Banner Love

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I am a 'fill the walls with any and every- thing" type of person.  
Blank wall space actually makes me nervous:).  
So there is a little irony in the fact that years ago I fell in love with an A-frame house.
Almost every wall is on a steep angle. 
Try hanging things on the inside of a triangle. 
It doesn't work too well.

I have resorted to banners. 
They are super easy to make and fill in the places that need a little color and decorating love. 

The simplest ones to make just require card stock, two sided tape, and twine.  
The nice thing for us crafty folks is the amount of scrap paper we have lying around, perfect for this type of project!
I wanted a really plain colored banner with pops of animal print for our bedroom, so it cost maybe 5 bucks of cardstock and a whole 10 minutes to make:).  
So easy!

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I also have quite a few fabric ones hanging around.  
They are a bit more time consuming to make since I have to drag out the sewing machine...
But, seriously.
It is still so easy and can be made to match any decor style...
And who doesn't love fabric shopping? 
(I do. I do. I do.  I don't even care if it is the lamest thing ever. Fabric stores are happy places.)

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So the next time you need a little pop of color in your craft room or living space, pull out your paper stash, tape, and twine.  
Add a few strands of twinkle lights. 
It will transform into a perfectly magical space:).

Even if you live in a triangle.
With sexy, faux wood panelling.


Stamp and Video Giveaway!

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It is nice to start the week off by giving something away:).

I have the newest set of Saturated Canary rubber stamps (5 total) and a coloring video by Jennifer Dove to give to one follower.

Both gifts.
One winner.

**You must be a follower of this blog to win (see my sidebar).
**Please comment on this post~ What is your favorite SC stamp?
Giveaway closes Friday, September 12.
International followers are welcome to enter.

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Good luck and happy Monday!


Homeschooling~ Year 2, Curriculum, What We've Learned, and How We've Changed...

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Last year at this time, we were starting out on the first year of homeschooling 
with big expectations, 
no gauges to mark our progression by, 
zero experience, 
and no fully-formulated 'homeschooling philosophy' 
from which our expectations and goals could flow out of.  

Three days in, three of us were sitting in a circle on Niamh's bedroom floor crying our eyes out.

Over the following weeks and months, we fell into our groove.  
I carved out a lot of learning time for myself.
I needed to learn what things I was very passionate about teaching my children.
What things I needed to learn patience in teaching (e-hem, math and spanish).
I learned what parts of our curriculum did not work.
I learned that there are maybe like 1 million different curriculums out there.
And as many homeschooling philosophies to match.
I learned that Philly is great at math and actually enjoys drawing.
And Niamh is an avid reader and picks up Spanish very quickly.
I learned that I teach math too loud (and with a mean face sometimes). 
And that the kids immensely enjoyed the one or two times a week when dad would substitute teach for an hour.

I think this summer has been just as profitable. 
I have spent quite a bit of time creating in my mind our homeschooling philosophy. 
~~That thing our expectations can grow from, so that this year we aren't ashamed and crying three days into it, because we met NONE of our glorious goals for the first (and subsequent) week(s). 

I have also talked with two other (awesome) homeschooling moms in particular, who have more years under their belts and better knowledge of the options and help out there.
I'm not sure if there is anything that helps more~listening to what works for other homeschoolers, what has shaped their methods and choice in curriculum,  and where they look to enhance their kids learning and development.  
I like that these two mother's approaches are world's apart...and that maybe I fall somewhere in the murky middle...but that they spent the time answering my questions~ and the advice and time they offered has been a huge help to me this summer.
I've been asked what curriculum we use quite a few times over the last year...
This is a quick glance over our upcoming year...
which is very, very different than the all-in-one curriculum we purchased last summer.
I think, on the whole, it is way better for our particular homeschooling needs and goals.

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Spanish~ Rosetta Stone
love.love.love RS. 

Philly needs to master his multiplication and division in the beginning of the year.  He is very good at math, so will move onto a 4th grade workbook soon after.  
Niamh is using a pre-algebra textbook I ordered from Amazon. 

We are continuing to use last year's spelling bookbecause I like the approach to mastering EVERY word before moving on.  This is Philly's first year using this spelling book.

Latin~ Prima Latina
Listening to the pro's of studying latin from another mama whose kids are learning it convinced... Phil.  I needed more persuasion:).  My mom's school also teaches it, and she had only good things to say, too. 
Hello, first year of Latin.  

History~ Shaping our history lessons from this text. 

Science~ We teach our kids from an evolutionary-creationist belief.  
That means we fully believe that God created and sustains, moment-to moment, everything we see around us.  We are created in His image and have a sinful nature.  We believe that God created through evolution because that is what the natural world around us clearly reveals.  

We have started (end of last year) to use a book on evolution and Darwin's life to explore this with our kids.  Having been raised in a church and Christian school that only offered a 6-day creation view point, and seeing a world in drastic conflict with that story of creation, I want to offer my kids a Biblical worldview that comes alongside science in a way that will not require them to choose between Jesus or good science.  

This is perhaps my favorite part of homeschooling, because it is difficult to find science resources for kids that are Bible-informed and yet scientifically relevant.  Basically, I don't want my children feeling the pressure from an unnecessary dichotomy of science or faith.  

I focused much of my energy into this over the last year, reading really good books on evolution, creation, and the first chapters in Genesis.  I also turned to others more knowledgeable than myself (pastors and Bible professors) for their views and advice.

This is one of the things I am most passionate about as a person and follower of Jesus~ relieving the ridiculous pressures on our children that somehow our creation beliefs (how things were made) are directly linked to the validity of our salvation. 
I am thankful that because we homeschool, we get to teach our kids the latest science with a deep appreciation for the Creator behind it ALL.

Here are a few of the most challenging and rewarding reads (my faith was deepened and enriched) over the last year.  I have lots more to share...but I can't fit it all into one homeschooling blog post:). 

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Using this recommended set for Philly.
And this one for Niamh.

Phil reads with the kids nightly (we pick those books:).
He is currently reading The Princess and the Goblin. 
Niamh and Philly work their way through various chapter books as well.
This series is especially fun while being educational, and they have read many of the books already.

Phil takes the music upon himself.  He loves talking bands and music with the kids, and he does a great job exposing them to all kinds of musical tastes and genres.  
Art is mine;).  My favorite thing to do with them is a nature walk with sketchpads and pencils/watercolors.  Sometimes we combine a lesson and draw/paint a song~ the end result is usually pretty interesting:).  

Everything we do and learn stems from our faith in Jesus Christ.  Besides reading Scripture as a family daily, we enjoy keeping 'Gift' notebooks, learning Scripture from tattoos, and integrating Gospel conversations throughout our day together.  We did spend a lot of time reading about famous missionaries last year as part of our curriculum...This year, we'd like to emphasize what a life lived for Christ really looks like in practice.  The beauty of educating our own children often grows out of the things we are continually learning as parents...it is a sharing process between us and them.  I love that we are always together, learning many things as a family unit.

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Some of the things we use:

Myndololgy notecards for recording daily "gifts".
A journal for me to write down ideas, notes, to-do lists, etc. while the kids are working.

**Yoobi gives one product for every one that you buy to a classroom in need here in the US.

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The Self Propelled Advantage was recommended to me for good reading this summer, too.  Talk about a new way to view homeschooling!  I love the approach explored in this book.  We bought the student planners as well.  I know this is especially going to be a huge self-motivating force to Niamh this year, as she already enjoys being 'in charge' of herself:).  Highly recommend this for other homeschooling mamas still figuring out their 'homeschooling philospohy'!!

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So how do I put into words our approach to homeschooling now?

We want to be equipping highly motivated, self-learners to master a variety of subjects as well as pursue with passion their own hobbies, interests, and talents.  We want to guide them in forming their own Biblical worldview while studying and engaging in the world around them.  We want to encourage Gospel conversations and live with freed hearts, fully committed to following Jesus Christ.  

Here is to the new school year, new things learned, and a clean slate ahead of us.
We wish the best to you and your family/kiddos for the school year as well!! 

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Instagram Art;

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I've mentioned before that my favorite social media tool is Instagram.  I enjoy seeing people's lives (even if they are polished up and beautifully edited) through their square photos.  It is probably the most visually inspiring place for me... and following people that inspire me is where my art often starts.  There are a ton of amazing "photographers" (using that term loosely, as most are not actual real-life photographers) on IG capturing everything from their morning latte to their kids' quirky style~ and everything in between~ who transfer their own creativity through perfectly executed photo captures. 

I have started to draw from my favorite IG feeds once a week.  It is a good way for me to practice digital art from a place that I enjoy browsing anyway.  I always ask permission before illustrating based on another person's photo; and then send that print snail mail as a 'thank you.'

These are my first two:
Top piece is from @ever_and_willa called "Everleigh and Willamina".
The artwork below is from @pics_missmaya and is called "Waiting for Pancakes".
I did them in two different styles, as I learn to use the brushes a little better for adding color... 
I like sketchy art like the one above...because it feels messy and sketch-pad-ish.  
The pancakes piece is more refined... but I am pretty pleased with it (compared to the first pieces I colored in a month ago:)
... I actually love this one:).

You can follow along my random IG artwork @kristacanary...
I'm still deciding on my next feed to draw from...decisions, decisions;).

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The goal is to put a nice portfolio together with the end result someday being a children's book. 
It is always about moving forward with your craft...
Planning things out to help you achieve a future goal, even if that is a slow process with far-away results...
Plugging along in ways that keep you inspired, motivated, and always practicing!

Happy Thursday, friends!


Project Life, August

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Project Life catch up from early August through this week~
And I still have two or three more pages to finish, but this week was too busy to get them all knocked out.

Niamh turned 11 this month (whaaaat?!), and we celebrated with a Yankees-themed birthday party this past Sunday.  Our kids are obsessed with the Yankees (they check baseball highlights first thing every morning)...So this was a really fun party to plan!  We even had a big family whiffle ball game.  

This month we went to the Philadelphia Zoo with friends and had a total blast.  We searched the whole zoo over for sloths~ and found two different ones!  Philly was on cloud nine:).  

We switched our bedroom with Philly's room...so we sleep right across the hallway from the kids now.  Which means they sneak over in the mornings after Phil leaves for work, and we all snuggle and watch tv for a while.  (We do share the room with Philly's guinea pigs.  But they only squeal in the mornings, so our roomies are working out okay so far.)

I am gearing up for another year of homeschooling.  I am excited about the coming year, because we have made so many changes in our curriculum. I'll post about it later in the week~ I think this year will be awesome! 

Phil and Niamh were reading The Giver together the past two weeks, and they just finished up yesterday.  We all headed over to the theater last night, so they could compare the book and movie.  It was 'their thing'~ but Philly and I got to tag along and enjoy the conversations about characters and plot:).  Now they are planning to start The Princess and the Goblin.  

Is there anyone else out there looking forward to Boxtrolls??  Philly and I can't wait~ Niamh already said she refuses to see that 'creepy movie.'  (She was scarred for life from Coraline, and I think this is made by the same people?)  Anyhow... it is a mom and son date in September, for sure.  

That is a peek into August with a few pages of photos, too.  I love collecting all the PL journal cards~ but am still trying to figure out a good storage solution.  Any tips would be appreciated... Also, does anybody organize them into categories??... Mine are stored in photo boxes (uncategorized), and I pull them all out every time I work on pages (which is a little annoying:).  I need help:).

Thanks for stopping by today!
Don't forget to grab a free iPhone5 wallpaper on my sidebar before you leave!!

Happy Tuesday!


Why Jesus Would Accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge~

I had no idea what the ice bucket Facebook posts were all about (just hadn’t taken the time to pay much attention to them or watch any.) Until my kiddos were tagged in one as nominees. 

The kids, Phil, and I watched three little kids standing in a tub, ages 9, 8, and 5, talking about ALS.  Then the count down by the parents, the icy water (the littlest guy was wearing a bicycle helmet~ which made this video like 10x cooler), and finally the screams and laughing. 

But it wasn’t just a random act of crazy.
Or an altruistic video of another family succumbing to social media peer pressure. 

The parents took the time to talk ALS with the kids.
Each of the children donated their own money to ALS.
And the parents matched their donation to another charity (for MS). 

In between all that good parenting and using a social media craze to educate themselves and their kids, the video grabbed my attention, too.  (Of course, because I was tagged in it.) 

Up until that tag, ALS was not on my charity radar as far as giving money.
That is not to say we didn’t know about the disease or have an idea of how it affects others.  My kids can tell you more about past Yankee’s players than a sportscaster on ESPN…so, Lou Gehrig’s name is in our normal conversations more times than the word “tastykake.”  Which, for two little kids, might be slightly abnormal.  But, it is true.

The reality is that I would not have donated to ALS without this (stupid, annoying, Facebook-feed-hungry…call it what you want) ice bucket challenge.  But we did donate~ and we soaked the kids.  Why the hell not?  We’ve never had a great excuse to take them in the backyard and pour ice all over them. 

The ice bucket challenge was on my radar at this point, so I started seeing the ALS Ice Bucket Backlash. I read lots of articles from both sides of the argument (even got side-tracked into medical journal reading about embryonic stem cell research*).  And if you ever want to get really pissed off at 230am, look up lots of anti-ice-bucket-challenge hashtags on Facebook.  (See #2)

From what I can tell, the arguments against the challenge come on two different levels:

1.  People who have family ties to this disease (loved ones have died because of it) who are offended at the fundraising’s concept (donate, but if you don’t want to, dump water on yourself and video tape it) and the blind participation by some people who just want to join a social media activism craze (but who really don’t know and don’t care about ALS). 

These concerns are real and absolutely warranted~ and yes, there probably is a (much) better structure for this type of fundraising/raising awareness… but, because we aren’t there yet, intelligent people will recognize that this ice bucket challenge is making a huge-HUGE- difference for ALS research funding this year. We all need to consider the perspective of the people closest to this disease, though.  And, at least from the articles I read, they are leary of the means, but thankful for the end result.

2.  Then there are the people who backlash every social media craze.  These are the hastaggers that had my blood boiling last night.  Because they can’t see the forest for the trees.  And the worst part about it?  Many of them are my brothers/sisters in Christ. 

They site things like~

No one knows why they are pouring water on themselves; it is a peer pressure/popularity thing (which makes this morally wrong).

Wet T-shirts never looked so holy.

What about the kids in Africa who don’t have clean water while you waste yours.

What about other causes and issues right now that you are NOT so aggressively raising awareness for? (that one usually has a political slant on it, FYI)

And my favorite and most moronic one of all:  Only give to the causes that have the highest rates of diagnosis. 

I can’t finish this post up without quickly addressing all of these. 

While I agree that if a person’s motivation by participating in the ALS ice bucket challenge (and even donating) is to gain popularity, it is not a “charitable” act by definition.  However, if I had ALS or, worse, one of my kids or my husband, I’d be happy to put up with the clueless, peer-pressure failures in order to raise both the money and awareness that has been built up in July and August for ALS. There is never, ever, ever going to be a perfect way for everyone in the world to be charitable without some heart issues being askew in that endeavor.  Someone might be donating while shining the spotlight on that contribution.  Let’s side with the many who AREN’T and who talk to their kids about ALS and who donate quietly on their laptop at work and who post a video and who care about sick people

because they are doing what Jesus’ whole life was about: Caring for the LEAST of these. 

The ice bucket challenge by nature is silly and ridiculous.  And sure, it clogs your facebook feed with stupid videos of people in wet clothing.  Chances are, you watch none of them (until you are tagged).  Here is the thing: page views on the ALS Association’s site were up 8500% during the first 17 days of August.  You might only appreciate this stat if you have an online shop or blog—so, let me clue you in.  That is INSANE.  If some act of abnormal behavior gained an organization a small increase in awareness, most people would say that might just be worth it (i.e., a marathon in high heels, a three day walk, etc.)…but to create a national wave of awareness around a disease that literally affects only two in every 100,000 people by taking 30 seconds to dump water on yourself or your kids?  Let’s call a spade a spade:  it is easy, and it is working.

The kids who don’t have clean drinking water argument:  when you find a way to get the water that would have been in your bucket for the challenge all the way to kids in third world countries, skip the challenge and do that.  I agree, that would be a better immediate use of your water (but still donate to ALS).  Also, remember to include the water in your third cup of coffee, your dishwasher, the kiddie pool in your backyard, your sprinkler system, and your daily shower. 

I can’t even address the “what about other causes…there are lots of other diseases, you know?” or “rates of highest diagnosis” arguments.  Mother Theresa put my colorful thoughts into profound prose:

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

Also, read Jesus in Luke 10:25-37.

You don’t need to choose ALL the charities at once… and you really don’t need to cleverly pull hairs and preach from your legalistic soapbox about who is deserving of your attention.  Starting small and close works best.  If your tagged in the ALS challenge, I can’t imagine a more in-your-face opportunity to do something worth while today. 

If this was all the rage in the first century, and John the Baptist did the ice bucket challenge (because you know he would) and nominated Jesus, would He participate? 

I think so.

Jesus' death and resurrection are crucial and at the forefront of his work~ but He lived and ministered on earth, too.  He did not come to just die for my sins.  He lived.  He laughed.  He taught.  He served.  He is subversive and revolutionary in His approach to everything religious. 

The first time he stated His life mission he said this: 

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,

Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,

To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

And then He spent his whole ministry in the trenches,
alongside people who didn’t have a clue…
His closest friends and followers were often like the people dumping water
On their heads, but who know nothing about the reason why.
Jesus always worked beauty through the broken down places in his relationships, culture, and society. 
All the time,
giving us Kingdom glimpses of
what perfect justice and love and wisdom looks like.

We won’t get there~ to the perfection place, I mean. 
Not in this lifetime.
But I believe that God works in things that go viral.
He works in the unseen places, too.
Unfortunately, I think church people can at times really muddy-up those places
With intentions that stem from a selective form of following Christ.
If you are going to follow Jesus,
You need to live for all the things He lived for.
I think He would always choose the justice act
Whether that takes the form of dumping water on your head and donating to ALS
Or treating illegal immigrants with grace, love, and understanding
Or working for clean water in places that have none
Or walking three days for breast cancer
Or sending your last $5 to an organization that you love…
Better yet, continuing to sponsor children despite what type of lifestyle its employees choose to live. 
Because the Jesus acts of love and awareness and donating and justice don’t need to look shiny, neat, or even unworldly.
Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors for God’s sake.
We are to be in the world~
Immersed in our society and culture…
But living with a Kingdom heart and vision.
That is the piece that will set you apart.

Until you can accept viral acts of stupidy that result in significant acts of care for the sick and see that with the heart of Christ~then you will continue to sell your Creator way short.

And your heart will be locked in a place that has very little to do with the actual life of Christ.

"The best word for Jesus' dream is that he wanted it to go viral. Jesus launched his kingdom dream at a wedding with friends and family. He didn't march into Jerusalem on a white horse or sail off to Rome to topple the powers that be. Instead, he set up shop at an ordinary house at an ordinary event, and he launched the kingdom dream with ordinary people."


*I have also seen the argument not to donate because the ALS Association funds research with embryonic stem cells.  This is a personal decision~ but should not keep anyone from taking the time to find a quality ALS charity that does not fund that type of research and donate there.  WE EACH need to take ownership of doing our own research and not defaulting to the lazy, often uneducated, argument that prohibits your donation due to the type of research being done in one avenue of finding treatment for this disease.  Many anti-bucket-challenge people posting about stem cell research are google-searching articles that are shallow assessments of the entire ALS research base…and do not have a clue regarding the circumstances surrounding stem cell research in general. 

To donate to the ALS Association, click here.


Driftwood Sailboat~

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I found this sweet sailboat project on Pinterest forever ago and thought it would be fun to share on here for you mamas who like to decorate your home with handmades from your kiddos.  Philly and Niamh both made one too, so we have them scattered through the house.  It will take you longer to find the driftwood than to do the whole project~ but who cares, the driftwood search is even pretty fun.  

Here we go: 

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We used painting dropcloth~ cheap and it works great.
Awesome driftwood seller on etsy (in case you don't live near a beach)...

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After you fold it, make sure you really adhere it to the dowel/stick...if not, the sail will slip down.

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Drill a small hole in your driftwood.
Don't do this on top of your new kitchen tablecloth...in case you go all the way through.
And maybe put a hole in the cloth.
Not that I'd know or anything.

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Now just put your sail in your boat and let dry.

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It is so pretty, huh?
Pinterest win-lose record after this beauty?
(Counting my buffalo-chicken-pillsbury-dough-roll a tie.  It sucked; but no one actually threw up...broke even on that one.)

Happy crafting, friends!!


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