Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Kids Wardrobe Style Ideas..

I love tastefully dressed kids and I love quality clothing. With time, effort, trial and error Ive found some great strategies for creating stylish kids wardrobes that work in affordable ways.

* Know their colours/ sizes
This is a fun to do with them. Go visit the library and get out the colour style books.. then take them out and have them hold up colours against themselves to see what works. Boys are just as interested as girls in this. For fun, get fabric swatches and make a little wallet for them.. my hubby still has his from years ago and is confident in choosing garments that set his skin tone off

* Limit items
Hand me downs can be great, but Ive learnt first hand that your children will tend to rotate 3-4 favourite t'shirts at the most.. any more than that equals clutter and mess. I keep the kids wardrobe pretty stream lined and limit each season to; One best/ church outfit. 2 play outfits, 1 rough play/ art, 1 jacket, 1 nice jumper, 1 windbreaker and a pair of jeans or jean shorts (season depending)

* Get them to help choose
My boys love clothes shopping every bit as much as my daughter. I do most of mine online but I let them be part of the process as theyre far more likely to wear something that they helped choose

* Buy clothes for birthdays and Christmas
I love tucking Pj's in stockings and a nice t shirt for summer days. Theyre essentials but it makes it fun when its part of the present opening. I also love tucking in accessories.. underwaar, scarves, hats, togs, sunglasses, towels.. theyre all things a kid needs. I keep my eye out throughout the year for good sales and keep these things aside

* Have a colour theme for each season.
My daughters wardrobe this summer consists of blue/ yellow and melon. I often keep my eye on European colour trends to preempt whats likely to hit NZ shores and plan accordingly. Having a limited colour palette works because its FAR easier to co ordinate jackets, accessories, shoes etc. In winter it was one colour.. rose pink. It meant she could grab pretty much anything from her wardrobe and it was likely to match.
I also try to translate one colour across all the kids and make it work for a cohesive 'best' outfit. This summer its navy with yellow accents. This makes for a great deal more family photo opportunities (and yes, I co ordinate mine and hubbys to work too).

* Shop their wardrobes
Jeans cut off make great jean shorts. Boys shorts can work for girls too. A little re hemming, a bow or a lace pocket added, and a feminine style is born.

* Buy quality over quantity
We often shop online through Next, M&S or search French and European labels on Trade Me such as Petit Bateau, Monsoon, TU, Boden etc. Ive personally found the fit is much better on my slimline kids, but the quality is greater and the clothes last much longer. I also love Pumpkin Patch NZ because they will take back ill manufactored items and credit you. Ive taken back jackets that are 2 years old and theyve still honoured their word

* Let them sell off the things they grow out of
This serves two purposes; firstly they are inspired to take better care of their clothes, and secondly, they get the joy of spending money. I list them on Trade Me and let them take the photos and help present and price them fairly. The money they make isnt a huge amount, but often enough to purchase that longed for Lego set

* Care for what they have
Wash their clothes less and spot clean marks off, rather than wash the whole garment. It not only saves you washing, but gives items a longer life. Treat stains instantly. I cant recommend enough this amazing little stain soap bar my Mother in law introduced me to.. nary a stain has survived under its use. We have Vanish stain remover in NZ, but nothing is as good as this wee stick from the UK.. Vanish Stain Stick Bar. I know you can find it online for $12 on Fishpond

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Story of You..

To my Little mannies #4. Tears fill my eyes to write that.
Because you are something of Gods gift to us, a gift we didnt plan in our 'longterm' sight. A reward for handing the pen over to God, and saying "Will you write the next chapter?"..

You see. From the moment Daddy and I married, we knew we'd have 4 kids. When Amy was born, we thought we were done. In my heart, there was an ache for more. But when youve spent 10 years preparing yourself for the inevitable finish, I imagine you expect the grief and ache. At least thats what I told myself.

Gods ways our different from ours.

The past 18 months, 2 years, have been something else. Daddy and I have gone through disappointment, pain, loss and being stripped. It might have been easy to simply write up lifes mantra there and then "Trust no one". It felt that way. But I believe God allows all these things for a reason, even the storms. And while the storm whirled around us, I found that instead of leaving me bitter, crushed and disillusioned, it instead peeled off layers of my heart. Yes, it hurt.
But the pain isnt the ending.

In the peeling off... I came face to face with a reality: The desire and knowing grew in me that our family was not complete. And as God is able, He also ministered that desire into Daddys heart... a trust, anticipation, of more. More of the heart of Jesus towards His plans and purposes. God gave us the scripture "I run in the path of your commands, for you shall enlarge my heart". Pain can often crush and harden the heart.. yet in Gods hands, pain can serve to do the very opposite, and open up a capacity thats beyond our 'norm'.

Shortly after, I dreamed I had a girl, and a boy. We did go on to conceive that precious daughter, who is now with Jesus in heaven. Although not even "scanned and identified".. her identity remains sealed up there. A treasure.
And then there was you.

You, I knew, were going to have the heart of a Daniel. I understood how all the stripping and storm, was preparation for you. And you, I know, are a reward. A joy. A gift entrusted.

It makes me weep.
Because I know you have a Daddy whose integrity has shone in the face of opposition - he has championed the way for you.
Because I know that the discernment God has gifted to us, enables us to raise you beyond our human weakness.
Because you are a new beginning.
Because I know God will take you into places of high influence, and that our hearts will be beat proudly.
Because I know you will be asked to stand, and that at times it will break our hearts too.
Because you bring a sense of joy and adventure into our lives.

Precious wee man, where we had placed a full stop, God has put a 'to be continued' and here on in, were all on this journey of unknowns together. Unknown to us, but known to Jesus.

Its so wonderful, amazing, delightful, to have you along for the ride.

We love you immensely.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

For the love of the library..

Going to the library, is like for me, what coffee is to others. In fact, truth be told, I think its more. (Cause I have never been able to truly enjoy a coffee out that compares to the Nescafe Vanilla Latte sachets you make at home). And if Im going to have a drink out, its got to be something decent.. like Turkish Apple Tea, or a Feijoa smoothie, or something that hits the right notes.

Moving on.

Pop in my hands a decent book and a decent drink, and Im happy.

Here's some of my favourite reading:

Cookbooks -
Jaime Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Annabelle Langbein, Barefoot Contessa etc. Although I do love to eat a nice dessert, I actually love to cook mains and I really love a cookbook that tells a story, such as this beautiful one, 28 Days in Provence by Shannon Bennett.
The humour of travelling with kids, interwoven with using fresh market food and ingredients that are real. And the photography.. Id quite like to buy the book and rip it up and frame the images. It might make you want to move to the Provence region. Or plant a vegetable garden. Or visit the local market with new eyes.

Biographies -
I dont enjoy 'teaching' books. I know, there are some great ones and I have them on my shelves. Biographies however, I never tire of. An amazing story of someones life and their testimony sticks with me and encourages my soul.
Here's some of my favs;
Through Gates of Splendour by Elisabeth Elliot
The Heavenly Man
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
Hudson Taylor
His Perfect Faithfulness by Eric and Leslie Ludy
One of these, however, I have read over and over.. its impact far reaching in my life: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. This story is impacting beginning to end. Her simple family life in their humble abode in Holland, and the security of a gentle Fatherly presence, interrupted by the divine orchestration of her secret work during the Holocaust of World War 2, which had her, and her sister, sent to Ravensbruck. Ive been gripped with suspense everytime Ive read it and cried everytime too. And Ive read it about 5 times, maybe more.. it never gets boring.

Parenting books -
Seriously, we own at least 20 at first count: Ian Grant, Celia Lashlie, Steve Biddulph, Michael Pearl, Tedd Tripp.. Its not hard to pin a favourite as I have two. The first is about food and eating, Ive written about it before, "French Kids Eat Everything" by Karen Le Billon. I love it because its truly changed how we eat, and made our table a joy. But I return over and over to a book I bought in my teenage years, before said hubby and family were even on the scene: The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot. Its not a book of formula's but of the story of her childhood. There are so many beautiful ideas in there.

Family Reading -
Sam and I read to the children a lot. Sam has a whole library of Childrens Bibles and loves to go through them with the kids. I read to them the chapter novels.
Some hits in our home have been; The Barn Chronicles by Rosie Boom, Stuart Little by E.B White, Charlottes Web also by E.B White, YWAM Christian Heroes stories, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. Our favourite books this year have been Tumtum and Nutmeg adventures by Emily Bearn
These are just the sweetest little stories about some little mice and the fight against good and bad. The endings are always so endearing. I loved reading them, as much as the kids enjoyed hearing them. This book inspired many a miniature mouse room being built by the kids out of our recycling. It was so fun! NB: You will however, feel guilty about ever killing a little mouse again ;)

Childrens Reading -
As a child, my favourite ever book was called "Me and My Grandma". Truth is, it still is my favourite. Its out of print nowadays and when I got married, I could no longer find my one copy. I was gutted as I assumed in the process of my parents moving, it must have accidentally got thrown. However, last year we were sorting through a pile of music books, tucked into an old piano chair, up in my parents loft.. and out it fell. I was elated!
But seeing thats out of print, I guess its unfair to mention it. So here are some of the ones my kids request over and over: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Not a Box, Peter Rabbit, Find Me a Tiger, The Best Behaved Bear, The Best Nest, and the one that got read so many times the pages started to fall out? Monkey Puzzle.

Beside my Bed? -
I keep encouraging relaxing and creative books beside my bed.. things that help me unwind or refresh my soul. Right now it consists of Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. Im loving it. Especially that it makes me crave wood fired Pizza.
And this one by Eric and Leslie Ludy: Wrestling Prayer.
My bestie gave me this one for Christmas, among some precious others.. which I havent got to.. because this one keeps drawing me back in. Its meaty, inspiring.

Then theres Mollie Makes. I dont buy them, I borrow them from the library. Which is good because I actually havent made anything out of their magazines yet. Yet, I say. None the less, I love the inspiration and energy I have in the ten minutes before sleep hits where I stare at the embroidered cushions, or felted toys and think "wow, I am so going to make that"... before the coma hits.

And lastly, yet most importantly, my Bible, FaithGirlz backpack NIV. I love it! I got this small goodie from the Christian book shop, about 7 years ago, but its just been the best thing ever. Small enough to take anywhere. Its travelled with me miles.

I cant wait to read? -

I think every woman should read? -

What about you? What books do you love, recommend and are glad you own? xx

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Homeschooling a Preschooler

Amy is just turned four but she has been biting at the bit to start learning like her big brothers.

I didnt want to start her too early, ya know, more work for me and things like that. But it was proving more work to 'entertain' her with those 'activity box' ideas etc, (go ye Pinteresters), so we leapt. "We" being I did the planning, and Sam cheered me on telling me how great it is that our girl will be reading by four a half. No pressure or anything.

So here's what were using

This is first up on our day but we have this amazing little series by Agapeland called "Character Builders". A set of 16 episodes of animated stories about kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, patience, obedience, faith, honesty, responsibility, thankfulness, sharing, confidence, love, politeness, joy and peace. The old version can be found on you tube, but it isnt as good as the newer one. You can see the newer animation on you tube under Character Builders Trailor. I used to teach my kids in Sunday School from these.. and I still get teary eyed when I hear the song "peace". My boys have all watched these through several times over, so I dont make them watch them, but somehow they always can be found grouped around the screen and noting their favourite episodes and laughing at the same things that tickled them when they were Amys age. Character is timeless. So are these DVD's, I think. NB: Agapeland often has a voucher online, google it. They retail $69US from Agapelandmusic.com

I found a neat starter book by Gold Stars called Starting Maths which comes with gold star stickers.. and what kid doesnt like stickers?! Its fairly basic and requires me to be on hand, but I like that.. its relationship building. There are many others in the series and I have a feeling we will be chowing through them over the next few months. c/o Book Depository $7.35. Free shipping worldwide.
When Im confident she has these under her belt, we will start No Nonsense Number Emergent activity sheets. I own the books to stage 2b, and love them because they fit NZ curriculum. They were a pricey investment at $44e, but worth it. From that we jump to Math U See.. but thats a couple of years away.

It all starts with phonics and weve happily followed the Jolly Phonics programme for years with great success.
We use the Phonics Handbook (Book Depository $45.94) which has all the printable activity sheets and teacher suggestions. I also use the pupil workbooks 1-7 ($23 set) for ease of having all the work bound, and the sequence set out for me. We also use the Finger Phonics books in the series ($66 set) which are great, not least because they have these neat grooves in the pages where they can feel how to form the letters. I also have the DVD ($21) which backs up the learning at the end of each week. If you can, purchase the whole set.. otherwise start with the handbook alone. That will more than adequately suffice.

In addition to phonics, I read to Amy, a lot. Daily. We make weekly use of our mobile library (the library bus) that stops just down the road from us. We choose lots of picture books, as well as early readers. While Amy cant yet read those, she often sits beside my youngest son as we work through them.. and is becoming familiar with sounding out and patterns in reading. I try to keep an eye out internet wise, for great book recommendations and often put a hold on these so they are ready for us each week, on the mobile library. It costs .50c per hold.. but still cheaper than the parking and petrol, I justify.

Im using Letterland Handwriting Practise 1 ($8.19 B.Dep) , and again, I sit beside her and remind her of her pencil grip and formation.. ie "letters always start at the top".

Were just working our way through the top 100 right now. Heh. I joke. Actually, when we have letter recognition at about %50, I will introduce the sight words. We often play sight word bingo (I got given it) with the kids so that helps. I'll introduce the plethora of sight word activity ideas soon enough. See pinterest for ideas here, be warned, you will need chocolate and coffee. Just sayin.

Mudpies to Magnets by Williams. Rockwell. Sherwood. Look no further. (B.Dep $17.79)
Theyre simple activities, and often I have one of the boys work through them with her, or I alter it slightly to fit what suits me. For example, todays sheet was on seed sorting.. but I wasnt in the mood for grouping seeds, so we planted tomato seeds instead. She thought that was way more fun anyway.

The worlds your oyster! I personally dont think anyone needs a resource book when there are just a world of ideas for art everyday found on the internet. We use activity books like the one in the picture, My Town, by Delphine Doreau (B.Dep $17.01) for special events like eating out, visiting somewhere special, and particularly for Amys love of things European following our trip to England/ Paris last year. I try to feature crafts around her interests and learning and were never stuck for ideas :)

I hope this list helps those who are wondering about homeschooling and where to start, or like me, trying to recall the best things to do with a preschooler when the older ones are well under way. Im glad this list will be here too in another 4 years when this bundle inside reaches the same stage and Im wondering again "how did I do it?" :)