Archive | September 2014

Homemade blocks

We don’t buy a lot of toys for our children.  Most of what we have has been given to us.  We have tons of toys, but the most special ones are the ones we make ourselves.  Other than the special doll and the legos, the homemade toys are the ones that are played with the most.  So when I found this idea for homemade nature blocks from Adventure in a Box on Pinterest, I had to try it out right away.  My kids don’t have any blocks except legos, so I thought this would be perfect.

After lunch today, I went out back to our pile of fallen branches from the yard and gathered a few that I thought would be interesting.  I started with a hand saw and miter box and tried to cut different sizes of blocks from the branches.  I hadn’t told my children what I was doing, but as my 4 year old son stood watching me he got super excited and said “Mommy, we could build something with those!” I love the creativity that flows when children are presented with new objects!

After a while, my arms ached and I was starting to get frustrated with my saw getting stuck in the wood.  So I stopped.  I handed my creations to my son.  He piled them in a bucket, took them in the house, and immediately set to work.  My little engine came up with this.  He proudly told me it was a monster truck.

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Then he excitedly asked me “Mommy, can you make more?”

This time I took my branches to the garage and turned on my sliding chop saw.  Within a couple minutes I had a set of 50+ blocks for my children to play with.  They were ecstatic.

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After more than an hour, I finally sent my 3 year old to bed while my son continued to play for another 30 minutes or more.

Here is a sampling of the different types of blocks I cut.

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Long ones, skinny ones, joints, half rounds…so simple, yet so much fun.  It is best to use DRY branches for these. Look for interesting pieces of bark or oddly shaped or varying branches and within a short time, you have your own blocks.  Some may need a little sanding to shave off rough edges, but I was impressed at how little time this took. My next step is to put them in the oven for a little while at low heat to kill off any bugs that may have made their home inside my wood.

Have you made any toys for your kids from things found in your backyard?  Leave your ideas in the comments section.
Also, Adventure in a Box is doing a contest with homemade toys from nature that ends September 23.  Check it out here.

Coming Alive

These past couple months seem like I’ve been on a high speed train speeding down a bumpy (do I ever mean bumpy) track toward…nowhere or maybe straight off the cliff.  To begin with, I’ve had my struggles adjusting to a new life in a new place with no support system.  Throw the death of my dad in the mix and then the birth of my precious new baby girl just 2 months later, and I found myself wading through a sea of depression.  My 3 preschoolers needed me, but I felt like I had nothing to give.  My husband started working crazy hours, 60-70 hour weeks on average.  I felt alone with no one to turn to for help. With 3 preschoolers and a new baby, forget making time to blog, read a book or do the things I love. Most days, I just wanted to find time to take a shower and often times just make it through the day.

Not so long ago, a good friend and I were talking and she said to me “I feel like you are just surviving!”  Just surviving?  Really?  I, personally, thought things were getting better by this time.  I was sleeping through the night by the time Baby was 2 months old.  I was no longer crying myself to sleep because I missed my dad. I was making supper for my family again and taking the kids on regular outings to the park and library.  Things were good, weren’t they?

But as she said those words, I realized that I was just surviving.  Honestly, that’s a horrible place to be in. It’s lonely and exhausting.  There is no joy in just wanting to get through. It may be necessary for a time, but there comes a point where each of us must begin to thrive instead of survive. Sometime that week, my husband and I had a long talk.  He had been struck by her comment too.  Those words from a dear friend opened our eyes to not only our situation, but also our attitudes and perspectives.  I feel like over the last 2 months, I’m coming alive again.  We were not created to simply survive. We were created to THRIVE.

But what does it mean to thrive?  As some would say to, “Bloom where you are planted?” For me, it meant being okay with the messiness of life. I don’t have it all together and I can’t always be happy.  I can’t have the toys all picked up and the laundry done.  Sometimes it means ordering pizza or going out for tacos instead of having a healthy, home cooked meal.  It’s finding what you enjoy and throwing yourself into it.  Taking care of yourself  (that includes sleeping when it is possible).  But most importantly, it means realizing that this life is not perfect and there are seasons of grief and seasons of joy, but through it all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

In the midst of contemplating what it means to thrive and how that is possible, I heard a song on the radio by Casting Crowns called Thrive. You can listen to it here

There were 2 phrases that stuck with me as I heard this song for the first time.  The first was

Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God, we thirst for more of You

Psalm 1:1-3 says that those who delight in the Lord are like a tree planted by the rivers of water.  Trees need 2 things to thrive: water and sunlight.  Yes, the soil and nutrients found within it are important too, but water is vital to the health of a tree.  My garden was a testament to this this year.  With all the craziness, I think I watered it 4 or 5 times all summer.  It was a very dry summer and my yield for the year?  Probably only a dozen rhubarb stalks, 5 cucumbers, one meal of green beans, and a handful of tomatoes.  It needed WATER, yet it died of thirst…literally.  When we are thirsty, a part of us dies too.  We no longer thrive, we survive.  Christ is the living water and as He flows through us, He is joy and strength.

The second phrase that stuck with me was “we were made to thrive!” God did not create us to simply get by.  He created us to thrive as we commune with him. Some days this is simply enjoying my children.  Others it’s turning my heart toward Christ as I watch a sunset or hold a sleeping baby in my arms. It looks different every day. But one things is for sure, it has been so wonderful to discover what it means to thrive these last 2 months.

Ahh. How refreshing it is to drink and be filled.

What does it mean to thrive to you? Are you surviving?  Or are you thriving?