100 Days of School

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

Here are 3 books we’ve taken out of the library that are about 100 days of school:
100 days


Paper Hearts, Chalk and Boys

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Meal Rules

I lovingly pin, plan and prepare my family’s every meal and snack every day.
We have a rotation of easy, healthy, familiar favorites like black beans and rice and pesto.
Sometimes, I want to branch out and try something different, adventurous,
a meal Big K and I might like better than fruit salad, string cheese or sunflower butter and jam sandwiches.

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I’m discouraged lately, to be hearing an increase in complaints and whining over every plate.
Raise your hand if you sometimes feel bummed about your culinary efforts going under-appreciated.
It’s a common problem for the cook of a growing family.

One day, I made a beautiful home made salsa with no hot spices and no chunks, per Little J’s tastes. I shopped for the ingredients, peeled and chopped with Little K, put everything in the food processor. I made a lovely display of salsa on a plate with everyone’s favorite tortilla chips for an after school snack. Little J took one taste and proclaimed it “Disgusting!” Oh, my heart was broken.

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Looking for a way to make the situation better, I googled, “how to reduce the complaints at meal time.” I found this post by Sellabit Mum. We decided to create our own list of meal rules that would minimize the negative comments, help me around the kitchen, and hand over some accountability when it comes to food and family, without meal time becoming a battle every day. We shared these rules and agreed on them; the rules aren’t meant to be militant. I’d love to keep meal time playful and enjoyable.

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1. Mama is not a restaurant cook. One meal is made for the family. If you choose not to eat your meal, there will not be another meal prepared for you. If you’re hungry, eat more of your meal next time. Mommy wouldn’t be a good parent if she allowed you to have more dessert than healthy food, so you must eat a good meal to have a dessert.
2. Sometimes, you’re not going to like it, but you must try everything.
3. Negative comments are not welcome, keep comments positive or you will be asked to leave the table.
4. You say thank you when you are served and when the meal is over.
5. You should ask to be excused to leave the table.
6. Clear your place when you’re done.
7. Be polite at the table: Use utensils when appropriate
Use a napkin to wipe messy fingers and mouth
Eat over your plate so food doesn’t end up in your lap or on the floor
Don’t spit food out if you don’t like it.
8. Food and drinks stay in the kitchen so we don’t have spills and plates and old food all over the house.

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Some Self Love, a Soundtrack

I have a great soundtrack when I run.
It’s like a cheerleader in my ears.

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One of my favorite tracks is a slow song, go figure,
a song that might be normally considered a ballad, Holding out for a Hero by Ella Mae Bowen.
The song is from the (most recent) Footloose Soundtrack. But my inner feminist dedicates the song to me.
Sorry in advance if you are offended by my taste in music.
Take it to task…make a self love soundtrack to yourself with your own music.
Some of the best self love advice I’ve received is to dedicate a love song to yourself.
So here is a self love soundtrack, for all of you.

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Gimme That Girl by Joe Nichols
Fix You by Coldplay
The Scientist by Coldplay
Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys
I Feel Pretty/Unpretty by the Glee Cast
The Way I am by Ingrid Michaelson
True Love by Pink
Holding Out for a Hero by Ella Mae Bowen
Turn Your Love by Jack Johnson
Look at Me by John Lennon
Firework by Katy Perry
Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons
Wonder by Natalie Merchant
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
Titanium by Madilyn Bailey


Ice Play for a Snowy Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Hammerin’ Out Valentine Ideas

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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.

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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…”

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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


Playdough Tree

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.

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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.

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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.


The After-Christmas Tree

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.

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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.

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We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.

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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.

the after christmas tree


Sewing with Recycled Materials

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Snowflakes for Newtown, CT

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I set up a table at my town library with all the materials needed to create a unique snowflake.
The snowflakes will be mailed to Newtown, CT.

I just learned about a great way to fold the paper before making your design…found the instructions in a library book, Zoo Flakes ABC by Will C. Howell.

snowflake instructions

Imagine yourself standing outside, while the sky and air around you fills with snowflakes making a slow, soft, quiet world. It’s the perfect gift to give these children and teachers in Newtown, CT, who will be returning to school after this winter break.

I cried all day after hearing the news from Newton, CT.
I’m an educator.
I’m a mother.
I pray for these babies and the people who died protecting them. I hope the end came quickly and that they’re in a heaven better than any of us can imagine. I pray for this disturbed boy and for others like him that are haunted by anger and mental illness.
I thanked my son’s teachers for standing on the forefront everyday with my babies in their hands.

Even without cable, I’m hit every day since, with news and opinions and reactions to this tragedy.
Many of the opinions revolve around, how we could have stopped it: gun control, creating better policies for the mentally challenged.
Many of the opinions revolve around, how we’re going to protect our children: more guns, stricter security protocols in schools.

I’m not going to focus my energies on a false illusion of safety.
I refuse to live through my fears of what might happen.
Short of sixth sense, gun toting teachers, a sniper on every school roof top, some grand solution to mental illness, stricter gun controls…we are never perfectly safe.

The only thing we can do, is love our people.
If our lives are cut short, even if it’s before that life has hardly begun, “may we find peace no matter what we’re given.” Aruni Nun

Look at your babies.
Listen to them while they talk and focus on their work of play.
Celebrate who they are, who they might become.
Show them, the best way you can, that you love them.
Hold them, smell their sweet smells and to them, act right.
It’s the best we can do in this imperfect world.

“My heart, my heart, I’ve got to keep my heart.
It’s not too late, it’s not to late, I’ve got to keep my heart.”
Neal Young
love sf