Thursday, October 28, 2010
One of the many things I love about our borough is its enthusiasm for Halloween. I don't know if this is just a general trend, or if it's something unique to this locale, but every third house is fully decked out in Halloween decorations. This is much to the enjoyment of my chicks who spend every car ride, bus ride, and walk looking for the houses with "the Halloweenie." If we happen to enter a non-festive neighborhood, Bojey says repeatedly, in a very concerned voice, "I don't see any Halloweenie! I don't see any Halloweenie!"
I made the Harvest Candle Holders from The Magic Onions the other night. It was a spur of the moment decision, really. I had seen the images on the blog earlier in the day. Confronted at the grocery store with a display of bags filled with tiny pumpkins, my robot hand, set to autopilot, reached over and grabbed some to take home with us. I guess I am that impressionable; what a Gap ad does for some people, a crafty, earthy blog does for me. I see, I must try.
I didn't read the instructions because I figured it was pretty self-explanatory. And it was, except I made the holes in the pumpkins way too large. Being too lazy and too frugal to compost those pumpkins and start anew, I grabbed some of last Christmas's green playdough that is still occupying space in our art cabinet. I filled the holes with playdough and then inserted two tall candles. As a testament to how long I hang onto things, I have to tell you that I've had these candles since I was an undergrad. I'm now 34, and since acquiring them, I've moved from Michigan, to Georgia, and then to California, and then out of the country to Montreal. And still, I have the candles, unused until now.
On the one hand, it's a little absurd, but on the other hand, they were so perfect for this project! They melted in such a Halloween-y way. Ninna kept trying to pick the wax off the pumpkins, and while I'm sure it would have been very satisfying for her, I wouldn't let her because I liked the way it looked.
Today was our trial-run for Ninna's Halloween costume. Her little preschool was having a dress-up day, and the kids trick-or-treated at the offices in the building. In classic hen style, I was still sewing Ninna's shirt/dress up until the second we had to leave. While Ninna, Bojey, and the other little girl we take with us jumped on my bed, I sewed a rainbow playsilk onto an old, stained shirt to serve as the body of Ninna's "rainbow fairy" costume. It's a little bizarre, but it's rainbow-y, and she likes it.
I'd like to thank The Crafty Crow for featuring my DIY Skeleton Puzzle Set yesterday. I'm so honored! I assume you are familiar with The Crafty Crow, but on the off-chance that you're not, go on over. It's a collection of children's craft projects that's usually updated several times a day and contains a wealth of ideas. And welcome to my new readers, subscribers, and followers! I'm so happy to have you.
Have a Happy Halloween-y Weekend!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
**A small, cheap rubber or plastic skeleton, found at almost any store this month. Ours was $1.00.
**Paper or cardboard for the backgrounds.
Easy, easy process
1. Cut your skeleton into individual bones or pieces. I cut mine into fifteen segments. I could have gone far smaller, but I wanted both chicks (two and four years old) to be able to play with it. It turns out Ninna can do these puzzles in about 30-60 seconds, so I'm thinking I'll make a second set for her and separate far more of the bones.2. Lay the bones on a sheet of paper/cardboard in some sort of pose or other arrangement. I went with, clockwise from upper left, "standing guy," "dancing guy," "downward facing dog guy," and "collection of bones."
3. Using your marker, carefully trace around the pose. Don't worry about trying to get really close to the edges; it's easier for a toddler or preschooler to complete the puzzle if there's a little extra space.
That's all, really. If you're like me and you don't always do a good job of clearing your dining table, check to see if you happen to have an empty cream cheese box sitting within arm's reach. It makes a great bone box.This could have been a more eco-friendly, more frugal (free), and more from-scratch project, but sometimes when inspiration strikes, I have to go with it.
And PS: if you're a subscriber, you can ignore the blank "DIY 3-D" post that came up in your feed reader. That's what I get for trying to post with a chick in the room! And if you're not a subscriber or follower, come join the fun! It's easy, it's free, and you'll never be bombarded with NPR-style pledge drives--just stories and pictures of toddlers and preschoolers doing fun things.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
After the chicks came along, two things happened:
1. I realized the absurdity of making strict rules about parenting before one actually has a child,
2. I realized there is some music aimed at kids that is genuinely good.
So, in no particular order, here is some of the kids' music enjoyed by both the chicks and the hen.
**Not for Kids Only by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. First and foremost...it's Jerry Garcia. If you love the Grateful Dead, this CD will give you that same cozy feeling. The songs are all traditional, so you (and your kids) will likely recognize many of them. The folky-bluegrass style is very kid-friendly and fun.
**You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell. This CD is so, so lovely. The chicks really enjoy it, and I like all but one or two songs, which is pretty good for a 17 song CD. Another folk-style CD, You are My Little Bird features tracks that are all, in some way, about birds--some very clearly so, like a cover of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and some more subtle. As far as I can tell, the songs are a mixture of covers (also including songs by Woodie Guthrie and The Velvet Underground) and traditional songs, some of which are from other countries and will likely be unfamiliar to the average listener.
**Catch That Train! by Dan Zanes. We have yet to tire of this CD, and we've been listening to it frequently for over a year. This is our only Dan Zanes CD, so I can't say how it compares to his other work, but we've had so much fun with this. The songs, a mix of traditional and originals, feature special guests like Natalie Merchant. The chicks will run around the house and dance to this for a long, long time. Ninna's favorite song du jour, "I don't Want your Millions Mister," appears on this CD. I have to admit it's pretty adorable listening to your four year old sing "Take the two old parties, Mister/No difference in them I can see/But with a Farmer-Labor Party/We could set the people free."
**Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George (Jack Johnson) I have to admit that I generally don't like Jack Johnson (sorry Jack Johnson fans, a group which includes my best friend--I just can't get into him). This CD, however, is near and dear to my heart. This is in part because it's the first kids' CD that we owned, a gift I received (from my best friend, of course) at Ninna's baby shower. I used to play it for newborn and then infant Ninna every day while giving her a baby massage. When I'm not about to burst into tears remembering the teeny tiny Ninna who's now a robust four and a half year old, I adore the lullabies on this CD. The chicks, of course, like them too, and they seem to do their intended job of helping to relax them. Unlike the above CDs, there are a few songs on here that I really can't stand, but the sweet lullabies (and the special guests like Ben Harper and G. Love) make up for my irritation at the pedantic "Sharing Song."
**Here Come The 123s [CD/DVD] and all the other kids' CDs by They Might be Giants. We don't technically own any of these CDs; we just watch and listen to them on YouTube. I mentioned these once before, but I cannot say enough about these songs--they're amazing! Yes, they are technically "educational," but in very clever, creative, and often hilarious ways. Many (or all?) of them have cartoon videos to accompany them, and they are one of the few things my non-TV watching chicks have seen a multitude of times.
We have other kids' CDs, but these are the ones we listen to the most frequently. They're all a far cry from the fears I had about giant purple dinosaurs singing obnoxious feel-good songs.
What are we missing? What safe-for-grown-ups kids' music do your kids love?
Friday, October 22, 2010
But semantics aside, it's quite lovely. There's more to say about the park than I could possibly share in a little blog post, but our annual fall visit takes us to one specific area: Beaver Lake. And, as you might imagine, the "lake" on the "mountain" is really more of a large pond--a charming pond, filled, in the summer, with birds, fish, and turtles (and rental canoes). I believe they also offer ice skating in the winter, but we've yet to try that as this year is probably the first that I can let Bojey try the little starter skates.
Our choice to visit the park today was a risky one. It was extremely cold, and we have yet to build up this year's tolerance for frigid temperatures. According to the weather forecast, however, today was the only one of our upcoming unscheduled days that was slated to be rain-free. I hated the thought of missing our trip, so we went anyway. And here are the chickies, frozen, slowly making their way up the hill: I was able to convince them that they'd quickly warm up if they ran (in this case toward their mama's shadow):Visible from the park is St. Joseph's Oratory, a strange and fascinating religious shrine that I'll tell you more about in December when we take a holiday-themed field trip there. It, like Mont Royal, is visible for miles and in unexpected places. I think I've taken this same photo in at least ten different places over the years. I just love the image of a road or path leading into the woods:
Barely visible to the left of the tree in the following photo is a giant outdoor sculpture. Quite a few of these dot the park's landscape: The chicks did some rock climbing: The occasional rogue red leaf stood out among its largely dried and crispy brown brethren:"Look mommy! I running faster!":I'm so annoyed at the orientation of this photo, but I can't seem to fix it. It's of an image at the top of a short cement pillar in one of the park's playgrounds. It says "jouer," which means "to play" in French.
Next to it is this:
It says, in French (and a bit of English): "To Play...Article 31...The Right to Leisure" (and so on.) Upon reading this, I felt both clueless and very curious. After the chicks went to sleep tonight I did some research and discovered that this is one of 54 articles outlined in the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Have you heard of this? Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I had no idea such a thing existed. Article 31, so aptly referenced in the park, explains the child's right to play. Amazing and lovely--the UN considers a child's right to play among his basic human rights. I'm looking forward to reading the remaining 53 articles.
The treaty, written in 1989, has been ratified by almost every member of the UN. Only two members have yet to do so--Somalia, a country pretty much without a functioning government, and one more. Can you guess which country it is?
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
We've made playdough before, and while we certainly love homemade playdough much more than store-bought, the previous times we made it didn't involve the kids much until it came time to play. In searching for a recipe this time, I came across one here that suggested waiting to add the food coloring until after the playdough is done, kneading it in at the end.
This, my friends, is brilliant, for all of these reasons:
**It allows you to make multiple colors of playdough from one batch. If you've made playdough before, you know that it's really tough on the forearms. At the end of the cooking, you're stirring a semi-solid, and it gets harder and harder to move it around. With this approach, you can divide one batch into several pieces and then add color, rather than coloring a whole batch together.
**Visually, it's a ton of fun. You get to see the playdough slowly changing color before your eyes.
**It's a wonderful sensory experience. If you have a child who needs extra sensory time, or even if you don't, kneading warm dough is lovely. Even as an adult it's great. It's different from bread dough in that it's quite hot when you take it out of the pan, and after you wait a moment, it's the perfect temperature for a warm sensory activity--one that pairs well with a cool fall afternoon.
Our process looked like this. I divided our full batch into four balls of equal sizes and sat them on a hideously ugly plastic/silicone cutting board:
We flattened them into pancakes and made indentations in the middle (shallow lakes) and poured in food coloring. Yes, the poisonous, synthetic kind. I've made lots of plant-based dyes for Easter eggs and fabric dying, but I've yet to figure out how to make the intense colors I wanted for the playdough. I do remember seeing a set of four plant-based food colorings one time, perhaps at Whole Foods, but it was insanely expensive. So...poison it is. I'm certain the whole concoction has still got to be better than what's in those store-bought playdough containers.
Here are our four bright, fancy, and totally synthetic colors:
And here's how I packaged them. I, like many, have a love for mason jars. They're just so cute. So I rolled each color into a tube, put it in a small ziploc, and placed them into a jar. And then I had to warn the parents not to let the two year old carry around her own present before opening it because it contained a glass jar. Yeah, smart:
I just took a label from a multipack I have and, being too tired to come up with something more clever, wrote "playdough" on it. Pretty creative, huh? And I do realize this photo is sideways. I might be a little too lazy to fix it right now:
So that was that. Next time we do an "art supplies" present, I'd like to add some hand-sewn journals or drawing pads, but that's a little tough when you start making the present the morning of the party. Did I mistakenly say something about being on top of things in my last post? Yeah, I believe I did.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
This Sunday afternoon, the chicks and I attended a very sweet birthday party for a newly two-year old friend (more on the darling party later), and we spent the morning making crayon cakes and playdough.
First, the two chickies sat for quite some time peeling paper from orphaned crayons. Lest you think I actually purchased crayons for such a project, I should mention that we have a huge bag of random crayons from hand-me-downs, free piles, etc. Whenever I find some, I add them to the bag for making crayon cakes.
After peeling and breaking, we placed the crayons in our strangely shallow dollar store muffin tin (if it can even be called that). We added glitter to three of them, and, to enhance the sensory experience, I added a few drops of vanilla extract to each one with an eye dropper:And the results:When I've made these in the past, I just sort of haphazardly filled the cavities with crayon pieces. I decided to be fancy this time. The top row contains, from left to right, a girly glittery pink and purple (I couldn't help myself), a color gradation--light orange to dark red, and one of my current favorite color combinations: red, turquoise, and black. The bottom row contains my attempt at a ROY G BIV crayon, Ninna's color combination, and, the crowning glory...a tribute to the Michigan State Spartans. I couldn't control myself. It just happened.
I was pretty happy with how they came out, and making them reignited the chicks' interest in using our own crayon cakes. I forgot to take a final photo, but for the gift we just stacked them up and tied some turquoise yarn around them. Tomorrow I'll be back to talk about the lovely and velvety playdough we made!
Friday, October 8, 2010
A half-birthday in our house is NOT:
*a day for presents
*a day for cards
*a day for huge decorations, outings, guests, etc.
A half-birthday in our house IS:
*a day for which the chick chooses the entire dinner and cake/dessert
*a day on which we sing "Happy Half-Birthday" and blow out candles
*a big love-fest for the chick who is six months older
For dinner, Ninna chose sausage in hot dog buns with ketchup and rice with nutritional yeast. I know I often name-drop healthy food, like whole wheat this, organic that, CSA, blah blah blah, but I have a confession to make: the chicks love sausage. I don't know how this happened. I probably went about fifteen years without eating sausage myself (twelve of which I was vegetarian), and I'm pretty sure I had never cooked it in my life until two years ago or so, but somehow sausage has become a part of our lives. We don't eat it often, but we do it eat it sometimes, and the chicks love it. From talking to other moms, I've learned that this is a common beloved food among kids. Weird.
And since sausage-filled hot dog buns next to a pile of rice covered in nutritional yeast does not make a blog-worthy photo, or a photo for the faint of heart, I'll spare you the imagery. Instead, what you see above is the cake: our favorite chocolate sour cream cake from Cook Something: Simple Recipes and Sound Advice to Bring Good Food into Your Fabulous Lifestyle (you did know I have a fabulous lifestyle, right?), homemade whipped cream, and raspberries. It's a little more photogenic than our dinner.
After the dinner, the cake, and a little more talk about how we love Ninna, that was that. A very simple way to add an extra special day into your year.
And this is where this post should end--with an explanation of our little tradition. But instead, this is where things get weird. My friend downstairs has a little boy whose birthday is two days after Ninna's. I reminded her on Wednesday that their half-birthdays were coming up. Last night, after the chicks went to bed, I delivered some cake to her, and we discussed her plans for their son's half-birthday. A few minutes later I got a phone call that went something like this:
**Friend: "I'm pretty sure their half-birthdays are in November."
**Me: "What? No."
**Friend: "Yeah, I just counted three times. I got November."
**Me: "Really? June, July, August, September, October, Noooooooovemmmmber. Oh. Crap."
Before you think I have the math skills of a three-year old, I promise you it's not that bad. I made it through calculus in high school; I taught basic algebra in the GRE and GMAT test prep classes I taught many years ago; I've even looked for math games as an adult (and, not really enjoying Sudoku, have come up short in that realm). Really, I can do basic math. I will blame this on exhaustion. I'm a tired mama, and I was worried about forgetting her half-birthday since it's not an obvious holiday.
And now there's no turning back. She is so certain that she's 4 1/2 that she's brought it up at least ten times in the last two days, once going so far as to tell me that she can tell that she feels a little taller. No need to confuse her at this point.
And it could be worse, right? What if I miscounted and told her she was turning six on her next birthday instead of five? When I put it in that context, this isn't all that bad. So on November 7th, I'll just have a little laugh with myself. And as for tonight, I think I'll try to get some sleep! I'll see you tomorrow for Self-Portrait Saturday if you're not totally freaked out by my insanity.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
So we are hopscotching. Next time I should sit down on the ground to photograph this; I bet I could get some really great photos.
Our downstairs neighbors jumped along on Friday. All four kids (two years old, three years old, four years old, and five years old) took the game quite seriously. Personally, I had a hard time not laughing, but I held it in enough to keep a straight face.
And, because I can never leave well enough alone, I had to search for ideas for hopscotch play. Here are some links:
**Hopscotch Variations & Other Skipping Games Game Variations
**Hopscotch from Around the World (fun!)
**A cute idea for hopscotch on the beach
**Lots of cute hopscotch photos on Flickr
What are some classic games that your kids enjoy?
Friday, October 1, 2010
From now until December 31st, there's always something--the making of Halloween costumes, the making of Christmas presents, the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner, and so on. And since I adore Halloween and have passed that love onto Ninna (and hopefully Bojey--this year will be the first time we might be able to tell how she feels about such things), I like to kick off our festivities on the first of this month with a morning of pre-Halloween Halloweening. And so today, we did.
Ninna (wearing a wizard costume) enjoyed her very grown-up job of filling all the candleholders with spooky black tealight candles (found for 90% off at Michael's last November, of course.) I must confess a totally dorky love of Halloween candleholders. I always think I'm not the "collecting" type, but I've realized there are certain things I secretly collect, and these are apparently one of them. Here's our table:
A package of Halloween bags salvaged from a post-garage sale pile this summer, along with some blocks, became treat bags: Bojey enjoyed carrying around spiders in a jack-o-lantern bucket:
Some bats flew in and made themselves at home on our wall decor: It turns out they were last year's Halloween craft--clothespin bats: We added some Halloween books to the fall book basket:At a church rummage sale this summer, I scored two pumpkin costumes for a grand total of $1.00. When I asked about their price, one of the old ladies called to the other, "Mary, someone's buying the pumpkins!" They had clearly been hanging on the wall in their basement rummage sale room since the early nineties. It's become a familiar moment for me--the one in which someone else marvels at the fact that they've found the sucker on whom they can pawn off their weird old crap. Ninna's costume smacks of 1980s elementary school teacher Halloween costume, all the way down to the glow-in-the-dark puffy paint used to outline the facial features. There's a tag inside that reads "made with care by Elizabeth." We don't know you, Elizabeth, but we're sure enjoying your costume. I'm so glad people use those tags. I love imagining who this person is and why she made this costume. Bojey's costume makes her look more like a Jawa than a Jack-o-Lantern, but no matter--she's still as cute as can be.
In this photo, the chicks are pretending to be pumpkins on the porch while I walk by and trick or treat. Later, Ninna spent half an hour re-enacting the life cycle of a pumpkin in a heap on the floor. We are full-blooded nerds in this house.
We brought some warmth into the chicks' room with last year's fall bunting, now hanging above Bojey's bed.There was also some treat-eating, some mask-painting, some scary noises (courtesy of our scary-noise Halloween flashlight) some mustache-wearing, and more absurdity I can no longer remember. We'll indulge in Halloween almost to the point of irritation, and I'll be rushing to pack everything away by midnight October 31st, but we'll love every minute of it.