About CubbaKid

Home is my jam. It's where the heart is, where your story begins, where the good stuff lives. I write about all things home: decorating, lifestyle, homeschooling, home birth, homesteading, home finance, and more.

12 Months of Christmas: February

I’m a bit late in posting this because, life.  But!  We completed our service project for the February edition of our 12 Months of Christmas initiative.

This month the girls decided to help a family that’s going through a rough spot with some medical and financial concerns.  More specifically, they wanted to bake cupcakes for the children of said family.  And they would have to be confetti cupcakes.  Naturally.

That’s the beauty of service, I think.  It doesn’t need to be a large-scale, grand gesture.  It can be something small that helps someone you know (or don’t know).  It can be a simple reminder that people care and want to help.  And I’ve learned that sometimes children have some of the best service ideas.

mixing the batter - Edited

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We also realized that baking 24 cupcakes for 2 small children was probably not going to win us any brownie points with their mom, so we decided to send 6 along to them and send the rest along with the girls to the other kids at the babysitter.  Snack time went very well.

Kids Table in Chalk Paint (or “I May Have an Addiction”)

Guys.  I think I might have a problem.

Before

Before… A little kiddo-sized table and chairs in a dull shade of brick red. Found on the roadside!

After!

After! Two coats of Rustoleum’s Chalked Paint in Chiffon Cream. Bright and fresh and happy!

Two chalk paint projects in less than a week!  Am I forming an unhealthy pattern of furniture restoration here?  I’ve never done this many paint-related projects in this short of time…

I found this adorable kid size table and chairs on the roadside (no kidding) and it sat in my garage for over a year.  I pulled it out this past summer and put it in our homeschool space.  The girls enjoyed having a “new” table and chairs, but I did not enjoy the color.  After much discussion about what color it should be (“mommy, can it be hot pink with purple and teal dots?”) I managed to sell this color to the girls by calling it “Vanilla Chiffon Cream.”

One of the chairs had some significant damage that I had to repair first…

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Actually, this is what happens when mommy sits down on a chair she has no business sitting in.  We’ll file this under “ways to destroy your perceived body image and self-esteem.”

For this project, I used a different chalk-style paint:  Rustoleum’s Chalked in Chiffon Cream.  A note about this paint:  it was thicker and more difficult to apply than the other chalk paint I used last week.  I also ended up using about half the can, where last week I only used about one-fourth… and even though I achieved the “buttery” chalk-finish feel, this paint dried with a little rougher finish.

So the winner so far is the Kilz Chalk Style Decorative Paint!  Even though I really like the color of the Rustoleum (it’s a creamy white with yellow undertones), for practicality purposes the Kilz definitely comes out on top for being the easiest to apply, using the least amount of paint, and having the smoothest finish.

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And, my girls are quite pleased with their bright, updated homeschool work area.

The table and chairs update inspired me to clean out and reorganize our homeschool space and here are some views of that effort (I don’t have “before” pictures… I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop to take pictures of the overstuffed mess that existed before):

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Our little family “library” – as we affectionately call it – serves as our homeschool space for the time being. The bottom shelf of our bookcase is dedicated to homeschool supplies happily homed in hot pink containers. The rest is a mashup of all our other books, journals, magazines, cookbooks, odds, ends…

I’ll probably write a more detailed post about our homeschool space and how we use it, but for now, you see that brown Hepplewhite-style dresser in the corner?  Yeah, I’m eyeballing that for my next chalk-paint adventure.  Stay tuned and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Antique Dresser Revival

My love affair with chalk paint continues.

I have this antique dresser that I use by my front door to collect mail and it has been in serious need of a makeover. When my grandmother got a hold of it some 50 years ago, it was raw, unfinished wood. She put a coat of poly on it and called it a day. Over the years it has yellowed to a tangerine shade that has no business being in my house. When I inherited it about 7 years ago, I had no time on my hands to refinish it so we just used it as is.

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And that big white shelf thing on top? Well, that was just an improvisation from another piece of furniture I received from my sister in law.

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And, in case you didn’t notice, the hardware was…

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So, in light of the fact that I have zero time or tolerance for prep work and I just really needed a project to get my hands moving again, I chose chalk paint for this revival.

Why chalk style paint? Because it requires little to no prep, it’s pretty much foolproof, cleans up easily, has virtually no odor, and dries very fast. It also leaves a silky, smooth, buttery finish on whatever you slap it on.

Here were my tools, all purchased from my local Walmart:

Kilz Brand Chalk Style Paint in Platinum Ring, Mainstays Shower Liner, and a couple of super-cheap chip brushes. A note on paintbrushes: for some reason, chalk paint applies much better with cheaper brushes. Don’t ask me why. These brushes were 97 cents and $1.23 respectively. The shower liner was also under a dollar. The quart of paint was just under $20, but I only used about 1/4 of the can for the entire project, so I have plenty left over for more projects.

So, here we go! The process was super simple:

  1. Move dresser away from wall and wipe down.
  2. Put shower liner under dresser to protect the floor.
  3. Pull drawers out and set them aside.
  4. Remove hardware.
  5. Slap some paint on the dresser.
  6. Let dry.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6.

Seriously, I slopped the paint on, let it dry, slopped another coat on and was done. Start to finish took about 3 hours, but that includes some drying time and time to deal with the hardware. And I think it turned out pretty great…

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I also painted the white shelf thing because I knew I’d be using it and I wanted the whole piece to have a cohesive look. I can always take it off later.

And, as for the hardware, I tried cleaning it up but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so I opted to spray it with some “chrome” metallic paint I had hanging out in my basement.

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They didn’t turn out quite as “chromy” as I was thinking, but I really like the finish anyway. It’s almost like a soft, brushed chrome.

That’s going to be a thing now. Soft Chrome. You heard it here first!

And so, the moral of the story is: chalk paint is fantastic. I didn’t sand or prep anything. All the nicks and scratches are virtually gone and the finish is buttery soft. This lovely shade of gray has a blue undertone and works really well with the other sand and blue tones in the room.

Here it is all prettied up:

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I’ll definitely be chalk-painting again!

12 Months of Christmas: January

Well, our first service project in the 12 Months of Christmas Project is in the books!

I’m so happy to report that for the month of January, we chose to support an organization called “Project Night Night.”  A nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, Project Night Night serves homeless children around the country by providing a tote bag with a new blanket, book, and stuffed animal.  As a mom of two young children and having always had a heart for the homeless, this service project was a “no-brainer” for me.

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I first learned about Project Night Night at one of my schools.  In the lobby, a pile of Project Night Night totes sat empty and waiting to be filled.  The name – Project Night Night – stood out to me because both of my girls called nursing/breastfeeding “night-nights” when they wanted to nurse to sleep.  So, I was intrigued and Googled it.  When I found out what it was, I was sold.  I grabbed two tote bags and explained the project to my girls.  They were totally into it.

We shopped on January 25th – our designated monthly service day – and both girls picked out the items to fill the bags.  Two unicorn blankets, two teddy bears, “Mr. Brown Can Moo,” and “The Pout-Pout Fish.”  Stipulations were in place:  we were shopping for others and there would be NO purchases for ourselves.  No toys, no treats, no snacks, nothing.

It was a good trip.  At 6 years old, Bean totally understands the project – but at 2 years old, Bug was a little disappointed that she wasn’t getting any books to keep.  Oh well.  She’ll “get it” one day.

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We’re still pondering our service project for February, so if you have any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them.  Perhaps something “love” related?

In the meantime, if Project Night Night sounds like an organization you’d like to support, feel free to visit their website to see how you can get involved.  You can donate money, new items for tote bags, host a fundraiser, or order your own set of tote bags to fill and deliver yourself.

Happy Serving!

12 Months of Christmas

For the past 2 years, my girls and I have happily prepared little gift shoe boxes to be sent overseas through Operation Christmas Child to children that we believed needed them.  The boxes contained an assortment of things a girl or boy of a certain age range would find delightful or necessary.  A couple of toys, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a bar of soap, a washcloth, a small coloring book and crayons… you get the idea.  But after reading a few disheartening articles and blog posts early in the holiday season, and feeling ultimately confused and not 100% “on board,” I opted out of participating in Operation Christmas Child this year (side note: I am not posting any links to these articles because I don’t completely agree with everything each article stated… if you want to read some just google “Operation Christmas Child Criticism”).

My 6 year old called me out.

“Mommy, remember how we filled up those shoe boxes for the kids last year?  Are we doing that again this year?”

Cue the mom guilt.

But, I had a response!  Because after deciding to not participate, I felt led to do something… something local.  I prayerfully considered the decision and how I would explain things to my daughters.  I told them about what I had learned and the 6 year old responded with:  “Why don’t we fill up some shoe boxes and give them to some kids who live near us?”

Good idea, kid.

But, unfortunately, it was already too late.  Christmas was just a couple of days away and I was scrambling around with holiday preparations for my own family and I didn’t want to rush doing something meaningful for another family as a result.

I spent Christmas mulling it over.  I decided on this:  Instead of celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, how about the 12 Months of Christmas?  

Instead of being generous and getting the warm-and-fuzzies because we helped someone during the holiday season, why not do something for someone in need all year long?

And so, here is where we are:  We’ve decided that on the 25th of each month (regardless of the day of the week), starting in January, we are going to do a service project.  We are going to give to, do something for, or serve someone in need.  No, I don’t have 12 service projects already lined up.  But, I’ve got one and that’s where we’re starting.

We are going to keep it local, so we can be assured that our efforts are not in vain and that our resources are not misused for an alternate agenda (more on that at another time).   We are going to get creative because, budgets.  And yes, I’m also doing this so my children will learn the importance of serving others.

I will update after each service project is completed to let you know how it goes.  And if you have ideas for ways we can serve our local community, please share!

Fun Financial Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

This article first appeared in the January newsletter for my local MOPS chapter. I had the pleasure of being asked to write a little something about financial resolutions for the New Year and decided to republish it here as well. Enjoy!


Ok, ok… talking about finances might not actually be a whole lot of fun, but as a Financial Coach I can assure you that life is less stressful when your finances are in order. When I help families put a plan together, I can almost see the stress melting away! The Bible mentions money hundreds of times, and while God cautions us not to “love” money (1 Tim 6:10), He does expect us to be good stewards of our finances so that we may provide for our families (1 Tim 5:8) and bless others. This year, getting on track with your finances is completely doable – here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Review (and stick to) your budget. This seems like a “no brainer,” but this also seems to be the area in which families struggle the most. All families have a budget. The question is whether or not your family is following it! Get started by printing out 3 months of bank statements to see where your money is going. You’d be surprised at how much those trips to Chick-fil-A add up! Look for areas of spending where you might be able to cut back or save. And be honest with yourself, your spending, and living within your means. One of the things I enjoy doing for families is helping them find money they didn’t know they had! That results in money which can be put towards other important things (savings, debt, investments, insurance, tithing, etc).
  • Save your money! One of the biggest reasons families fall into financial distress (aside from job loss) is not saving their money. An unexpected expense pops up and suddenly you’re faced with a financial emergency – leading most people to credit cards (which starts the cycle of debt) or borrowing from family and friends. Having an emergency fund with money set aside for the unexpected solves this problem! Additionally, most families also need a separate “short term” savings fund for expenses they know are coming. For example: the trip to Disney, a new car, or a home improvement project. This year, commit to saving just $84 each month and by the end of the year, you’ll have $1,000 tucked away.
  • Make one extra payment on your mortgage this year. Just one extra payment on your mortgage every year shortens the length of your loan by 4-5 years! You can spread this out over the course of the year if one whole extra payment isn’t manageable. And if you really want to make an impact on your debt (yes, your mortgage is debt!), look into starting a debt stacking plan that could cut the length of all your debts – saving you thousands of dollars in interest payments. If you’re not sure how debt stacking works, feel free to ask me!
  • Get the right insurance. Having the right auto, home, and life insurance for your family not only provides you with peace of mind if the unexpected should occur, but having the right insurance can also save you a ton of money! Many families don’t realize they could be overpaying for their insurances or could possibly be underinsured. Just looking at this one area of your finances alone could drastically change your overall financial path!

If all of this seems overwhelming, that’s ok! The key is to start small – take just one step and implement one tip listed above. Once you’ve done that, you’ll feel great – and taking the next step will be easier! And remember: I’m here to help! My advice and coaching are free, so reach out if you have any questions!

Winter Decorating

‘Tis the season for taking down the holiday decorations, right?  Unless, you’re like me and enjoy embracing the icy hues of winter.  After all, it can be a dark, dreary time of year, and sometimes taking down the decorations just makes it all the more depressing… but that doesn’t have to be the case inside of your home.  Here are a few examples of easy, bright, wintry decorating ideas from my own home that can easily stay up until St. Patrick’s Day!

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White lights intertwine with sparkly white garland in the window, while ornaments perch in and around some sedum I saved in a terra cotta pot from this summer.  Icy shades of silver, white, and teal are perfectly suited for wintertime and don’t necessarily scream “Christmas.”  The wreath hangs in the window all year and I just change out the accessories on it.

Here is a daytime view of the same window.  My family room has a “beachy” theme and these colors work well even through the holidays.

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In the living room, a giant Chinese dough bowl holds an assortment of wintry picks, ornaments, and my absolute favorite: a large glittered pinecone.  This year, my goal was to decorate without any red, so the transition from Christmas decorations to Winter decorations that could stay up after the holidays would be easy.

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Some views in the daylight:

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As you can see, the dough bowl is very large, but to achieve the same look you don’t need the exact same thing.  Instead, you could use an elongated basket, wooden box, or ceramic planter.

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I really love this pinecone.

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Happy Winter!

But, What About Socialization?

Yes, what about socialization?  The Holy Grail of “go to” questions from pro-traditional school proponents grates like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard for most home-schooling/unschooling/school-free parents.

Buy why?  Why are we all so concerned about socializing?  Why are pro-schoolers so concerned with it and homeschoolers are so bothered by the question?  Let’s consider a few things.

As an adult, I want you to imagine being in a room with 20-30 other people your age with whom you are forced to work, interact, share, and socialize for a minimum of 6 hours every day for 5 days out of the week.  You also have to eat with them.  And go to the bathroom in groups.

How does that make you feel?

Whether it makes you feel good or bad is irrelevant.  What I want you to focus on is choice.

You see, as adults we have the option to control the amount of socializing we create in our lives.  If we need downtime, “me time”, alone time, or free time – we make it happen.  Granted, there are exceptions and obligations, but for the most part, we have the choice to “socialize” as little or as much as we choose.

Why don’t we allow our children the same choice?

Why do we believe it’s healthy for our children to be surrounded by other children for 30-40 hours every week for 40 weeks out of the year, when we wouldn’t do that to ourselves as adults?  Why do we believe that children gain some sort of positive social growth by having this kind of forced, concentrated, overextended interaction with their peers?

It seems manufactured and unrealistic when we describe it that way, right?

Consider, too, if parents and close family members are the people who are best suited to instill social constructs and beliefs that align with an individual family’s values, why then are schooled children spending such a disproportionate amount of time away from the family?

Also, consider your child’s future.  What are the chances that he or she will end up in a career or entrepreneurial endeavor where they will interact only with people their age, ability level, and social status?  Is it more likely that your child will end up doing something with their future that involves people from other age ranges, income brackets, religious beliefs, ability levels and so on?  What then are we teaching our children about socializing when we put them in a room full of other children similar to them?

Is it possible that what school is really teaching our children about socializing is that we aren’t supposed to interact with people who are different, or outside of our cozy little bubble?

Is school possibly teaching our children that time spent alone is somehow weird and unnecessary?

Is the social construct of school itself possibly the impetus for bullying?

As the mother of two young children, my social media newsfeed algorithms tend to default on occasion to articles and memes that stress the importance of “self care” and “me time” – since it turns out that being a parent is kinda challenging.  If it’s important for adults to take time out of their busy schedules for themselves, doesn’t it make sense  for children to have time to themselves also?

If children are constantly learning, developing, and growing – as the “little sponges” we imagine them to be – how much more critical is it then that they learn the importance of a balanced social life that includes people who are different from them and that they need sufficient time to themselves?  And wouldn’t it be ideal for them to learn these things as early as possible?  Why should we wait until adulthood to figure this out?

So, back to the original question:  what about socialization?

As far as socialization within the school system is concerned, we need an accurate and healthy definition, first.  Then, we need to give our children opportunities for choice and balance.  And as it currently stands, traditional school constructs are far from any definition or approach of that sort.

 

Faith in Focus: Rethinking Halloween

I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade when I made my first costume for Halloween.  Because I had no money and I was an overly-creative child, I decided to be a “cleaning lady” – a la Carol Burnett.

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This was my favorite Halloween costume – because I made it, and I thought it was funny.  And as handy as it was to collect candy in my bucket, the mop made for more difficult trick-or-treating – in case you were wondering.

Growing up, Halloween was a fun holiday where kids dressed up and collected candy.  It was innocent, and we never dressed up as anything scary or gory – or sexually explicit – mostly because it never crossed our mind to do so.

I think Halloween has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years.  It doesn’t seem to be the holiday I remember from my childhood.  It seems to be more focused on the macabre, the dark, the hopeless.  I don’t remember my neighbors decorating their houses with demonic effigies, dismembered body parts, coffins, and bloodied weaponry.  I don’t remember women dressing up in a manner that blurred the line between cute costume and streetwalker.  Friends and family almost never bought entire costumes from the store – blowing their monthly budget on an something to disguise themselves for one night.

With that said, and as a mom, looking at Halloween from a Christian perspective, I have decided that it is a holiday we will not be overtly “celebrating” in our home.  At least not in the way I’ve seen it “celebrated” in recent years.

So, what do I do for my children when it seems the rest of the world is trick-or-treating and decking their front lawns with tombstones?  How do I keep my kids from feeling left out, but at the same time abstaining from the questionable practices of Halloween?

Trunk or Treat is the first thing that comes to mind.  Typically hosted by churches in lieu of the typical door-to-door candy-collecting, Trunk or Treat is basically a gathering of families in a large parking lot with decorated cars or gymnasium with tables.  Kids visit each car/table for a treat.  It looks something like this:

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It isn’t necessarily always hosted by churches, either.  Local municipalities have started hosting Trunk or Treat nights for families who live in rural areas, who have strict curfew laws, or for other reasons.

So, it’s basically costumes and candy and fun… and depending on where the Trunk or Treat is hosted, there could also be other activities like music, food, entertainment, games, and so on.  Which also sounds a lot like the parties and fall festivals that also take place, in case a local Trunk or Treat isn’t happening.  That sounds like more fun than traipsing through a dark neighborhood worrying about whether or not someone’s porch light is on.

So, when the actual evening arrives, we’ve already been having fun attending Trunk or Treats and Harvest Parties.  Our girls don’t feel like they are “missing out” if they happen to stay home and hand out candy.  And they actually enjoy it, too.   They dress up, we sit together as a family on our front porch, eat dinner, have a fire in our chiminea, and greet our neighbors.  Sometimes if we’ve been really lazy, we wait until the night of Halloween to carve our pumpkins on the porch.  We try to make this night more about connecting with our community and hanging out together as a family.

If you are seeking alternatives to Halloween, check with your local churches, homeschool groups, and municipalities to what’s available.  And if you can’t find something in your area, take the lead and set something up!  Host a Fall Festival or Harvest Party at your house.  Get a few friends and neighbors together to do your own Trunk or Treat… or, better yet, encourage your church/youth group/municipality to host one for the community.  You may discover that other parents are seeking alternatives, too.

5 Easy Steps to an “Old School” Summer

If you’re anything like me, you may be longing for the simplicity of a summer like the one you had as a child.  For me, it was the 80’s.  They were the kind of summers where the days were full of freedom and stretched forever into a golden sun and all you really needed to make you happy was a Slip ‘n’ Slide and a box of Fla.Vor. Ice pops.  However… if you’re anything like me today – well, the nostalgia may be a bit harder to grab if you’re the mom of little people.  You may be feeling overwhelmed and pressured to provide a summer full of All the Awesome Things to Make All the Memories – and I have totally been there – but I’m here to say a simple summer where you are truly present with your loved ones and relaxed will be so much better.  Go ahead and give a few of those Pinterest crafts and activities a try – but all those other days in between?  Well, here’s my idea of how to do it – in 5 steps – mom style.  You can relive your childhood summers while letting your kids in on the secrets to a really rad summer, too.  And even if you’re not a mom –  I’m pretty sure this list will work for you, too.

So, without further adieu:

5 Steps  to an “Old School” Summer

  • Step 1:  Turn on the radio to the local “oldies” station (or whichever station is playing the most 80’s music).  Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and satellite radio don’t count.  You need to hear all the local ads.  It’s part of the charm.  Plus, you can do step #2 during commercial breaks.
  • Step 2:  Mix up a big pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, Kool Aid, or Tang.  Choose which childhood memory you want to relive and try not to think about the ingredients.
  • Step 3:  Go outside and stay there.  Your backyard, front porch, local park, beach… whatever.  Just get outside and even if you do nothing but sit and listen to the radio from step #1, it’s good for your soul.  If it’s raining?  Go to the mall.  Meet up with a friend for an Orange Julius.  You know you want to.  Bring the stroller and stay away from the Disney store and you’ll be fine.
  • Step 4:  Let the kids get wet and dirty.  It’s ok, really.  This is why you have towels and bathtubs and washing machines.  Don’t have kids?  Do a friend or family member a favor and offer to babysit – and get THEIR kids good and dirty.  Or, you could just let your own inhibitions down and run through the sprinkler yourself.
  • Step 5:  Put your phone, iPad, tablet, computer – whatever electronic device you are tethered to – away.  Turn it off, put it down, and go have an awesome summer!

Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible from now through Labor Day, and in the meantime, you know what I’ll be doing.