Cleaning House…the bane of my existence

The other day I was taking a mental break while Little O spread his crayons all over the living room floor. Not to worry, I said to myself, we’ll clean them up later. Later came and I was faced with a defiant two-year-old and a short temper. I recall thinking to myself, “are you really losing it over a few crayons on the floor?” I think I really lost it for a couple of reasons. The first was that I felt Little O was purposefully ignoring me. Since he is only two, this wasn’t what was going on. He was merely continuing to explore his world and have fun. He couldn’t understand why mom was getting upset. The second reason that contributed to my ire was that I had an agenda to meet that wasn’t being met. I wanted a clean house. I crave a clean house. I NEVER get a clean house. Maybe never is too strong a word. My sweet husband helps me clean the house from top to bottom when I have come to the end of my tolerance with dirt, and he is generally very helpful doing routine things like laundry and dishes.

However, the cleanliness and order in my house is usually below the standard that will keep me stress-free. I contribute to a large part of the chaos: I’m not the most organized person, I find it very difficult to complete any task when I have to constantly switch from task to task (something which has become a constant state of being since becoming a mother), and I simply would rather do other things than housework. So I do contribute to my own irritation, but I have found that this has exponentially increased since I now live with two other people, one of them a toddler.

Anyway, after apologizing to Little O for losing my temper, I called my older sister for some mom-to-mom chat and mostly for advice. I was wondering if I’d ever be able to patiently put aside my needs while caring for my little one. She gave me two great pieces of advice. She said the thing that helped her the most was that her kids grew up. This wasn’t the advice I was expecting; I was really hoping for a great piece of wisdom that would give me the ability to snap my fingers and grow all the patience in the world. What I learned was that we all have our buttons that get pushed sometimes, and you just have to anticipate that they’ll be pushed, find a way to gracefully navigate through the rough spots and look forward to a time when they won’t be constantly pushed. Little O will be on to other buttons, I’m sure.

The second thing that she said was this:

“Cleaning the house when the kids are growin’ is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowin’.”

I laughed. and laughed. and laughed. I got the hint. I need to realize that while I DO need to clean the house while my kids are small, the effort spent will be undone almost as soon as it gets accomplished. I think the reasons for cleaning the house while the kids are young is to teach them to be clean, not necessarily to have a clean house. Point taken. So Emilie, grab some serenity and let go of having a spotless house. That will come eventually. Right now it’s still snowing, and it won’t stop for another 16 years or so.


OilCloth covered card table

card table before

It all started when my mom found a few cheap folding chairs. Then she found a dozen free folding chairs. Her collection grew until she had about 20 chairs. I decided I needed to adopt four of the chairs and one of her three folding tables and make a cute outdoor set.

The stipulation was that she could borrow them back when she needed them for a party. (WHEN, I ask, is my mom going to entertain 20+ guests at her house? I don’t know. But she can borrow them whenever she likes. Thanks, mom!)

The first step was choosing fabric for the table. I love fabric, so settling on one option was difficult indeed. There were so many fun laminated cottons and oilcloths that it took me at least two weeks to decide what to use. A favorite from Japanese designer Etsuko Furuya, seen here, will probably be featured when I do another table.

In the end I decided on a lovely lime green oil cloth featuring colorful mums.

lime green mum oilcloth

I know, it’s worlds away from the Furuya fabric, but I had to go with something that would coordinate with what my mom would like on her tables. It was also at least half the price of the other stuff.

The first step in this process was sanding and painting the chairs and table. I unscrewed the top of the table from the legs (very easy to do), and took everything out to the garage to work on sanding. I really just focused on roughing up the surface and sanding away any rust. Please note: you SHOULD use a ventilator while doing this. About half-way through with the chairs I realized that they I was were from the 1940’s and the paint likely contained lead. Oops.

Once the chairs were sanded, I spray painted them with Rust-oleum paint in various colors. (I think they were Colonial Red, Aubergine, Paprika, and Claret Wine, all in a satin finish.)

rust-oleum paint

Spray painting was a bit tricky-I found that the best coverage came with even, sweeping strokes, never dwelling on one spot. If you stop and spray in one area, that’s when the paint starts dripping. It’s especially difficult to do this using dark colors on a light base and painting very narrow table legs. Just keep the can moving–that’s my best tip. I used about one can per chair, and another can on the table. If you are better with spray paint than I am, you probably won’t need as much.

Re-upholstering the top was pretty simple. Once the old cover was removed, I just put the board down on the back of my fabric and trimmed, making sure to leave enough fabric around the edge to wrap all the way around the edge of the table, with a couple of inches to spare so that I had something to grip when I was pulling the fabric tight.

trimming the cloth

I did use some thin quilt batting between the table top and the oilcloth to give it a bit of cushion. The batting I cut flush with the edge of the table. Instead of stapling the oilcloth onto the board, I used a glue gun to glue it down. I chose this method simply because I couldn’t find staples short enough. The smallest ones I could find were 1/4 inch, and the table top is a bit less than 1/4 inch, so the staples would have come through the top of the card table.

I glued one side down, waited for it to dry, and then pulled the other side tight and glued that down. Once that side was dry, I did the other two sides. Once everything was dry, I did another row of glue (I laid it on thick) around the whole table and then trimmed the extra fabric. Then I screwed the top onto the legs and this is what the finished table looks like:

finished table

Isn’t it pretty? Just right for a summer evening dinner.

I really love how my Fiesta Ware looks with it.

Fiesta Ware




Morning Devotional

As part of my effort to live my life with more intention, I started a morning devotional with my son. It takes about 5 or 10 minutes, but so far has been a welcome addition to our mornings.

Let me tell you that mornings are NOT my forte. When I was in pre-school, my mom said I was so slow in the mornings I’d frequently miss school. In elementary school I’d usually be in my pajamas when my best friend showed up to walk to school together. I’d usually end up walking alone. My youngest sister says the chore she dreaded getting assigned was waking me up in the morning. At my first job out of college, my colleagues would say “don’t talk to Emilie before ten in the morning!” So let’s just say I’m very slow to wake up and put on my happy face.

Since I have this little challenge, I feel like it’s important for me to be awake at least an hour before Little O so that I’m a bit more pleasant when I get him out of bed. That way I can do my own personal prayers and study and do a few things that I want to do without toddler-style interruptions. This effort has been hit-and-miss. I’ll report more on that later.

However, the morning devotional has added some cheer into our mornings and as a bonus Little O has started memorizing some scriptures! (He just turned two.)

The morning devotional consists of 1) singing songs, 2) saying a scripture (we recite the same scripture for a whole week before we move on to another one), and 3) a morning prayer.

Generally I let Little O pick the songs; he either names them or we look through our Primary Songbook and he stops at a picture he likes. I sing them mostly off-tune and sometimes with a made-up tune since I’m not very good at sight-singing songs. This lasts anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. Then we do our scripture, reciting it at least once, and sometimes more. I ask him to repeat as much as he can. Then we do our kneeling prayer and that’s it!

It’s a first attempt for me at a real morning ritual and a schedule for our day, and so far Little O and I really love it. I think it adds an important bit of connection with him at the beginning of the day, it helps us get our routine of morning prayer and scripture study going at an early age, and since it is part of our schedule it helps him transition to the “next thing.”

Have you ever done a morning devotional? What worked for you?



Shapes inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

I love Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral sculptures. I feel like they are so in tune with the environment and that he has such an incredible understanding of his surroundings and its changing elements. I did a lesson on Andy Goldsworthy with high school students several years ago, and I’m not sure they were as impressed with him as I was. I decided to introduce him to our toddler group and see what they thought.

We started by watching a clip from the documentary Rivers and Tides, just to get them thinking about using leaves, sticks, and rocks to make art. Here is the clip:

We talked about the shapes that Andy made with his materials. The kids identified lines and circles and “pinecones.” They loved the hole in Andy created with the rowan leaves at the end of the video. Then we went outside to find some materials. I’ll admit that it was a little difficult to keep them on task–they wanted to turn on the hose, play in the sandbox, and generally just wander off instead of look for interesting things in the yard.

looking for material

When we had collected enough material, we found a shady spot on the driveway to make our arrangements. Since I was working with a group of children ages 2-4, I decided that completing a simple arrangement on the concrete would be challenging enough, and I was right. I first asked them if they could sort the materials by size. This (sort of) worked, with a couple of the kids catching on, and the younger ones crushing things or checking out the garbage can.

contemplating the material

After they had finished sorting, we talked about what shapes we could make. The first suggestion and successful attempt was a triangle, with Miss L making this:


The next discovery was that some rose petals were really shaped like hearts:

heart-shaped petals

And she decided to make them into a circle.

petal circle

C-man arranged his smooth leaves in an arch by size:

arranging leaves

Even though this project took a bit more coaching than I would have liked during the collecting phase and ended rather quickly once we actually started arranging materials, I still think it was a success. The kids really liked identifying the shapes and materials that Andy Goldsworthy used in the film, and they were proud of the shapes they made from their materials. Little O even requested to watch more of the “holes” movie later in the afternoon.

We’ll try this again when the kids are a bit older; I think it would go over very well with 6-8-year-olds.






Printmaking is something that I have always wanted to do; yet I’ve never taken the leap and signed up for a class. All of my knowledge about printmaking is self-taught, but I’ve discovered that some kinds of printing are pretty accessible. Monoprinting is especially easy, and this version will have you and your kids churning out prints in no time.

You probably have all of the items you need to do a monoprint in your cupboards right now. Here is what you need:

  • a piece of corrugated cardboard
  • aluminum foil
  • painter’s tape or masking tape
  • tempera paint (or any kid’s paint)
  • a paintbrush or foam brush
  • cotton swabs
  • paper for your print

Start by wrapping your piece of cardboard in aluminum foil. I didn’t measure our cardboard pieces, but they are around 8×10 inches. Make sure you keep the aluminum foil smooth as you wrap the cardboard. Next, tape out a smaller square or rectangle on your foil-wrapped board. Make the square smaller than the paper that you will be using for your print. Use the foam paintbrush to cover the square with paint. Wipe any excess paint from the tape if you want a nice clean edge on your print.

removing paint with swab

Now comes the fun part! Let your child draw in the painted area with a cotton swab. This will remove some of the paint. When your child is satisfied, press your paper over the top, pull, and admire your print.

pressing the print

After we did our “negative impression” prints, we wiped the boards clean with a cloth and let the kids draw on the boards with paint for a “positive impression” print.

You’ll find that your kids will want to experiment with this process…it’s easy to let them try out as many versions of the process as they can think up because the boards are really easy to clean and re-use.

negative and positive monoprints

Let’s Paint a Rainbow

Color Game

What kid doesn’t love a rainbow? After seeing this wonderful project on, I decided that we needed to work some rainbows into our art group. We did two activities. The first activity was a color recognition activity which included some gross-motor skills. I drew a bunch of chalk circles on the driveway and each child chose a circle. Then I called out colors, and they were supposed to jump or hop to the color that I called out. The goal was to make it to the rainbow on the wall, but the kids just had fun jumping around from circle to circle.

The art part of this activity was a direct borrow from two-daloo. I love finding great ideas online. I found a $2 board at the “last chance” section at IKEA and used that to make the “rainbow.” The kids loved painting on it and crawling through the tunnel.

painting the rainbow

crawling through the rainbow

They loved this so much we may have to break it out again soon.

Sweet Father’s Day Silhouettes


Every Father’s Day I struggle to figure out what gifts to give to my husband, father, and father-in-law. I think the men in my life are difficult to shop for, but part of that reason is because they don’t really have a desire to add more “stuff” into their lives. For that, I am blessed. Father’s Day gifts typically consist of a sentimental note, an inexpensive gift of favorite candy, and most recently, mementos of Little O’s handiwork.

This year I decided that a silhouette would be a sweet gift to honor the fathers in my life. My husband will adore this, I think, and Little O’s grandfathers desperately need one of these for their office desks.

pink silhouette

These silhouettes are more that the typical black and white; we incorporated a piece of the child’s artwork as the silhouette itself. I love them so much! Little brushstrokes and fingerprints adorn the surface of the child’s form. I think they capture each child’s energy and personality and give the silhouette a little bit more of the child’s essence.

To make them, begin with a painting that you are willing to cut up. If you don’t have one, let your child do one with finger paints, tempera paints, or watercolor paints. Be sure to paint on a sheet of watercolor paper or other heavyweight paper.

Next, take a profile photo of your child. Print an 8×10, cropping in your computer’s photo editing software to enlarge the child’s outline if necessary. Cut out the profile image. Place the image on top of your child’s artwork, and trace around the image.

cutting image

Cut out the artwork profile following your traced line. Next, glue the artwork profile onto a black or dark blue piece of 8×10 card stock. Frame, wrap, and give to your favorite father!

green silhouette

They are so sweet, don’t you think?