Papercuts

Last summer at the Minnesota State Fair, I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Martin and watching her work for awhile in the Fine Arts building (looking at the art there is always a highlight of our day at the fair). I was enthralled with her work, and I immediately began looking into paper-cutting and what all it entailed.

Fast forward to January, when Husband took me to see the Papercut! exhibit at American Swedish Institute. Karen Bit Vejle has devoted decades to perfecting her craft, and to see such large-scale papercuts was very inspiring. I immediately began dabbling with the materials I had on hand. Here are my first four papercuts, done with an Exacto knife and materials I had on hand (I ordered silhouette paper for the last). On the third one I folded once to create a symmetrical border, then opened to cut the design. I really look forward to exploring this art form more!

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MN Zoo Farm Babies!

I received a cute little gift pack (more revealed later once my kids have seen it) from the Minnesota Zoo last week. Let’s just say it’s a great start to my kids’ Easter baskets and the best man from our wedding would be jealous since it’s Peeps-themed. :)

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The MN Zoo also sent us some complimentary zoo passes, and since we already have a family membership (have for years; highly recommend!) I had the blessing of inviting two more families to go to the zoo this month to see the Farm Babies. Chicks, piglets, ducklings, lambs, calves, bunnies and (goat and human) kids…what could be cuter?

We’re heading there this weekend for Peeps Weekend, including aforementioned farm babies, crafts and a Peep-mobile (see here for a more detailed schedule)! There are lots more activities throughout the month of April, so be sure to stop by and check out all the fun now that it’s nice outside!

Little Helpers

“What are you doing?” I asked sternly, as my son walked up to me, soaking wet and holding a child-sized broom.

“Cleaning the bathroom,” was the short reply. I hustled upstairs, leaving my daughter to tend to her schoolwork, and surveyed the “clean” bathroom with dismay. The sink was filled to the brim with murky, greenish water, which I later decided was from the natural bristles of the broom being dipped repeatedly. Almost every square inch of the bathroom—the floor, the vanity, even the mirror—was dripping. I was upset.

“Markus, this is NOT okay,” I said, and grabbed him a rag to begin wiping up. After a full change of clothes, he was put down for a nap with a hug but without a story. Later that evening, as I moved a lotion bottle and found water pooled beneath it, the Holy Spirit nudged my heart. “He was trying to help; he didn’t mean to make a mess.”

I repented. So often I assume my children are making messes, throwing tantrums, or fighting with each other just to get to me, just to make my day harder. This is usually not so. They are just being kids. Sinners. Like me.

1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, two parts:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)

Part of their behavior is just that: childishness. I resolved next time to ask questions before getting mad.
“Can you tell me what you were trying to do, Markus?”
“What is making you so upset?”
“What is causing you to treat your sister in this way?”
In seeking to understand my children’s heart motivations better, I think I will find that they often ARE trying to please me, but they just have trouble processing the outcome of their “helping” until they find themselves in a big mess. I will be much better able to show them love, to not be irritable, resentful or rude, to endure all things, if I remember that I am in the same humble place: dependent on God’s mercy.
Lord, help me to have the same grace with them that You daily have with my messes.

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Anja, 6 1/2

Oh, the years, how they fly! I can never believe it when my kids hit their half-birthdays and birthdays, and this one is no exception. I’m a month late in even posting this! Anja, at six and a half, you:

  • Are challenging me in new ways. I wasn’t prepared for the flip that switched on your six birthday. You are more mature, yet sassier as well. And tantrums have begun anew. That could have something to do with the fact that you finally gave up naps around that time, or it could just be what you’re going through developmentally. Growing is hard. You have big emotions. We’re here for you, even when it’s tough.
  • Are still tall. In fact, you’ve grown another inch and a quarter since October. You are often mistaken for a 7- or 8-yr-old. And you wear size 7 and 8 clothes, except when the waists are too big for them to work. It’s hard, because you have the bodice size of a 5T or 6, but you need an 8 for length. I buy you dresses and have to return them all the time because the bodice and arm holes are too big.
  • Are an artist. At least, that’s what you tell people. We chuckle, but you do produce a lot of art, usually in the form of crayon/pencil drawings or cards made for others. We love your sweet spirit that is always thinking of how to bless others with your words. You made cards for each of us as surprises the other day. Mine said, “I love you more than ever.” Dad’s said, “Dad, you are rocking love.” And Markus’s said, “You are racing love.” Mine was clearly the best. Haha!
  • Have really gotten a good grasp on reading. We started The Bobbsey Twins series a couple weeks ago, and you are doing great. I remember reading those at your age and loving them, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be poring over them on your own. Your handwriting has improved immensely, and it has been both a trial and a blessing to walk through learning with you this year.
  • Are loving Classical Conversations. As with every year, it seems, we had another big decision to make for next fall, and when asked you chose to stick with that. It is a good fit for you, and you have a much easier time with the memory work than I anticipated.
  • Are still incredibly creative in your playtime. Storytelling remains a favorite activity, though you’re much more likely to stop now when someone walks up on you. I know this self-awareness has come with age, and I should’ve expected it, but I don’t like it. I miss being able to eavesdrop on all that is going on in your world.
  • Are engaging your brother in play more and more often. As he gets older, I think you see his potential as a character in your plots, so he is sometimes given a role. OR I’ve even caught you playing cars with him and doing things he likes, which is great. Big sisters can be so bossy, and you are, but you are also so tender with Markus at times.
  • Are still learning how to tidy up. You’re always willing to pitch in and help, especially with Markus’s things, but your own room…well…let’s just say it’s not very neat (and that’s being VERY polite). We’ve had to revoke some privileges and pare things WAY down to make it manageable for you, but I’m confident that if we keep after this together, you’ll be able to be tidier than me.
  • Have favorites (though they are ever-changing). Color: purple. Food: c. Sport: ballet. Book: Redwall. Movie: Aristocats. TV Show: Jake & The Neverland Pirates. Holiday: Easter and Christmas. School Subject: art. Best Friend: Markus (awwww….).
  • Want to be a dancer or a gymnast when you grow up. Considering you have taken tap/ballet for about 3 years less than the other girls in your class, you’re doing quite well!
  • Have a great understanding of the gospel, but aren’t sure yet if you want to call yourself a believer. We keep praying that God will get a hold of your heart and that He will become your ultimate treasure!
  • Love playing with friends. You are often a ringleader and have a hard time following, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m trying to teach you about listening to others’ opinions and being a little more diplomatic. Hard things for a firstborn, I realize (from experience).
  • Still favor your doll Malia and your dog Sherman. Coco, and a few other selects are out most of the time as well. I’ve taken you to the American Girl store a couple times and asked if you would like one, but you always decline. I’m glad you’re self-aware enough to resist the materialist pull, because sometimes I kind of want one. :)
  • Loved the Olympics. You got very into it, and your understanding of different countries and sports grew as well. We went to a high school basketball game with Grandma, and you asked, “Are either of these teams American?” We all had a good laugh.
  • Lost your first tooth! One of the bottom front ones. You were extremely excited.
  • Love to laugh. You ask to be tickled, make terrible jokes, and sometimes just get tired-silly. Those are some of my favorite times with you.

Anja, I’m so glad you’re my girl. I say that to you all the time, but it’s true. So I’ll keep saying it.

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Post Alpha Bits and Little Free Library

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Recently I was contacted by Post Foods and Little Free Library to see if I would consider partnering with them to host a Little Free Library and promote literacy. I just so happened to have a conversation with a friend during that same window of time, and she mentioned that she has always wanted a Little Free Library in her yard. So, she and I are partnering together to make this happen for our community!

Little-known fact: I used to be the Literacy Coordinator at a YMCA before- and after-school program when we lived in North Dakota. I am VERY passionate about reading good books to my children. Teaching them to read and reading good books myself (so they see me enjoying learning) are on the top of my educational goals for them. So this should be fun!

We received some Alpha-Bits cereal in the mail. The kids are always excited to get a package, but when they found out it was for them, it turned to all-out glee. I asked if I could take pictures of them with their cereal, and Markus started trying to bust into it within seconds. Haha!

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I used to eat Alpha-Bits as a kid, so of course I had to try some. It doesn’t taste quite how a remember it, but thankfully I have my own Post cereal that I treat myself to sometimes: Great Grains. The kids had Alpha-Bits on their yogurt for snack.

The next day we shared some with my friend’s daughter, who doesn’t even know that she’s going to have a library in her front yard soon. The kids did some Snacktivities (fun little word coined by Post) like sorting letters and writing their names. And then they gobbled down handfuls of cereal. :)

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(Markus had trouble finding an “M” in his pile.)
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Next time I think we’re going to separate vowels from consonants before eating, and then I might bring out the big guns: construction paper and glue. So many fun things to do with edible letters!

To learn more about Little Free Library, visit them on Twitter or Facebook or their website.

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I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Markus’s Ninja Turtle 4th Birthday Party

Last summer Markus told me he wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle birthday party. He even went so far as to make decorations and ask me to save them for his party (a portrait of each Ninja Turtle), which I didn’t recall until I pulled out his decorations box.

I didn’t go overboard with decorations, just used some of what we had on hand and bought some balloons and a few streamers. I painted a Leonardo onto the side of a large box and Husband cut him out. That took time, but was free, since I already had all the paint I used. I love it when I can pull off a party on the cheap! Plus, Markus was tickled that I put up all the decorations in the order in which he ALWAYS says their names, as though they are one unit: Raphael-Donatello-Michelangelo-Leonardo. :)

Some obliging family members:

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M’s handmade decorations and one Anja made for him.

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Thanks to Pinterest for supplying most of my ideas!

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Toys make great centerpieces! Not the first time I’ve used that trick. In fact, the 4th of his 4 birthday parties. :)

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Of COURSE we served pizza, because it’s the Ninja Turtles’ favorite food.

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Olympics Party

Back in Summer 2012, we had an Olympics Opening Games party with another family. It was so much fun! A lot of these activities would have to be modified for the 2014 Sochi Games (at least for those of us in states with snow on the ground), but we will probably do a Winter Games shindig, too. I can’t resist. I love the Olympics!

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We had special foods,

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games including bean bag toss, water balloon target practice, long jump, and relays,

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a torch run,

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and a tasty craft,

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and even a medals ceremony.

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I hope this gives you a little inspiration (and there is surely much more to be found on the internet!) to create your own Olympics-inspired fun for your family or friends!

Markus, 4 years

My darling, sweet-hearted yet fierce little man, today you celebrate your 4th birthday! We want to share all the things about you at this age. You:

  • Are still the biggest, fastest, tallest, strongest boy anywhere….according to YOU. Your intensity is humorous now, but someday will be a great strength, we’re sure of it!
  • Like typical “kid foods” like pizza, burgers, mac and cheese (“with peas, Mama, not broccoli”), but when pressed (read: offered a dessert) you will eat a salad. But you don’t want anything to do with sauces or dressings. Nothing other than ketchup or honey, please and thank you.
  • Have become very verbal about your love. You have always been physically demonstrative, offering hugs and kisses freely, but in the past couple of months you have started saying “I love you” very often. It is such a day-brightener to be going about the business of laundry or butt-wiping or bed-making and have a munchkin run up, grab your leg, say “I love you,” and then run off. The fact that we receive such displays multiple times per day, rather than water down the meaning, only sweetens the deal. We love you, too, Buddy!
  • Have a couple of nicknames that still cling: Buddy (common for any boy your age, I’m sure), Boofy, Boofery-bock (don’t ask), Markus-pie (a bit feminine, but you don’t mind yet), Barkle-berry (again with the weirdness).
  • Have learned your letters by sight and are starting to put sounds to the letters. You have diligently taken up teaching yourself to write, and are getting quite good at a lot of letters. Considering how much of my time your sister’s schooling takes, it is wonderful to have a motivated self-starter as a second child.
  • Are VERY into ninjas, Ninja Turtles, Cars (as in the movie characters), Chuck & Friends, and really anything to do with battle and/or vehicles. You also adore biking and playing outside. You got a new pedal-bike for your birthday, and I have a feeling there will be a repeat of what happened with Uncle and me this summer: You and Anja will learn to ride two-wheelers concurrently. :)
  • Are seemingly fearless, but also very tender. You jump down 4 stairs at a time, giggle as you tumble, and attack men 8 times your size with gusto, but you also come running to Mama when your feelings are hurt or when you think I am having a hard time with something. I love your tough/tender little self.
  • Are a screamer. This is Daddy’s biggest pet peeve. Your shriek curdles blood, and it’s usually reserved for when you are fighting with Anja. Or if you aren’t getting enough attention.
  • Can talk a blue streak. We have been told since you were one year old how verbal you are, and that has not changed a bit. Probably our two most common reactions to you are your intensity and your verbosity. “He can TALK,” people say, and I follow that with, “All day long.” Since I am an internal processor, it can be very exhausting to listen to you all day long, but I will keep trying to hear you and also try to teach you when it is better to be silent or listen. <3
  • Draw every day. You go through probably 5-10 pieces of paper per day. You’re not as interested in coloring books as you are in making your own creations. They are mostly pencil drawings, but sometimes you need tape and glue and scissors to make your vision a reality. I admire your ability to dive into your work, and I hope that your tendency toward perfectionism won’t hold you back! We love reading your homemade storybooks to you.
  • Saw your first movie in the theater right after Christmas. All four of us went to “Frozen” together. You liked it and were most upset when the snow monster disappeared and when the bad man’s sword broke. Boys!
  • Are learning all the time. You show great interest in building/mechanics, and you will happily sit and read books for hours. It’s so fun to hear the things you retain come out in your play or dinner conversation.
  • Have a great sense of humor. I couldn’t even contrive the hilarious things you say, and you have impeccable timing.
  • Love preschool. You have developed a little crush on a girl named Summer, and you immediately made friends and bonded with a lot of the kids in your class. You’re very outgoing!
  • Started Sunday School and ended nursery. These things make me realize how much you really are turning into a “big boy.” *sniff*

We are blessed to call you our boy, Markus, and we pray that God has big things in store for you!

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Christmas Tour 2013

A couple of times I’ve participated in The Christmas Tour of Homes. In 2008, it was still under BooMama’s jurisdiction. In 2009, it was Nester’s first year hosting the Tour, and I linked up again. Apparently since then I haven’t gotten my tour up in time (may have coincided with the birth of our second child and , so I’m linking to the years I missed as well as putting up a few photos from this year.

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Like most people, I have my old-timey favorite items that I put up every year, but I try to mix it up so things don’t look the same every year.

Mom gave me the little sled this year. So cute!
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Jesse Tree!
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Casual centerpiece with some snowflakes we’d been cutting out that day.
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Balustrade by day.
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Balustrade by night.
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The tree.
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Cute little raccoon Markus gave Anja for Christmas this year
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And then she wanted one with the nativity scene, too. And her doll.
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The kids who live here.
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And the mantel downstairs.
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Love the God Jul sign made by my friend, the owner of Sola Hus, in Moorhead, MN!
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Merry Christmas to you and yours!!