Little K and I team up to construct his very first set of Valentines for his classmates.
We use a photo from his hammerin’ heartsies experience and mount them on a piece of red construction paper.
I write “hammerin heartsies” on top.
He writes his name on the bottom.
He hasn’t ever really been asked to write his name, and he wasn’t so interested in doing it.
But a mom’s job sometimes, is to give a gentle nudge.
I gave him the schpeel…
“This a way to show your friends that you care, to put your special letters on this paper.”
He wrote his name 20 times.
“This is taking 100 years!”
These are some gentle ways to encourage this activity:
-Demonstrate how to hold the writing tool and how to write out the letters.
-Display the name. I folded a piece of paper that stood at the center of the table. We referred to it many times.
-Keep the project and supplies out so he can return to it at will.
-Add some other supplies that might act as comic relief, like stickers, cool markers and whole punchers.
-Spread the project out over a long period of time, working a little at a time to reach your goal.
-Be supportive by sitting with him/her while he/she works, so you can lend help when needed.
-Respond positively. Little K made a long line across the whole piece of paper as one of “K” parts. He started to look discouraged. I said, “Wow, that letter is so cool. It looked like a Rapunzel letter, it’s so long.”
Little J has decided that he would like to make a Perler Bead heart for each of his classmates.
He’s inspired by a little beaded heart my neice gave me for Christmas.
We set to work trying to figure out how to make one.
We fill a cookie cutter with beads and melt them, but they’re a little too fragile.
We end up buying a Perler mold, fit with tiny pegs for every little bed in the shape of a heart and set to work.
What you’ll need: a Perler bead mold of your choice, Perler Beads of course, an iron set on medium, wax paper, a steady hand and lots of time and patience.
Setting 100+ beads in the mold is hard work, surgeon hard. I think it should be a required study for doctors studying to be surgeons to Perler bead. You need a very patient and steady hand We use tweezers when beads slip out of our fingers. The kids love this part…and this is a family affair. Everyone takes turns putting beads on the little plastic pegs that fill the mold.
The three year old put in a couple of beads and lost patients, attention when the bead fell off the pegs. He drifted off to play with cars leaving me to finish the heart on my own, no plea would get him to return.
The four year old lasted a little longer, but not much, could finish the heart with consistent adult help.
The five year old had just enough small motor skill and patience to make 1 heart a day…keep in mind he needs 20.
We started this project a month ago, with mom secretly making a heart on her own every now and then after the kids are tucked in for the night.
It takes a little over 6 minutes to make one heart.
When all the beads are set in place, you sandwich the mold and beads behind a layer of wax paper, ironing the beads in small circular motions for about 10 seconds. If you iron for longer, the holes of the beads melt shut, which is kinda cool too. Don’t put your iron directly on the beads. Not a happy mess!
We choose to keep the wholes in the beads so we can sting them. We hope people might hand the hearts in their windows.
I wrap up our table in butcher paper,
trace hearts all over the paper using a cardboard heart template and black sharpie,
take out artist chalks,
and let the boys decide how to take it from there.
These boys are young enough still, that they aren’t embarrassed to work on hearts.
We talk about how colors “match,” talk about smudging and blending colors.
The boys draw in between the hearts like a maze.
They practice coloring inside the lines.
We plan to cut out each individual heart and use them as a background to the boys’ valentines, or “clementines,” as Little K likes to call them.
We have a month until Valentine’s Day, a special day, when we show our family and friends how much we love them.
To prepare for our valentine making fest, we are doing a little bit of research.
We’ve checked lots of Valentine’s Day books out from the library. (Take it from someone that puts library books away, now is the time to check them out because in another week or two, they’ll be flying off the library book shelves.)
We have our sketchpads on the table, some heart shaped stencils and cookie cutters and our favorite mark making tools.
Time to brainstorm.
In the meantime, there are tools everywhere in the playroom lately. Little K takes out the foam base and pegs.
I draw dots in the shape of a heart on a piece of paper and he hammers a nail into each dot.
With each nail he hammers, he says, “hammerin a heartsies…hammerin’ heartsies…”
You don’t have to own this set to make this work.
You can also draw the dots on a sheet of paper, lay the paper on styrofoam, and hammer real nails or some golf t-s into each dot.
See this post when the boys played with hammer and styrofoam.
Here is a list of the Valentine’s Day Books we have checked out of the library:
Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell
Happy Valentine’s Day Curious George by N. Di Angelo
Franklin’s Valentines by Paulette Bourgeois
Little Bear’s Valentine by Else Holmelund Minarik
The Valentine Express by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
If You’ll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant
Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes
Little K has started using playdough differently lately. Instead of burying tools and vehicles, he’s started to competently roll the dough out and makes prints with tools. I wanted to set up a provocation for him while we were stuck in the house due to sick family members.
Inspired by the “After Christmas Tree,” the kids and I roll out a large slab of peppermint scented, green playdough. I cut it into a tree shape and add lots of small recycled caps to press into and decorate the tree.
We use our favorite play dough recipe and add peppermint extract. The boys press the caps into the dough, making prints, followed by carving out the shapes to create negative space. With the chunks of dough they pull out, they build other things. Little K makes Angels and Little J makes a sun.
It’s time to take down the holiday decorations.
Little J is so broken hearted, especially about taking down the tree.
We decide to put the tree on the back porch after undressing it of its ornaments.
But then, it is all plain looking, so we decide to make suet to hang like ornaments.
We have the best suet recipe. Click on the link to go back to a post where I spell out the recipe.
We pack cookie cutters with the suet and put them outside to firm up in the cold. It’s been below 20 degrees F outside the past couple of days.
We pop the suet out of the cookie cutters and tie them with twine, hanging them on the tree.
We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.
Big K says he’s seen happy birds all over the tree.
The birds come out to feed right after the sun rises.
The After Christmas Tree is a book I found amongst the Christmas books at the library. It about a family that feels the after holiday blues and finds happiness by having a winter party. At the party they go ice skating, drink hot cocoa and decorate an old christmas tree with bird food ornaments.
There are some cookies that are fast and have a “low messiness” factor, that just aren’t worth the calories. There are other fussy, high-maintenence cookies, that cause you to use just about every bowl and measuring cup, spoon in the kitchen…and they are magic in your mouth.
These molasses cookies are easy and magical. It is a matter of taste too, of course. Big K’s favorite would be something that involves lots of chocolatey, chocolate, chocolate and peanut butter.
The cookie of which I drool, is the Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies from the Martha Stewart website. I’ve never particularly had much luck with Madame Martha’s recipes…there always seems to be something missing, but this one is DYNAMITE!
(I say this with my best Cookie Monster / Animal from the Muppets” impression.)
I hang out at a friend’s house with the kids, so the hubbyies could watch football.
An innocent, wonderful container of molasses cookies, all thick and chewy and molassess-y, sit on the kitchen counter.
Did you know molasses is sugar cane, reduced down to a syrup.
No wonder the ingredient is my kryptonite.
I rave so much about these cookies, my friend packs me half the container to go home, to be savored one delicious bite at a time. The family that made them, quickly got me the recipe. (Probably for fear I might bite their hand as they hand me the paper.)
Friend A and I have the morning to ourselves. He is curious about the molten, thick molasses that moves slowly in the transparent jar as we tip it back and forth. I let him dip his finger in, to answer all his questions about its consistency. He licks his finger and says, “Mmmm, tastes like chocolate and honey.”
We pick up the younger friends from school before lunch and Friend E, Friend A and Little K help me with the dishes by licking the spoons.
It’s a great recipe for kidlet helpers. They love to roll the dough into balls and then in the sugar.
We are making them today for an annual MOMS Club holiday cookie swap.
Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.
Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.
Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely.
Parents.com has some great advice on how to organize a cookie exchange. If you click on the link, the article also includes more delicious cookie recipes.
Here’s how the MOMS Club does it:
* An invitation is sent out via Evite about 2 weeks in advance. The whole club is invited, 60 families, but due to schedules, not everyone can make the chosen date and time. Usually 10 to 20 familes attend.
* Guests let host know, in their Evite RSVP, what kind of cookies they’re baking, so there aren’t any duplicates.
* Families are asked to bring 3 dozen cookies. Guests bring the cookies on a pretty platter, with labels for cookies, especially if there are allergens in the cookies, and especially if there is a family with a food allergy. Some groups like to exchange recipes too.
* Everyone brings an empty container for toting their selections home. (My son has a nut allergy, but Big K loves peanut buttery cookies. I bring a separate baggy for the nutty cookies.)
* We make the event a pot luck brunch. Families contribute fruit, eggy casseroles, baked sweet breads, along with their cookies.
* After snacking and schmoozing, guests circle the cookie platters and collect their share, trade recipes etc.
* The MOMS Club arranges one extra platter of cookies. We donate to the group of choice, decided among the families in attendance at the event. Last year, the platter was donated to the town Selectman, the year before, the DPW and the year previous, the police and fire department.
I’ve been working as a page at the library 3 evenings a week for about 4 months now.
I re-shelve books,
help patrons find what they need,
prep craft projects for story times
and some clerical chores.
On some nights, when I haven’t been in for a while. There are mountains of books to be put away. On those nights, I touch 100s of books.
In this way, I get to explore.
These are the Hanukkah books that are HappyLittleMesses approved.
Some are traditional tellings of the Hanukkah story.
Some are silly, more modern takes of families celebrating the holiday.
Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah is full finger plays, poems, instructions on how to play dreidel, and to dance the Hora.
Letter on the Wind by Sarah Marwil Lamstein
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman
Confused Hanukkah by Jon Koons
Hanukkah Oh, Hanukkah: Songs and Games to Share
Inside-Out Grandma by Joan Rothenberg
I have 2 little friends that celebrate Jewish holidays at home.
They spend some time with my Christmas celebrating family during the week, and they’ve gotten caught up in the story and magic of our “Elf on the Shelf.”
They ask over and over again to tell the story.
For the holidays, I bought an “Elf on the Shelf,” and covered the red clothes with blue felt, by simply wrapping the new felt over the red and sewing it on.
I don’t have a tutorial and didn’t take pictures of the process, but I don’t have a high level of sewing skills.
I think any one could figure this one out if they’re interested in converting an elf.
Taking it one step further, my friend Paul, wrote up a little story to go along with the made over elf.
Every year round December
Something magical begins.
The nights grow longer
And leaves fly off with the winds
As the days get colder
And snow begins to blanket the park
Candles in windows begin to brighten the dark
Hanukkah is celebrated all over the world.
This is the time, I come to your home from mine in the north.
Where the skies are full of light, a lovely land.
I bring my light to you.
And to parents and elders, I lend a hand.
I count children’s good words, every thanks and Shalom.
I watch children’s good deeds (and make note when you’re bad)
And cheer when you are kind to your mom or your dad.
This season is for memories, and feelings to share
I’m around to remind you how much we all care.
Menorahs and candles, and stars made of blue and silver paper and felt
I can hear children excited for family time, good food, presents and gelt.
I’m excited for the season, and my chance to help.
But, I need your help first!
I have no name; it’s just the worst!
People call me “hey you” or sometimes “that guy”
Sometimes they wave, or just point and sigh.
Can you help me please? Any name would be fine–
Ottomer or Zed, Kizzy, Heese, or Kreine,
any name would be great
So long as it’s mine.
When you sleep in your bed, I’ll chat with your loved ones
And tell tales of your day
Your hugs and your smiles, your tantrums and trials
I’ll whisper your wishes of presents,
Your hopes and your fears
And together, we shall care for you, my dear.
I will watch every harrumph, and remember a shove
Though I tell those who watch you, I do it with love
Oh! One more thing!
You never know where I might be…
You may find me in strange places
I am stuck when you come around, you see.
When you wake, I am caught still
In the fridge, on a plant, or on a window sill.
I try to hide, which makes a fun game
Can you find me? Will I answer to my name?
I am a sensitive, magical sprite, so please do not touch.
You can talk to me though,
and you can come near
And whisper your wishes, close to my ear.
When Hannakah is done, home to land of light I must go,
I wish I could be here the rest of the year,
But this season is great, the best one for sharing
There’s no better time to display all your caring
At home and school,
With family and friends
I’m proud to watch your kindness
And when the season ends,
And I can rest without fear,
Because you’ll be wonderful
For the rest of the year.
I’ll be back next season, I can hardly wait!
But right now it is Hanukkah,
the moment to love and to celebrate!
I asked Little J, “What kind of ornaments do you want to make for our tree this year.”
It’s a holiday tradition to have an ornament project. Last year we dried spiced oranges and strung them with beads, hanging some on our tree and giving lots away as gifts.
The year before, we made cinnamon-applesauce ornaments.
He said, “I’d like to make yarn balls.”
I didn’t really know what he meant by this, but the image that popped into my mind was a pom pom.
I was in an after school program when I was school age, and one of the teachers was super crafty. Her name was Mrs. C. You could always find me tinkering away at Mrs. C’s table, under her wing, she nurtured and encouraged my artsy side, and I think is one of the reasons I went into teaching art. She taught me how to make a pom pom. At age 7, I knew how magical and genius this process was.
This project can be entirely experimental. Play with colors and thickness of yarn. You can make really dense, puffy pom poms, or really wispy, shaggy ones.
1. Cut 2 circles out of cardboard. How big that circle is, depends on how big or small you want your pom pom.
2. Cut another smaller circle out of the middle of your cardboard circles, so that it look like a wreath.
3. Fit your cardboard wreaths together like a bagel sandwich.
4. Tie cardboard pieces together with yarn, and start wrapping yarn around the “wreath.” You can change yarn if you’d like your pom pom to be more than one color.
5. When it wrapped enough, wrap it more. The more yarn, the thinker your pom will be, but feel free to experiment with amounts. A pom pom with less yarn might be fun and shaggy. A thick wrapped wreath will give you a carpet like pom pom.
6. Wriggle and Fit your scissors in between the two circle pieces of cardboard that’s now buried in yarn.
7. Cut the wrapped yarn around the outside of the circle.
8. Tuck a stray piece of yarn between the 2 circles of cardboard and tightly tie off the pom pom.
9. Slip the pom pom off of the cardboard wreaths.
10. Arrange the pom pom by fluffing and trimming, until you’re happy with the result.
Little J approves these yarn balls for the holiday tree, but you can use these for anything, in any season. They can be used as pretend ice cream in the summer and snow balls in the winter. You can make a garland out of them. There’s no end to the ideas. What would you do with a pom pom?
Happy Pom Pomming!