Our Family Unit
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  • November22nd

    dollhouse big-2

    When I was somewhere around 4 or 5, my great-grandfather gave me a dollhouse.  I have so many fond memories of this dollhouse…literally hours and hours of play.  I remember decorating it with my mom, the furniture she’d made from Kleenex boxes upholstered to match our own family’s furniture, the various dollhouse accessories and, most of all, having my Barbies live here (despite the fact that they had to crawl through the 6″ doorways).

    With Jessie’s third birthday approaching, Kyle and I started talking gifts and dollhouses, of course, came up.  I loved the idea, it would be *perfect*!  I remembered how much fun I’d had with mine…I knew she would enjoy one, too.  But what I didn’t love were the price tags!  On the cheap end, a wooden dollhouse is pushing $200 (not including furniture and dolls!)  And then, once we got it, what the heck was I supposed to do with another giant toy in the house??  The more I thought about it, the more the sad reality sunk in…a new wooden dollhouse was completely implausible, illogical, and irresponsible.

    After a few days of moping around the house like a three year old (I don’t know where she gets it!), it came to me…what if my old dollhouse was still around??  I called my mom and thankfully, my parents had had the forethought and patience (and storage room) to hang onto it for the last three decades.  It was time for the renovations to begin…


    Now, the most brilliant thing about this dollhouse design is that it’s totally collapsible!  It’s approximately a 24″ cube when assembled, but flattens out to a 24″ x 24″ x 2″ square that can be slid under any bed or pushed to the back of any closet when my little Diva changes interests.

    When my dad shipped it to me, I was actually giddy with excitement.  It was all I could do to wait until Jessie had gone to bed before putting it together.  Here it is, in all it’s mid-80′s glamour!  After giving Kyle the grand tour forcing him to relive all my childhood memories, we started talking about how to renovate it to make it personal to Jessie.


    To say I *flung* myself into decorator mode, would be a bit of an understatement.  I pulled out mountains of scrapbook paper and fabric scraps and started a new “Dollhouse” board on Pinterest.  I even had a notebook with sketches…I know, I’m insane.  BUT I WAS GETTING TO RELIVE ONE OF MY GREATEST CHILDHOOD MEMORIES, who wouldn’t be excited??

    dollhouse designing

    I eventually settled on a 1/12 scale which means every inch in the dollhouse is equivalent to a foot in real life.  My hope is that going with one of the most common scales for “play” dollhouses will make decorating and finding accessories easier in the future.  After deciding scale, Kyle straightened up the edges and raised the height of the doorways to 7″.  Then I went to work with sanding, paint and Mod Podge.

    BEFORE and AFTER of the two floors and roof.

    dollhouse floors

    Walls BEFORE:

    dollhouse walls before

    Walls AFTER:

    dollhouse walls after

    I used only the scrapbook paper and fabric that I had on hand.  For all the 2D furniture, art and landscaping; I Googled images and then scaled them to the appropriate size in Photoshop.  After that, it was just a matter of printing the images and cutting them out.  Admittedly, the Mod Podge took a few attempts to get right.  The first wall had A LOT of bubbling and I ended up having to redo it.  The trick was doing 3 to 4 very thin coats, allowing for plenty of drying time in between.

    I requisitioned Kyle’s nights for making most of the furniture.  Didn’t he do an incredibly awesome job??  We used the tutorial from Blue Dinosaurs as a starting point and then scaled things up or down to fit our purposes.  I opted for the kitchen appliances to be blocks of wood, as opposed to having doors that open and close, in hopes that we’d be re-gluing things less often.  Then I just freehanded the paint and sewed a few cushions.


    The bathroom accessories were a gift from Marmie & Grandpa Dan.  Neither Kyle nor I wanted to tackle them but we couldn’t do without as ‘going potty’ is such a big deal to a three year old.  :)


    There were only two *actual* purchases for this project…the baby accessories that I just happened to find new at a local second-hand swap for kid stuff…


    and the dolls themselves.  I am SO pleased with these Once Upon a Tree House dolls.  For one, they don’t look entirely creepy…which I was beginning to think was a prerequisite for dollhouse families.  Secondly, I was able to pick and choose my family members…meaning that if I have more than 2 kids and no grandparent living with us or if mom and dad don’t look identical, I can still make it fit our family.  Lastly, they are completely moldable/moveable which makes the creative play go so much further!



    I can’t wait to show you how it turned out and the big reveal to Jessie on her birthday!  Stay tuned next week for the final unveiling.  ;)


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  • November15th

    This is a very interesting article, originally found here.  Just how young is too young to move from “playful learning” to “formal education”…

    Tell me what you think.

    Earlier this month the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.

    In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously

    David Whitebread

    In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four.  A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph  (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).

    This is a brief review of the relevant research evidence which overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal education. This evidence relates to the contribution of playful experiences to children’s development as learners, and the consequences of starting formal learning at the age of four to five years of age

    There are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling. These arise from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies.  Anthropological studies of children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of play in the young of other mammalian species, have identified play as an adaptation which evolved in early human social groups. It enabled humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers. Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions.

    In my own area of experimental and developmental psychology, studies have also consistently demonstrated the superior learning and motivation arising from playful, as opposed to instructional, approaches to learning in children. Pretence play supports children’s early development of symbolic representational skills, including those of literacy, more powerfully than direct instruction. Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development. Perhaps most worrying, a number of studies have documented the loss of play opportunities for children over the second half of the 20th century and demonstrated a clear link with increased indicators of stress and mental health problems.

    Within educational research, a number of longitudinal studies have demonstrated superior academic, motivational and well-being outcomes for children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school programmes. One particular study of 3,000 children across England, funded by the Department for Education themselves, showed that an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households.

    Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

    This body of evidence raises important and serious questions concerning the direction of travel of early childhood education policy currently in England. In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously.

    - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.Pl4ZOHWi.dpuf

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  • September23rd

    Not to put any pressure on, but only 6 more weeks until Halloween!  I don’t think Kyle and I planned as well as we could have…somehow we ended up with two birthdays and Halloween all in the same week!  That makes for one VERY exciting week around here, and one very busy mom.  :)  I’m trying to be better prepared this year though, and at least have the costumes figured out early.  Woody and Jessie have a plethora of costumes, thanks to the Dress Up Box, but we’re a little light on baby costumes around here.  Do you have any idea how expensive baby costumes are?  Even used ones are $20!  For 2 hours of fun on one night a year that he won’t even remember…

    I started looking around for an alternative and saw this cute idea for a DIY Sock Monkey costume here and decided to try  it.  She was a little more “professional” with hers, actually using a pattern for PJs.  This is my “down-and-dirty-done-in-an-afternoon” version.  You have to take into consideration that I am a s-l-o-w seamstress, not to mention, a little person interrupts approximately every 3 1/2 minutes.  A normal person could do this in less than an hour, I’m sure.

    sock monkey tutorial-11

    I started with three men’s sweaters from the thrift store, total cost $10.  I purposely chose the gray sweater to have a zipper, which then eliminated the need for me to sew one in down the road.

    sock monkey tutorial-1

    I laid out a current pair of PJs right on top of the gray sweater, and just cut around it, leaving everything from the neck to the arm cuff in tact.

    sock monkey tutorial-2

    I was left with this.  I just flipped it inside-out and sewed three seams.  From each arm cuff in and then down each leg, and then a u-shaped seem between the legs.  The giant man-sized zipper in front made the perfect closure, so like I said before, I didn’t have to put one in.

    sock monkey tutorial-3

    Next I took the white sweater and cut two strips from each arm.  These would turn into the hands and feet, but were way too wide left as is.

    sock monkey tutorial-4

    I just made a quick seem down the middle to narrow each one.

    sock monkey tutorial-5

    Then pinned each one to the sleeves and legs and attached.  Nothing pretty here, it’s for two hours of fun on one night of the year that he won’t remember.  :)

    sock monkey tutorial-7

    After they were attached, I shaped the excess and sewed it closed.  Bodysuit done!

    sock monkey tutorial-6

    For the hat, I didn’t want to bother with finishing edges, so I just used the hem of the shirt to be the hem for the hat.  I cut the two pieces directly from the bottom of the shirt.  This is all freehand, no need for patterns.  It’s for two hours of fun on one night of the year that he won’t even remember.

    sock monkey tutorial-8

    For the ears, I sketched a pattern on paper (so that they would be roughly symmetrical) and then cut four pieces from the remainder of the gray sweater.

    sock monkey tutorial-9

    I cut the sleeve of the red sweater into a few strips for “hair”, pinned everything together and sewed around the edge to close it up.  Voila!  Hat done!

    sock monkey tutorial-10

    For the scarf, I cut the bottom three inches off the read sweater, and just looped it around his neck, again letting the hem of the original sweater be the hem of the scarf.

    sock monkey tutorial-13

     And that was it!  So simple.  I am now the proud owner of the most cuddly sock monkey on the planet!  And we are ready to enjoy the two hours of fun on one night of the year, that he will OF COURSE remember, at least via pictures.

    sock monkey tutorial-12


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  • September20th


    If you’ve been sharing our story via this blog for a while, you’ll notice a few changes starting to take place.  Nothing major, it’s still about life as a “Vintage Homemaker”, still me sharing what I’m learning on this journey through Motherhood.  I’ll continue to write about my DIY projects, our Homeschool and the Traditions that we’re establishing as a Family Unit.

    But as I’ve been thinking about our family unit, specifically my kids as they grow older, I’ve been wondering how much do I share about them?  This is the digital age, right?  Where so much of our lives is “out there” in the open.  Whether it’s via Facebook or blogs or LinkedIn or any other social site, the world at large can see our day to day, they can know our history.  But what I’ve been mulling over lately is, it’s one thing to share MY story, but how much of my kids story do I share?  Doesn’t that belong to them?  I’ve been wrestling with that the past few weeks.


    Ever so slowly (and much to my surprise), this digital scrapbook turned mommy blog turned wonderful creative outlet is growing, thanks to faithful readers like you!  Thank you, for reading…for being a part of our family unit…and for caring about our days.  I am humbled beyond words that you are willing to wade through my mediocre attempts at verbalizing how precious a gift being a Stay At Home Mom is.  For me, being at home with my kids is a dream come true and I hope that these windows into our life can inspire you, too.


    However, I have never felt the dangers of this world so deeply as I do now that I’m a mother.  Unknown allergies, disease, motor vehicle accidents, kidnappers, plane crashes, bullies…the dangers online are no different.  They are present, they are real and I can’t control them!  How do I protect these precious souls?  Well, first…I must surrender their lives and hearts to God.  These children, that I love so deeply, ultimately have been gifted to me by God.  They belong to Him, they are His to protect.  I am not in control.  Secondly, I use common sense.  Just because there are texters and road ragers out there, do I never put them in a car?  No, I use (and will teach them) defensive driving.  Just because there are bullies, do I keep them “protected” inside my own home?  No, I teach them how to respond and that their identity is found in Christ.  Just because there are online predators, do I never show their photo or talk about them?  No, but I do believe I should take basic precautionary steps to protect their privacy.  So, to that end, I will be using pseudonyms for my kids, drawn from one of our favorite stories…Woody, Jessie and Buzz.  Do I think this small thing will guarantee their safety?  No, but then again I don’t embroider my kid’s names on their t-shirts when we go to the park either.  I still have the responsibility to keep watch, to make smart decisions, to teach them discernment…but I think I should start with just plain ol’ common sense.


    Thanks for being patient with me as I learn and thank you for your loyal readership to help this blog grow into something that made me aware of this.  I feel truly blessed.

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