christmas healing...



I'm feeling grateful for the little things in my life today.

December has been difficult for me.  What I thought were visual difficulties this fall (which is why I went in for glasses) have turned into constant eye/brain discord.  After bouts of vertigo, ongoing motion sickness, and what looks to be neuro ocular vestibular dysfunction, I have felt the exact opposite of peace and hope this Christmas season.

This morning, while Olive jumps on my lap to be petted and thoughts of the recent Nutcracker season are now only memories, I'm excited to just BE today.  I may get to bake gingerbread cookies with my kids or I may need to rest.  I may get to do some shopping or not.  I've seeing my days and moments in my days for what they are.

After letting go of my initial bitterness and trading it in for humility, I have been given exactly what I've craved: amazing strength in the moments when I need it most.  I'm reminded through singing around our piano of the Savior's birth why he came to earth and how I so need Him in my life now.  It really is the magic of Christmas, isn't it?   Not the tangible but the intangible.  The gift of the Redeemer's love, healing, forgiveness, grace, hope, and peace.  The promise that we can find healing, physically and emotionally, in this life.

I am feeling very much taken care of at the moment.  And that is all I wanted for myself this Christmas.


the sleepy time gal

being flexible...


IMG_6162 As you may have noticed on Instagram, I have four daughters in the Nutcracker this year.  FOUR!

It's been an incredible experience for my twins as they now get to do and be a part of everything they've watched their older sisters do.  Our first full week of rehearsals and performances is behind us and this week we prepare to move the ballet to the historic Hershey Theatre.

I always forget how busy life is in December with just a few kids in the Nutcracker so as you can imagine, four dancers has totally changed our December flow of activities.

For that reason, we've had to choose the most important things on our list of activities, how to use our non-Nutcracker time, and family time before Christmas.



Being flexible.

It's a phrase that is so good for me to apply in my life but, simultaneously, is so difficult to accept being a recovering "perfectionist".  It's tempting to believe that if you are flexible, you've somehow given up on what you really want.  Succumbed to less than you deserve.

One of the books I love to listen to when I need a lift is [amazon_link id="0671791540" target="_blank" ]Awaken the Giant Within[/amazon_link] by Tony Robbins.  Tony says,

"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach."

This past year I've tried really hard to live by this quotation.  When I apply this to my life in its many categories, amazing things happen.  I may try something different in my approach to a personal goal I have.  Remove the stress I feel towards a task by adjusting how to do it.  Simplify a task.  Completely remove a task or activity if necessary.  Overall, I stop being obsessed with the "perfect approach" and focus on the overall goal.  I then outline steps towards the goal on paper that are best based on my current situation or circumstances.  It's about pulling away from "the perfect way" to discover the "best way" based on my current  circumstances.

There are a million good things I could do with my 24 hours a day this time of year.  I've decided to keep my priorities of clean ballet clothes, packed dinners, hours to do girls' angel curls, down time for me and my kids to unwind between rehearsals, and most of all, NOT RUSHING to be the foremost on our list.  I feel more peaceful about the season then if I would make myself feel pressure to "do it all".  It is a conscious decision I have to make daily, often hourly.


This morning we will be doing some Christmas baking and getting ready for our Homeschooling Christmas party that's tomorrow.  It will be a very simple party as that's the name of the game this particular season.  And the things that are super important to me (like sewing something special for each of my kids for Christmas) is on hold for a bit.  I am choosing to be flexible with the timing.  I know that many things (like shopping) won't happen until days before Christmas (once Nutcracker is over).  And I'm choosing to be okay with that.  As my girls hear me say often, "Focus on one thing at a time."


How about you?  What goals/activities do you choose to be flexible in their approach, to maintain peacefulness?

the sleepy time gal





{Caroline's adorable apple pie salt dough ornament}

This is by far the girls' and my favorite time of year because we love to make and create the entire month.  Nutcracker rehearsals become later and longer next week so this has been our week to kick off our creations.

Here's a little of what's brewing in our house this week...



{Huge batch of our favorite homemade granola (variety of nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, melted coconut oil, vanilla, salt, stevia, Vitafiber, and blackstrap molasses) for "cereal" with milk + cream, as a yogurt topping, and for trail mix with freeze dried berries}



{Salt dough (1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 1 cup water) ornaments that we made, baked for an hour at 250 degrees, painted with watercolors, and glazed with Modge Podge}



{Making an old recipe with the addition of a new ingredient--raw ivory shea butter--for my family + gift giving}

Are you creating/making something for the holidays?  

Or maybe dreaming of something you're itching to get around to for Christmas?? I'd love to hear!

the sleepy time gal

back to {un}school: diy geometric notebooks


Page 1 With a greater family focus this fall on  m a t h, I wanted to kick off our first math night recently with some new materials.  These DIY geometric notebooks were the trick!




"Geometric" math inspired!


These geometric notebooks can be filled with anything, besides math equations.  Use them for:

Math notebook (for equations + problem solving)


Field journals

Notebook for your child's bookbag/tote

Notebook for your purse/handbag



What you'ln Need to make these notebooks:

white printer paper

scrapbook/cardstock (8.5 x 11 or 12 x 12)

sewing machine + thread


  1. Start with GEOMETRIC scrapbook paper.  I found this 12 x 12 paper at Michaels craft store.  (If you use 8.5 x 11 paper you can skip some of the "trimming" steps and follow this tutorial, just doing it horizontal.)


2. Fold one piece of 8.5 x 11 printer paper in half down the center.  Open the fold and use the crease to stack it onto a pile of 15 sheets of white printer paper.  Now center that pile onto the wrong side of one of your 12 x 12 scrapbooking papers.


3. While holding the stack carefully in place, line up the center of the stack, that crease, with your sewing machine needle.  Sew a straight seam down the crease, beginning and ending with a backstitch.


4.  Trim excess thread from the stitching and trim around the two sides (the top and bottom sides) of the book.  Fold the notebook in half on the seam you just sewed.


5. Repeat until you have a ton of notebooks.  (Remember these are awesome as gifts, having different notebooks for different parts of the house, one for the car, one per child, etc.)


6. If you've made these for a specific task (say, homeshooling or to keep as a sketchbook in your child's backpack) find a pack of cool mechanical pencils that have a clip to clip onto each notebook.  I found these geometric pencils at Target. Page 2

Now you're set!  I keep our "Math Night" notebooks together with their pencils to bring out weekly.


Next on Back to {Un}School: How to Create A Fun Math Night with your Family


I hope you try the tutorial and use up all that extra cardstock/scrapbook paper you have lying around.

I'm telling you--these notebooks are such a luxury to have for me and my kids.  You've got to try them!


the sleepy time gal




IMG_3746 {O c t o b e r}

The sunlight continues to change throughout the day, the way it moves on my walls and counters.  I've been playing the familiar game with my camera's aperture + shutter speed that I do this time every year...


In the fridge I have these fall Pumpkin Pie Fat Bombs from one of my favorite health/recipe blogs, Healthful Pursuits.  They are made of simple homemade coconut butter (processed coconut oil + shredded coconut) with pumpkin puree, stevia, and spices.  I added a bit of blackstrap molasses to the recipe.

These are a great snack for us when we need something satisfying and quick--like before the girls' ballet with a glass of milk/almond milk. IMG_3758

I just finished yet another extra large legal notepad which is full of notes, daily schedules, and the likes.  Like most other things in our house since the "tidying" this summer, my precious notepad always returns to the miscellaneous drawer when not being used.  As the girls hear me remind often, "Everything has a place."  Maintenance is a million times easier when we all follow this.


The return of more countertop play time for my boy.   With girls gone every evening for ballet he likes staying close to my side while I make dinner.  He talks and sings and taste-tests with me.


And an exciting tutorial coming soon!


I love October.  


the sleepy time gal





how to make a bug hotel (and let your kids enjoy the bugs as pets!)


How to Make Bug Hotels (1) As we are discovering what rhythms work and don't work in our days of homeschooling, one rhythm always works: Monday morning explore time.

After the busy Saturday ballet day for the girls and the quieter, introspective Sabbath day, I always crave order of the house while the kids are dying to get outdoors to explore.  It's a morning to get our needs met before diving more fully into a new week.


Yesterday, I discovered my children had made the most incredible creations from their exploration: bug hotels.


Here's a simple outdoor project that inspires creativity, problem solving, nature exploration, and many more skills...


Before the cold weather chases the insects away, set aside a morning or weekend for your kids to make their own bug hotels.  Here are the basics, based on what worked so well for my kids:


  1. Adopt a bug!  We've gathered crickets, caterpillars, and millipedes.  It helps if there are an extra set of hands to help hold the captured bug while your child is preparing for Step 2.
  2. Use a cardboard box as the "hotel".  My kids solved many problems while making their hotels like determining that caterpillars could live in wide, more flat boxes while crickets needed taller boxes with flaps (that they taped together) to keep the insect from jumping out.  Let your child discover their own insect's needs with a little of your guidance, if requested.
  3. Find out what your insect likes to eat.  Older kids can do this on their own via the internet.  If they need help, guide them on the computer or in an insect guide.
  4. Fill the hotel with niceties: food, water, leaves, rocks, decorations, etc.  This is the fun part for kids!  My oldest learned that crickets like to burrow in dirt to keep cool, for shelter, safety from predators, and to find food.  So piles of dirt (with food hidden beneath) were added to her hotel.

IMG_5155 4. Have fun with your bug pet!  Let your kids add their miniature toys, legos, and dollhouse furniture to their bug hotel to create a real world for them.   It is so fun to see how nurturing children are to their "pet", even if it is a bug, in playing with it, stroking it (like Annabelle's dear FuzzBall caterpillar), setting up a home with activities + specific rooms, and thinking ahead of what needs/comforts they would guess a bug would want for the day.


5.  Depending on the bug, free it when your child feels ready to or keep it a bit longer!  Our crickets enjoyed their hotels and owners for most of the morning and then were released.  FuzzBall the Caterpillar has been around for over 24 hours!  He is happy and well and still carefully cared for on the back porch in his beautifully decorated, well-thought-out hotel.


What bug do you predict your child would want to adopt most of all?


Go out + live boldly!


the sleepy time gal

officially fall



{The girls were eager to get our fall things out so the house would be "ready" for the fall equinox yesterday.}

Yesterday we did our best to celebrate the  fall equinox all day long.  We visited the beautiful grounds of our local Dickinson College for nature-found-object collecting to use for leaf/nature art. (My favorite of the leaf art is on Instagram @nshiffler.) Ainsleigh, my chef for the day, helped make up a mini pumpkin muffin recipe with me for our afternoon snack + milk, and we nestled in together at night after dinner and ballet to watch the BBC's Nature's Great Events (based on how the seasons affect animal life).


{Somehow dried beans return to sensory play for Rowan when this season returns.  Needless to say, most of the lentils ended up on the floor but boy was it the most exciting hour of his life as he poured and poured and poured...}


{It wouldn't be the changing of the seasons without the head crafting coordinator, Caroline, making seasonal decorations for her bedroom door and her siblings'.  Pictured here is her "Welcome" mat for outside hers + Johanna's bedroom door.} IMG_5113

{Thank you Pinterest for giving us visual inspiration for fall-inspired activities for our "table time" this week.  I think these scarecrows turned out absolutely adorable.  Especially the add-on of the extra large bandaid.}


The Sly Fox & the Scarecrow

by Caroline Shiffler

Cautiously prowled a fox nearby who thought of himself most terribly sly, 

And most other foxes would strongly imply to yield the farmer's field.  

But the fox said, "I am a fox quite sly" and while he went all heard him cry, "For I am a fox very sly and I will enter the field tonight" and so he went, very content...

(A little poetry work-in-progress by my Caroline.) ;)

And speaking of all things fall, if you live in the central PA area and would like to participate in our annual Bake Off please send me a personal email in the "contact me" section for rules and our home address.  

We have a variety of participants each year: homeschoolers, public-schooled kids that take the day off, young pre-school aged kids, and so on.

Our 6th Annual Bake Off

Have a great Thursday, friends.

the sleepy time gal

diy velvet elastic headbands + floral ballet ribbons


Page 1 It seems like an eternity since I've created with my girls.

Yesterday, with velvet ribbon, sheer ribbon, flowers, and hot glue, we did what we do best: made stuff.



Our goal: make new hair pieces for daily ballet-hair and attempt some velvet/elastic headbands for me and the kids, for everyday-wear.

It was our project of choice for our Monday morning "project time" together at the dining room table.


The ballet floral ribbons are so easy and absolutely stunning, as you can see on sweet Annabelle.  Using narrow ribbon, you hot glue a few clipped silk flowers onto the middle of the long ribbon. Three to four small flowers look best.  Make sure you've clipped the stems off of the flowers as closely as possible so they glue easier onto the ribbon.



Page 1

And the velvet/elastic headbands are even easier!  Simply cut a piece of velvet ribbon about 9-12 inches long.  (I cut some of my wide velvet ribbon in half--lengthwise--so it wasn't so thick too.)  Turn down the raw corner pieces and hot glue in place to create a taper.  Now hot glue one end of some elastic cording--about 5 inches or so--to one tapered down end of the velvet ribbon.

Try it on your head to see how tight you want the headband.  Now glue the other end of the elastic cording to the other side of velvet ribbon based on your head size.  Trim any extra elastic cording.

Now you have a headband for everyday, the gym, or some pretty little things for your girls!


(Annabelle and Ainsleigh looking up "jack-o-lantern" on my phone to know how to draw a face on their pumpkins.  Their new headbands matched!)

Let me know if you try out some new hair accessories!  I'd love to hear.


Just experiment by yourself or with your daughter/granddaughter.  It's fun to see what kids come up with.  Caroline made a handful of headbands with glued on homemade bows.  She was quite proud wearing one to ballet last evening.


You can slow layer narrow, sheer ribbon onto the velvet ribbon or hot glue little gems too.  Talk about a little girls' wildest dreams coming true--designing her own hair accessories!


the sleepy time gal



right now...





IMG_3666 IMG_3643

Right now we're...


  • enjoying giving extra attention to our Johanna with her special day around the corner
  • making new job charts for the girls to maintain the dishwasher + help regularly in the kitchen
  • remembering to use the slow cooker at least once a week--sometimes using it for a hot breakfast
  • baking the awesome ultimate keto buns weekly (the whole household loves these slathered in butter or with burgers or grilled chicken dinner sandwiches) and [amazon_link id="0984755195" target="_blank" ]Primal Cravings Cookbook[/amazon_link] Chocolate Coconut Scout Cookies--but sweetened with stevia + blackstrap molasses--yum!
  • slowly carving a new routine to our "homeschooling" day, like the official reinstitution of "reading time" on the couch in the afternoon--some sit as close as they can to me to see pictures, others make dolls on the floor and just listen
  • patiently waiting for inspiration for Plan B of potty training a boy (those darn pull-ups + underwear are so hard for him to pull down when he needs to!)
  • reading [amazon_link id="0399535667" target="_blank" ]The Gift of Dyslexia[/amazon_link], learning more about the "gift" and understanding so much about why my sweet girl has always creatively done everything different--in coping and understanding her world--from her sisters

Have a wonderful day, friends, and weekend.  I'm looking forward to a simple and special baptism weekend with family + friends.  And I'm hoping for a date night out before the shift in focus towards a family wedding.

Go out + live boldly!

the sleepy time gal

the bridal shower...


Page 1


{My Ole Miss little brother and his dear Meghan.}


 {My Granny's pound cake recipe that I turned gluten free.  Made 30 of these cute loaves for the party favors.}


 {Some southern family recipes graced the table: our Granny's cream cheese mints + chipped beef cheese ball that my sister made.  Aren't the mints beautiful?  They go fast when family is in town.}


{A flare of paper flowers.  I tried a few versions of these pom pom flowers.  I definitely prefer this tutorial because it makes fuller flowers.  Biggest complaint: the big flowers fall easily.}


 {Team work with the "matrimonial" game that my mother-in-law, the game queen, created.}

IMG_3314 {Flowers, flowers, and more flowers.  I used Meghan's wedding invitation for my direction in choosing colors for the flowers.} IMG_3287


{My twins picked wild flowers from the nearby meadow before the shower to go into little vases for tiny corners of the house and, yes, the bathroom.}


 {My older girls and their older cousins were invited to be a part of the special shower.  Their first shower!  They loved experiencing every part of it!}


{My baker sister-in-law's mini dessert cups.  I loved throwing this shower alongside my mother and sisters.}


 {And it wouldn't be a southern Dirle bridal shower (although held in the north) without the traditional bow bouquet hat-- made to be worn during the rehearsal dinner by the bride.  And Meghan learned right away that for every ribbon broken while opening gifts meant that many kids to grace their family. ;) ) 


I loved having aunts come up to join us for the day.  Sisters working hard in the kitchen to prepare special foods.  Seeing many handmade gifts opened by the couple from both sides of their families.  And having my home overflowing with many people that love Travis and Meghan.

Such a good day.  And the remnants of hanging flowers remain on my walls for a bit longer just to keep the magic in our home longer.


the sleepy time gal