Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning at Home and School for Toddlers!


A few years back you would have found me knee-deep in projects and paperwork in my elementary school classroom, teaching the fourth-grade.  I loved being a teacher!  It taught me to sharpen my skills creatively and to become organized enough to teach 28 students well, to the best of my ability.   Once I became pregnant with Anna Ruth I knew I wanted to stay home full-time.  We made the necessary changes for me to be able to be a stay-at-home mama (like driving older vehicles and shopping at thrift stores) and here I am now, two kids and a few years down the road.  

I realize I am very fortunate to be able to stay home.  The "sacrifices" we make for this to be possible aren't sacrifices in my book at all.  I have a whole entire lifetime to jump back into a teaching career.  I have two more years until Anna Ruth is off to school....and these little years of her being at home and taught by me will be gone. (gulp)  I am honored to be the girls' teacher at home until they're ready to spread their wings in kindergarten!  

So now that we're ready for preschool to start (the girls go to a local program a day or two a week) I also wanted to start structuring some of our art/learning time a bit more at home, on the days they don't have preschool.  My plan is to do art journals in the morning and teach them all kinds of creative techniques and fun things they can put on the page.  We'll probably include letters, numbers, shapes, and colors as well in this learning time!  In the afternoons I've been setting enticing play/art stations out on the dining room table for them to find and explore.  It's working wonderfully!!

This particular day I set out these random items and paint.

Look at Betsy Grace go! She surprised me this day by putting a tiny bit of paint on the paper and some on her belly button (lol).  She then grabbed these two crayons and went to town! What great coordination!
This awesomeness is what Anna Ruth created from her painting session!! 
 We've made homemade play-dough before and I'm sorta a fan.  I like the way it smells and feel like it's safer for the girls but it got moldy far too quickly last time.  So for this week we just picked up some play-dough at the grocery store!  This is what the girls woke up to.....
 Anna Ruth was the surpriser this day.  She played for ONE whole hour with the play-dough! While talking to me the whole time, of course.  Can you spot her candle she made?!   
 (it's a plastic knife people, with supervision. )

I expected Betsy Grace to dig right into the play-dough and get it everywhere. Not so.  She carefully stuck these dry pieces of pasta in and then wasn't quite sure what to do with herself.  
 These are the drawing pads I picked up for the girls to use for art journals!  They are 24 pages each and we plan on using each side.  The paper is WAY nicer than regular typing paper and Anna Ruth is excited to have blank pages.  I bought a bigger notebook for myself so I can join right in!

This Charley Harper coloring book was another favorite find of mine while preparing for this school year.  You can find these on Amazon.  They're a little more expensive than the Wal-Mart coloring books (they run around $8) but something about them make my girls slow down.  Anna Ruth usually takes quite a while to color one of these.  Plus they're fun for me!!
Our school story for the year is sounding fun. 

I admit, I always get a bit nervous/teary about sending the girls to preschool.  Although I'm not sure why-Anna Ruth is already asking to go to kindergarten.  Two more years for me to brave up for that!

For those wondering, since I do get asked this a LOT, we don't plan on homeschooling.  Our girls will go to public school and someday when everybody's back in school, I plan on continuing my career as an artist and also getting back to teaching in the public schools!  For now, we just keep doing the next right thing we know to do. 

Do you plan learning time for your kiddos? 
Have any tips for me?

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Fall Shop Updates!

Fall is in the air.....well, sorta.  Although temps are heating up around here in Arkansas we're just days away from September and the air just feels different.  I'm excited to share a few fall updates in my shop with you today!  
This watercolor was so much fun for me to do because it really challenged me creatively.  Watercolor is a whole different ballgame than mixed media and I like that.  I had a lot of fun painting this one!  
This listing, as with all the other prints in my shop, is for an 8 x 10 high-quality, archival ink and paper art print!  You can easily slip this into your favorite frame!
Something else new in the shop is this big scalloped banner!  You all know how much I love to hang banners and bunting just about anywhere.  This one is no exception-I had a hard time not keeping it for myself!  This hand-painted banner is made with acrylic paints, vintage book pages, and washi tape!  It's then hand-sewn together with thick upholstery thread. 

I just know this would look adorable on a mantle, or strung over a mirror or picture frame!

I felt so free creating this piece.  I let my fingers lead and my head followed....it's when things happen the other way around I get stuck.  Not so this time!  
You can find this 8 x 10 print, as well as the other items mentioned here!

I created this collage for my upcoming Rosy Retreat.  I honestly feel like a piece of my heart is tucked into the folds of this storybook picture somewhere.  It is so much a statement about my life right now.  About looking again when things are too quiet or too loud or too busy or too empty.  No matter the circumstances, people, voices, opinions involved...look again.  God is beauty and light and life to me.  He shows me all of that in the most humble of places.

This print is also available as an 8 x 10.  

You can check out my Etsy shop here!





Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Mantle and More!

I'm very well aware of something, as I sit writing this in HOT temperatures.  Some of you will immediately become grumpy when you see I'm blogging about fall mantles and decor when September has only begun to peek its head around the corner.  I know, I know...I get it.  I'm usually right there with you!  But August has taken a toll on our little family (hello-family stomach bug anyone?!) and we are ready for a new season to look forward to.  

And this is what I do.  When three-year old behavior challenges me beyond my wisdom and life hands me situations in which I just simply don't know what to do-I plug into what I DO know to do and this is how I unwind and leave the "what if's" alone for a while.   I decorate.  And move things around.  And then around some more.  Until at last I feel my brain, heart, and fingers all go "There, that's it!" And then I sigh a big, happy sigh.....
So without further ado, 
allow me to introduce our autumn state of mind decorating this year! 
I decorated the mantle in my most favorite way-with bits and pieces from here and there that somehow seemed to all make sense together.  Let's look at each piece of the mantle below and I'll give you a few more details! 
The brilliant orange vintage fabric in the middle of the mantle is actually a thrifted apron that was way too big for me.  I simply laid it out flat to use as decor and tucked the apron strings behind the Chevy tailgate!  The painted pinecones I made several years ago and always pull them out each fall...they are so versatile!  This lovely barn painting was thrifted and I painted the leaves on the branches myself! 

The brown paper flowers are made from paper bags (search: brown paper bag flowers) and the "Love" vase was bought on clearance at Kirklands.
This gorgeous, stunning painting was done by a local artist and bought at our Farmer's Market.  I am all about thrifting and finding bargains but I'm also all about supporting your local artists!  I figure if I expect others to support my shop, I must first learn to proudly support theirs. 

I could look at this painting all day long.  It tells a story to me. 
And last this side of the mantle is made up of a thrifted rake (Brett cut the handle off for me), a mirror bought at 40% off from Hobby Lobby, feathers from a friend, and bottles from my sweet grandparents.  
As I was putting this blog post together I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of my other fall mantles throughout the past few years.  I hope this gives you some inspiring ideas for your own decorating!  I absolutely adore doing little displays like these....
I've even dreamed of decorating shop window displays as a job someday. 
Hey-you never know! 
With all the moving around, my sweet GIRL painting got moved to the bookshelf.
I think she likes her new home just fine. 
You all KNOW I can't do without a little bit of twinkle lights to add some brightness to these dark fall evenings so I hung a strand up all the way across our back windows.  My Kelly Rae Roberts art print just totally seals the deal for how much I love this view behind the couch now.
I like the top part of our built-ins to mainly look pretty and the bottom part to hold toys and quilts (You can't see the toys in this photo, but they're there!) That way it's a win-win for everybody in the house.  



I also had fun restyling these shelves in the dining room! 
Best idea EVER to hang these up because I can change my mind about what I want to display and it's as easy as taking down the old and putting up the new!  No hammering, nailing, or levels required.  This makes Brett all kinds of happy too.  

The art on these shelves are from my shopThe Wheatfield by Katie Daisy, and Cori Dantini's shop!


The last place to get spruced up a bit was our bedroom! 
I truly enjoy coming in here to relax in the evenings, especially nestling under my mama's quilt with a good book and some hot tea when the weather cools off a bit! 

What about you?  Do you enjoy decorating around your house,
or would you rather leave things as they are? 




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Last Chance-Rosy Retreat in September!


Hi everybody!  With September quickly approaching, I wanted to extend the invitation to the Rosy Retreat one last time before registration closes!  I'm already so excited about the nine women who will be joining me Friday, September 12th for such a special evening on the farm! 

We will be learning how to tell a story with our photographs through two guided lessons,
making two crafts,
eating,
enjoying the twinkle lights on the back porch,
having great conversation,
and leaving with handmade gifts from me! 

You are free to use a "big" camera for the photography portion of the night, use your phone, or simply watch and apply the ideas once you arrive back home!  

To sign-up, simply email me at sunshinebysara@hotmail.com 

Any questions or comments?  Please ask!
*We are located 20 minutes from both Fayetteville and Springdale*
{I'll email the registered gals the first part of September with all the fun details of the night! }


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mini-Vacation How To

Last week we took our last mini family vacation of the summer season.  We debated on going somewhere further away from home, but only had a couple of days to work with.  We ended up having the best time on such a short trip and I've gathered a few favorite tips to share with you today on how you can have a grand adventure with only a little bit of time and money.  

And with that, I leave you with Tip #1 for a mini-vacation "How-To"-Talk to your friends and family to get a real-life opinion on the fun things to do in your town or a neighboring city! Then pick one main attraction. 

A friend of mine from our weekly playgroup told me about the Tulsa Children's Museum and how much fun her family had going.  We decided to make this the main attraction of our mini vacation!
For some families, picking only ONE main attraction seems like such a downer because perhaps you are expert travelers and have 10 kids dressed and organized with no problem.  

We. are. not. that. family.  EEEEKKK-not even close.  So for us, we are left with two choices: sit at home because it takes too much work to go anywhere, or pick one place do-able.  We choose the latter.
We got up the day of the museum and ate Chick-fil-a breakfast in the car while the girls watched a movie on the laptop.  
We then spent several hours at the museum (which the girls LOVED).  Because we didn't have anything else on our agenda for the day, other than the hotel pool, we were able to freely explore the museum without being rushed to leave.

(This particular museum even lets you re-enter later in the day if you wanted to leave and come back)!


How-To Tip #2: Pick a spot where you can interact WITH your kids,
not your phone.
I know, I know...the kids are finally happy and running off all that energy so it feels like the perfect time to peek at your phone, right?  I've certainly been guilty of this before and I don't always think it's a bad thing to look at your phone!  But for a really fun time with your kids, pick a place where you can easily interact, run, jump, and PLAY with them!  They will love it and so will you. 

The Tulsa Discovery Museum had this giant tunnel and slide made entirely out of packing tape.  I mean seriously, how cool is that?!  Mind-blown. 

I went through it twice and the girls went through lots and lots of times with Brett.  

Tip #3-Encourage friendliness with parental guidance.

A lesson we teach over and over at our house is to be polite and friendly when we're out as a family.  I want the girls to know that as long as mom or dad are by their side, it's ok to be friendly and make friends with someone new.  Anna Ruth quickly befriended this little boy in the background and they would tell each other "Good job!" as they were building.  So cute. 

(obviously I won't always be by their side through their entire lives.  But for their little toddler selves now, I want to be around when they're talking with a child who is also with another adult)
Tip #4-Don't be afraid to show your kids the ropes.

Kids aren't afraid to look silly because put simply...they usually don't even know they look silly!  They're just having fun.  So when vacationing, don't be afraid to try something to encourage your little ones to do it as well, just because you think you'll look "silly." 

Brett showed Anna Ruth how to swing on these ropes and she obviously adored the lesson and taking a turn herself! 

Tip #5-Talk to the locals!

We asked the sweetest lady working at the museum where a good place to eat would be that was kid-friendly.  When we go out to eat we're neither quiet or neat!  She recommended a great Mexican restaurant nearby and it was delicious!   Taking the time to talk to a local gal definitely saved us some cash and driving time while our tummies were all grumbling. 

What are your family vacation tips?  


Monday, August 25, 2014

The not-so-perfect family portraits.

 "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." 

The Nester coined this phrase and thank goodness for it! 
Sunday the stars aligned right and were were all ready for church with a second or two to spare.  This happens maybe once a year, if we're lucky.  (my pre-kid self had no idea what a big job mamas have on Sundays! )  So naturally, I decided we should quickly grab a family photo. 

 And this is precisely how they went.  Anna Ruth is three now and can understand directions.  She wanted to obey and make me proud so badly for these pictures she plastered an almost painful looking grin on her face.  Betsy Grace was so enamored with the cat next to the camera we could hardly get her to look up. (I caught her last week cradling the cat's face in her hands and kissing it on the lips!)

These pictures, are obviously the "outtakes".  But I like them just as much as the ones below.  They tell our story.  I admit, I always look at the perfectly posed families on Instagram and Pinterest and think "Do you really look like that? What's your real life like?"  This, my friends, is ours!  

I wouldn't trade it, you know.  I wouldn't trade a picture-perfect photo for these outtakes. 
 To some, you may have already been tempted to click away to another blog, wondering why in the world I would post such "bad" pictures on my blog.  

Let me ask you this-if not this, what else? 

If we don't celebrate our real life that's right smack in front of us...
what else is there?  Reaching for perfectionism? 
I've been there, done that, and I'm weary to the bone from it.  
 But these.....these are my people.  These moments captured put a big lump of tears right in my throat-which is always my test for a "good" picture.  What does the picture make me feel?  
We are Brett, Sara, Anna Ruth, and Betsy Grace. 
A farm-lovin', little country girl kinda family. 
We don't know what we're doing when it comes to parenting most of the time, 
we make dozens of mistakes.
But we choose to love and stick together.
In our home, we believe that there is beauty in almost everything.
In fact, we wake up looking for it. 

We don't have the answers or a grand plan for the next ten years,
but we know God whispers, yells, taps, and takes us right where we need to be each day. 

We seek to create a haven in our home,
a place that's safe, hopeful, full of Jesus, and FUN for our kids and all who pass through. 

Our challenges are greater now than when we had one tiny baby,
but so are our joys and laughs and conversations. 

This is us, unscripted,
un-perfect,
beautiful.