Playful space: Costume Closet

I tried to find an amusing image to show you a before shot because I didn’t get one, but just imagine a closet overflowing with stuff.  I now have two large tubs of boxes and a big bag of gift bags to giveaway.
Oh, and I finally unpacked the final box from moving in 7 years ago.


Yes, you read that right.  Then the kids and I went through our two trunks full of costumes.  I get mine in the after Halloween sales, so it’s a very odd assortment, but they get used A LOT.

This of course meant they had to try them all on.  Several times.


After all of the sorting I was able to convince them to get rid of 2 costumes out of that lot, and I secretly snuck out a few broken pieces I was sure they’d try and keep.

Ugh, that pictures is slightly out of focus so it’s driving my eyes nuts, but it cracks me up so much I had to include it.

Then we had to dress up Mac.  Poor dog.

Finally the space under the stairs is transformed into a much more functional space.  And I don’t get frustrated when the kids get out the costumes anymore because the costumes are now hanging on hooks rather than having to dig out the entire trunk to find THAT ONE COSTUME……..

Playful Space: Kitchen table

We’re a little odd, we don’t eat at our kitchen table.  It’s a nice little six-seater table, but Jeff and I always kick feet under it and not in that cute “oh we’re playing footsy” sort of way, more of the I’m stepping on your foot kind of way.  So we started using the dining room table, you’ve seen that table a lot, it’s where I do a lot of school work.
kitchen table, currently piled with junk
So, here’s my kitchen table before being cleared off.  It’s a huge mess, it became the dumping ground for anything that was brought in but didn’t have a specific home to put it in within 5 seconds.  Yes, I am that ADD.

Well, I started clearing it off and set it up as a creation station, because you know my kids need more inspiration to do stuff like that and never do it on their own.
kitchen table after
And here’s the after (before they got into it).
kitchen table after once the kids got started
And here they are during the hour or so they happily spent deocrating the first project I set up there.  They claim it’s not done yet, but I haven’t seen them working on it recently, so I think I need to put in some new supplies or change the project.

I’m thinking furniture next……..

Playful Spaces

So, I’m in the middle of taking the Playful Learning e-course, and I promise to tell you all about it when I’ve finished it.  I will tell you, that you want to sign up for it when you have plenty of time to do the homework because it obviously involves rearranging things and can be time intensive.


But, as I was getting ready for small group the other night I decided to set up a “Playful Space” to help preserve my upstairs………….  12 or so kids running around is not always conducive to a clean upstairs.

So, here’s what I came up with:


I just set up our wooden Melissa and Doug castle on some green fabric with defenders all over the escarpments.  Then approaching the castle were all of the fantastical monsters on the grass.  Far off is the pirate ship on some blue fabric.


From the sounds of thuds I heard upstairs the boys really loved the set up.  The only complaint came from Princess who said the boys wouldn’t let the girls play with the castle.  You can’t win them all.

Goal accomplished, organize upstairs

Well at least part of it, I still need to finish the loft area again.



We started by putting everything in the middle of the room.  It didn’t matter if it belonged in there or not, we just put it all there.


Then we started getting it all cleared out, which took a good amount of time.



Then I carefully put all of the pillows away and folded up all of the blankets.  The kids had a lot of fun demonstrating that the pillows were still comfy.


Finally I took a picture of what the room is supposed to look like when clean so Princess can keep it up.  She volunteered to have the movie room as the room she’s responsible for, and if it’s clean when Jeff comes home at night she gets paid a quarter.


Our school room

This week on the Not Back to School Hop is all about school rooms, and while everyone else is all done hopping, I’m just now getting the pictures taken and writing this post, and I still want to share it because it’s still needs a bit of fiddling, but it looks so much better than it had, and its working so much better now.
This is the boys’ workspace.  These desks were built by Jeff’s Dad back when Jeff was a kid.  The story, as I’m remembering it being told, is Jeff’s Dad saved and got lumber for months before Christmas and finally built these desks for both of his kids and gave them to Jeff and his sister for Christmas.

Now we have both of them and the boys love their desks.
I’m trying to work on us getting our work area ready for the next school day before we leave the room, so I’m teaching the kids to put everything back in their desks, except the letters box on their desk, their lamp, and for right now their ark.

In between these two bookcases is Wendy’s desk.  This is another desk my father-in-law built, but this was for his wife.  Hence it being a lot nicer looking.  Flanking either side of the desk are the kid type crafting supplies, these used to hold baskets and baskets of cloth, but those are now in the closet in this room, and the baskets now have crafting supplies categorized by type and various curriculum stuff.
On top, are the excess recycling stuff that won’t fit in that basket.  A Disney Polly Pocket Beauty and the Beast castle that I bring down on special occasions to play with, various family pictures, and a Jo Madame Alexander doll.  There’s still a bit of clutter, but I’m slowly whittling through that while the kids work on stuff they don’t need my help with.

This is the final part of the school area in this room, I’m not showing the sewing area yet, it’s still in progress, of course so is this book case.

This is the easel where we do spelling or any copywork.  It’s a dry erase board on this side, and that seems to be working really well for us.  This bookshelf has some of the textbooks and the like, miscellaneous teaching books and is slowly being organized with MY crafting supplies, no touching kids!  The stuff on the floor is stuff I’m working through.  I’m still figuring out what I want to do with all of my teacher papers, you know all of those worksheets and the like.  They’re probably going to go out into the garage in the filing cabinets out there.  I just need to remember to check those cabinets from time to time as my kids are able to do those pages, since I taught 1st/2nd they’re slowly advancing through all of the stuff I have stored up.

Well that’s my school room, if you’ve come over from Heart of the Matter welcome!
Not Back to School Blog Hop A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home

Organizing All of your newfound craft stuff

I am not really going to claim I am super organized, but I am going to show you what somewhat works for us, that you probably have, or can get fairly easily.

This is a small bookcase from IKEA.  On it I have most of the kid’s craft stuff.  As you can see organization is still in progress.
In the pencil boxes I have stickers, markers, crayons, scissors, more stickers, more crayons and markers, some glue, small animals for learning games, stamps, and whatever small items fit in there.
In the shoe boxes are wooden supplies: clothespins, popsicle sticks, matchsticks, clothespin doll stands, dowel rods.  In the other shoe boxes are yarn.008
On the side you can also see a box that has our paints.  The top shelf has some workbooks, beads organized by shapes, a small box full of cards the kids can “write.”

This shelf is mostly my stuff, but it now houses googly eyes, sequins, beads, buttons, and ribbons.  By the way, I am always on the lookout for more baby food jars.

This is in the same closet as the bookshelf above.  I bought a bunch of the hanging rods from IKEA.  In the baskets are all the bottles of glue I bought at the Back to School sales that will last us through this year.  I kid you not, we probably go through at least 20 bottles in our house a year.  Come to think of it I could probably put the paint bottles in this as well….. 
The hooks you can barely see underneath hold pencil bags on them of small stuff that fits really well in there.  I’ve put together a craft kit on the go for each of the kids that has a glue stick and scissors in it.  They usually will use this to complete animal booklets or other things like that I’ve made for them.

This is where the supplies the kids have free access to are.  Here, I’ve got their coloring books some markers and crayons.  Occasionally there are scissors or glue sticks in there, but they’re not supposed to be.  Also in there are my dust pan and a plastic tea set for Princess.

Here’s my general rules for crafting:
1.  Make sure you have enough time to complete the craft.
2.  Figure out what works for you.  I’ve figured out multi-step crafts that have to take time between steps don’t really work here.  I usually forget to go back and complete them.
3.    Don’t forget to leave clean up time, I all too often forget to do this.
4.  Let your kids have fun, don’t worry about the product.  It’s about the process.  Enjoy it.

Great craft supplies to buy

So, I tried writing this post on my lap top while Princess was taking a bath, but I kept having to stop and feed the dolphins, and throw toys for the dolphin to catch, so……….

I’m posting this on Monday night so it should come out right about when I’m talking to our MOPS group from our church.  I’m telling them all about the wonderful crafts you can do with your kids and all sorts of other stuff.  I wanted an easy to find thing for them to be able to read:
Back to School sale:
24 pack Crayola crayons- they’re about $.25
10 pack of Crayola markers- about $.88
Elmer’s Glue- $.22
Elmer’s Gluesticks- $.22 for a 2 pack
Fiskars scissors- about a dollar (buy a lot of these I swear something eats our scissors)
Pencil sharpeners
construction paper
spiral notebooks
notebook paper
pencil boxes (the cheap kind that you get at Wal-Mart for 3 for a dollar, you’re going to need a place to store the stuff)

I’d actually suggest getting several of the above items while they’re at a great price.  I usually make it a goal for that month or so to spend about $5-10 each time I go grocery shopping on school supplies.  That way I can get a lot, but not break my budget by buying it all at once.  Notice, this is most of the stuff your elementary age kid has on their supply list.  I’ve had the best luck with Crayola and Fiskars, so that’s why I put those particular names.  Rose Art has come up in quality a lot recently, so there’s probably not the problem there used to be.

You could get the Crayola or Rose Art watercolor paint, but I’ve noticed the colors tend to be muddy, so I haven’t found a good watercolor yet.
003random picture, because I like to have pictures in my posts.

Things to buy at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or whatever craft store you go to:
paint- I like Crayola best, but they’re only sold in sets of 3, and I always run out of one of the three colors, so I’ve tried the ones at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s but the red just isn’t as good, it seems more pink to me.
specialty craft scissors- they can often be found at Michaels in the dollar aisle
stamps and stamp pads- these are never ending, so just choose ones you think you’ll use, I buy them on clearance often.
popsicle sticks- or other small wooden things
fun foam
felt- you can get 4 sheets of these for a dollar, and there are so many things to do with this
pipe cleaners- I have to hide these or Batman will create this:
I try to buy these when they’re on sale.  I get the fliers from most of the craft stores in the area and just go to whichever one has the sale.

Trash to Treasure items:
containers of all sorts and sizes- butter, oatmeal, cereal boxes, milk cartons, you name it
plastic lids
lids from juice cans
if you’re feeling adventurous chip bags, or the like
egg cartons (NEVER throw these out, unless you go through a lot of eggs)
shoe boxes (save every single one you can get a hold of, especially if you have an elementary ages kid, because there are so many school projects that use these)

Things from the grocery store:

Okay, that’s all I’m thinking of right now.  I’ll probably come back later on and add to this. 
And, here’s a couple of other posts I wrote before on this topic:
Crafts We Love
Great Art Supplies and What You Use Them For
I’m also slowly going through and categorizing my crafts by what materials I used in them, so here’s a few categories:
Bible Crafts
Crayons (that all impressive 1, I suppose all that coloring…..)
Fun Foam (there will be more than one as I finish going through)
kid crafts
scissors and glue

And the best way I’ve found to organize all the ideas you find online is Evernote.  The key to is to tag whatever you’re looking at as soon as you clip it to Evernote because then you’ll be able to find it.  There’s also an Iphone app that I use when I’m out and about and see an idea (usually when sitting in waiting rooms and I take a picture and store it away for later).

Crafts featured tonight to follow after this post, as well as a fairly extensive list of great places to find kid crafts.

How do you do it all?

How many of you have ever gotten that question?  I get it quite a lot, and most recently from Nicole over at Tired, Need Sleep (and I have to admit I often wonder the same thing about her).  So, here’s my answer:
I don’t, I cheat a little here, and a little there.  I find what’s important to me and make sure that gets done.  So for me, here’s the super important things: that my kids are healthy and learning, that I maintain a good relationship with my husband (this usually means I get most blogging and comments done during the day, so I can spend time with him), that I stay in budget and can cook most nights of the week, that my house isn’t a total disaster (notice I didn’t say clean, I’m working on this, but it’s not there), that I spend time with my kids. (like the picture of my kid passed out on the floor in the midst of the mess?)
Now, with the time left over I blog, I sew, I draw, I watch TV and play computer games.  This means that some weeks I don’t get all the posts written I want to.  So, I’ve had a post I want to write about a horror dress I sewed a few weeks ago, almost a month ago, that hasn’t been written yet.  I also use this time to plan what we’re going to do, though sadly I don’t plan as much as I should.  I’m working on that.

How do I plan?  I spend a lot of time looking up books at the library website.  Before the week I look up what we’re planning to study, ideally the night before I go to the library, because I can only put books on hold that are checked out.  With my massive list of books we go to the library.  There I will check out anywhere from 20 to 40 books for the week.  That’s what I choose, the kids always add in more.  From there I look at what the books talk about and choose different projects for the week.  I’ll be honest, most projects are thought of spur of the moment as I read the book.  That’s why most projects you see here aren’t super fancy.

Printable I create, those are created in Microsoft Word, not because it’s a particularly great program, but because that’s what I know, and it’s easy to upload.  Most of the art is either stuff I drew or from the Microsoft clipart library, to avoid having to track down someone and get permission to share their pictures.  I’m lazy, or suffering from a lack of time, you choose.  The nursery rhyme ones, which I sadly haven’t done in a while, are hopefully drawn out the night before or a few days before.  All too often, I’m sketching it as the kids are yelling to get going.  As you can see, I’m not a good planner for things like this.
Other things that I do, I try to get all of my errands done on one day, preferably Monday.  So, I try to go to the library, the grocery store and all of that all in one horrendous day, because as you can imagine it takes a long time to load them all up in the car, and it takes a long time to get out of the car, and any trip with the kids needs about 30 minutes added.  So, rather than spread it out over several days, and ruin several days of good concentration I try to get it all over with at once.  I also try to only schedule one playdate a week, which in some months or weeks is really easy, on others it seems like there’s someone asking to do something every day of the week.  Those weeks always feel harried and rushed to me, and throw me off track.  In general I try not to schedule too much, because I’ve discovered if I do or if I plan too much they kids get this crazy frenetic look in their eyes, and it’s never good then. (Princess is the only one I have a picture of from a recent shopping trip, she talks on that McDonald’s Play phone a LOT).

Well, I better stop lollygagging and actually achieve something, like as in getting dinner put together, and getting our craft from today finished (we’re doing a craft a day this week because I’m doing a speech on crafts with your kids and I wanted some examples to show them).  Wish me luck on that speech…….

Our art explosion

So, I’m ashamed to post these, but maybe this will get my but in gear to get these areas organized.

Here is the kitchen stuff:

This cabinet holds on the top shelf some Easter egg dye for random projects, old valentines for random projects. Basically some after season craft items bought for pennies.
Next shelf holds watercolors, glue, colored pencils, more glue, and lots of crayons. All bought at the back to school sales. I believe in stocking up while it’s super cheap.
The bottom shelf of craft supplies holds our materials for our Bible study and some playdough. If they have free access to the playdough then I constantly buy more because they forget to close it. This is still a problem this way, but not as bad.

The cabinet next to it holds the paint. Up there I have random acrylic paints I have and then lots of poster paint. Again, my kids are still working on self control, so I can’t keep those at their level.

Left to their own devices, this is what the kid’s art supplies look like. Superman loves to color, and gets out coloring books, crayons and markers, all the time. The middle drawer holds their cleaning supplies, and the top drawer holds our kid tea sets.

Here’s that same drawer after I spent 15 minutes sorting through it all, taking out the old books, throwing away dried out markers, and putting broken crayons in a different tub to be used in future craft projects.

Upstairs in the sewing/school room I have all the fun supplies. This is where the mess really is, and I’m working on that…. Slowly, like a glacier. What you can see here is one of my fabric shelves. I also have up here, pom poms (which we call fuzzies), pipe cleaners (which Batman uses to make traps for bad guys), stickers (a lot of stickers), and various scrapbooking materials.

This is where I keep my buttons, and where I’m slowly putting away all of my ribbons and trim. I love to buy all of these, but don’t always use them. I’m working on using up what I have.

And, here’s my big project. This is what I do when I have spare time, clean/organize/get rid of massive amounts of stuff. I’m cleaning out this closet so I can truly get the art supplies and stuff ogranized so we have better access to it, and so I don’t have to go where is ______________ (fill in whatever item I’ve most recently lost). It’s slowly coming along. Very slowly.

These are the tubs full of stuff that I’m admitting I will not get to that project, or my tastes have changed. For instance, why when I was pregnant with twins did I bugy fabric to make curtains for a condo we were only living in for 4 months? What was I thinking?

So, now you see my dirty little secret, I am a mess, I’m working to get it under control, and that’s why I”m not always posting on the show off your space posts. It’s not ready to show off. I’m working on it. It’s coming, kind of. Maybe.

To see art spaces that are clean go to Teaching My Little Bookworm.

More about Legos

works for me wednesday

My kids have all been working very hard at keeping their rooms clean and their beds made. Each week if they’ve done that every day they get $2, one for the bed and one for the room. They’ve been saving for a month, and they proudly went out and bought their first Lego sets (sadly I didn’t get pictures of them buying, and thankfully we had a very understanding cashier at Wal-Mart). We got home and spent a long time putting it all together. Every one’s been asking lots of great questions about my Lego organization. Hopefully I’ll answer them all, so here goes:

1. Where did I get my drawers?
You can get a very similar one, if not the same at Home Depot. I’ve also seen similar at Lowe’s, Joanns, probably Michaels, heck probably even Wal-Mart. It’s part of the garage storage at the home improvement stores, at Joann’s it’s part of their general storage area. I’m sure there’s also a version at Container Store. I haven’t seen anything like it at Ikea’s yet.

2. What do I do with sets?
I break them up and put them in the drawers. In the long run it actually does make it easier to find the right piece because you always know it’s in this drawer. I do let them keep some things put together and in a small box, that’s just self defense for the whining.

3. What do I do with the instruction books.
I ALWAYS save them. I also save the backs of the boxes. Usually the backs will have pictures of different ways you could put it together. This is a great problem solving activity, because you have to figure out how to put together the picture with no directions. They go in a small tote bag that’s on the side table.

Here’s how they currently look in my family room from left to right:

The large bases store between the TV table and the wall.

The lego drawers are under the table. The kids don’t like this arrangement as much, but they can be pulled out if need be.

The bag of instructions on the other side of the coffee table. This is the same bag the instructions were in for me as a kid. I’m pretty much stealing my Lego organization straight from what my Mom did (only slightly simpler, it’s not by color). Sigh, I just noticed the empty soda can…..

And when I went to get the pictures, my sons who had come down about 5 minutes earlier complaining about being awake were asleep.

Superman on his favorite spot on the couch.

Batman stumbled in to cry at me, and then I told him to go sleep on my bed. He apparently took my advice.