Saturday, April 6, 2013

We've Moved!

Hello!  This blog has moved to a new order to protect our anonymity as we begin the journey of foster care.  If you would like the link to my new page, please comment below or contact me at helenhandley @ and I would be oh-so-happy to redirect you to the right place!  Thanks!  Helen

Friday, March 22, 2013


It may only be Spring in the calendar sense at the moment, but oh, we can feel it coming....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Matias and Violet have been learning about angles recently.  We encountered the concept while building our Rube Goldberg Machines.  At first I thought that this was going to be a difficult concept for them, but it turns out that angles are everywhere, and they are visible and tangible, and really not that hard at all!  A few things we did with angles:

So, how about those backwards < and > signs?  We knew what we meant :)

We discussed the difference between obtuse and acute angles (awww, isn't it so a-cute?!)  Matias does taekwondo, and he has already learned to jump 90 degrees, then 180 degrees, then 270 and 360 degreee circles, so he immediately grasped that idea.  I had no idea he already knew that much.  Cool!  We got a good workout practicing jumping those different angles- a few 360s in a row, and I was quite out of breath!  I don't think there is any learning quite as solid as building a physical memory of a concept (and I will not soon forget just how far around 360 degrees is!!)

Next we pulled out the protractor and measured some angles around our house: the fireplace screen, the art drawer, the door frame, etc.  The kids have been noticing angles all over the place ever since!

Then, while the little ones napped, Matias used the miter box to saw some angles into some old boards (leftover from taekwondo testing, actually). That was a BIT hit!  

It just goes to show that most complex concepts can be introduced at an early age, especially if the child is eager to learn about them.  Obviously, we don't care if they master the concepts, learn to measure angles perfectly, or teach formulas...we just introduce the ideas and tools and play around with them.  Hopefully, in the future, they will encounter angles in a more formal way and they will say, "hey, I learned about this when I was little...this is easy!"

Friday, March 15, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Thoughts

Spring is not so far off.  There may be snow on the ground outside, but what better time to force some bulbs and plant a bit of grass?  We thought that our little man might enjoy watching some plants grow...who knows if he's had that opportunity before...and on day two they are already popping up.  Hooray for quick growing plants!  We planted a few in water beads as well, just as an experiment, and they also appear to be quite happy.  I am ready for Spring flowers, how about you?!

Monday, March 11, 2013


Back in January, we decided that we should swap the kids' rooms around to give the two girls who share a room the biggest room, and to make room to host children from Safe Families.  Well, little did we know that we would begin hosting our first child in the middle of the process, or that things would be delayed (which we should always just assume, I suppose), but the rooms are finally done.  Or done enough.  So here are the before and after shots (note how Beatrice seems to sneak into pictures!):


Lego curtains, lots of room for Lego building!

Very studious looking desk (which is already covered guessed it...Legos)


New-to-us bunk beds (thank you!!) with lots of storage.

Almost completed play fort in the closet, with baby doll house underneath

Dress-up corner hidden away behind the bed.

We have a few more things to finish up and hang on the wall (and the office floor to find), but we are thrilled with the new rooms and happy to get back to "normal" after all the chaos.  Phew!  Now are ready to host our first child (oh wait, we've had him for two weeks...glad we didn't let the madness stop us!)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Board Breaking

A little board breaking action from our last taekwondo testing.  Three of us are now doing taekwondo (with Violet hoping to join us very soon).  It is such an awesome family activity...we can do it together, we each work towards our own goals at our own pace, it is a great workout, a huge stress reliever, it develops focus and discipline, and it is such a positive environment.  Oh yeah, and we totally get to look like ninjas.  Boo yah.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Our Week- Learning Colors

This week our homeschool "theme" is colors.  My kiddos are 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and 5 years quite a range of knowledge and skills.  I tried to plan activities that everyone could participate in on their own level, and that would provide lots of speech and motor skill practice and sensory experiences.  Here are a few of the things we have done:

We sorted Fruit Loops by color

We strung the Fruit Loops on pipe cleaners.  

The older kids were able to make patterns.

The little ones struggled to string the loops, so I strung them for them, and then they had to remove them one by one to eat.  As they took them off, I said the name of the color.

Other things planned for this week:

-playing with balloons and different colors of craft foam in the bathtub
-learning the poem "Mary had a Red Dress"
-eating rainbow colored fruits- raspberries, oranges, lemons, grapes and blueberries
-making and eating rainbow colored jell-o
-painting snow
-shaking different colored plastic eggs filled with different items- trying to match up the eggs that contain the same items, and getting lots of practice saying color names
-sorting laundry
-using window markers to decorate the windows
-playing with a bin of only red toys (then orange, yellow, etc)
-painting with colored shaving cream in the bathtub 
-planting bulbs and flower seeds

Just for the older kids:
-discussing shades of colors...light, dark, pastel, etc
-discussing synonyms
-learning about parts of a seed and bulb
-reading our ABC geography book and making an archipelago and atoll out of salt dough and painting it (this was so much fun!!)
-board games
-root word rummy
We are also doing a bit of work on the house- painting, carpeting, building a special play fort in the closet and organizing, organizing, organizing.  

That's what we're up to this week! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our First SFFC Child is Here!

And then there were four!
As you may have guessed by my absence here, this week we started hosting our first child through the Safe Families for Children program.  If you missed my first post on Safe Families, it is here. So far it has been quite a ride, but mostly in a good way.

Our house is in the middle of a painting-carpeting event, that includes highlights like exposed tack strips, bed frames in the living room and carpet on back-order.  Fun times.  If you know me, you can imagine how crazy this makes me.  In fact, in the spirit of honesty, let me give you a peek at my house this week:
One bedroom completely out of commission until the carpet comes in (but do you like the new curtains?!)

The living room is not fit for much living in
But the piece-de-resistance is really the office.  Yikes.
So when Safe Families called on Wednesday, hours after I was telling my friend Anna that we were in NO way ready to take a child, of course we said YES!  Because really, what else do you say when there is a homeless child who needs a place to stay in February.  Inconvenient does not equal impossible.

I won't share any specific information about our little guy, other than he is two and a half, and cuter than a dickens.  It is a shame I can't share pictures, because I promise you his dimples would melt your heart.  He is settling in, finding his place in the pecking order (precariously placed between a one and a half year old, and a three and a half year old), and endearing himself to all five of us.

Obviously this is early days yet, and we have SO much to learn, but here are a few thoughts for the moment:

1) Sleepytime is hard.  As you'd expect, when naptime and bedtime roll around, our little guy starts missing his mama and expressing his grief over everything that is happening.  We have spent hours rocking, snuggling, laying on the floor next to and just holding him while he cries himself to sleep.  Bedtime is a two-person job- one to attend to our kids, and one to attend to him.  I tried solo naptime yesterday, and it was not exactly a success.  But hey- there are worse things that giving out cuddles.  And we are making progress.  Each night we have cut the bedtime upset down by about half...tonight it was only 45 minutes.

2) Adding an extra child adds one extra meal, one extra set of dishes, one extra pair of boots, one extra carseat to buckle...but five extra relationships.  Each of us is reacting in a different way.  Our other children are in need of extra love and reassurance from us right now.  Their grandparents have been super awesome...showering them with extra attention while we are busy.  Beatrice is in a mine-mine-mine screaming stage, and is used to her brother and sister giving in to her.  Our new little guy is less inclined to do that...which makes for a lot of refereeing on my part.  Note to self...clip the fingernails of both kiddos.

3) Advocating.  In two days I've already had several nice conversations with his mother, our local pharmacist, his pediatrician, insurance company, social worker, and our SFFC coach.  This is not hard, and I am more than happy to track down what our guy needs, but it takes time- both face time and phone time- which can be hard to come by with four kids running around.

4) We have been really proud of our kids...they have showed a lot of patience and compassion to the new child.  Matias came with me to pick him up, and he was awesome...he brought some toy cars to share, introduced himself to the child and his mother, and broke the ice for everyone.  He rubbed his back when he was crying on the way home, and picked up his cup for him about twelve times.  They have been very patient with the crying (and they are ALL sleeping in a room together at the moment, so they have heard all of it), they have snuggled him, shared toys and overlooked some hitting/pushing/toy stealing.  He is a very sweet, well-behaved child, but he is still a two year old after all.

5) People are awesome.  A million thanks to all our family and friends who are supporting us- we totally feel the love.  Offers of diapers, clothes, car seats, playdates, babysitting, hair-care advice...all so kind (and we are totally taking you up on it!)  They say that God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called...and you have all been equipping us with what we need.  Thanks!!

So...that's the story so far.  I'm sure we will look back on this post some day and laugh.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Family Closet

We have been doing a bit of house reorganization lately. Recently I wrote about living in a smallish house and how every space has to work for us.  We had identified a few things that were not working as well as we would like in our current house:

1) We wanted more space in the bedrooms for the kids to play, and to house our foster children from the Safe Families Program.

2) Laundry was a challenge- getting it collected from all over the house, washed, dried, folded and then the trickiest part...put away.  It seemed like someone was always asleep in one of the rooms I needed to get into, so baskets of clothes got left out, attacked by the baby and generally forgotten.

3) I either had to carry cloth diapers around the house to rinse them and keep them until it was time to wash them, or they ended up sitting for a few days and becoming harder to clean.  And the bedrooms didn't always smell so fresh...

So we came up with a new solution.  It is admittedly a little odd, but so far it is working really well for us.  We made a "family closet."  I first got this idea from the Duggar family (and NO, I have no intention of having 19 children), and it seemed like it would simplify things for us.

We moved all the kids' dressers into our laundry/mud room, as well as the changing table.  We laid down a piece of carpet that we had, hung a tension rod to hang dresses, and put out a basket for kid shoes.  

Here is a picture of the other half of the room.  You see the washer and drier, utility sink and the clothes hamper.  You can also see the rather "comprehensive" fuse, internet, cable, and other unidentifiable wire box that the previous owners installed.  Matt took one look at it and knew this was the house for us!

I cannot tell you how much the family closet has streamlined things for us.  Dirty clothes go right into the hamper in the laundry room.  Socks and shoes are kept in the same room...right by the door we use to come in and out.  I can rinse the diapers in the utility sink right away, which makes the diaper laundry so much easier.  I can also treat stains right away.  I fold the laundry on the changing table and put it immediately into the correct drawers.  When I go to pack clothes, all three of my children's dressers are right there.  Outgrown clothes can go immediately out the door to the correct bin in the garage.

Matt and I still keep our clothes in our nice walk-in closet, but for the kids, this is working great.  Eventually I assume they will stop wanting to change clothes in the laundry room and will choose to lay out their clothes the night before, or collect them and change in their rooms.  But for now, they seem pretty happy with it...and I certainly am as well!

What crazy creative organizing have you done at your house?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs

Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman, was one of my favorite picture book characters growing up.  She is spunky, creative, and just a touch messy.  In The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs, she sews a bunch of stuffed pigs to sell, but then falls in love with them and doesn't want to sell them.  Instead, she teaches her friends how to make their own pigs.  Then, she teaches you as well.  I have fond memories of sitting on the floor of my basement, surrounded by stuffing and buttons, making my own pig.  This week, I decided to introduce my kids to Jillian, and they made a few pigs of their own.

If you are not familiar with the Jillian Jiggs books, I highly recommend that you check your library!


In Lieu of Preschool

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekly Baby Pictures

Babies grow and change so quickly- especially the first months.  As delighted I was that my child was growing, I was always a touch sad with each passing week and month anniversary that passed.  I found that taking a weekly photo helped me to remember the early weeks- from the chicken leg stage to the thunder thighs and chubby cheeks.  While we can't freeze time, it can be awfully fun to look back at our little ones and see how they have grown.  

With each of my kids, we took a weekly picture, with the child next to (or holding, or gnawing on) a notecard with the date.  Here are a few of my favorites (and yes, I just hated the task of going back through baby photos...awww!)

Isn't it amazing how fast they change?

We printed out each picture and hung them around the room in chronological order.  In our first house, we hung them on a little clothesline we attached to the wall.  Our current house already had nails in the wall, so we used those...perhaps the former owners did something similar?!

We usually took pictures until roughly 20 odd weeks...when I stopped remembering and the baby started eating the paper, it was time to stop.  When it was time to free up the nails for the next set of baby pictures, I turned the photos into a collage to hang above their beds.  They like seeing themselves as babies...and so do I!  I put a current picture on there as well, just for fun, to see how much they have grown.  

I consider this art, memory-making and a touch of post-partum therapy all in one.  It makes a nice facebook album for those friends and family who don't get to see you little one every week.  I have used them as decorations for first birthday parties as well.  You can never have too many pictures, right?!

linking up:

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