HappyLittleMesses

artsy ideas for kids and families

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Blueberry Picking and Cookies

We love going berry picking, through the heat and bugginess of the summer, nothing can stop us.
We make an effort to choose a simple farm that’s both organic and locally owned.
Often going overboard, we try to put all our berries to good use.

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Here’s a recipe from my Grandma Olga, fraternal, of French Canadian accent, loves her sweets and cooks with shortening. The cookies aren’t much, but I’ve been enjoying them since I was a little girl. The taste is more to me than flour and berry. This is the first time I cook them for my family, probably the first time the cookies are made with 100% whole wheat white flour and organic evaporated sugar cane sugar.

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The recipe on the card forgets to mention how to use the 3/4 cup of milk and the berries.
As you add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and shortening, alternate with milk.
When everything is mixed, fold in your berries.

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The cookie is scone-like in taste and texture. Traditionally, we top the cookies with a glaze made by mixing confectioners sugar and water, glazing cookies once they’ve cooled. I drizzle the sugar water over the cookies, my mom and grandmother use more. My mom likes to dip the cookie in the glaze. The way you glaze is to your taste.
To store the cookies, layer in a container with wax paper in between layers. Keep in the fridge.

Snow and Seeds

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The longer days has brought with it more outdoor play. There are puddles to play in, the sun is out, there is a foot of snow covering the grass after what might be the last Nor’Easter of the winter, allowing us still to do some sledding. You never know what the spring will bring in the North East of the United States. We’ve had a record breaking snow storm in April before, it could happen again. Yesterday was the first day of spring and we can feel spring everywhere.

Little J: The puddles in the driveway remind me of summer.
I heard a bird singing like it’s spring.

We open windows in the house and in the car on these warm days and can here the snow melting and trickling from everywhere, like it’s raining, but the sky is blue, the sun strong.

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It’s time to plant some seeds for this summer’s garden: tomato, broccoli, kale, peppers, carrots and beets.
We follow these instructions to plant our seeds indoors, using recycled egg cartons.

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finger paint and life/blogging crossroads

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.

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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.

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The pots are empty now. We hope to mix up a batch of homemade finger paint.

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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

simple water play

The power of simple water play never gets old.

Whether you have the kids working in a process table, standing on a stool at the kitchen sink, the bathtub or the beach, there is a giant value to this activity.

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Water is a huge part of the human world. Playing and experimenting with water develops and builds relationship and comfort level with the basic element. Children are able to practice pouring and dumping, basic concepts of math and measurement.
The options for tools you use in the water are endless.
What stands out for me the most about open play with water is the story-telling that’s born from the interaction.

I add some dish soap to the bottom of a process table, add warm water in a shower spray to activate the bubbles. Here is a bit of dialogue I overhear as my 2 boys play in the water with cups, large spoons and medicine dispensers.

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“pretend this is bubble soup that you always wanted
i made it cause you wanted it for a whole day, such a long time
so i made it for you

I don’t want it, it’s too yucky
someone told me it was yucky

what about pineapple soup

no answer, kiki is focused on his own work.
this is chicken juice for me to make for a customer
this one is blueberry, i made it for myself

friend, i made some pineapple

sorry i already made blueberry
pretend i wanted to drink it for a whole week.
happy face, dump it back,
i already drinked it all

do you want me to make more

no

I’ll make more tomorrow.
pretend you the chef and I make the soup

this store is closing

mom, the store is closed now
time to rest up for tomorrow.

pretend all the customers are leavin’
pretending to lock up the doors of the kitchen.

cock a doodly doo
time to go back to the store.”

Winter Hike: a seasonal sensory experience

Having boys is like having puppies…you’ve GOT to take them for frequent walks, in all weather.

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Winter in New England can be long and cold.
Taking a walk outside can freeze you thoroughly and fast.
But if there is snow, it changes everything.
Taking a wintery hike is a seasonal sensory experience; crunchy, impressionable snow.

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Crunchy, brittle ice, some white, some clear, all of it slippery.
We don’t run or jump onto the ice because we fall hard.

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We’ve had some unusually warm days here, mixed with the regular NE weather, so there’s lots of ice and snow. We find the edge of a lake today, on our wintery walk, and break off pieces to throw onto the frozen lake. The thrown pieces of ice shatter like glass and slide across the slippery surface like they’ll never stop. This project, involving breaking ice, pulling it up and throwing it, keeps the boys employed for about an hour.

Writing Our Name for Valentines

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.

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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.”

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He wrote his name 20 times.
“This is taking 100 years!”

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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.”

Perler Bead Valentine

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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.

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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.

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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!

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We choose to keep the wholes in the beads so we can sting them. We hope people might hand the hearts in their windows.

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et voila

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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