 So it isn't unusual to see that the Loopsy dolls have taken over the dollhouse... Waldorf

Or that a herd of plastic dinosaurs are holding our beloved Waldorf dolls hostage... Waldorf 2

It really is about not getting sucked in to the idea that you must have all these things to make a perfect home or to be a perfect parent, no matter what circle you happen to be in. Less really can be more.  Most days you'll find the girls outside playing sheriff with only an old piece of rope and their imaginations because really, that's all they need.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Fun: Picking Blackberries

Blackberries 2

The girls and I went blackberry picking yesterday with some lovely friends of ours.  I always look forward to the berries being in season during the summer.  I have such fond memories of picking berries with my grandmother when I was a child.  We'd be up early, trying to beat the heat of the day, and with buckets in hand head out to find as many berries as we could carry.  I can remember always wondering why she insisted on wearing long sleeves even though the heat was sweltering and thinking it was so silly.  Though now that I'm the adult (covered in scratches from those darn thorns) I realize how many berries I must have missed,while trying to avoid the thorns, that she would have to go behind me and pick herself.  After all, if we were going to have enough berries to make jelly and cobbler we certainly couldn't leave many behind. 

I laughed to myself today while I was thinking of those days and realizing that perhaps I didn't do as much picking as I would like to think I had.  Maybe, just maybe, I spent a great deal of that time sitting on the tailgate of the truck eating the berries just nearly as fast as they were picked - like a certain small helper of mine did today.  Regardless of how much help I actually was back then, I really loved being out there with her and obviously she was happy to let me believe she couldn't have done it without me.  

I love taking the girls out to pick berries with me, and a big part of me hopes that these are the memories from their childhood that they will cherish, and a tradition they will continue.  

Blackberries 3

Blackberries 4

I think spotting this little guy right next to us while picking will help them remember this season for quite a few years to come.  Goodness he gave us quite a surprise.  After our close encounter with him we decided it might be best to take the kids to a slightly clearer area to finish picking, and my girls were more than happy to relocate - after getting a good look at him, of course.  

We moved over to a nearby fence row that was covered in blackberries and thankfully fairly clear around, giving the kids a better chance of reaching the berries, and decreasing our chances of any more surprise visitors.  It didn't take us long to fill our baskets with this many berries waiting for us.  

Blackberries 1

Blackberries 5

Blackberries 6

At the end of the morning we left with our baskets (and bellies) full of delicious berries and hopefully a few more memories stored away.  The berries are now all washed and just waiting for us to decided what we are going to do with them.  Cobbler?  Syrup?  Jelly?  All of the above?  I think so.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Marine Baby

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to make a quilt for a sweet friend of mine out of her husband's t-shirts, many of which represented his time in the Marines.  What she didn't know is that I saved the front pocket designs hoping to use them for a special gift for her one day and this year I finally found the perfect opportunity and used them to make a baby blanket for her newest arrival.

This was such a sweet little project to work on because I knew that she wasn't expecting it at all and surprises are always so much fun.  I had one extra piece that was a duplicate from the larger quilt, and used the smaller pieces around it to make a very simple blanket.  I backed the whole thing with brown minky fabric and I am telling you that the combination of that minky and those well loved t-shirts makes this an extra cuddly and soft blanket.

Baby blanket

Baby Blanket 2

This is exactly why I am thankful to be able to craft, making meaningful things for the people that I care about is an incredible feeling.  Especially when those things are so well loved.  It makes my day when people I've made things for (whether it is friends, family, or customers) write me long after the fact to tell me how much they're enjoying something or send me a picture of their littles snuggling with something special I made for them.  My girls and I both have lots of special handmade goodies that we treasure and I love being able to create that some experience for others.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chalkboard wall

It's amazing how a fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into an area.  This is especially true if that paint happens to be of the chalkboard variety.  We have a small section of wall that sits right behind our main table in the house that, to be perfectly honest, had seen better days.  I wanted to repaint and change things up a bit and chalkboard seemed like the perfect answer.  We spend a lot of time in this little room, it is easily the most used space in the house even though it is the smallest.  We eat here, craft here, play here, and so it only seemed right that we'd want to create murals here too.  

The process couldn't have been easier.  A small can of paint, a foam roller, and a couple of hours alone.  Okay, the time alone can be difficult to find but I just happened to tackle this project while the girls away on a visit to Grandma's house earlier this year and simply hadn't shared it until now.  While they would have been perfectly happy (and capable of) helping, I wanted to do this as a fun surprise for them to come home to.  

It's become sort of an unplanned tradition for us.  The first thing they do when they come home from Grandma's is search for any surprises I might have left for them.  Sometimes it's a new decoration in their room, a new toy hidden within their favorites, and sometimes it's a giant chalkboard.  I will say though that this surprise took them the longest amount of time to discover.  Silly things.  

I didn't use any primer on the wall, I simply went right to it with the chalkboard paint and I'm happy to say that my impatience paid off and it is working perfectly fine.  I didn't even have to worry about conditioning the wall, the girls very kindly took care of that task for me.  We have had so much fun with this wall and everyone who comes by for a visit likes to take a turn adding a bit of art to the wall.  

I will caution you a bit if you're thinking of adding a chalkboard wall somewhere in your home...if you're the type that will be bothered by chalk dust all over your baseboards and floor this might not be the project for you.  A giant chalkboard outside would be a great way to avoid that issue, but honestly we aren't bothered by it.  We just wipe down the baseboard and vacuum whenever we wipe down the wall and that has worked for us so far.  

Chalkboard Wall 3

Chalkboard Wall 2

Chalkboard Wall

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Working Garden

Besides our fairy tea garden and our vegetable garden, we have another fun garden that the kids can enjoy.  The kids have their very own "working garden" that is theirs to do whatever they wish to.  It's the perfect place to create, imagine, plant, and dig as much as they could possibly want.  Weeds aren't a problem, but a welcome addition in this garden of wild adventure.  There are absolutely no rules, only creative freedom and that is a beautiful thing.

This year they've planted and replanted more times than I can count, hauled out buckets of soil and returned even more, and even added a few fairy touches just in case a fairy might want to come work along side them one afternoon.

Working Garden 6

Working Garden 1

Working Garden 4

Working Garden 2

Working Garden 3

Working Garden 5

Friday, June 20, 2014

Garden Growing

Garden 1

Garden 7

Garden 6

Garden 4

Garden 3

Garden 5

Garden 2

There is so much anticipation surrounding the garden this time of year.  Things are really starting to grow and we know that any day we could walk out to produce that needs harvesting (and eating).  All the hard work we've been doing is paying off and the girls are getting to taste the fruits of their labors.  Literally.  We ate the first two cucumbers yesterday evening with dinner and the girls have already been out this morning searching for any that we might have missed to add to our lunch.  I know that soon we'll be swamped with picking, canning, and cooking but for now we're enjoying the occasional surprise snack. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lego Doctor

Lego Doctor 7

Not that you haven't already realized this, but Legos play a huge role in play time at our house.  I know that there is often debate in Waldorf circles about whether or not Legos are appropriate in a Waldorf environment, but we've never claimed to be "purists" by any means.  While we do strive to surround ourselves with beautiful handmade (and typically wooden or natural material) toys, there are certainly exceptions to that rule for us.  Legos are definitely something we've made an exception for.  We ALL love Lego here.  I have fond memories of building with them as a child, and one not so fond memory of a little boy destroying the Lego castle I had taken to show and tell in kindergarten.  Ahem.  

I was thrilled when Kinsley took an interest in Lego sets and I love watching her imagination run wild when she is creating.  She has numerous sets that she has been gifted over the past couple of years and while she enjoys putting those creations together, it is most interesting to me when she breaks away from the build plans and pulls out the loose bricks to create something of her own design.  

Yesterday evening she spent a couple hours creating this revolutionary new hospital that sees both animals and people.  Though I was just corrected that it is a "veterinarian and person doctor in the same place"...I'm pretty sure that's what I said but evidently leaving out the word veterinarian was my undoing.  Sorry.  

While this isn't one of the biggest creations she ever made, what intrigues me about it is how specific she is about each little section.  Let me give you the grand tour I was given.  

Lego Doctor 4
This is the main entrance.  You'll notice there are two doors, an automatic door for the animals and a standard door on the right for people to enter through.  Obviously horses can't open doors so this feature was a must.  

Lego Doctor 3
Here you'll find the main waiting room just outside of the registration area.  Nice comfy seats at different heights to make it easier on everyone.  

Lego Doctor 9
This small office is the dental clinic with a nice comfy table and a goodie basket for the patients that were very good.  

Lego Doctor 8
Here you can see the x-ray lab which is thankfully large enough for even horses to be checked out.  It can also double as a triage room I'm told.  Just to the right you can see the registration window.  

Lego Doctor 2
This is an additional waiting area that comes with a box stocked with lots of toys and books to read while you're waiting.  

Lego Doctor 5
Here you can see the two exam rooms they offer.  There is a room for animals and one for people with special doctors for each one.  

Lego Doctor 6

The doctor certainly seems happy to be working at such an amazing hospital doesn't he?  How could he not with such a fun setup.  This is exactly why Legos are not only allowed, but encouraged in our home.  They are a terrifically open-ended and imaginative toy for children and adults alike.  I'm not going to lie, there are some fantastic sets that have me thinking maybe I need to start playing with Legos again too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Recital 7

Recital 9

With dance season ending earlier this month with a long anticipated recital we are thoroughly enjoying summer break.  While my two tiny dancers are happy to have a bit of a break they are already talking about the start of a new dance season this Fall.  They really love to dance.  A lot.  

This was an especially big moment for our newest ballerina, her very first recital!  All year long she'd ask if it was "cital time" yet and so when we finally got to say yes she was beyond happy.  I wondered how she'd do once she was really going to be out on the big stage with all the bright lights, of course I worried for nothing.  Kait handled recital the way she does most anything else, with an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm and confidence.  She was beaming as she walked off stage after her first performance and now she's hooked.  That is a proud face.  

Recital 10

Recital 14

Recital 17

Recital 2

Even though this might be Kinsley's third recital she was still a bit anxious as she waited back stage.  It's the perfectionist in her coming out and causing the worry that something might go wrong.  But once she's on stage and that curtain opens it's amazing to watch her transform into a performer.  She is fully in the moment and it is amazing to watch.  She insists she is going to be a professional ballerina when she grows up and with the dedication she is already showing it wouldn't surprise me one bit if she did.  This girl loves being a dancer.  

Recital 3

Recital 16

Recital 5

We are so proud of our girls (and all the girls at the studio) for all the hard work they put in this year, and thankful for their instructor who makes dancing such a great experience for them.  While we are still having many dance performances at home and are excitedly waiting for the video of the recital to arrive, I'm glad for a bit of a summer break and all that brings with it. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day Flood

We woke up on Father's Day to a raging thunderstorm outside, but we didn't let that stop our fun for the day.  As soon as the rain stopped falling the girls and daddy headed outside to make the most of the flood that overtakes our yard whenever we've been blessed with a bit more rain than the ground can handle.  We've been fortunate to get quite a bit of rain in this part of the state so rather than complain about the flooding, we're simply thankful and find a way to make the most out of it.  

This time it was a couple of quick DIY sailboats that were the star of the water play.  The girls had a blast chasing their boats (and Daddy) around the "raging river" until everyone was soaking wet.  

Flood 6

Flood 1

Flood 2

Flood 3

Flood 4

Flood 5

It didn't take too long for them to want to add a few sailors to their boats but we found that rock and stick people make the boats unstable and really weren't going to be a good fit.  Daddy suggested they stick a Lego figure or two aboard and after the cries of outrage subsided over that idea Mama came up with a better plan- Sailors that we wouldn't mind losing if the boats happened to capsize on their journey.  Allow me to introduce you to our pipe cleaner sailors.  

Flood 7

Flood 8

Flood 9

Flood 10

These little sailors were a perfect fit for our lightweight vessels and their wire legs allowed them to stick tight into the foam bottom of the boat so not one sailor was lost, no matter how swift the water moved.  I have a feeling we're going to see many more pipe cleaner people popping up during our adventures this summer.