We have a visit with Grandma Olga today. My dad and Abuela are there as well. It is an hour drive to get to Grandma’s house, over the river and through the woods. We are armed with a bags, full of apples, books, a movie, toys and the goods to make grilled cheese.
We plan to spend most of our day at my Grandma’s house, and I realize this might be a challenge to the boys. While they love the company of these doting dames and Pops, the house is super clean, decorated with breakable knick knacks and it’s close quarters. They tend to want to climb walls and take things apart if they have to stay in one place for too long. Thank goodness for these long balloons and air pumpers.
I buy these balloons and air pumpers for $1 at Target to put in the boys’ Christmas stockings.
Grandma Olga helps the kids blow them up.
My Dad sling shots the balloons across the room by sticking 1 finger in the belly button of the balloon and releasing it.
The balloon floats gracefully across the entire length of the living room, and the boys try to catch it. This keeps them busy for about an hour and a half, not kidding. The grandmother’s were thoroughly entertained, the boys’ energy was focused on good versus trouble, and the balloons were too soft to break knick knacks.
I have been blessed with a very close family. My Grandma was one of 9 children…there were 6 boys and 3 girls…she went on to have 5 children of her own, 4 girls and 1 boy, my Dad, the middle child.
These 5 siblings, my Grandma had a hand in raising, have a way of going through life together that has inspired my relationship with my brother and the way I raise my boys. My aunts and dad are there for one another without question, live close together and have gone onto have their own families. My cousins are also very close.
Recently, my Grandma Olga had a fall and hasn’t been able to keep up with her very active lifestyle which included driving, running the kitchen at her town’s senior center and keeping up with all her remaining siblings, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
My aunts and dad are there to help take care of her needs and are a support system to each other as well while going through the challenge of taking care of an aging parent.
My Grandma Olga in the past has come to visit us, an hour away, about once a month. She usually drives up with my other grandmother, Abuela. These little old ladies come armed with bags full of food and little treats.
They are a riot, and they get a super kick out of my boys’ energy and antics.
It was our turn to visit, and when the boys starting getting restless, I put on a movie and asked Gram if it was okay to stay longer, until it was over. She said, without hesitation, “of course! You can stay as long as you like!” It’s nice to know we’re so loved. We love you too Grandma.
In early November, the boys and I, along with the MOMS Club and Little J’s preschool, are involved in decorating 2 out of 10 trees hidden in the town’s conservation trails for a winter scavenger hunt. The MOMS Club tree is decorated with modge podged cd’s and plastic container covers with scrap book paper and letters, “Upcycled ABC tree.” For the preschool, the teachers and children cut out Very Hungry Caterpillar characters from color foam paper.
Today, we joined a friend on a walk to check on the trees and to get outside for fresh air and exercise. Our up-cycled abc letters didn’t make out so well in the wet winter we’ve had. The paper separated from many of the discs. On the other tree, some of the caterpillar pieces fell off the branches, so we spent some time fixing up our trees.
We keep moving when we’re finished straitening up. Our goal is to try finding more decorated trees.
Along the way, we discover a large slice of wood with it’s many rings exposed. Friend H helps the kids count the rings and we talk about how old the tree might have been when cut down. She counts about 63 rings.
Each set of light and dark lines count as 1 ring.
1 ring represents 1 year of growth for the tree.
Wide rings show years when the tree grew a lot.
Narrow rings show years when the tree grew less.
We find 7 out of 10 before the kids start asking to turn back for lunch.
If you investigate, you might be able to find some local nature sanctuaries in your area.
I live in a small town and have 2 at a reasonable driving distance away.
Today, we visit the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary in Monson, MA with some of our MOMS Club friends. The MOMS Club Activities Coordinator was able to arrange for a group of us to have a little lesson in the sanctuary’s classroom about winter wildlife.
They show us a slideshow about what animals do in the winter time: migrate, hibernate, dormant rest, bundle up, etc.
They offer us a craft after the slide show, and we make bird feeders with very simple and easily accessible supplies.
How to make a bird feeder:
What you need: A block of wood, a couple of bottle caps, small nails, 2 “U” shaped nails, hammer, and nut or seed butter.
Hammer the bottle caps upside down onto the wood, evenly spaced.
Hammer the “U” shaped nails into the sides of the wood.
Tie string to the “U” shaped nails, creating a way to hang the bird feeder in on a tree branch.
Fill the bottle caps with a nut or seed butter. You can also add bird seeds.
The birds will find the bird feeder quickly.
We’ll be finding a strong branch in the yard on which to hang our 2 new bird feeders.
Maybe you have a couple more gifts to give and you can use this idea from Alisa Burke’s blog.
OR, you can use this to label someone’s birthday, anniversary, house warming, graduation gifts…
OR, you can customize it to your needs, ideas etc.
I take brown bags from the grocery store and cut them up to look like gingerbread men.
We take them to share at a play date right before the holidays.
Little J asks for dragons.
While he decorates he says he’s drawing the insides of the dragon. Heart, intestines, blood etc.
We use Elmers colored glue pens to decorate.
I punch a hole in them once they’re dry and label gifts with them for the holidays.
At the last library story time of this year, we read books about Christmas and decorate sugar cookies with frosting, fruit loops, m&m’s, sprinkles and sunflower seeds.
We read a funny book about a mama and boy who make Gingerbread Pirates for Santa.
The cookies come alive at night, trying to find the rest of their crew.
They petition Santa not to eat them.
Santa grants their wish and turns them into toys under the Christmas tree along with a beautiful pirate ship.
The boys are going to get some great child sized tools this Christmas. In the spirit of the Gingerbread Pirate story…I thought it would be fun to make some tool cookies for Santa. We might just believe that Santa turns them into toys to put under our Christmas tree.
We use some Trader Joe’s gingerbread mix…add 1 egg and a stick of melted butter…”easy peasy” and Friend A would say.
We make Santa gingerbread babies, saws and horses.
The boys have their own little rollers and mound of dough.
They choose their favorite cookie cutter.
Little K makes a family of saws, “This is the baby, this is the J, this is the Mommy and this is the Daddy.”
Little J stamps out a parade of horses, they are his favorite animal.
And we all press out babies.
…another great book, a favorite for the boys, The Gingerbread Baby is mischievous, just like them.
Reindeer Food Recipe
Oats – To Give Them Energy
Glitter – To See From the Sky
Magic Powder (Flour) – To Help Them Fly
Directions – On Christmas Eve, sprinkle this special mixture outside for the reindeer.
Have a lovely holiday season, Y’all!
With much Love and Warmth,
Happy Longest Night of the Year…Happy Solstice!
I buy an overhead projector for the kids for $20 on Craig’s List. It is an outdated piece of equipment, but we can put it to good use, combining the machine with the colored and cut #6 plastic from the day before.
It’s a small surface, the kids have to share or take turns. Sharing and taking turns has been a huge part of our work lately, so it’s a great opportunity to practice our team skills.
The first thing the kids are interested in exploring is the machine’s working parts: knobs, buttons, fans, flaps, lenses.
They experiment with changing the focus, changing the image to shine on the wall or the ceiling, moving objects around on the lighted surface to see what happens to the reversed image. They move the whole machine across the floor to enlarge and shrink the projection.
Letting the kids master the machine helps to encourage independence and competence. The only rule I enforce is to be gentle with the machine so we don’t break it and can continue to explore.
They use their # 6 plastic pieces. They use Sharpies and plastic sheets right on the surface of the overhead projector.
I cover the lighted surface with Staples transparency paper.
K pretends some of the plastic is a rocket, he calls rockets, airports, He drives the piece around while he watches the enlargement.
The boys experiment with clear paper versus construction paper. J arranges construction paper that he has snipped into pieces and builds a Christmas tree.
Hey Look! We’re not the only ones out there with the overhead projector out for the longest night of the year…Projector and Christmas tree.
When the kids get tired of the #6 plastic, we’ll shrink the colored and cut pieces in the toaster oven, like Shrinky Dinks.
Next provocation with the overhead projector will be translusent beautiful stuff from our recycled art supply collection.
I’ve collected a nice little bin full of #6 plastic since this summer, when I learned that you can use it as Shrinky Dink paper. I originally find the idea on Skip to my Lou.
I take the bin of plastic out today, along with Sharpie markers and scissors, and set everything up at a central low table in the house.
The kids are busy, snipping and marking the #6 plastic. Friend A says he’s making benches, Little J draws his letter “J” on many pieces and Little K draws Mommies and Daddies and pretends to fly them like airplanes.
We have some plans for these pieces. Tune in tomorrow.
We reuse great big Christmas boxes for wrapping every year to cut down on all the ripped wrapping paper. When I unpack Christmas ornaments and decorations, I also take out the empty boxes and leave them under the tree weeks before its time to fill them.
I put some random toys in there. The kids open it up and it’s like a little surprise.
It’s not a big holiday performance with lots of people watching and hoping they’ll like what’s inside. They can open the gifts at their own pace, they can play with them or not.
They can put them back in the box or not.
What I’ve noticed is that the kids are excited to open these boxes and find out what’s inside. I don’t know that it matters what’s actually in the box. It doesn’t much matter that it can be a toy they’re already familiar with. They enjoy the mystery of “what could be inside?” They enjoy it so much, they hide their own toys inside the boxes.
Little J gathers objects to give to Santa and packs it all in a big box. He packs him cough drops, tissues, pens, match box cars, a pretend phone, a book and some glitter glue bottles. He concerned that staying up all night in the cold weather, Santa might get a cold or be bored.
It’s a fun game and encourages my kids to practice giving and receiving.
My mother in law, sister in law and I are shopping in one of Newport’s little tourist shops when we come across the funniest little plate ever. Do any of you remember that little magnet pen you can use with a man’s face…you could move around magnetic shavings to put hair on his head and face?
With this plate, you can use broccoli for hair, pasta for a beard…super silly. I almost bought it and said to myself, “I can make that!” Usually when I say that the follow through is so so.
But this time, during a visit to the recycle center, the boys and I find some plain white porcelain plates, and the idea is revived. I buy a black porcelain pen to make some funny gifts for the holidays.
I find a picture online of who’s name I know now is Wooly Willy.
I use this as a basis to draw the Willy on my plates.
I have 1 platter, 2 dinner plates and 3 dessert plates. I put Willy on them all.
I will keep the platter for myself and give the rest away.
After drawing with this porcelain pen, you allow the ink to dry for 24 hours, then bake at 300F for 35 minutes. Voila. The kids will have so much fun arranging food on our new Wooly Willy platter. 5 funny, homemade gifts, spending only $10 for the pen.
In colder months, we visit museums.
We have Little K’s birthday party at and bought a membership to a local museum that participates in the ACM and ASTC programs, reciprocal deals which allow us to have free admission to many, many other children and science museums across the world with only our humble little yearly family pass to this one museum. Cost: $100. Worth: Priceless.
With not much research, you might be able to find many local, intimate museums of interest to your family.
This particular museum has a room of animals. We can plainly see that the staff loves these animals. They are carried throughout the museum to instigate interest and curiosity with the kids. There are more formal, hand-on animal demonstrations about once an hour, where families can have a more in depth info session on specific animals.
We are asked to pet animals with two careful fingers. We get to touch a rooster and a Giant Welsh Rabbit.
The boys draw a letter for their favorite animals. Little J draws a picture for the gineau pig and Friend A draws a picture for the woodchuck, which is also my favorite. When we first arrive, it’s meal time, and the woodchuck eats carrots and bananas, sitting on his backside, legs splayed, taking tiny little bites from the food grasped between its furry paws.
In another area there is a pretend 50′s downtown with school, post office, department store, apartment, barn, and fruit market.
The older boys spend most of their time here, pretending to be firefighters.
They take turns falling asleep in the wooden box/bed. When they hear the alarm, they slip into the boots waiting at the side of the bed and run to the fire.
They have to get all the fruits and vegetables out of the burning building, saving them from turning to cinders.
When we’ve played enough, we head outside and have a chilly lunch on a picnic table next to a climber. It was a great morning.