Browsing Category: Family Life

A Quarter for some PJs

The morning routine around casa de Phillips is fairly straightforward.

The moment the clocks in the children’s rooms switch over to 6am, their little internal alarms start shouting “ALERT! MUST BEGIN THE DAY!” and two bleary eyed children emerge from their cocoon of darkness. Please note that we do not make them get up at such an hour. These children are homeschooled, for goodness sake. There is no bus to catch, no breakfast to hurriedly get down in order to make it to car pool on time.

Despite this luxury, both kids are up and ready to go at 6am on the dot.

Because school is in session here, both children must come down and eat, get dressed, have hair and teeth brushed (the girl still acts shocked every morning when it is time to do her hair. Every. Morning. It is as if I have not been styling her hair for almost six years now. I tell her she is lucky. My mom used to hot roll my hair every morning before first grade.) Once that list is accomplished, they may play or watch a thirty minute cartoon (which allows me time to get ready for the day) before lessons begin for the day.

In this list of things to do before school begins at 8am, the children must tidy rooms (a laughable notion for one child…especially when her spiritual gift is creating epic messes in a matter of minutes. God bless her future husband. We pray now that he is a Type A personality who loves to tidy….and doesn’t mind scraps of craft feathers and stray pieces of Scotch tape left in random places of their future home.) and put their pajamas away. These are very basic chores and nothing that really requires effort. In fact, the kids have jobs around the house that are more involved and take much more time.

Yet somehow the idea of putting the dirty pjs in the clothes hamper seems to be my children’s Mount Everest. They desire for the clothes to be put away. They even take those clothes off. Somehow they just cannot manage to get said clothes from the floor of their room to the clothes hamper in the bathroom.

Because hiring a Sherpa was not very feasible, I did the next best thing I could think of. I told my children I was now charging 25 cents to pick up their dirty clothes. There would be no second chances, no period of grace, no kind mama. If they could not manage to remember to get their clothes into the laundry basket after taking them off their little bodies, then I would do it for them for a fee.

So far, I have yet to collect a quarter.

This is pretty sad considering I had my heart set on an ice tea from Sonic with all the change I figured I would be making with this deal.

When this “Quarter for a PJ Pickup” deal came into existence, there was a lot of moaning and complaining. The children questioned how I could possibly take their hard-earned money (?) for such a simple task as picking up discarded clothing. They were appalled that I was going to spend their money on TEA of all things. (Yet find it perfectly acceptable to use my quarters in gum ball machines for plastic rings and bouncy balls that immediately become lost). The injustice of the whole thing troubles them deeply.

Oh well. They can share it with their therapist one day.

What rules have you set forth for your kids when their inability to complete the easiest of task has driven you to the brink of insanity?
(Share so we can spread your own version of mama injustice around our own homes)



A Bunny’s Tale


Casa de Phillips currently resides in an area of the country where weather patterns can shift dramatically in a 24 hour period. As we welcomed the first day of Spring last week, we also welcomed cold rainy weather. This all coincided with the day of our annual neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt.

Saturday morning clouds hung low and eventually let forth a great deal of rain. The kids watched out the windows, making wild assumptions that the rain would stop (it eventually did) and the Easter Egg Hunt would be on later that afternoon (it was not). As a consolation prize, I gave each child a dozen slightly-filled plastic eggs to hide for their sibling (Hello, Lazy Parenting 101!) and they were pacified for a while and worked through all their grief over a missed egg hunt.

Besides, the hunt had been rescheduled for the following afternoon.

Sunday brought with it incredibly cold temperatures and biting gusts of winds so the hunt was once again called off.

That day’s consolation prize was dinner at a local fro-yo place and a trip to the library.

(Let me note for the record that we are not usually the type of parents to offer “consolation” prizes. We usually let things work out as they work out. However, if you want to seem like a really awesome parent take your kids to fro-yo on a random occasion for supper. Our kids could not believe that the only thing we were having for dinner Sunday night was dessert.)

The weather continues to remain a mystery this week as well. We have had cold days and then spots of warmth. As I type this, the heater is currently running at full blast in our home. I keep checking the forecast for this weekend. We all know it is Easter and I am starting to question the wisdom behind purchasing a breezy maxi dress and light cardigan for my daughter to sport at church on Sunday when it most likely will be cold and rainy. And the idea of wearing summer white shoes with a winter coat makes me twitch just a bit.

Speaking of Easter, let me just give a big ol mama sigh right here.

As blogged before, we are starting to tone it down with the holiday hoop-la around here. We have no Elf living on a shelf (and we told our kids the Christmas secret…and Christmas was still incredibly wonderful and magical all the same). There were no toilet bowls dyed green on St. Patty’s day. I do not plan to throw a huge party at the end of the school year (which is tricky when one almost schools year round). When I started to feel the tug to tone things down (I am the one who created a life-sized Little Einstein Rocket for a 3 year old’s birthday party…I needed a tug, people), Easter was the driving force.

As the husband always says, the Easter Bunny did not roll away the stone from the tomb.

As this time approaches, I start to panic and question how we will approach it as a family. There is no Easter Bunny for our kiddos. We have scaled down the whole “give-me-a-toy-because-Jesus-died-and-rose-again-for-our-sins” notion.  I do purchase Easter clothing for my children, which they wear all Spring, Summer, and part of the Fall (we live in a warm climate, y’all) until they no longer fit or until it is time to haul out the Christmas clothing. My kids have never dyed Easter eggs (this has nothing to do with philosophy and has everything to do with the fact that organic, cage free eggs are expensive and I have trouble eating pastel colored food.).

Easter is quickly approaching and the children and I have taken moments to discuss what that means. I have also discussed that despite the fact that the country’s largest toy store is advertising fantastic Easter toy deals there will be no Easter toys distributed at our home.

This leads me into the dilemma of the Easter basket. I am pretty sure when Mary and Martha visited the tomb there was no ornately decorated straw basket filled with goodies waiting for them. I know the Easter basket is part of our culture. Sometimes I fear if I completely take away cultural things, then my children will completely go the opposite direction as adults due to a feeling of deprivation as a child (I guess this would look like being on “Extreme Easter Gone Wild”???). Then I feel guilty for parenting by fear rather than by grace. It is the whole “If you give a Mouse a cookie scenario”.

Jen Hatmaker said in a blog this week: “. I daresay the American response to Easter is insulting, devastating even.”

Amen, sister.

Which leads me back to feeling convicted about the whole Easter basket situation. I do not want my children expecting something at every major/minor holiday. I do not want our religious observance of Grace to be overshadowed by the newest LEGO set.

My solution (which I acknowledge is not great) this year is to put two books and a book light in each kids basket (again we avoid the chocolate). One book is a fun book (Evelyn’s is here and Isaac’s is here) while the other book is a devotional book for each of them.

The book light is merely because both are needing a new book light. I am resourceful like that.


How do you handle Easter at your home? Do you fill baskets? Does the Easter Bunny and Jesus both find a place in your house or are you shying away from cultural observances of this religious holiday?




Breaking a Toe while Making the Bed and other Domestic Adventures

It is Spring Break for our state.

Yes, the entire state runs on the same school schedule. This likely seemed like a good idea to law makers but it makes public places terribly and horribly crowded for one miserable week in March. Want to visit our local, nationally-acclaimed zoo? Well so do 20,ooo other people who will walk through its gates this week (most being today which is 1/2 price day). Weeks ago I warned the children that we would not be going anywhere during this busy week of March. We would bunker down (despite the glorious 68 degree temps) and wait for the crowds to simmer down. I do not care that one of our best art museums is offering free (FREE!) crafts this week that just so happened to be situated around Ancient Greece. We are staying at home with the Crayola watercolors that mysteriously all have run into the same shade of sad brown.

It is one fun moment after another over here some days.

Especially considering the state is on Spring Break but we are not.

(Before you begin to fret, understand that we took a three day break in February. Also we are going to take a semi-Spring Break in April right after Easter. The children are doing quite fine when it comes to breaks.)

In the summer, I have a pretty good little house cleaning schedule that I (usually) follow daily.

Not so much during the school year. It is hard to clean, cook, teach, chauffeur all in a 14 hour period (I am no good past 8pm. Seriously. It is all downhill after that time.) This is not a problem specific to me. I am sure most adults attempting to live some sort of life, have some sort of career and experience some sort of joy wonder how they can fit it all in and still live in a house that cannot be featured on Hoarders. Attempting this often leads me to do things quickly.

Notice I said “quickly” and not “efficiently” or “correctly”.

In the mornings I have a pretty precise time schedule of what needs to happen when (getting dressed, making myself presentable, eating breakfast, school, etc) in order for us to get done all of our tasks that we need to accomplish before lunch. This schedule often means I need to hurry through some tasks (unloading dishwasher, throwing in a load of laundry) so that other tasks (teaching reading or working on Memory Work) gets the full attention it deserves.

Yesterday morning I was rapidly making the bed in the Master bedroom. There happened to be a discarded pair of jeans laying in the floor. In my hurry my pinkie toe someone was caught on the belt loop of the jeans. My pinkie toe stayed there while the rest of my body went on about making the bed.

Strangely enough I went on with my task while carrying on a conversation with my husband.

By noon I ventured a look at ol pinkie and realized that she wasn’t healthy. In fact, she was broken.


Fortunately a broken pinkie toe only requires a bit of tape and some patience to heal. I even did boot camp this morning and ran on the ol gal.

Last night, the boy made me this lovely creation:


It is a Lego flower to help ease the pain of a broken toe (and of a busted lip…courtesy of one little boy’s head). We think we will keep him .

What tragedy have you experienced while attempting to be domestic?

Chalk it up to the winter blues

Arts and crafts time has always been a significant part of life at casa de Phillips. In fact both children asked for scotch tape, paper and crafting goodies for Christmas. One cannot even venture into Miss E’s room without leaving with an errant piece of string or a misguided strip of tape sticking to their person.

I try to get crafts into our homeschooling time the best I can. Truthfully our artistic endeavors are the part of the lesson plan that will get scrapped if we are running short on time. Fortunately both kids have an art lesson taught in the afternoon of our Classical Conversation day .

I won’t mention that the teacher of the class is me. (Fortunately all instruction is done via DVD)

Lately the kids and I have been practicing the “art” of chalk pastels. We inherited a set of pastels from Tobe ‘s great uncle last January. Prior to that, our experience with chalk had been limited to the sidewalk variety.

The inherited pastels sat untouched in our art closet for months until I got brave and pulled them down. There is something one must know about chalk pastels: they are messy. Despite the mess, we have found them to be incredibly fun to experiment with during the last few months. We have discovered that dipping the chalk in liquid starch prevents the chalk dust from coating the house. Also a quick spray of hairspray will set the chalk and prevent it from rubbing off on everything it touches. Using the chalk has taught the kids how to hold their hand while drawing in such a way that their wrist does not smear or smudge chalk lines.

Have I mentioned that it is fun?

This winter, on days when kids are stuck inside due to weather or illness. grab some chalk pastels and create a masterpiece.

(FYI: our favorite chalk tutorials can be found here).

The (non-crazy, super relaxed, laid-back) Spirit of Christmas

Our little home here at Casa de Phillips is filling right up with holiday cheer. Every corner of our downstairs glows just a bit from the amber color of twinkle lights. Piles of seasonal books are stacked by our fireplace. The UPS man was spotted driving a golf cart (complete with tiny trailer) down our street today making package deliveries to various homes.

The season of Christmas can be so intoxicatingly magical.

And so maddeningly busy.

Despite our twinkle lights and Christmas cheer, I also feel that anxious feeling that these few precious “most wonderful weeks of the year” are going to come and go before everything is done on my list.

What if we don’t get to read all those holiday books together before we have to put them back up into the attic for another 48 weeks?

What if the weather never breaks and we suffer through drinking festive mugs of wassail and hot chocolate while wearing shorts and flip flops?

What if we simply run out of time to have fun?

It is in these moments that I find myself dumping out the festively wrapped gift bags in order to use them to prevent myself from hyperventilating.

(Not really. Dumping out the festive gift bag would mean that I actually have a present wrapped under the tree.)

Before the first Christmas decorations began popping up around town, I set a goal for myself. I was going to ENJOY the holiday season. I was not going to attempt to do so very much that nothing was fun. I was going to give myself a break when it came to homeschooling and not attempt 30 major projects in two weeks. I would set the tone for my family when it came to Christmas and that tone would not be “PANIC! IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!!”

The weather is going to break. The presents will get wrapped (and if for some bizarre reason they don’t…the 25th will still come and go). Fun and merriment will be had (even if when we take the kids driving around to look at Christmas lights they both keep nodding off in the backseat because they played so hard that day with friends in the backyard).

And when January 1st arrives and the twinkle lights are packed away and the light of a new year is welcomed, we will be okay. We will not look at one another and utter some sentence of how we survived the holidays. We will know that we enjoyed the holidays.

What are you doing this year to set the relaxed tone for Christmas?

Turkey Day, Misplaced Birds and Helicopters Gone Haywire

I cannot even bear to look at the date of my last blog post. How has it been so long since I sat down and wrote? I partly blame it on the fact that November is a terribly busy month. Once Halloween hits, it seems like the days fly by at a dizzying pace.

Last week, we did pause in the craziness and observe a peaceful Thanksgiving. A few years ago, the husband and I decided that we were done with traveling during Thanksgiving. Packing and unpacking, schedule hassles, and driving to and fro was not appealing to us. We are homebodies. Our children are homebodies. Besides, we live in a great place full of fun things to do. Who wants to miss out on all the fun because they had to spend 12 hours in a car?

Our rule with Thanksgiving is that we will always host, I will always cook and anyone is welcome to show up on our doorstep. This year we hosted both sets of our parents, a few siblings and Tobe’s cousin’s family. It was the perfect gathering. The  turkey came out nice and juicy (and not bearing any sort of food-borne illness), the sides were tasty and we still have a freezer with leftover ice cream (The husband and I got a bit carried away in the purchasing of ice cream. At one point there were 8 large cartons in our freezer. We might need to seek help…)

My mother and I hit the Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving. We have a strategy that has worked well the past few years. We bypass the middle of the night shopping and hit Target a little before 6am. Little secret: there is no one shopping at Target at 6am on Black Friday. We have the aisles to ourselves, there are still plenty of deals to be purchased and Starbucks is open. We then hit Gymboree and Crazy 8 as soon as they open their doors at 8am.

As the morning started to fade into afternoon, we did walk through the doors of a large toy store.

There we found the aisles cramped, the people a bit crazed and the shelves stuffed with overpriced plastic. We turned around and headed for home, the car stuffed with goodies and gifts for loved ones.

This week has been all about getting good chunks of schooling in. It is easy to relax a bit during the holidays when it comes to homeschooling. Last year we actually took off the entire month of December (not counting the field trips and fun projects stuffed in there for fun). This year, I am attacking this month with a different plan. We are schooling with a mixture of serious studies (Memory Master will be here before we know it in the spring and both kids are stating they want to attempt it) and seasonal fun (lots of crafts and outings planned).

Yesterday, the children had taken their nature journals outside to finish some work in them while I finished hanging the exterior decorations on the house (this is homeschool multi-tasking at its finest). We had all  been in and out of the house for various reasons. Some of us are better at closing doors when entering and exiting than others. We all eventually made our way inside for lunch. I was cleaning up some things in the front room of our house and the kids were toting some things to the garage for me.

The boy came rushing up to me, followed closely by his sister, and exclaimed, “There is a bird in the house!”

I will be honest and admit I am not a huge animal person.

From the boy’s description a large crow was apparently sitting on the curtains in our living room.

I summoned my courage and went to check things out for myself. There was no bird on the curtain.

Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed something was wrong with the Christmas tree. Then I realized that it looked odd because a (smallish Sparrow) bird was perched on top of the star, thus pulling the top of the tree down at an angle.

I did what any reasonable 30 something year old would do in this type of situation: I called my parents.

After my mom stopped laughing, she instructed me to open the exterior doors and close all interior doors. I had Isaac stationed on the stairs to make sure the bird did not fly up there. Then I basically chased this poor bird from the top of our tree to the top of our kitchen cabinets for a good ten minutes.

Did I mention I was waving a broom around like an idiot?

Eventually the bird found its way out the front door and we quickly slammed the door and locked it tight. I am certain that the bird likely died of heart attack later in the day due to the trauma he experienced while in my home.

I am also certain the kids will think twice before leaving a door wide open.

That was our lesson for yesterday.

Our lesson for today was a bit more traumatic.

We had to do some Targeting this morning after a good chunk of school was completed. The kids did great while shopping. As I was going through the checkout line, Miss E. apparently discovered a toy candy helicopter with a moving blade.

Then she apparently tried out said helicopter a bit too close to her head.

When she approached me she had the helicopter stuck to her head.

I tend to be a bit claustrophobic in situations where I feel trapped. Hair being trapped like this can make me feel a bit panicky. I worked for a long time (holding up the line…sorry!) attempting to get her hair out. Did I mention it was a large chunk of hair? The cashier offered scissors for me to cut the hair, but I just couldn’t bear to do it. Evelyn is dancing in two weeks in The Nutcracker and I already struggle with getting all of her hair pulled back.

I cannot imagine what it would look like with a large section only three inches long.

Finally I came to the conclusion that either the hair gets cut or the helicopter gets broken.

I opted for the broken helicopter.

Fortunately it was a cheap toy and snapped fairly easily. Then I had to have the cashier ring it up, take my money for it and then throw it in her trash can. Good times.

Today’s lesson was to keep moving parts away from one’s hair.

Especially during Nutcracker season.


Day 17: Get Carded (Library Carded, that is)

Last year on the first day of school, the boy got his very own official library card.

It was monumental.

Want you kid to have a love for reading? Have him get a library card.

There is a secret to this trick though. Anyone can get a library card card if they are a resident of a city and can write their name. They can then immediately stuff that card into a wallet or the back of a desk drawer and never, ever use it again.

Or that person can get a library card on a special day (first day of school, birthday, Columbus day, Tuesday) and know that with that card comes great privilege and responsibility. They can come to understand that one little plastic card can get them any book or movie or CD their little heart desires. A library card opens many doors to the young reader and gives them ownership in the act of borrowing of reading materials.

It also teaches a harsh reality when it comes to being responsible for books and dealing with late fines.

(I am the worst about late fines. Always have been. I resist the urgent to analyze what this may/may not mean about my character)

Our family visits the library at least once a week.  Each child has a library bag and a library card. They are asked to check out a variety of books each week. Our list includes:


One science book

One history book

One art or music appreciation book

One craft or how-to book

One biography or autobiography

One classic novel (*Evelyn is asked to get a few readers rather than a long chapter book)

One book of poetry

After they collect these books, they are free to load up on whatever else looks interesting to them. We usually leave with a haul. Most of it gets read during the week while a few go untouched for various reasons. We return it all the next week and start fresh, looking for new treasures among the shelves of our library.

Does your child have a library card? What is his/her favorite thing to scoop up while pursuing the aisles?

Day 14: Step away from the Dora books… (Finding quality children’s books)

It is safe to say that most parents want their children to read, yet some do not know what their child should be reading.

Often times this lack of direction or information leads parents to snatch up the first book bearing the grinning face of a familiar cartoon character

If Dora and that weird monkey wearing galoshes is on the cover, than the book must be good…right?

One could not be more wrong, dear reader.

It only takes a quick peek inside the (hallowed) walls of one’s Barnes and Nobel to see that their is no shortage when it comes to children’s books. There is an abundance of books for children, books about childern, books written by children; all waiting to be scooped up by the literature-loving consumer.

How blessed are we to live in a time when society realizes the need for books oriented towards the child?

Despite this abundance, it is safe to say that some of these books bearing the title of “child lit” are garbage. They are poorly written, have little to no plot line, and do nothing to challenge the mind of a child.

And, yes, some of them are bearing a Disney princess on the cover.

There are a few great resources for parents searching for quality literature. My favorite book that provides a quality list of books for children is Honey for a Child’s Heart.  Books Children Love and Read for the Heart are also great resources.

Below are some of our favorites


Picture Books

Berenstain Bear series

How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight

Bedtime for Frances

Moon Plane


The Snowy Day

The Big Red Barn (and anything by Margaret Wise Brown)



Beginning Readers

Henry and Mudge Series

BOB books

Frog and Toad series

Amelia Bedelia


Chapter Books:

Little House series

Boxcar Children

A to Z Mysteries

Magic Tree House series

Gernomio Stilton series

Charlotte’s Web

Treasure Island

Harriet the Spy (my favorite growing up)

My Father’s Dragon

Ramona series

Ivy and Bean


What are some of your favorite books for kids?




Day 10: Have a Book Picnic

For some, books seem stiff and boring. They do not talk. They lack a touchscreen with animated sounds. They are housed on dusty shelves placed out of reach from curious hands.

For some, books hold very little wonder.

To inspire a love of reading in children, they sometimes need to be shown the wonder that the written word can hold. A great way to encourage exploration of books is to take them outside. Fall is the perfect time to gather a large stack of books, a big quilt, some tasty treats and head outdoors to read. Books are not meant to be used only indoors in stuffy situations. They are meant to inspire and stimulate the imagination.

I cannot think of a better place for these things to happen than outside.

Day 5: Take it on the Run, Baby

When my children were babies, there were times I would load them up and drive around town aimlessly in hopes of entertaining one and putting the other to sleep.

Years later, I find it amusing that we would get in the car and drive for entertainment. These days, we log many, many miles in the family station wagon. We drive to co-op, we drive to PE, we drive to dance, we drive to church, we drive to Target.

We drive a lot.

Although the current model of the family station wagon does sport a DVD player, we have a pretty strict rule that movies are not turned on unless we are driving for more than 250 miles (*or in case of extreme emergency). Occasionally the kids bring along a Nintendo DS or an iPod touch, but usually we have a no technology rule in the car as well.

What does that leave for two kiddos to do while running all over a large metro area?


Bringing books in the car is a great way to inspire a love of reading. When the kids were little, I kept the backseat stockpiled with board books for them to look through/toss on the floor/use as a snack tray for Cheerios. These days the kids are in charge of bringing their reading entertainment. They know as they are gathering their shoes and water bottles, they also need to grab a few books on the way out the door as well.

Encourage your kids to bring books in the car. A confined time to browse some fun titles is a great way to encourage a love of reading.

Go ahead and toss one in the car for yourself…you never know when the carpool lane will take an extra 30 minu


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