We’ve been trying to keep things light and simple around here lately. Life and schedules can quickly get complicated. I am guilty of being seduced by exiting plans/activities that make our days as thick as the very best peanut butter. Like the very best peanut butter, which is delicious, if you eat too much, too rich. Days become so tight, we lose free flow time. When this happens, we all get restless. There has to be a balance, and right now, for us, that means picking our most important activities and keeping time for chilling as a family.
One way we’ve been keeping it simple is by choosing basic, open-ended activities, where there is no specific outcome, the activity unfolds as we go…a hike, a snowy hill, some dirt, paint etc. We like finger paint. We put out all the pots of color. The kids empty them with their fingers one by one, and smear the colors on paper, blending, scraping and filling the space.
The pots are empty now. We hope to mix up a batch of homemade finger paint.
Little J goes to Kindergarden full time this year, and we miss him terribly. We had him signed up for karate that met 2-3 times a week and swim lessons. This didn’t seem like much compared to my friends and their families, but it was too much for us. We sometimes, take care of other kids, I work 3 evenings a week and some Saturdays. We also try to fit in exercise, date nights and managing the house…laundry, cooking, cleaning. All this combined made us feel like we were in fast forward and increasingly estranged from one another. So, we dropped karate, I’m being careful to not over schedule us with extra kids and unfortunately, the blog has taken a hit. Stepping away from the computer during family time has been a great thing for us.
When I started blogging, I had 2 small children all day. They napped, I blogged. It was a creative outlet, a way to socialize, but now, I need to carve time out of my day to make it happen. I can’t always afford the time, especially when it involves keeping up with and learning a technology, managing its quirks. Sometimes, instead, I choose to run or take a yoga class or have a sit on the couch with my hubby, or joining my kids in their play without a camera or a bloggy agenda.
For now, my posts will be sporadic.
We’re still having lots of fun making messes and will share when it’s a good one.
Comment if you can relate.
Jena @ HappyLittleMesses
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.
The 100th Day of Kindergarden in upon us, and Little J is asked to “take 100 of anything that you can find around the house and arrange them together.”
Some examples that were given were:
-draw the number 100 on a piece of paper with 100 buttons or pennies
-an aquarium with 100 gold fish crackers
-build something with 100 popsicle sticks
-igloo created with 100 sugar cubes.
After reading the instructions with Little J, I hold back my million ideas running around my head like kids on a spinning swing ride at a carnival. And on his own, he comes up with a simple, elegant and charming idea.
I find it difficult not to direct his projects and not to provide a solution to a problem that he hasn’t noticed for himself.
It was both challenging and freeing to give him the space and freedom to do this on his own steam.
We’ve been working with Perle beads to create Valentines.
Naturally, he thought to use them for the 100 day project.
“We should count out 100 beads, and put them in a box. When you shake it, it will be like an instrument.”
We make a number chart with 100 boxes and begin counting out beads.
We put the beads in the box and he shakes it almost spilling the box of beads.
He finds the Washi tape and closes the seam of the box.
He writes the number 100 on the top.
As Little J steps out of the house this morning on the way to school, he expresses concern that others will not like his project and that they might laugh. I told him that it matters more that he loves his project. It’s the sound of 100 beads, how cool is that!
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.
Ice play is a perfect exploration/activity for a snow day, after the family has shoveled the driveway, gone sledding, built a snowman, made lots of snow angels, drank up their hot cocoa.
I put ice cube trays on the back porch on a cold night, ice cube trays full of water and generous squirts of food coloring.
In the morning, I popped out the ice, put it in the bowl, filled the ice cube trays again, repeated the freezing on back porch sessions, until I felt I had enough for a good building session.
On a snow day, I set up the ice, baking trays and gloves.
The kids aren’t sure what to do with the ice at first, so I start to build towers.
The ice is starting to melt and is too slippery to successfully stack.
The kids fill a round baking sheet by circling the out to the inside.
Then they’re done.
I see a post from Nurture Store that mentions the use of salt to fuse the ice blocks together!
How could I have forgotten!
So, the next time, there will be ice AND salt.
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.
Little J is sick with a temperature of 103. He’s feeling pretty lazy, so I offer him a project he can do without leaving the couch.
I save lots of recyclable stuff in our art studio. We use these materials when the mood and project suits us.
Usually for sewing, a foam tray works perfectly, but, recently I’ve discovered that a clear plastic lid makes a great sewing surface.
I punch holes all around the perimeter with my hole puncher.
I also have a bag of little bits of yarn leftover from knitting projects.
We tie a length of yarn onto the lid and thread it with a kid-friendly, embroidery needle.
I choose to make this an open ended project, allowing the kids to invent a way to use the materials.
Little J practices a traditional basic stitch.
Little K crosses the middle many times, making more of an asymmetrical sunburst pattern.
We use a transparent plastic lid because light shines through it nicely, so this project would be best hung in the light of a window or in among the lights of a Christmas tree.
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.