Reading instead of Writing


Right now, this is what my kitchen table looks like, completely covered in books. Fiction, mostly, with some poems and horses thrown in for good measure. You may notice many sequels, and a few new series’ starters…

Someone recently asked me what it’s like to have finished writing my book. The answer is that it’s a bit anti-climactic. I gathered all my energy and effort and focus pouring into a gigantic goal. And now it is done. So I’m taking a break from writing for a bit, both from books and blogging.

Instead, I’m pouring myself into curating a child’s reading experience.

LauriReading instead of Writing

5 Ways to Keep your Home Tidy with Kids dictated by Elise, age 6

Kid House

1. Distract the children with something tidy to do, like screen time, coloring or reading.

2. Have them help you clean whatever you are cleaning. Give them easy jobs at first, and then a bit harder and a bit harder until they can do grown-up jobs.

Lauri5 Ways to Keep your Home Tidy with Kids dictated by Elise, age 6

How I Wrote a Book with Small Children Underfoot


Kitchen Rescue for the Not-So-Organized is here!

It was one of those projects that incubated for several years without me even realizing it was growing. But once I saw the need to actually write a book about my organizing process, I suddenly had laser focus.

It’s funny to say that I had laser focus, because that is almost never true of me. With three or more small children constantly underfoot, there is the unending stream of cares to tend.

Fortunately, we were on break from homeschooling when the inspiration hit, and the timing was perfect! No structure to maintain. No lessons to prepare. No assignments to oversee. So…

LauriHow I Wrote a Book with Small Children Underfoot

Brilliant Gift Idea: World for Lego


We were recently invited to a Lego themed birthday party, fun! What’s a good gift for a kid who is really into Lego? My oldest invented a land for Lego. We’re always needing space to play with the completed sets. So we set out to make some land for our friend’s Lego world. We started with a small pizza box. Cut the lid into a 10″ square (using a cutting mat to protect both table and sharp edge). Then we covered the logo with plain white paper, and wrapped grassy-looking fabric around the whole thing gluing it securely on the back side. (Shown here on our infamous “art board”, which regularly protects our table from the brunt of creative attacks.) I cut the corner to be a mitered edge, so it would lay flat and clean. Matte ModPodge is usually my glue of choice for paper and fabric projects, applied with an old paint brush. Once I’ve glued down the edge, I also paint glue over the top of the edge to seal it and prevent fraying. I didn’t glue under the front, because I didn’t want the “grass” to buckle. Then we began to add various elements. Here we have sand (mottled tan fabric), and we’re about to add water (blue felt). We considered having a river run all the way through it, but felt it took up too much real estate unless one had a lego boat. So we settled on more beach and less water. Lego Friends’ Olivia is trying out the beach. …

LauriBrilliant Gift Idea: World for Lego

Early Reading Part 2

Reading Bob-1

This is a continuation of my Early Reading Basics entry. After working on phonemic awareness and letter learning, here’s a look at very beginning decoding (reading). WORDS Once your child knows their letters and sounds, then what?  Then we start figuring out words! I love a multi sensory approach, so here are some tools that get kids’ hands moving with their brains: TAPPING: one tool that is quite helpful for brand-new readers is “tapping”, where each finger gets a sound and is tapped on the thumb. Example: cat. Tap Index first /k/, then middle /a/, then ring finger /t/. Then tap all three and say the whole word/syllable “cat”. We tap one syllable at a time, so there are never more than 5 sounds, and even as they begin to decode longer words, we can still tap a syllable as needed. MAGNETS: Any set of letter magnets is helpful, but I do love Wilson’s color-coded Magnetic Journal LINK. All the vowels are orange, and the consonants are yellow. Also, they’re lowercase and square to make them easy to manipulate and keep straight. Memorize High Frequency words (as Sight Words): the, a, (remember to teach “the /thu/” and “a /u/” for fluency) and, to, was, is, on… Depending on the child, flash cards can work great for this. Make it a game! Some game ideas: Sometimes I’ll work the sight word cards as a drill and ask what each word is. If they get it right, they get to keep the card. …

[email protected]Early Reading Part 2

A Simple Ballet Birthday Party

Ballet tutu

  Fluttering pink tutus on giggly girls. Not actually my cup of tea, but when your daughter requests a ballet theme for her birthday, you make it happen! After tooling around Pinterest for a bit, I let the ideas swirl through my brain. What would be simple and worthwhile? What seemed overboard? We went with simple and elegant, and it turned out GREAT! Here’s where what we did: Decorations: Pink streamers and balloons in the dining room. Simple. Guests: Just three, plus the birthday girl and sister Activity 1: Make no-sew tutus Supplies: Elastic (I used 1/2” because that’s what I had) Tulle (we used rolls, about 25 yards per tutu) Directions: Cut tulle into about 1 yard lengths (Grandpa’s fast method: wrap it around and around a box and just cut once) Make an elastic waistband. We hand-stitched the ends overlapping to secure it, but a safety pin or knot would work. Tie tulle onto the elastic. Fold a length of tulle in half into the band, and then feed the “tails” through, so that the knot is flush against the front bottom of the elastic. Repeat until you’re satisfied. The girls needed a bit more help than I expected, but it wasn’t frustrating. They actually did pretty well and seemed to enjoy it. They were ready to be done working before the tutus were full, but partial tutus still worked great for dancing! Some moms filled them out during present opening. Activity 2: Dance in newly made tutus! Food: A white …

LauriA Simple Ballet Birthday Party

How My 5yo Bought Her Own Violin


  Last spring, my oldest daughter realized that she wanted to play the violin. I’m not even sure what sparked it; perhaps that Violet of The Boxcar Children learned to play one in Surprise Island? She doesn’t even remember what made her first interested, but somehow the seed began to grow. We heartily encourage our children in musical pursuits, and soon will require each of them to learn several instruments as part of a well-rounded education: piano and one of their choice (read about our beginning piano lessons here and here). It’s wonderful for discipline as well as a creative outlet once you can really make music, not just plunk out notes. So we were delighted that she latched onto an instrument of interest, and we became increasingly amazed at her tenacity in pursuing it. Over the course of the summer, she began to work to earn money to buy her own violin. It’s an interesting thing as a parent to figure out when to provide something for a child, and when to encourage them in their pursuit of gaining it themselves. At first, we figured that we’d match what she earned in order to aid the process, but as time went on, we saw that she was motivated and might just be able to to it herself! She’s a little entrepreneur, and started a lemonade stand when she was four. Once she latched onto the goal of earning money for a violin, she got serious about the lemonade stand. …

LauriHow My 5yo Bought Her Own Violin

Changing Out Kids’ Seasonal Clothes

Clothing Bins

It’s finally cooling off in Nashville, just enough to want a sweatshirt in the morning, but we still have sleeveless afternoons. It’s cool enough for the children to wear pants again, and for mama to notice how short they’ve become. Twice a year, it’s time to tackle the season change and size change for the kids’ clothes. When there are multiple children, hand-me-downs can reduce the shopping list, but we all still have to assess what we have and what we still need. Unfortunately, without a bit of organization, it’s terribly easy to purchase clothing that we already own. They’re just hiding away in the attic and we just have to be able to find them when the season changes! How to find the clothes hiding in the attic I discovered that two-gallon ziploc bags are an amazingly helpful tool to organize off-season clothes. They’re air tight, transparent, and easily stacked in a labeled bin. So for each size, there is: a bag of pants, skirts & shorts a bag of shirts a bag of sweaters a bag of dresses a bag of undergarments a bag of pajamas a bag with a winter coat, mittens, hat a bag of shoes Now it’s so easy to see what we have! How to get started  Step 1: Remove Everything. This morning we began by emptying out the closet and drawers for one child. I started with the oldest, because she will need the most. Working with one child’s wardrobe at a time prevents the room from …

LauriChanging Out Kids’ Seasonal Clothes

Taking a Young Family Camping for the First Time


    It’s daunting to consider taking a young family tent camping! It took us about a year to work up to it. Last summer, we bought a family-sized tent. We had also gradually acquired a few random camping items: a lantern, wedding-gift sleeping bags (that zip together!), marshmallow-roasting-sticks, but the idea took a long time to germinate before we took action. Living in Tennessee, summers are hot and muggy, and we did not relish the idea of living outdoors for several days. So we didn’t. September seemed like a good idea though. We were ready for some outside sanity-restoring time and adventure! When I was a kid, my parents took us camping. They loved it and had all the gear from camp stove to fishing tackle and everything in between. Their king-sized pickup truck (with a camper shell over the back) would be packed to the gills and we’d head into the mountains for vacations. Looking back, it’s amazing how much I didn’t learn about how to prepare for a camping trip. I should have watched and helped my mom more… sorry mom! So here we are, a family of five with kids ranging from crawling to first grade. They’ve never been camping, and we decided it’s time. Here’s what we learned: First, make a reservation We heard that campgrounds fill up, and it would be horrible to gather up all that energy and preparation to be turned away. Since we had the flexibility to go mid-week in September, there was plenty of …

LauriTaking a Young Family Camping for the First Time

How I Make Money While Staying at Home with my Little Kids

Sister Walk

    I love kids. I adore being a mother and raising my kids. Perhaps this is every modern mom’s dilemma: how to balance paycheck and mommy-ing? It manifests differently in each family (and I’m not here to judge how it looks in your family!). Let me tell you how it’s worked out for us in the past couple of years. It could change! But this is our story so far: Jon and I married young and didn’t have kids for 10 years. Now we’re pretty settled in Nashville, TN, after having moved all around the country and done lots of different jobs. I taught preschool and kindergarten, did office work and nannied (yup, I love kids!). We found that we like to work for ourselves and set our own schedules. One of our favorite things is to eat meals together. We sit around the table and practice asking questions and discussing things. Granted, with our kids currently at ages five, three and 10 months, many of those meals are filled more with NOISE than conversation, but we get glimmers of hope! For us, it’s really important that the clearest voices in our children’s lives be dad’s voice and mom’s voice. I have a friend who always asks “What can only you do?” Do what only you can do. Only I can be the mother of my children. Only I can nurse them. I love that they have other amazing adults in their lives, but I am their only mommy. We value …

LauriHow I Make Money While Staying at Home with my Little Kids