stir it, scrape it, make it, bake it

“Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake and nothing’s the matter!”

On a rainy day, the boys put in a request in for a favorite treat of Friend A, pumpkin muffins. His mommy shared the recipe and the flour did fly. The boys help to add ingredients, stir and even scoop the batter into the muffin tins. We made a mess, and the muffins never tasted better.

This recipe makes A LOT of Pumpkin Muffins. You can easily half the recipe, or freeze half of the muffins.

3 1/3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg

Mix Dry ingredients and add,
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups of pumpkin (We did not have any pumpkin, so I used organic sweet potatoes from my CSA loot. Worked great)

Grease and flour muffin tin. Fill with batter, 3/4 full. Cook at 350 for a out 15 minutes for mini muffins, 20-30 for regular size.

“So he skipped from the oven and into bread dough all ready to rise in the night kitchen.”
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak


Farm Theme: Books, Yoga and Craft

If your kids enjoy farm play, you might be interested in what our local CFCE, Coordinated Family and Community Engagement program, had in store for us this Thursday. The CFCE program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care.

We read 3 farm books that are very silly and highly recommended.

Then, we spread out our beach towels and use them as yoga mats, as we explore a handful of animal yoga poses. The teacher has the children use a small foam ball to help inspire certain movements. The ball is meant to help the kids focus.

Here are yoga animal poses from YoungYogaMasters.com:

Camel Ride – a basic warm-up in Kundalini Yoga, sit in easy pose, hold your ankles, inhale lift your spine forward and up, exhale and relax your spine back – as if you were riding on a camel.

Elephant taking a Shower: stand up and make a trunk with your arms, keep your legs straight and dip your trunk into the imaginary watering hole in front of you, then lift your trunk up and spray the water like a shower.

Frog: squat and stretch your legs like a frog warming up and then jump!

Cobra Pose

Downward Dog

Butterfly Drinking Nectar: sitting, put your feet together and knees bent wide apart. Flutter your legs up and down like a butterfly. Then move your chest to your feet and drink the nectar from a flower in front of you.

Cheetah: move quickly on all fours like a cheetah running across the land

Unicorn: Make your hands into a magical unicorn horn over the centre of your head then gallop.

There is also a craft set out on the table. The materials are farm animals stamps, large stamp pads, glue sticks, construction paper cut out into barn shapes.


Little Sheep, Hand Tracing Craft

The theme for library story time is sheep.
We start by tracing the kids little hands.

Tracing the little hand

Then we cut out the hand shape,

cutting skills

and glue cotton balls on the palm part of the paper and a little googly eye for tip of the thumb.

just add cotton balls and a googlie eye

Here are some good books about sheep.

books about sheep

- No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont
- Feeding the Sheep by Leda Schubert
- Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
- Sneaky Sheep by Chris Monroe


Teddy Bear Story Time

We go to a teddy bear story time with our little stuffed animals. This story time is hosted by our local CFCE, Coordinated Family and Community Engagement program. The CFCE program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care.

We read 2 books: Teddy Bears’ Picnic by Jimmy Kennedy and Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

Then we get up and move. We launch our teddies in the air with a rainbow parachute.

To end the story time, we munch on teddy grahams and sip on juice boxes as we work on a teddy bear mask craft.
This is a great way to continue to positively support the kids’ stuffed animal play.


My Stuffed Animal Made Me Do It

Playing with little Beanie Baby Stuffed animals has been a favorite game here for about a month.

At first I am irritated because of the manic loudness and agressiveness of the play. The boys struggle with turn taking. They have the stuffed animals at the lunch table and accidentally knock over food with them, they constantly crash them into things, throw them across the house and car, and they yell in very high pitch voices when they pretend the animal is talking.

They are so engrossed in the play that they cannot hear me when I try to communicate with them about the mundane business of the day: meals, getting out the door, reminding them to use the bathroom, correcting behavior.

Instead of banning it, I try to understand it.

Friend A has a very special stuffy named Ducky. When he’s sad or sleeping, Ducky is a great comfort to him.
Little K cuddles with a little white stuffed cat named Blancita at sleepy time.
We used the animals to help Little J feel protected from bad guys at night.

I notice that the boys sometimes talk out, act out social challenges through their stuffed animal play…”I’m sad, I need to be saved, I’m being bad right now.” They name them, eat with them, hold them in the car, while they watch TV and they sleep with them. We even take them outside in the sandbox, afterwards washing them in with a load of laundry.

There are some boundaries that we have established: Sometimes we regroup to talk about noise and energy levels. I bring to their attention ANY time they communicate or negotiate successfully using the stuffed animals. We also use them during calm times.

My favorite little story:
Friend A doesn’t like me to cuddle him too much, but he’ll let me give his stuffed animal a kiss on the nose, and then he’ll receive the kiss from the stuffed animal.

We love these books about Lily and her blue kangaroo.


Coils, Letters and Soft Pretzels.

The kids are masters with the play dough. Why not try out our coiling skills with real bread dough?

While I’m busy making half of our soft pretzel dough into traditional pretzel shapes, the boys stay busy turning their coils into letters, and for Little K, knots.

When we have a wide open day, it’s always fun to throw in some cooking or baking activities.

The pretzels land on a pretty plate and we brush it with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

We take the special homemade treat to our friends house for a play date and the plate is cleared off in seconds.

I’ve posted a great soft pretzel recipe for Valentine’s Day when we made them into hearts. If you’d like to make some soft pretzels, you can use this recipe:

1 cup warm water
1 package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
3 – 3 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon of water
course salt, sesame seeds, cinnamon, sugar

In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir to dissolve. Add sugar, butter, salt, whole egg and 2 cups of flour. Blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour to form stiff dough. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2- 24 hours. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 20 inch rope. Shape into pretzel, (or heart, or letters or other fun shapes.) Place pretzels on cookie sheets. In small bowl, combine egg yolk and water. Brush pretzels with egg mixture. Sprinkle with salt and, or sesame seeds. or cinnamon and sugar. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. If making cinnamon sugar pretzels, leave pretzels bare, bake, then brush with melted butter and dust with cinnamon sugar.


We Love Libraries.

“The library allows so much space for daydreaming…the hand to hand exchange at the issue desk – taking the books, opening them, date-stamping them, handing them back – is a soothing ritual of community…inscribed in the stone above the entrance were the words ‘free to public,’ which made her nostalgic for the idealism of another era.” ~paraphrased from The London Train by Tessa Hadley.
This is book I’m currently reading for my book club.

Farmer Minor and Daisy the Pig

We spend a lot of time at the library, not so much for it’s exceptional nature in comparison to other libraries, but because it’s OUR library and a part of our local community. There are so many wonderful resources, aside from being able to barrow books with only a little plastic card. The boys are all involved in story time every week. We sing songs, do finger plays, read many books on a chosen theme and then work on a craft. It’s simple and wonderful. My boys LOVE to read, and I think being involved with the library since before they could crawl or walk is a big part of that.

During school vacation, the library has a visit from the famous Farmer Minor and Daisy the Pig, who love libraries. Daisy has hundreds of library cards from all over the United States, and I think some from the outside of the US as well. Farmer Minor, a great storyteller, brings with him his story of how Daisy became part of his family. He also brings a table full of books about pigs. Our current favorite pig book is Peaceful Piggy Yoga by Kerry Lee MacLean.

Friend A hugging Daisy

At the end of his story, Farmer Minor has us make an oath. It goes something like this:
“I promise Daisy that I’ll read lots of good books!
I’ll visit my Library often! I’ll watch a little less TV and PIG OUT ON READING!”

What’s your favorite pig book? What programs do you love at your local library?


Cats: A guest post from Friend H

Friend H and her little brother, friend A, spend some time at our crazy little casa during the week when their parents are bringing home the bacon.
Friend H sometimes likes to see what I’m up to on HappyLittleMesses…she likes that I write stories about our adventures.
She tells me that when she gets older, she’d like to have a blog of her own. She wants her blog to be about cats.
This is school vacation week on our side of the world, so we’re spending an exceptional amount of time adventuring together.
I ask Friend H if she’d like to have a guest post on my blog.

Here it is:

I have a friend, her name is Jena.
She has 2 cats. Their names are Ansel and Cassidy.

Ansel loves to cuddle me. She waits for me to get off the bus every day.
Cassidy is very shy, but I am a cat whisperer.
I meow a special meow, and he lets me pet him on the nose.

This is how you make the special meow:

Block the air from your throat.
Make a humming sound.
Make a “meeeooow” sound in a high pitch voice.”


Beginners’ Yoga for our Family

“With great love and respect, I honor my heart, my inner teacher.”

The library has a kid focused yoga class once a month. Little K and I go and we love it. Well, I love it, and am pretty certain it’s right up my family’s alley, but they need to warm up to it, like anything new. I’d like to gently introduce yoga and yoga practices into our everyday lives.

I rent a yoga dvd for kids to take home, and we watch it and try some of the breathing techniques and animal poses. I buy a deck of yoga flashcards that describe yoga moves for children. I take these to the gym with me in wee hours of the morning and practice a couple of poses after cardio. I also find a simple little kids’ yoga app for my iphone, that tells a story and teaches about 10-12 poses.

After I had my boys, my body went into nurture / hibernation mode, but before I had kids, I was a regular at yoga class. Prenatal yoga was my all time favorite because I felt that the stretches and mantras were so great for my changing body and life.
The teacher in all classes would share beautiful madras with us.

“Be aware of the feelings in your body.
Be at peace in the mind.
It doesn’t have to be perfect…
Just who you are.”

Respecting the body and honoring the spirit are important lessons for me to teach my kids. We pay a lot of attention to our cognitive and emotional and social selves, challenging the mind every day, using I statements and sharing our feelings, playing with friends every day, but it’s time for our bodies to come out of hibernation…time to focus on the spirit in other ways than simply going into nature for tranquility.

There’s one exercise in particular that catches our attention.
We call it the “Sun Belly.”
Little J sometimes gets “spooked.” The Sun Belly breath is supposed to help you feel empowered.

Reach for the sun high up in the sky, and breath out hard as you quickly bring the sun down into your belly.
I tell Little J that he can try this whenever he needs to feel brave.

“The spirit in me respects the spirit in you.”


Salt Tray: Part 2

Part 1 of Make Your Own Zen Tray for Sand Drawing was hosted by Artful Parent.
We use a found bottle of sand art on a cookie sheet and the boys make hatch marks with their fingers and feet.

There is a comment in response to the first post on Artful Parent, about the sand art stuff being toxic, so we throw out the old stuff and give dying sand a try.

You can make your own colored sand art medium with sand or salt and food coloring:
1. Pour half a cup of salt or sand into a tupperware with some food coloring.

2. Shake it up.

3. Pour the salt or sand in a thin layer on the newspaper and let it dry.

4. Repeat this for each color, giving each its own piece of newspaper.

5. When all colors are dry, pick up the papers one at a time and pour the salt into containers to store.

I write out some number cards that the kids can use to practice their number recognition.

Little K likes to draw in the sand, pretending he’s writing letters.
The 4 year old boys practice numbers 1-10,
and Friend H wants something more challenging, so we write up some bigger numbers for her.

When you want to erase, you shake the tray gently like an etch a sketch.