Meet Mom Margaret from the USA…
Hello my name is Margaret Grafenstein, creative force behind Star Graf design blog and Etsy shop. I love working with my hands, stretching myself creatively & trying new things. Crafting is a passion of mine and I can’t limit myself to one medium, I enjoy them all.
My Husband and I live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. When I’m not working, or playing with our two little misters, Oliver (3) and Lucius (15 months), I’m blogging, reading, crafting and trying to start a photography business. If you got to know me, you’d find I was an open and honest friend with a few quirks: I don’t really enjoy doing my hair, hardly ever wear jewelry or makeup and whenever possible enjoy running around barefoot through all four seasons.
What kind of house do you live in – are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We currently own and live in a hundred year old three bedroom, two story house but we are facing foreclosure. (I’m not proud of that because I am a hard worker and great with money, we just don’t make enough anymore. Foreclosure has now become a part of my story). It’s plenty of space for our family of four but we do wish we had a bigger backyard to play in. We recently moved the boys into the same room. That freed up space in the third bedroom, which I turned into a play room by day and a relaxing getaway for myself after the boys are tucked in for the night.
What is it you like best about living here?
I love the outdoors and here in the land of 10,000 lakes we’re blessed to have many state parks, playgrounds and lakes to visit making us feel like the world is our back yard. We’re minutes away from so many adventures; weather it’s a trip to an art museum or an underground cave we try to expose the boys to the wonders that surround us.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
My husband, who’s the real artist of the family, actually chose to decorate the boys’ nursery when we were expecting our first son. He picked out the colors, did most of the painting and even a free hand drawing on the wall. I like to spend time organizing, so I make sure everything has its own place.
Do you keep your children’s play areas very separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
We try to keep the kids toys in only a few rooms, but don’t fret if they mingle into other areas, as long as they’re cleaned up before bedtime. Our bedroom is most decidedly a toy free, fuss free zone.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
I find plenty of inspiration on several blogs, including Bloesem kids and paper n stitch. I also enjoy flipping through Real Simple magazines. I tend to be more minimal in my décor, with fewer pieces of furniture means more space to run around. Our house is an eclectic patchwork of furniture; each piece has a story or memory behind it about when and why I built it. We do have a few items we’ve bought here and there that complete our home.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
Oliver just discovered the joys of assembling and disassembling puzzles. He will sit for quite a long time at the kitchen table putting them together repeatedly. We are also huge book lovers, we spend time reading together daily.
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
As soon as the boys could crawl they were cleaning up after themselves. The little misters thrive on the responsibly and it doesn’t hurt we celebrate their helpfulness with lots of cheering and clapping. Both love helping put the dishes away and we always make them clean up toys before bed. It makes for a clean, fresh start when we wake up.
The biggest thing I’ve learned since having kids is let them help, even if they do things slow or not the way you’d have done it. Let go and know it’ll eventually need cleaning again, so it really doesn’t matter.
What’s it like to raise a child in your town?
We have great resources around town. The public library has free “museum passes” to local art museums, the zoo, gardens and historic places around the cities. We also attend an early childhood and family education class once a week so the boys get to play with others their age for a couple hours while I share the joys and frustrations of being a mom with other parents.
Who do you consider is a good example for your children?
I hope to be the best example for my children that I can be. Having kids and knowing they follow my lead makes me think about a lot of things I never thought I would ever have to think about.
What is a normal day with your children? What do you do on weekends?
My husband watches our little misters in the morning while I’m at work. I work twenty hours a week at an Architectural Office as a computer aided drafter. Around lunchtime I’m home to play with them so that my husband can do his work from the home office. Fridays is the start of our three day weekend and whenever possible we like to take day trips. I like to call them our family adventures, even if it’s as simple as running an errand all together.
Tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made.
There was a food drive at our church and we attempted to explain to our three year old what would happen to his money after he gave it away. He paused to think and then asked “are the hungry people going to eat my money?”
Any books you can recommend for parents and how to raise your children?
I read these two books when I first become a mom and found them insightful: “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease is great for preparing ourselves and our kids to become avid readers. Also “The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook”, although we probably won’t be homeschooling our kids I did learn a few practices and principles that fit into our family values.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
I’ve learned to make do with very little the past few years without having a lot of money for extras. (My husband quit his job three years ago to follow his dream of becoming a writer.) It has made me more inventive as a crafter and a mother. I take joy in the simple pleasures around me and find that making messes with my boys is a treat. We’ve turned giant boxes into forts and used masking tape to create a railroad in our dining room.
My dream for my children is that they become respectful, observant and aware of the greater world around them. I hope they think of others and attempt to help them to the best of their abilities. I try to teach by example, which means I must do these things first.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
When my second son was born, I knew I wanted to make a special time for my (then) two year old. We started “make a mess Mondays”, a time when we could be crazy and make as big a mess as we wanted too. We’ve done paper mache, created giant paintings, made felt mosaics, and played in the water at the kitchen sink. I do use a drop cloth for easy clean up- but it’s a great reminder to me that being messy shouldn’t have “rules” and in turn, more creativity will happen.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
Both! I love to craft, even more now that I have kids. But I also love to get down and dirty building furniture and other things out of wood. My grandma taught me to love using my hands to craft and my uncle patiently showed me the joy of using power tools.
What are some favorite games in your home?
The Little Misters are still too young to play a lot of my favorite board games, so we make up silly things to do. Our favorite is “Wild Rumpus”. We take all the cushions off the couch, putting them on the floor right in front of it and then jump off onto a soft landing pad. I’ve been known to bring down a mattress or two to make a wall to wall indoor pillow play land.
How do you get your books? Bookstores? Online?
I encourage grandparents and other relatives when buying the boys gifts to get them books instead of toys. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way we’ve generously been given something the boys love, books just tend to hold their interest and imaginations long after the toys break. Personally, I have a very hard time walking past a bookstore and not finding a book I want to take home for our library.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Neither. I enjoy baking: cookies, muffins and bread. But the day to day cooking is wonderfully prepared by my talented Husband. (I’m super lucky) He’s the real chef and experiments in the kitchen, creating amazing meals we all enjoy. I couldn’t do it without his help because some days it feels like all the boys do is eat.
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
When possible, we let the boys help in cooking, mixing and watching the food being prepared. My mother in law taught my husband to cook at an early age and I couldn’t be happier she did.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and without the children?
I absolutely love to travel. Before I was married and had kids I traveled all over the world, mostly on short term missions trips. Helping people and seeing the world as it truly is in those areas was an amazing experience. I am grateful to have been able to experience ten different countries on four different continents in the ten years after high school. I hope to one day be able to take our family on trips all over the world.
Tips for traveling in a plane or a long road trip with children?
When traveling for long periods of time in the car, we like to leave around naptimes or bedtimes so most of the ride the boys are asleep. When they are awake we keep plenty of children’s music and books on tape for them to listen to. Keeping them actively looking out the windows for different things also works well for temporary distractions.