Photo Garland

I have sent a photo Christmas card every year I’ve been married. I always displayed these photos in frame, but last year I decided that it looked ridiculous-way too much clutter for me and I didn’t have a table big enough to set them all anyways!

At the same time, I was also desperate to find something original AND affordable AND durable (picture boys sliding down full blast) to decorate my stairway banister.

 I came up with this:
068 069075
044 046 047 048 064 066Every year’s photo is on one side of this little plaque, and the other side has the year in order (1-17)  and the date (1993-2009).

I’m proud of myself…I love it!  Visitors comment on them when they walk in the door, and the kids can all see how much they’ve grown, and I can see how are family has grown from just the 2 of us to all 7 over all these years.  Lovely! 

And here’s the coolest thing:  They are VERY inexpensive and easy to make. 
Here’s what you need:
1. Scrapbook paper (NOT the really thick kind) in coordinating colors.
031  2. These little thin wooden boards that you can find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby....99 cents, and look for them on sale!033 3. Decoupage stuff and a wide sponge brush. I like the matte kind of decoupage..(not gloss like the photo shows)...matte or satin finish hides imperfections better.0344. A whole puncher and some kind of stencil and cutting tool to cut circles. (An Exacto knife works too if you have a steady hand or just use old fashioned scissors if you have to). I bought this kit at Michaels with my 40% off coupon.0325.  Ribbon to hang your ornament with. 067Step by Step Instructions:
1. Make copies or use your printer to print out whatever photos you have chosen.  If you know how, print them out at the exact size as the wooden plaques, 5 x 6.  I just printed mine out as 5x7’s and then cropped the 7” to a 6” because I’m not that computer literate.  I also just used plain old printer paper-nothing fancy!  I printed them all as black and whites to make them more uniform looking.  

While you are on the computer, you can make the numbers…I used white card stock and Bookman Old Style font at the 72 size for the middle number and 18 for the outer date.  You will cut these numbers into circles later so leave plenty of room between them on the paper.
053 2. Take a drill and drill a hole in each wooden plaque so you can insert the ribbon.  Remember that some of your photos may be the long way (vertical) or the short way (horizontal)…so put that hole on the long side or the short side of the plaque!051 3. Next cut a piece of scrapbook paper for the wooden plaque and make sure it’s about 1” bigger on all sides.  Trace where the hole you drilled is on the paper and use a hole puncher to punch that paper.054 4.  Get out your Modge Podge and your brush.  If you’ve never decoupaged before, don’t worry…it’s so easy!  (I hadn’t either before I did this, believe it or not!)  Take your sponge brush and brush that piece of scrapbook paper on the plain white side all over with the Modge Podge.

5. Place the plaque carefully and centered on that sticky paper and then wrap it on the other side like a present.  Smooth out the wrinkles.058 6. Now take your photo (that is either the exact size of the plaque or a little smaller), and mark with a pencil where the hole should go…punch that out with the hole puncher.  Now use your sponge to coat the wrong side of that photo with the Modge Podge, and stick it on.
059 7. Let’s do something cute with that number you printed out.  I made a few bigger circles to place behind it to add some color.  Use Modge Podge on the back of those circles…get them all stuck together and then stick them on the back of your wooden plaque.060 8.  You are going to coat each side (wait till one side dries till you do the other) with the Modge Podge and your sponge brush.  This gives a very sealed, shiny, protective coat.  061 9.  Look we didn’t even get to # 10 and we’re done!  Insert a ribbon through that hole and WALLAH!
040 These would be so cute on a tree or on a garland by the fireplace too.

And just so you know:  Mine are FAR from perfect. They still look cute though and hanging all together no one notices (or tells me they notice!) the imperfections.  Mine are also VERY simple…I know the scrap booking experts out there can show me up on this one as far as design goes!  


Need gift ideas?
Twenty one years of buying toys! Our tried and true favorites here.


Andrew and Abbey






Living Room Basketball: A Quick Video

Two things:
1. I love how Patrick needs his shirt off to fully engage in battle.

2. I wasn't kidding when I told you that I velcro my decorations to my fireplace mantle.  Now you know why.


Daylight Savings Time

(me and Patrick...in our pj's, ready for bed)

I am SO ready for bed every night.  I hit a wall between 9:00-10 p.m.  Jeff laughs at me, because he just looks at me and can see when that wall and I have collided.  I'm a morning person, and morning people can not stay up till midnight, I tell him. 

One thing I hate about switching the clocks back is that it I really need daylight from 6-10 pm...the day is extended longer, I can get more done, and I don't feel like getting into my PJ's at 7 pm when the sun is shining. 

One thing I love about switching the clocks back is that I feel justifited in making myself go to bed earlier and boy, does this make me feel better all day long. 

How does someone "get" to become a morning or night person? 
Do you think it's a genetic, or the routine established in childhood? 
I've always wondered.


Weird Photos On My Camera Or Life With Boys

New Folder


For Whatever It's Worth

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader.    The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to do...it's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra committments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today. 


Our Family's Favorite Toys

Sometimes it’s so hard to find good toys for your kids…by “good” I mean ones that will last through siblings and aren’t junk.  Ones they don’t use once and toss aside.  Ones that make them use their brains and their hands and their imaginations.  I really detest the junk…the batteries, the breakage, the frustration felt by kids when toys break for no reason, or don’t work the way the commercial says they will.  We don’t have many toys…but they add up fast with 5 kids.  I try to add to collections and find the good stuff..

I thought I’d give you a few good ideas in case you were in the market for some soon. (wink wink)

Here’s some of our favorites.

026 Duplos
…from oldest to youngest they’ve been an old stand-by.

027Find and Say books…this one if for littler ones, but I know there are some great ones for older kids-.

005 Zingo-a great quick game for preschoolers.

008 010 Seriously, I have no idea what the appeal is…but this giant foam USA puzzle has been around for at least 10 or more years....something about the foam and large pieces?  Here's one like the one we own: Foam U.S.A. Map Puzzle

 012 014Rush Hour
…this is so fun…and I am NOT a game person.  It’s addicting for adults and children….Andrew was totally into this even as a 5 year old!  This is a family favorite for sure.

017 Groovy Girls….Abbey has never been much of a baby doll girl, but these dolls are SO cute…she would dress them up, and even take fabric scraps and pin them together to design new outfits.  They have been a huge hit when friends and cousins come to play too!

019 My favorite…EVERY house needs a typewriter….NOT a fake one.  Go to Ebay!

021 Dress ups…real dress ups. These are my old formal dresses.  I can’t tell you how many girls have loved these!

023 Of course. 024 A great magazine…without all the boy/girl crap…just the cutest ever!025BeTween: A Preteen Girl's Guide to Life
There are a couple of these magazine-like books…great for any pre-teen girl.

 026 LEGO City and Bionicles.

027 Guinness World Record books-An annual purchase...the boys love these.

028 If you buy this series, you will laugh your heiney off.

032 My mother-in-law bought each of the kids this treasure box a couple years ago from a local toy store.  I think they might even have them in Michael’s now?  They are filled with all those little things I'd throw away if I could, but I can't.

035 037 038 Vintage Fisher Price.

028 029032 Magna-Tiles - Irresistible.

  030 Blocks…have had these for 15 years!

034 035Zoobs-My kids all have loved these….I would say by 4 they are old enough to clip these together.  They come with lots of ideas for what you can build.  You need to buy a container though, because the one they give you…you can never get them all back in…(don’t you hate that?)

And of course, the wooden train set, that has been added to for 16 years.  Abbey loved it as much as the boys.

Elefun-Patrick loves this dumb old elephant...and honestly the older kids can't resist either.