Our Homemade Christmas

February 29, 2012
posted by Tia in Loving

Now that February is all but over, I guess I’ll tell you a little about Christmas! (I think February could use a little Christmas cheer sometimes, don’t you?)

No, I didn’t do a totally homemade Christmas. All of the kids got books, a little whistle/compass tool, and oranges (I wish I could grow those here!). We also got a Spanish language program and some other books and things for helping us to learn Spanish, since we have been working on that.  Several things were homemade, though, and I wanted to share with you how they turned out.

This year I made each of my kids a stuffed animal, and a pair of wool mittens. I also made the two boys aprons. I had found a cute one at a thrift store for Vi, so that saved me the trouble of making her one this time around – and she already has a mama-made apron she got as a birthday present the year before. It was a good thing I didn’t have to make her one, too, since I was whipping the boys’ aprons out on Christmas Eve.

The best thing, though, was to have Dad on board. My husband made rubber band guns for everybody, carefully fitted to a specific size of rubber band so that the shots aren’t too stinging, nor too wimpy. We’ve had a few really awesome family rubber band battles since Christmas, what a blast. 🙂

My method on the stuffed animals was simple. A month or two before Christmas I asked each child what their favorite woodland creature was (we’ve been reading a lot about those lately). Once they had told me, I simply went to www.etsy.com, and did a search for that type of stuffed animal. I then picked one or two that I liked, and then fashioned my own stuffed animals as I eyeballed the pictures on the screen (with a little help from my significantly more artistically gifted husband). And no, I’m really not that talented at sewing, but it was pretty easy to make it up as I went. And that is the extent of my Christmas stuffed animal tutorial. 😉

Without further adieu, meet Sneaky, Captain’s weasel:

He’s made from a couple of old, thrifted wool sweaters.

This is White-Tail, Vi’s fox:

I had that plaid in my fabric stash and it was asking to be made into a fox.

And here is Peter, Orator’s teddy bear. At least, I think it’s a teddy bear. When he opened the present, he said, “It’s a bunny!” and Vi said, “No it’s not, it’s a dog!” 🙂

He’s made from another thrifted wool sweater. Sometimes I think Sunshine likes him better than Orator does.

Sunshine got a little owl, made of felt. For some reason, I don’t have a very good picture of it. But you can kind of see it in the front of this one. For perhaps the same reason, the owl hath no name. I’m afraid he’s not very well-beloved, but I’m thinking I’ll make Sunshine a teddy bear of her own for her birthday coming up since she seems to have taken such a fancy to Orator’s….

The picture above also shows off Sunshine’s Christmas stash. See those adorable pink wool mittens there that I made for her with such loving care? Cute, huh?

They don’t fit. Can’t get her hands in them at all. So I gave them to Vi, for her dolls to use. She couldn’t get them on her doll’s hands, either. Sniff, sniff. Perfect for snowwoman stick-hands, perhaps?

Here are Orator’s mittens that I made to match his teddy bear. And next are a couple pictures of what Captain and Vi got. You can see Captain’s light blue mittens in his pictures; Vi’s mittens look almost identical. You can sort of see the kids’ aprons in these pictures as well.

Don’t you love the rubber band guns? I thought that they turned out amazing. This next shot of Sunshine with hers, I thought, was one of the best pictures of the day.

Isn’t she sweet? 😀

So, the take-away? The stuffed animals turned out pretty well for the most part, I thought. The aprons turned out pretty well, although Orator’s didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. The mittens? Meh. Definitely should have made all of them bigger (some of them, much bigger). But, the idea was to make the kids real mittens that actually kept their hands warm and dry in the snow – which these do, as they have since proved (yay!). I made them lined with fleece on the inside, and although that was one of the things that complicated the project and created the sizing issues, I think that was the way to go and I’m definitely going to have another shot at them sometime in the future. Next Christmas, maybe?

Yes, I’m already thinking about next Christmas. What do you think of these? I found them while I was looking for stuffed animal ideas and think they are adorable!! I don’t think they would be too hard to make, either….

Am I crazy to be doing homemade Christmas presents for four children? I admit there were times in the middle of the night when the sewing machine was acting up and something wasn’t turning out the way that I had pictured, that I would have said yes. But I also had to admit to myself that I loved it. For me, gifts have special meaning when I have put more into them than money. I love giving my kids something that I created with my own hands. Will I always do it? No, probably not. I doubt Captain will want a stuffed animal for Christmas when he is 16. But right now, anything Mom makes is still magic. So right now, I’ll take that magic and run with it.


I am a Mormon

September 5, 2011
posted by Tia in Loving

Hi, I’m a Mormon! That is, I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Before I launched HomeMade Learning, I debated for a while about whether to keep the blog non-denominational or not. There are so many wonderful Christian blogs that I love whose authors never specify which church they belong to. And I certainly didn’t want to scare away readers because I was open about my religion and they were worried that I would get preachy.

I soon realized, however, that it would never do to try and hide it. Perhaps if I was blogging about crafts, or cooking, or gardening, it might work. But my goal here is to share my ponderings; my personal ongoing education that is centered in the gospel; my home school where I am teaching my children the things that are closest to my heart. No, it would never do. The gospel of Jesus Christ is too much a part of who I am to hide it for long. So instead of beating around the bush, here, I’ll whack it: I’m a Mormon, everybody!! 🙂

That said, you are so welcome here! I don’t care what church you belong to—if you even belong to one at all. I hope that this will be a place where readers can find truth, ideas, and inspiration, whether you agree with all of my specific beliefs or not. Always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Yes, Mormons are Christians! Christ’s name is right in the name of our church. If you are Christian, we will definitely have a lot in common. I will be very open about my beliefs, and you may have noticed that I quote LDS (Latter-Day Saint) scripture and general authorities frequently. But I don’t plan to be preachy. I’m just sharing with you bits of my heart, and these things are in my heart.

If you ever have any questions, religious or otherwise, please ask!! Leave a comment, or you can contact me. If you are curious about the Mormons, this site is there to help satisfy your curiosity. And this site is the main website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

During the last two weeks I’ve done more back-end work on the blog, been flat on my back ill, and then up on my feet helping my house to recover from the resultant neglect. But I’m back! Welcome, if you are new! I hope you stick around, and share your thoughts with me as I share mine.

Music in our Home

August 11, 2011
posted by Tia in Learning, Loving

I have this 20-year-old memory of my mother which I found recently, tucked away in a far and dusty corner of my brain. I remember hearing her play the piano.

Us kids were already in bed and the house was pretty quiet. I can’t remember whether I was lying in bed or whether I was staying up late to read or write (most likely the latter). I just remember that everybody was in bed, and in the stillness of the house upstairs, my mother was playing hymns on the piano.

I remember picturing her up there, sitting on the bench, playing. It isn’t my only memory of her playing, but it’s one of a very few. She knew the piano well enough that she could play church music, but I think that was about it. I wonder now why she was playing on that particular night. Had it been a really good day? Or a particularly difficult one?

I loved the piano, and I wanted to be able to play it so badly when I was young. I don’t remember if that desire started at that particular moment, or if this only fueled a fire that was already burning. But one thing is for sure: my desire to play the piano, and my love of beautiful (and especially religious) music, is bound up tightly with this memory of my mother playing.

I begged my mom to teach me to play. She taught me to play in the treble clef with my right hand, and to play basic chords to accompany the melody with my left. When I was nine, my sweet grandmother offered to pay for me to have piano lessons in exchange for my help in cleaning her house. I gleefully accepted, and began what turned into three years of lessons before my family moved to another state. I didn’t love my teacher or her methods; I hated being asked to play scales; and I always felt like the music we worked on was much more basic than what I wanted to be learning. But I loved playing the piano, and nothing ever dampened that.

Fast-forward about five years. I’m off to college. After self-teaching myself on the piano for a few years I’d had an additional year of music lessons with a wonderful teacher before I left home. But now I had moved again, and the curriculum at the school I was attending didn’t include any type of music.

The best it seemed that I could do was to join the Institute Choir. Since I loved singing next best to playing the piano, this worked out just right. In more ways than one! Turns out my future husband was in that choir, singing tenor as I belted out my best soprano.

Fast-forward a few more years to married life with kids. Music, we’ve decided, is important to us, and we want it in our home. Neither of us are overly talented—perhaps about average and with rusty skills—but that doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be talented to pass on a love of music.

As our kids started getting older (the put-him-in-lessons-now-in-case-he-is-a-prodigy age), we began to wonder what to do. We knew families that had been very successful in giving their children consistent musical training from a very young age. After looking into it, it just didn’t seem right for us. Both of us had picked up music of our own initiative, and were content to have it be that way for our children. Our most important job, we’ve now decided, is to inspire them.

How? Well, that’s when I began to remember that night that I listened to my mother playing. The memory is so sweet and moving that it often brings tears to my eyes. If I could be that inspired from hearing my mother, just that once, then all I need to do is to play and sing music. This isn’t too hard for me, as I have a piano always standing at the ready, calling to me. Also, since we’ve had children I’ve consistently had a music calling of one sort or another at our church. James finally took the plunge and decided that, decade old skills or not, he was going to pull out the old trumpet and join the community band. And then the orchestra. He’s only third trumpet, but he’s playing. And he loves it.

And the kids see it. And hear it. And love it. They know that music is beautiful, and that it is an important part of their home and their parents’ lives. And for now, that’s all that they need to know to get them started on a life-long love of music.

Thanks, Mom. I hope the beautiful notes you played in that moment of musical inspiration will continue to resonate throughout generations.

What is something that you have been inspired to pass on to posterity?

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Meet the Cast

July 24, 2011
posted by Tia in Loving

Welcome to HomeMade Learning, where my children will star every day, in one way or another. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother, with a wonderful husband and four incredible kids to keep me on my toes. I sing through the good days, breathe through the bad days, and love what I do every day. Even when I wish that I could find my children’s “pause” buttons, I stop and remember that all the things I want time to accomplish come back to them: learning so I can teach them, cleaning so I can relax and read with them, journaling so that I can someday share with them. My primary fulfillment is in my family, and I love this work so much. I hope that on this blog I can share some of that love and inspiration with you.

You probably won’t be seeing much of my husband, James, around here; he’s a little camera-shy. Well, that and he’s usually the one behind the camera—I’ll admit up front that most photo credit on this blog goes to him. He’s gifted with a better eye than I am. Along with a great many other things!

With that said, meet the cast!! I want to introduce you to my children.

The oldest is my son, Captain. Here is a picture of him looking snazzy on his bike this summer.

Captain is seven this year. He is my deep thinker—like his daddy. Captain always wants to know why. He is a history-buff in the making and has a particular love for knights, soldiers, battles, wars, armies, and all other related topics. Paradoxically, he is also a very sensitive, thoughtful child, who really takes things to heart.

Here is Captain teaching his younger brother to stick-fight:

Second is my daughter, Vi. She’s six this year. Vi is bubbly, energetic, loving, dramatic, and motherly. One of these days I’ll treat you with a post titled something like, “The many moods of Vi.” She is our family’s hugger, most cheerful helper, and most attentive sibling to the little ones. Here she is posing in pink:

With her best friend, Captain:

And holding her baby sister, whom she adores beyond any powers of description:

Next is my younger son, Orator, two this year. It should be easy to guess from his name what one of his principle charms is. As uncommon as it is for a two-year-old boy, Orator talks almost non-stop, and makes sense, too! He is clever, imaginative, sociable, and makes us laugh all day long. Orator loves doing things with his older brother and sister and feeling like he is “one of the big kids.” Here is Orator thoughtfully considering on colored Easter eggs:

And teasing with his sister Vi:

Last but not least is Sunshine, the newest addition to our little family. She was born earlier this year and has us all wrapped around her little finger. She is certainly Sunshine as her name implies and we couldn’t be happier to have her here. Sunshine is smiley and sociable, learning to laugh, and is always sporting a remarkable infant hair-do which never fails to draw comments wherever we go.

Sunshine is here being dutifully adored by Captain:

And wondered at by Orator (but don’t worry, he completely adores her too, although she did steal his baby-spot in the family):

Blogosphere, meet children. Children, meet blogosphere.

Let the show begin!


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