Nature Themed Stamped Muslin Favor Bags

 

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I know we have a lot of readers that are here for the 31 Days Bible series, so sorry if children’s party favors are not your penchant! ;-) I’m hoping to get another post in the series up sometime this week.

I LOVE play based learning, children’s parties, gift giving, and nature. So last year, for my daughter’s birthday, I thought it would be fun to give some fun and educational party favors to her sweet friends (yes, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a year now). Favors that (hopefully) wouldn’t get tossed in the trash after a couple of days, but that would inspire their curiosities and/or be used again and again. I decided to order muslin bags and personalize them with stamps for each of the kids. We’ve had a couple of these muslin bags for a while and my kids use them to collect nature finds or for nature treasure hunts.

Inside each favor bag we included:

  • A cookie-cutter bird feeder (wrapped in wax paper bags that I had on hand). Directions for the bird feeders are here.
  • A magnifying glass. We used these ones.
  • A bird warbler whistle, like these.
  • A granola bar, bubble gum, and fruit leather.

Other fun additions would be a card-stock or laminated nature treasure hunt card, a mini hand-made flower press (like the one seen here), or mini hand-made bird watching journal.

Here are the bags, alphabet stamps (similar), butterfly stamp, feather stamp, and ink we used, but you could use any nature themed stamp you already own.

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Organization…{An issue of the heart}

So I have been working away here at the house trying to get us organized for school and harvest. We have lived in this house now for 9 years. It is the house my husband grew up in and my “other” parents built when he was just a little guy. There are wonderful things about this house—  its front windows to maximize the view, its open ceiling in the living room. Its bones are interesting and charming in many ways but a basement and storage this sweet thing does not have. I have battled these 9 years to make this house “work” for me in that respect.

The fact that my mind is trained to think in a certain way regarding houses (interject Interior Design degree) has probably only complicated the matter—  in that I expect a lot from my space. I know how good things can be when they are designed well and thought-out—  with the needs of the user in mind. It has been a blessing to be able to move here 9 years ago, pretty much gut the main floor, and begin raising our family, but I have never felt like the house is “working” FOR me, you know—  doing what it needs to do to meet the ever-changing needs of either the realities or the dreams that I conjure up!

All that to say, since my girls have gotten older and began to share a room— and we brought Tall Girl home to school and began to live this whole life here—  it has been a challenge to feel like I am not just spending every waking moment managing our stuff!

This is the moment where I do have to say that it isn’t totally my houses fault, :) the accumulation of things has and is an issue for me—  whether books, clothes, vases, or candles. I have a tendency to bring things home… (that is a whole other post!) Over the years I have begun to see the folly of my ways although I am not sure my husband would say things are any better—  but honestly they are—  and so it is with the marrying of these two things: stop buying/bringing home and organizing, that my house and I are beginning to find more of our sweet spot.

I tell you these things because those of us who reside in North America will on some level be dealing with this fine balance of a lovely, full life—  and the simple, practical that tends to be more of a peaceful way of living. We are all at a different place on the spectrum and these are things to take up with Jesus— not so much your neighbor—  but I do feel like I am slowly becoming more open to the simple, less is more approach! (Those who know me intimately may be raising an eyebrow, but again this is a spiritual issue!) :)

OK to the point! My girls are three years apart and in our house we have this lovely large bedroom upstairs where the ceilings slope down because of the rafters and it’s just very fun. Common sense would tell you that two girls sharing a room would best be suited to the large bedroom. So when it was time to move them in together, that is what we did. We made it sweet and cute and they each had their side with a dresser in the middle and voilà—  a lovely room to grow up together in! Well over time it became clear, between the nature of children to collect and the fact that they came from me, their room was taking on a life of its own. There was space and they were going to fill it!

I have always felt that it was important for my kids to learn to take care of their things and that their room was good training ground for them to begin to see what it takes to keep things tidy on a regular basis. I would love for my kids to be better than me and so over the years I have had to work on my habits so that I can train them in good habits—  of what I guess boils down to stewardship.

Now anyone who knows me and comes to see me often will tell you that I am no Martha Stewart, that is for sure. If things are tidy we are calling it pretty clean. But I don’t want my kids to walk out of here at 18 without a work ethic and starting from scratch on how to manage life and things because I always did it or it ever only got done in the fringes of the weekend.

When Sweet Boy  joined our family and we were ready to move him out of our room into a place of his own,  I was in a conundrum again as to how my house could work FOR me. I am calling it an act of God! Ha because what came to me was, “move the girls to the small guest room, move Simon to the big room with the guest bed and—  voilà—  many problems solved.

Most of the “treasures” of the girls would be put in “storage” since their simply wasn’t room. They were each given two small shelves on a four shelf stand and two small wall shelves for their treasures… and if it didn’t fit well then there were decisions to be made. What should stay? What should go? (I am not so mean as to make them throw it all or give it away, they can keep some in storage to rotate through if they please.) This has proved to be a very valuable system and one that keeps the “junk”—  oh I mean treasures—  at bay. They are allowed to have two things on their nightstand, CD player and the turtle that shines stars on the ceiling at night, ahwww.

As for the clothes… this has been a long time coming and more my issue than anyone’s but I think we have figured it out… just buy the basics, a couple of nice outfits, etc. I know this is easier said than done. I’m the first to throw it in the cart, but the reality is we are teaching them with every move we make, everything we buy, and how we spend our time. If the farm has taught me one thing it’s that I actually can live without it! Especially when I don’t know that it’s there! (Read, I live an hour from The Gap.) I began to see that I was teaching my girls to be shoppers, every time we needed to take that trip to the city, and just because we needed to get out of the field! They were perfectly happy to romp around the yard, play dress up and be Picasso. It was my unsettledness that put us in the car off to find whatever it was we were looking for. Because it’s become so much effort (with a little one in the house again) to go to the city, I was able to see the “need” in a new light.

We began to throw all kinds of things in the giveaway bin. Things I loved but they totally didn’t, things that they had 40 of. They don’t want to spend their time managing their things while a barking mom stands over them. I do think its important for our kids to know what is appropriate to wear in certain situations and give them confidence as they grow up to be able to dress for whatever they need to. But I also believe they need us to point them to the most important things in life—  and well, frankly cute clothes just aren’t it! Yikes did I say that out loud?! ☺

The small room that I moved the girls into to share does not have a working closet. It was my husband’s idea to get them a wardrobe. I know he was regretting that when I made him put it together! Can we say love IKEA! Now the girls each have one rod and one drawer to hold their things. The wardrobe has two large drawers and I found these great drawer dividers at Bed Bath and Beyond and now they have three different sections that keep things all separated. One of the things that I have noticed as I have organized the house more and more is that if there is a specific place for something then they have no excuse not to put it back. Also if they don’t have a million things to manage and put away they don’t get discouraged and can keep up with keeping it orderly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Keepin’ it real, pulled it open and took the shot!:) Told you Martha doesn’t live here.)

They now have a shelf in the somewhat unusable closet that has two laundry baskets—  one for whites and the other for everything else. One of the things I would like to get Tall Girl on to, is doing the girls’ laundry. I figure this is the first step. The other thing I recently did was an idea taken from a friend. IKEA sells this and I put it on wheels and then when my kid’s clothes are clean I put them in their bin and they have to take the bin and put their clothes away. We don’t fold much laundry around here. When its clean I usually just put it away from the basket or bin as many things are hung and it never seems to stay folded from the living room table to the bedrooms anyway. So we just take the bins or laundry baskets and fold as we put away. This has worked for me and I don’t feel like I spend much time on it. I love my new little wheelie cart and if there are things of the girls that I know go upstairs I just put it in their bin and then they can put it away and it’s not waiting on the stairs to go up.

There are other things that we have done to pare things down and make life more manageable for all of us, but I will say taking a stance on how much is actually in their room and in their drawers has already proved to be rewarding. They can keep up with it. They seem to know where things are when we are heading out the door and they need this or that. They have room to play and be. They both like this room better.

It has been a long journey to figure out what they need and what I need to give up. I am learning slowly but surly, bigger isn’t better and they are teaching me as I see what they value in life. They remind me of what is important—  time with them, time with others, and hey who doesn’t love less laundry?!

 

Here are a few more items that have helped to make things better around here.

These white or stainless wire shelves that maximize your shelving! I’m lovin’ these things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I picked this up at Target while in the States. I have loved it for my Tupperware drawer!

 

The “Main Things”

Today at my church’s mom’s group, we had one of our pastors give us a pep talk and boy let me tell you, God had the message on an arrow straight to my heart!  His theme was, focusing on the main things.  As a mother of young ones, sometimes I feel like I’m always a day late and a dollar short in the cleaning, meal preparing, busy work tasks of making a home.  I have been feeling really defeated lately, frustrated at why can’t I get it all done, just sort of grumpy about it all most of the time.  But God had encouragement for me in Pastor C’s message today and it was this, “by whose standards are you living? By what expectations are you measuring your “success” as a homemaker?”  My pastor reminded us that God clearly lays out some priorities for us in scripture and here are the top two: Loving Him, Loving others as ourselves (Husband first, then children, then the family of God, then those who are lost).  Nowhere in this list do we find “Martha Stewart house pristinely clean at all times” or “perfectly fit body outfitted in the latest clothes and hairstyle”.  Those priorities come from our culture, not from Him.  And yet it hit me this morning as I was listening to the message, these are things that most often have me feeling inadequate and defeated.  I tell my children, “just a minute” about 100 times a day as I scurry around to clean a house that never gets fully clean.  It’s like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing!  Pastor C assured us that this doesn’t mean we neglect the tasks of cleaning and taking care of ourselves, what it means is that we don’t push the more important things aside to accomplish them.  He also encouraged us in the way we greet our husbands when they come home.  He asked us if we barrage our men with complaints about how hard the day was and all we didn’t get done and need help with or if we focus on loving and welcoming him home first and simply asking for help instead of playing the poor me card to earn his sympathy.  Ouch!  Boy do I do this more than I’d like to admit.  As I was thinking about it today, it’s like I feel the need to paint a sad story of my day in order to excuse the fact that I didn’t get everything done according to MY list.  When really, Travis knows what I’m facing, he knows that we are in a weary season of our lives and that I can’t be super woman.  But I think what it is is that I WANT to be, so badly!  My own desire to be perfect at everything puts me in a grouchy, complaining, defeated mood and it’s just sin, plain and simple.  When I am focusing on the “main” things, as pastor C put it, those other things will be seen with the right perspective.

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

My children won’t remember how clean the house was or wasn’t, but they will remember the time I spend with them, doing things together, laughing, enjoying them, reading the Word together and praying.  But if I’m not careful they will also remember a mama who’s constantly stressing about all she has to accomplish and how she made them feel like they were always in the way of those accomplishments.  So what’s the balance?  Well, here’s a list of what I think homemaking is and isn’t.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but these are what ring true at the moment:

  1. Homemaking IS creating a place of refuge and peace for our families, which I think includes a certain level of cleanliness and organization.  Homemaking IS NOT, a perfectly clean and organized home at all times at the expense of lost quality time with the very family we are trying to create a refuge for.
  2. Homemaking IS living by right priorities with our time and energy, which can mean limiting or eliminating those things that threaten to take the tops spots.  Homemaking IS NOT holding ourselves to impossible standards or comparing ourselves to other moms who are gifted differently.
  3. Homemaking IS filling up our tanks with time with Jesus and His Word, praying throughout the day for His strength and perspective which will overflow into our families.  Homemaking IS NOT trying to do it on our own strength.  Our standards and priorities never work like His do and we can do nothing well on an empty tank.
  4. Homemaking IS preparing healthy, tasty food for our families.  Homemaking IS NOT nightly gourmet meals.  Gourmet chefery never makes an appearance on God’s priority list, only on the food network’s.
  5. Homemaking IS refueling ourselves with retreats of rest and joyful activities (the most important being time with the Lord).  Homemaking IS NOT feeling entitled to selfish pursuits or allowing ourselves to be completely derailed by laziness and selfish hobbies.
  6.  Homemaking IS having a plan.  Homemaking IS NOT feeling completely defeated when daily life doesn’t go according to it.  God’s plans are always better than ours, even when they make us feel uncomfortable.
  7. Homemaking IS including the whole family in cleaning and the work that needs to be done, expecting that perfection will not happen, but pride in contributing will.  Homemaking IS NOT feeling like you have to do it all without asking for help.  Everyone can do something , don’t play the poor martyr by doing it all.
  8. Homemaking IS practicing hospitality.  Homemaking IS NOT needing a clean home before you do it.  Be a Mary and not a Martha as the saying goes.

What is God teaching you about focusing on the “main things”?  What things would you add to this list?  Sisters, we need each other!  Not the perfect façade we may want others to see, but the real us that knows fancy words and appearances will never get us to the good stuff of true sisterhood.