Aug 25, 2013

The Playroom Poster

 Remember when I showed you this picture of the playroom?  I just wasn't sure yet to hang on those pretty gold boards next to the clocks. I thought maybe school work?  Nope.  Mind changed. Today I thought of what I wanted up there.  I've been meaning to frame this puppy for over a year but haven't been able to find the right frame or place for my house.  It's going here.
 Isn't it lovely?  I just love the words.  You know I've been thinking a lot lately about need vs want.   I read a news article today about the war going on in Syria. Last week my sister-in-law remarked that when she spent a summer over there a few years ago, it was such a beautiful people and country.  Today I saw pictures of children killed with nerve gas.  My brain did a little shift in perspective.  What does this have to do with a house rules poster?
For a while, we've kicked around moving in a couple of years to someplace bigger.  Which is fine, but not when it makes the current place you are in look too small, or makes me fall into the "what we have makes a house a home" game.   Because it doesn't.  The people who are streaming across the border into Iraq want one thing. Peace, safety, a place to make a home.  What home am I making for my family?  I have been granted peace, safety, and a house.  It's my job to make it a home.  I do not want to squander the peace I have been granted on the alter of "want".  I want a home.  It welcomes all.  It screams of happy, meaningful moments in the pictures and items around the room. There is a place here for all.  We respect all, are considerate of all, it is a haven for all who enter.  There is joy here.  My home is a gift, may I focus on the things that matter.

I think sometimes we deny ourselves of beauty because of guilt. We become a sparse, cold, shriveled up form of the Gospel. We ask, "Should I have it when other's do not?" and deny ourselves. We often error on the side of denial or gluttony. Sometimes I ping pong back and forth not really sure what the true response to my surroundings should be.  I believe that the Gospel explodes with beauty and creativity, but this is not based on materialism.  I think many people believe beauty can only be bought. The best brand, the best quality, the bigger house.  It becomes a "deserve" mind game.  So I ask, Why do I have this or that?  Did I deserve it?  That's the wrong game to be playing.  No one chooses where our little red target of influence will be placed when being put on this earth.  Deserving, or, not deserving.  The truth is, what we have doesn't seem to be based on the type of humanity I am. The deserving and undeserving, from my limited viewpoint, seems to be pretty mixed up with what you actually receive from life.  As humans, we all long and try to create a home.  Some are able to create it, some are stripped of the chance.

It seems to me that my duty and gift to God and humanity is to make the most of what I have been given but to not exploit it for my own means alone.  That seems a tricky balance and one only each person can answer for himself.  For myself, today, it means not dreaming of bigger houses and kitchens that are grander than the builder grade I have been given.  It means taking that beauty and creativity and skill that God places in each one of us and seeing what I can do with the raw material. From home decorating, to meals, to the atmosphere in our home, how can stretch the gift that has been given to me to it's fullest? For me, it means sticking red contact paper on tiles so that I see a happy kitchen without taking money to replace cabinets and countertops.   It means rejoicing in beauty and creating it around me without equating that with something purchased or more expensive. It means hanging up a poster to remind us all of the kind of home we want to create together.  I do not mean to say that there is not a time to paint cabinets, get a bigger home, or buy something nice.  But I am saying that our heart should not be lying to ourselves saying we deserve it.  It means seeing those things as gifts from a God who lavishes love on us, and not falling into a "grass is greener" syndrome.

 But, Oh, I can be so guilty of it sometimes.

So I hung a poster.

Aug 23, 2013

Homemade playdough - A wonderful recipe

 We made some homemade playdough today.  Playdough is pretty much Tessa's favorite toy, and we go through it fast around here.  So rather than buy it in a can, I thought I would make up a big batch, or two, or three by the time the "big" kids got involved.  Here is the recipe and you will love it if you try it.  It is soft, pliable and it smells decent and not too salty though the kids knew better than to eat it.  It really has great texture.

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
1 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 tsp. of cream of tartar
1 Koolaid packet, any flavor

 Combine and mix in a bowl all the ingredients. It will have the consistency of pancake batter and may have a few lumps though I tried to get as much of those out as possible.

 Scrape the batter from the bowl to a pan.  On medium heat, start stirring and don't stop until the batter clumps together into one huge ball.  Here is it below almost done.  All of the bits on the edge of the pan should easily stick to the ball as well by the time you are done.  My pan looked clean and I had a big lump of playdough around my spoon.
 It'll be hot when you take it out, but I was still able to knead it into a smooth ball.  The texture is so soft and squishy.
 Each child wanted a batch of course, so they each picked out their own Koolaid flavor.  Ainsley's dark red left a little bit of stain on my hand when I kneaded it fresh out of the pot, but it didn't leave any on Ainsley's while she was playing with it.

 By the way, what do you think of the red contact paper tiles?  I'm still debating and may peel the paper back off.  I had them on the wall by the sink for over a year and no one EVER guessed that it was contact paper.  It looks like the real deal. But a roll of contact paper cost is only $5.  Now that's an easy DIY. I still have a couple spots that are missing the red, but they're tricky to cut so I thought I would make a final decision first.  I have such a cookie cutter builder's grade kitchen that isn't really "me", so this is an attempt to put my own stamp on it.  If it were up to me, the cabinets would be white and I would have a concrete counter top.
 We have a big bin of playdough toys.
 I bought some snap top containers at the 99 cent store a couple days ago.  They seal very nice and are the perfect size for these playdough batches.  Try making some.  It was such a fun afternoon activity.

Aug 21, 2013

Homeschool, Tea, and Poetry

So we're off and running.  I am juggling three kids and their education now at home.  With a detailed, self-made plan book in hand, it's working out not too shabby.  

Hunter needs a haircut but he loves it a bit shaggy, so we're rolling with it right now.
 Ainsley has told me she thought she would be bored, but her verdict tonight after three days worth is that is it more fun than she thought and her kindergarten teacher would be proud of her.  She is in a "do not come within 10 feet of my hair with a brush" phase, so lucky her she's at home and can get away with the bed-head fashion.
 Tessa arrived at the table in jammies and decided that she was not taking them off all day.  When she finally did, she decided that clothes were optional and ran around in undies.  She's learning the letter A this week.  That is all.  We've been up to our eyeballs in Alligators and Apples.  We've colored them, crafted them, picked them out at the grocery store and eaten them (the apples that is), made a block zoo for them (the alligators that is), played games with them, and we've still got 2 more days of the week left.  She's not tired of alligators and apples though yet.
 Something I am happy to begin this year is Wednesday tea and poetry.  Why Wednesday?  Because it's right in the middle of the week and it's the only day we don't have somewhere to be at some point.  Therefore, we can relax, slow down and enjoy some reading.  Why tea?  Because I have always done tea in funny mugs with my kids as a treat with some sort of little cookie.  We don't do it often, but when we do drink it, we make a big show of setting the table nice and clearing it off, picking out the flavors and sitting around savoring it and conversation.  You can't be grumpy during tea-time.  Even Mama.
 I took them to the thrift store a couple weeks ago as a prize for finishing their swim lessons and they picked out whatever mug they wanted for 50 cents.  They knew it was their new mugs for tea time. I'm here to tell you prizes don't have to be expensive, just special.  They spent a loooooong time picking the mugs over and choosing.  I have these four tan, cheap fabric napkins from some thrifting experience forever ago.  Quite frankly, they're ugly close up.  But not for tea time with kids. We carefully remove the daily plastic placemats and the kids lay these "special" ones out.  I don't care if they get stained because these are kids who are learning manners.  They also dip the tea bag in the water, mix in honey, carefully put the cups and cookies on their saucers.  It's a joint effort to set up for tea because everyone doing it together helps make it special (rather than me just calling them after I have it done).  Using thrift store mugs and napkins takes the pressure off having to be perfect and lets the kids be completely hands-on.
 And then, when it's all ready...We have tea.  I made these oatmeal no-bake peanut butter cocoa cookies.  I love them but it looks like my owl mug is, well, ehem.  One of those things I didn't notice until I loaded the picture onto my blog.  Whatever. I don't pretend to be completely cultured and if you'll notice, one child is topless, soooo, yeah.  Life at the Plumb household. Moving on...
 We started with Shel Silverstein.  Why poetry with tea you ask?  Well, who reads poems anymore?  Exactly.  But we should.  Up until 50 years ago when TV became the thing for entertainment, poetry was very popular and I think it works a different part of our music does.  And children should get tastes of it along with other literature. I believe it adds a deeper, more nuanced version of the written word and allows us to "play" and sometimes interact with it more. As I read, all three sat, gaped mouthed, enthralled.  Even Tessa.  Silverstein is an easy ice breaker into the realm of poetry for children.
After I read a few poems, I read a chapter book.  The older two sat for the short story I chose out of it, but Tessa left.  It's funny how those poems sucked even Tess in.  All three of them were absolutely thrilled with tea and poetry and can't wait for next week.

Neither can I.

Aug 19, 2013

Good Morning!

Day one of our homeschool year is cracking.  It's a good morning isn't it!

Aug 18, 2013

Wish Me Luck!

The boredom levels around here have reached epic proportions. So I decided to start homeschooling tomorrow instead of waiting a week.  I just don't think my kids will survive another day if I don't give them something to do. Check that.  I won't survive another day if I hear another whine, fight, or see any more glazed over eyeballs from too much electronics. The water park is now closed, it's too hot for the zoo, Tone is gone so the boat is unavailable and we need to keep busy.  Tonight I was checking it over, writing down the lesson plans for the week and I'm ready to launch.  We will be full up to the gills with learning this year.  It will be fun and creative, but boy, I'm gunna work 'em hard.  I'm not concerned.  They'll still probably be done by lunch.
Ainsley noticed the sunset tonight and got us all to run outside.  The sky was ablaze.  I'm glad my kids notice those things and think they are worth running outside and staring at for a few minutes.
Tomorrow, I'm going to set those little hearts ablaze with learning. Wish me luck!

My siblings

This last week my brother and wife were visiting from Washington DC where they live and it's rare that all four of us siblings get to be together and hang out.  We spent three days up at our family cabin at Shaver.  It was nice that all the schools had started and so we pretty much had the lake to ourselves. See the picture below.  See?  Nobody here on what is usually a crowded beach area.  Oh, that stuff?  That's all us.  Taking over the whole thing.  My family doesn't do "little".
We used to camp for a week in the Sierras every year growing up so this felt familiar.  Only better.  This trip involved having mattresses, working toilets and no tent set-up.  And when the mosquitoes or bees are bugging go inside.  There are definite perks to cabin living.  Thanks for that purchase, parental-units. Liam was the newest little person to join us his year.  We did our best to show him a good time and wear him out.
 Tessa loved pounding on him.  In her truest form of love, of course, but the girl does not know gentle.  I'm surprised he's grinning at her here.  She probably hasn't thumped him yet.  I'm sorry to my sister for the little terrorist we are raising.  She really loves him.
 It wouldn't be a family vacation without some mishap.  This year it was provided by my brother-in-law on the rickety stairs down to the front door.  That then involved a late night run to the hospital, a bad sprain diagnosis, crutches, and "Game Over" for Thomas.  I think he wore the perfect shirt.
 The gang's all here.  I'll just let the picture speak.
 We had a lot sun soaking, boat riding, card game playing, last summer fling fun.  Let me just explain a little thing here.  I was born into the right family until the game playing part.  You have never seen a more competitive group.  There is always a heated debate and much smack talk. It's loud, it's rowdy, there's a ton of laughter, and where most everyone's fun memories dwell.  Growing up, I loved the whole fun day until the card playing part and then I had to weigh whether I should suck it up and join, or bow out and go back to my book.  My book often won.  Which always made me feel like I was missing out because of all the loud laughter going on, but when I'd join, I was usually not enjoying it, but pretending that I was so I could be a part.  I like games...actually no...I like puzzles and figuring things out, but I hate competition and "winners and losers".  The perfect "game" to me is one in which there is no competition and everyone works together toward a common goal. Or creative vs. strategy games.  I really don't like strategy games. I don't know, maybe I'm just a "rainbows and puppy dogs" kind of sappy-sap person. (On a side note, they were all excellent athletes as well.  I did ballet, art and music. If I didn't look like my mother I'd swear I was adopted.)  Oh the dream of a game like that happening in my family is a big FAT CHANCE.  We should have been Italian.  There is no refuge in my husband.  He just might be the loudest of all. Ha! At any rate, it's the card game memories that stand out strongest to me in all of our family vacations, and of course this last week was no exception.  I even played a little.  But mostly I watched, and laughed hard, and then went back to my book.  Some things never change.

I love this crew of Stover kids.  If we weren't loud and full of banter, we wouldn't be us.  We're all very different, leading very different lives, but connected by some very strong similar bonds.  It'd been way too long since we had gotten together. Two and a half years!  Shameful.
And also, when you have a brother this tall, I always make sure I stand next to him in the photo.  I look a lot thinner all of a sudden.  Strategery.
Thanks, Josh.
Katie and Krista, this idea was mine first.  Called it.

Aug 13, 2013

My day planner

This year I am gearing up for a very busy schedule.  On top of homeschooling, I am also taking on a couple of part time jobs and volunteering in several programs that my kids are in.  I have a lot on my plate. 

1. I will be coordinating the kids program for my church's campus (we have four campuses for our church and I'm heading up the one in our neighborhood - which involves going to work on Tuesday mornings and Sunday nights). Tone will be "teacher" on Tuesdays.
2. I am doing a co-op with other homeschooling families and will be teaching some writing classes along with volunteering in my kid's other classes there.  I am creating a writing class that will be a resource the other families can use so it's a bit of work.
3. I am also helping start up a Good News Club in a friend's school and a Bible study group with my kid's church friends. 
4. The Lifegroup we lead at church is going to be going through a semester of Bible class studying the New Testament which requires some homework each week for myself. 
5. I also have some personal goals this year.  I want to get into an exercise routine. I want to keep my house cleaner and on schedule. 

So I needed one place to organize all of that craziness.  Remember this desk I showed you?  See that binder on the right?  My life is currently living in there.

 The cute little printable hankies that I found, printed and glued down to the cover can be found here from
 I keep some pens and pencils in there along with my email list of volunteers for the kids program in the side pocket and some thank you cards.  Always carry blank notecards.  I have found that I'm always dashing one off for this or that.
 So what else is in there?
I used this printable from and printed one for every two weeks to keep myself straight. I find that I am always thinking of things that I have to do, people to call or email, and this keeps it all in one place.
On the back of this page I have a blank note taking page.  It seems if I am going to be so busy, I just might want a blank lined page for whatever. I just found a simple one online and there are tons you can choose from in google searches.

 I also used this one from for my weekly calendar.  I printed a page with it front and back so I would have two weeks on one page at a time.
I like that this has kid's activities and dinner plans here too.  I don't like having a separate menu page. I want it all there when I flip it open.
What else do I have in there?
An exercise interval routine that takes just a few minutes but works me over. I just follow this printout.

I have a year at a glance calendar that I got from here in the very front. She has a sampler freebie and it was in there.
I also have a cleaning schedule.  I like this one from the  It's just a good reminder of what should be done daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.  I also have a schedule that I have created on my own with what I need to do everyday.  I've done it before and it worked out semi well.  We'll see how it goes.
I also have blank plastic page sleeves in the back so I can put schedules and papers from my kids programs and events.  You know the papers that have the list of all the baseball games that are scheduled, or parent contact sheets, etc.  I don't want to be scrounging around later for that ONE paper that I just can't find.

The one thing I do NOT have to put in here, thank goodness, is a bill paying page.  Thankfully, I have a husband who takes care of all of that bill stuff that I hate.  I just try to be conscious of our budget and stick with it.

This is not my plan book binder for school.  That is a separate binder that lists what days we are in "school" and what, exactly, I am teaching everyday.  I also created that myself and made spreadsheets since nothing I found fit me exactly.  I could share it but it's not fancy and crickets would be playing on my blog.   I'll pass. 

Tell me if you use a planner and what pieces do you have that you can't live without.  Did I miss anything?

Aug 12, 2013

The Playroom

I promised a post on the organization that went on in the playroom, music room, library, art gallery, and school room.  Around here we just call it the playroom.  This room has to work hard to be all of the above.  So if you thought there was an assault on the eyes when you saw pictures of our living room, you haven't seen nothin' yet.
It's directly to the left of our front door when you walk in, with a big open entry and no way to close it off, so I try to keep it neat, but mostly I'm just chucking toys in there all day to be cleaned up later at the end of the day during daily clean-up.  So here is the first picture of the room.  The front windows have twine strung across it for our art gallery.  We just clip it up with clothespins and keep a rotation going all year. Most of our school books are kept on those white shelves along with coloring books, markers, crayons, and part of my children's book library.  I hung clocks from the four time zones that Tone flies in with airport codes above them (San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, New York).  Along with that we have tickets and pictures of his grandma's flight to LA when she was young and a flight chart/map of the bay area from the 50's.  
 Then I rethought and put the yellow learning clock down below where the kids could actually reach it next to their globe. Sometimes I'm a thinker like that while I'm taking pictures, ha.  You can see Tone's drum set is in the left corner and my piano to the right.  Yes, we can play and it's not just for looks. You can also see the brown shelves where the rest of my children's library lives. Toys and blocks are pulled out of those bins daily.  Usually this room is covered with blocks and a network of "roads" and "houses".
  You see those cute little pinterest ideas for children's books that display about 10 books total and they call that "storage".  Posted in those blogs are mom's who brag that books are important and so they proudly display their whole children's library on open shelves, fronts facing out. Yeah right. That would never fly around here.  I have HUNDREDS of children's books (preschool through young adult fiction), and I'm still almost out of shelf space.  The chapter books are stacked in two rows thick. That tall fabric thing is Hunter's teepee I made him a while back.
 My sis gave us an old TV this year that we mounted in here for the VCR and DVD player.  It's not connected to cable or gaming devices, but they love to sit in here and watch movies on the rocker and bean bag chair.   I spy a little someone in the picture below playing with her castle.  There was a blank space on the wall and I needed some bulletin boards for school hung up.  So I spray painted these gold and up they went.  They were given to me by another homeschooling friend.
 I just happen to like them in gold better.  We'll be hanging up learning prompts and other school related things on the these boards throughout the year. I think they finish off the space nicely.
 I just thought I would give you a look at the bins that hold our school supplies.  I had bought a lot of them for my classroom (working a low income school, I think I had only 4 kids actually bring in stuff from the supply list we gave out).  So I have a lot of scissors and rulers!  I hope they stay organized!  I did this a couple months ago and so far, so good. Pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters, rulers, flashcards, colored pencils, white erase pens and erasers, tape, glue, brads, paper clips, tacks, rubber bands, staplers, bookmarks, ay yi yi!  We're set!
Ok, so we're ready to do homeschool.  And life.  And music, reading, art, playing, exploring, relaxing, and everything else that goes on in this busy home. Hoo boy.  What a year this will be.

Aug 11, 2013

11 years baby

So Tone and I were kicking around what to do for our anniversary this year.  The nice thing about being married to a pilot is that you can decide literally the day before, hop on a plane and go.  So I did.  I left my kids at the cabin with my parents and went.  There was a little snafu with the flight because I fly standby and it just happened to be the day that San Francisco shut down because of the plane crash, but I did manage to snag an empty seat on two San Antonio.  Why there?  Tone was flying out of there and Austin so I just met him at "work" and then we stayed an extra day.  The hotel was on the river walk and paid for because he was "working".  We both got in around noon from our flights and then spent the day walking around the river walk.  The nice thing was that he just had morning flights and had the rest of the day and evening to do whatever.
(Meanwhile, back at the cabin...)

First stop was lunch on the river.  And margaritas.  I'm addicted to them in the summer.

The next day Tone had to fly a couple flights and he was finished in Austin.  So I rented a car, drove up there from San Antonio and met him there.  I picked up that dashing man in his uniform and went straight to lunch.  BBQ of course.  And also, I like to catch people off guards when their mouths are full apparently. Babe, you're welcome.
We had dinner on Lake Travis at sunset.  It was pretty, but we also drove around and checked out the million dollar mansions around the lake and imagined who could possibly live in them.

 Then I had a little photography 101 session with Tone. I was trying to explain journalistic photography and how you don't have to smile for every single picture or whip around and pose if you see me hold the camera up.  This point was totally lost on Tone.  These were his "I'm acting natural and not smiling per se" poses.  Uh huh.
 Clearly, we'd better skip the whole journalistic thing and go back to smiling.  This subtle point was completely lost.
 I am in my after dinner slump, sporting a food "baby" belly, and looking altogether ah-ma-zing after a particularly hot day in Austin.  Not one of my better photos, but I'm proving that I really was there on this anniversary dinner.
 After that, went downtown to a piano bar until the wee hours and then back to San Antonio we went. We hung out the last day in San Antonio and went to a movie and the mall.  This may not seem super romantic to you, but we were kid-free which means I don't ever shop or see a movie without little people about.  Which means I don't go to the movies.  Ever.  I dressed up the last night for a crab dinner, but carried my high heels and wore the sandals after realizing I didn't want to walk the mile river walk in tall shoes.  So the high heels never actually made an appearance.  I'm super glad I carried them all that way in my purse ya know.
 This picture is called the one "in which the timer goes off before I get in place and end up looking very very awkward". But I mean my hair looks good.
 Hey looky! I made it in place this time and Tone DIDN'T get pushed in.  Picture accomplished.
 We had a wonderful time laughing, talking, dreaming, and being friends.  This guy really "gets" me.

Hey babe!  Let's do several more years, OK, because we really have the most fun ever.  In the most random places.  Plus, you're a romantic hottie and I hear those are hard to come by these days.