Taking Time....


to crunch the leaves

understand our past



How I love taking a little time to enjoy a beautiful day with my beautiful family.

My best idea ever...


Okay, probably not my best but it does make life around here a bit easier.


This is what usually happens with all the papers coming home from school. I usually spend half the morning looking for whatever I need in the several piles in the house. It was getting to be to overwhelming so I came up with this.


Plain old binders, gussied up with some scrapbooking paper. One for each girl. Important notes in the front and any artwork or other papers in the back.


I picked up the fancy green 3 hole punch for 2.50. The biggest bonus is that the girls love punching holes in their work and notes so I don't even need to keep up with it. One draw back is that everything Maddie draws has been going into the binder and the girl draws ALOT. I think she needs her own binder or maybe an entire shelf of binders.


See what I mean? She likes to draw and write and create. There is no getting rid of anything she makes. I really need to come up with a system for all of this work.


(note the words up there say "fashion models", maybe they shouldn't watch project runway.)


A better system than Maddie sticking whatever she wants to the wall with whatever she can find that sticks. I should probably be upset about this sticking but how can I be mad at a little girl so proud of all that amazing work.
I'm thinking maybe a full wall of homasote that she can stick work to her hearts desire.

Little Pumpkins


Remember this sweet little kitty that we found in the engine of our car. Well, it seems the kitty has grown into a full adult cat and Sunday night she gave birth to 5 little kittens.
They are adorable and Pumpkin has been an amazing gentle mommy.

I've never been around for cat labor but I have delivered two of my own babies and have been present for a few horse deliveries. I read up and set up a quiet spot in my closet for her. I had a feeling sunday was the day but the day went along with no kittens and Pumpkin hung out with me on the couch as I watched the Bears game. We all sat down, had a nice dinner and then headed to watch the Amazing Race. Dan looked at Pumpkin and exclaimed "what does Pumpkin have" um that is a kitten. So much for the cat hiding out in dark quiet place.
The girls were able to watch one of the kittens be born and they were amazed and full of questions. Quite a few anatomy lessons have taken place with lots of honest talk about how the kittens were born (which led to how they were born) umbilical cords, determining the sex of the kittens, and much more. The only question left unanswered was the "Mama, how did pumpkin get kittens in her tummy". "Umm, well, umm, Look that kitty just yawned." So that's the news from around these parts. Anyone want a kitty?

Enjoying the last days of summer



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Getting on the bus...



I'm sitting here, the only sound is the coffee pot brewing in the background. Silence. How many times in the last 7 years have I wished for just a moment of peace and here it is and all I feel is lonely. Today I put Maddie on the bus to kindergarten for the first time and I think it nearly broke my heart.



I've started a new job with Bella Baby photography taking the baby pictures in the hospital. I walk into the rooms of these new moms and each time I'm taken back to the moments when I first held my own babies. The nervousness, excitement and adrenaline. Those first few months and years are both joyous and difficult. Giving up a career you love, losing yourself in your little ones and the complete inablility to finish a thought or sentence. In the back of my mind during all of this was the knowledge that some day they would both be in school. SOMEDAY. Back then it was a fleeting thought that got me through some rough moments. It is as much a rite of passage for me as it is for the kids. I am no longer a mama to a preschooler or a toddler I am the mama to 2 school age little girls. Lord knows I could use a little time to myself, closets need to be cleaned, sewing can again be done and I can sit here and write a blog post without wondering what the crash was upstairs. But I gotta tell you I'll be looking at the clock and counting down the minutes until my sweet little baby gets off the bus and runs home to tell me about her day.


This is the picture of Maddie as she got off the bus at school. She has had no worries about school. "Mama, I can go to the bus stop by myself, you don't have to come" she tells me. All week she has been excited, confident and eager. When I looked at the pictures I realized I had caught the one moment when all that confidence was pushed aside and there was a little moment of hesitation. You see this is my Maddie, ready to head into any new situation, confident and calm, but there is always that look, the moment of hesitation. I know this look.
When Maddie was a baby I would lay her head on my shoulder and she would wrap her arms around my neck and pat, pat, pat my back. As much as I was comforting her she was comforting me. We have that kind of relationship. If I ever disappear upstairs to lay down and read or relax I am soon joined by Maddie. She'll brings some toys or paper and markers and just sit with me happily playing away. We don't have to be playing together to be enjoying each others company.
When I was working at the children's musuem I had a very wise early childhood mentor that talked about the invisible leash with toddlers. She explained that toddlers have an invisible leash to their mothers and if you just let them go they will suddenly stop when they've reached the end of the leash and turn around to look for you. As they grow they let out more and more line and make it further and further before they turn around. It was one of the best pieces of parenting advice anyone ever gave me. It allowed me to let my girls go, to have some freedom and to know that they would still be looking for me. I can't tell you how many times I watched as they took off with abandon only to suddenly stop turn their heads and and scan for their mama's face. Our eyes connected they would smile and turn to run some more.
I could think that with the closing of the bus and school door that the invisible leash from child to Mama is broken, but, I know that what's invisible is also magical. The length of the leash may now be measured in miles instead of feet and she may have to wait until she gets off the bus for our eyes to connect but I know our bond is still as strong as it was when she was taking her first steps.


Teacher Gifts...


I like for the girls to either pick out the gifts for their teachers or do part of the making. For christmas the girls drew snowmen on fabric and I sewed them into ornaments. Last year Annie drew a picture on fabric and I turned it into a pillow. Maddie is at that stage when her drawing couldn't be any cuter and that's pretty much what she did all year at preschool. Her box was always full of the most amazing drawings. This was our third year with these teachers so we know them well and I wanted to give them something they could keep. This is what we came up with.
Painted flower pots that Maddie drew special pictures on. Annie also made a big pot for her teacher and a few smaller pots for her music and art teacher. I forgot to take picutres of these.


Maddie picked a different scene for each teacher and wrote the teachers name, her name and the year on each pot.




We bought regular clay pots and painted them with acrylic paint. Maddie opted for stripes and I held back (mostly) and let her do the painting. After the paint dried she used sharpie markers to draw her pictures. I finished it all off with a spray coat of an acrylic varnish. We had made a trip to garden center and I let Maddie pick out all the flowers, a lovely mix a orange, purple, red and pink. She potted them all up and that was it. Not a bad little gift and I think we did all 5 pots for about $25.00. The hardest part is trying to find a good organic potting soil without fertilizer already mixed in.


Okay back to be bed for me. We've all been sick around here for a 5 days.

Get Back to Nature Birthday Party


We've always done birthday parties at home. For Annie's 7th I was thinking we needed to mix it up so we reserved a shelter at a local park that has a little zoo. A few months before the party I picked up a pack of paper from the Friendly Forest line and used this as inspiration. We decided on a Back to Nature theme. A trip through the zoo, a couple of projects and then some playing at the park. Annie wanted to invite her whole class and a few friends so we were looking at 20 or more kids. I'm glad we opted for the park and everyone seemed to have fun.

Here are the invites. I scanned an image from the paper pack and recolored it.


Annie and I made each child a nature journal using recycled paper file folders and straw paper by Terracycle that we found on clearance at our office supply store. We used papers from the friendly forest pack to edge the journals and the kids decorated them with cut-outs.


I found some paper masks at michaels and thought it would be fun for them to make animal masks after getting some inspiration walking through the zoo. I realized I probably could have just made the masks but had already bought them. Here are some templates. I love how each child's looks so different.


While waiting for everyone to arrive the kids decorated the tablecovers (brown craft paper)with birthday wishes for Annie. We had yummy cupcakes that were topped with the hersey kiss acorns found here.


I'm not a big fan of the goodie bag full of plastic stuff so we made extra acorns and put them in baggies tied with jute twine and a pencil. I forgot to get a picture but the were very pleased. They each also got to take home a pair of binoculars that I purchased online.

Annie had a blast and it was definitely her kinda party, lots of making, a bit of playing and some animal watching. What more could a seven year old want.





Friday Annie turned 7. So how about 7 great things about Annie, oops Anya as she now prefers to be called.

1. She has a smile that could light up the whole world.
2. Each morning she looks at the weather page in the newspaper. (Silly, but I totally love this).
3. She dances when she thinks no one is watching.
4. She is kind.
5. Her two favorite foods are Minestrone soup and salad.
6. She plays "book club" at recess, traveling to other worlds and times.
7. When asked "If you could be anyone else, who would it be?" She responded "me". (Why be anyone else when being Anya is so great!)

The greatest thing about Anya is that she is mine and I get go along for the ride. Watching my amazing little baby grow into to a confident, creative, kind little girl. Happy birthday Annie.

2 dresses for $2 in 1 hour.


My local thrift store gets clearance items from Target. Usually they are still $5 or $6 so I take a pass. The last time I was there they had all these women's skirts for $1. I grabbed two matching green skirts sizes 14 and 16 and figured I would use them to make something for the girls. Sunday we had a St. Patrick's Day themed 1st birthday party to attend.(Hi Q-man) I had to work at noon and was going to meet up with Dan and the girls after. Around 11:00 I decided the girls needed new dresses from those skirts for the party. This is so simple I thought I would share.

Find your skirt - it should have a wide band at the top and a zipper. There are usually bunches of these at Target for a few dollars at the end of the season. Check the plus size for lots of extra fabric for a matching headband or little purse.


Have the recipient step into the skirt with the zipper at the side. Pin for size leaving some extra room.


Lay out the skirt and fold the zipper side over to where you pinned. Like this. Measure about an inch out from the zipper side of skirt(solid line). Follow the shape of the skirt and cut. (dotted line) I didn't measure just eyeballed it all. Maddies was a little tight, Annie's a little loose but you know, an hour. Now you only have to stitch the one open side. I used a french seam and had to fiddle a bit with the sides. So now you have a bodice with a zipper, all you need are straps. Cut 2-4"x20" strips from the leftover piece of the skirt. Fold in 1" of each side to meet in the center and press. Now fold in half and press.


Fold under raw edges at top and bottom and stitch.
Yell down to the child "Come up here right now so I can finish your dress, I have to go to work" Pin the straps on with a criss-cross in the back. Carefully remove from the wiggly child and stitch the straps in place.

Cut off any loose threads and your done.


Okay I hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

ATC KIds Swap


We recently signed up to do the ATC Kids Swap. You can read about it here. The girls each created 5 2.5" x 3.5" pieces of art and mailed them off and then received five pieces of art in return. This was such a great little project. Working at such a small scale seemed to really stir the girls creativity. The best part was getting the other kids cards in the mail.

We talked about how these could be a series and Annie created the series Elephants Adventures. Here are four of her pieces. I really wish we got to keep them. I am totally in love with these.

Elephants Adventures

1. Elephants Adventures: New York, 2. Elephants Adventures: Savannah, 3. Elephants Adventures: India, 4. Elephants Adventures: Great Wall of China

Maddie worked quite hard on hers, sometimes thinking of a title and then painting and sometimes naming them after. Her development in painting and drawing has really grown the past few months. As much as I love the bubble head person and scribbles of the toddler drawing I am so excited to see a bit more representation in her art. The little glimpses I get of her imagination and creativity always warm my heart.

ATC swap

We used watercolor pencils for these and I think they are my new favorite art material. We use watercolors often around here and they are great but the pencils give the girls so much more control and lead to much less frustration.
Yesterday Annie asked what our next swap would be. I'm glad the girls are enjoying these little projects as much as I am.

Remains of the morning.


DSC09268, originally uploaded by marytree.

The "making" is always much easier than the cleaning.

Hold on to the wall



When I think about kids and firsts I think of the first smile, first steps and first steps. We are well past all of those at this point but there are still plenty of firsts. We have been enjoying first days of school and first times pumping a swing all alone. Monday we headed to the roller rink for the first time. I knew that it would be a bit challenging for the girls but roller skating was always one of my favorite activities as a girl and I've been nostalgic for the days of skating down the block.
Like everything else around here the girls responses are so very different. I prepped Annie that she would probably fall down a bunch and have to practice "a lot." An early hard fall sidelined her for a bit but she calmed her self down and grabbed onto the wall and was wobbly but confident by the end. Maddie was Maddie and her only complaint was that she wanted to go really fast. She tooled around in her own way oblivious to the falls and the other speeding skaters. Here's a little video of Maddie's first skating... you can hear and see Annie crying at my side...Listen for the "ouch". Now go grab some pompoms, stick a comb in your back pocket (thanks Sara) and lace up your skates.

I'd forgotten...


how much

I enjoy kneading bread

by hand.

Adding a few extra hands to the mix was nice and messy. Because as Maddie says "Baking means you get to make a mess."


Cinnamon Raisin bread found here. Yum.




I laid on the couch, Maddie in the crook of my arm, watching the historic moment. I listened to the speeches and singing, the poetry and the oath. Her breath slowed, and her fingers found the comforting lock of her hair. I gently brushed a kiss on her head and squeezed a bit tighter. She was soon fast asleep, safe and warm next to her mama. The troubles of the greater world are lost on her at 4 years old; the excitement of the day was found in the inauguration cupcake, not in the swearing in of President Obama.
One day she will sit in class and learn about this moment. Maybe she'll ask if I remember. One day her children will learn about this moment and ask me if I remember. I'll tell them that I remember laying on the couch and holding close in my arms the future of this great country and watching what happens when the American people fight for change. From Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King to all of the unknown faces that fought for equality.
Earlier I had talked with Annie about the importance of this moment. She heard the words that people were often denied based on the color of their skin, but she could not understand. She sees herself with dark skin, her sister with light skin, cousins of every different color and still they are all family and all equal. She understood it was an important moment but finished are conversation with this insight.....
"if we are all equal than why hasn't a girl ever been president?"
Soon baby soon.

A shopping we will go and a download.....


I have been wanting to make a little shopping list for the girls for some time. Something they could take with when we go to the store so they have something to do. Yesterday at Target I found the perfect little magnetic dry-erase boards in the $1 section and the idea finally came together.

I drew up a little list of basics that we always shop for. Printed it out onto sticker paper and attached to a magnet sheet. I tried to print right onto the magnet sheet but it wouldn't go through my printer. I then cut them all out and trimmed them down-they seemed to stick better this way. Maddie went right to making a list and setting up a nice little grocery store in the kitchen. I thought that you all might enjoy a copy so I made a little download for you. Let me know if you give it a try.


Here is a bit of the fun we had. I love that they can use the dry-erase to write down how many of each item.



She's making a list


Setting up shop


Checking Out