Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scratch and sniff paint

It is tough to keep up with my kids' requests for art and craft projects.  But I try!  We borrowed a book, "The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions" by John E. and Danita Thomas, from our local library.  This is a great book with lots of easy to make paints, playdoh, etc.  You know, the type of stuff that kids adore ... and parents fear.

My kids had a wonderful time making, and painting with, scratch and sniff paints.  We got several packages of Kool-aid powdered drink mix.  In the separate compartments of a muffin pan, we mixed the contents of each packet with about half a tablespoon of water.  We had one packet each of red, blue, and yellow Kool-aid, which we mixed to make all the colors of the rainbow.  I just had to include a little science in our painting fun!

P.S.  I am counting on you to ignore the mess on my floors and the fact that my kids are still in their pajamas     = )

Friday, September 16, 2011

When subjects blend

Recently we were reading about Ancient China and the Yellow River Valley.  Which led to re-reading "The Story of Ping" (which takes place on the Yangtze River in China).  Which inspired us to attempt to copy the style of the illustrations in the book.  History, Literature, and Art flowed seamlessly together.

We ended up with a fun art project that helped us remember the information we were studying.

by Anna, age 6

by Arik, age 4
I was compelled to test my art skills as well.

Exploring in the garden

Most of our spring/summer garden is done for the season.  That means it is time for me to dig and weed the garden in preparation for fall planting.

The kids and I have been working out there.  The kids say they are going to turn the whole garden into a swimming pool.  I must admit I have other plans for it, like growing edible things.  In the meantime, they have made a pretty large hole.  And they certainly have been coming in the house with very dirty hands, feet, and clothing.

While the young ones dig, wistfully dreaming of a swimming pool, I've been cutting down the tomato jungle.  We have seen two mice darting in and out amidst the zucchini and spaghetti squash plants.  No pictures; they are fast little critters.

Yesterday Arik said, "Mom, what is that?  It's something alive."  I glanced and told him it was just a leaf.  He poked it and showed me that it was indeed a living creature.

An albino praying mantis?

It turned out to be a pink praying mantis.  Pink?  I thought they are supposed to be green or brown.  I briefly researched it online and came across a bunch of differing opinions as to whether a praying mantis could be considered albino.

Last week the kids had their annual doctor's visits.  I thought they looked pretty cute in the little gowns.

These two get their fair share of colds and other viruses each year, but in general they are extremely healthy.  This was the first doctor visit for either of them in an entire year.  I am so extremely thankful for the blessing of their good health.  I am so thankful that they are able to dig in the dirt, investigate bugs, and climb trees.  I am thankful for the 20 times each day that I remind my son to not hug the chickens quite so hard.  And for the 10 times every day that I ask my kids to take a break from wrestling with each other before someone gets hurt.  Each day with my loved ones is such a precious gift.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning with Eric Carle

I think this is at least the third time I've mentioned reading books by Eric Carle.  Quite simply, the kids and I like his books and illustrations.  They are fun for all ages.  We've been making use of them for reading practice, learning Spanish, and some great art experiences.  A lot of his books contain simple science or math ideas as well.

Some of the books by Eric Carle that we have borrowed from the library.  I've attempted to locate each one in English and Spanish.  We read each one several times to become more familiar with the Spanish vocabulary.
The illustrations are made by painting tissue paper, cutting or tearing pieces from the tissue paper, and gluing the pieces to the background material.  I decided this would be a fun craft for us to try.  I thought it might be a bit too challenging for my little one to paint tissue paper without tearing it, so we painted regular white paper and then cut it and glued the pieces onto sheets of thicker white paper.

Arik (age 4) asked for some help cutting out the shapes he wanted.

Anna (age 6) illustrated a book and wrote a story all on her own.  I was impressed by her skill in cutting out cats and other shapes.
For more details on the art process Eric Carle uses, and other ideas for using Eric Carle's books, you can look here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What she said.

Because a piece of my heart is there.  Because my thoughts are often there.  But sometimes I just don't know how to put it all into words.  I read the thoughts of another and think, "That's it.  What she said!"  This is one of those times.  I encourage you to read this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My little Nubians

The kids and I have been having so much fun learning at home.  We have been studying Ancient History, and recently read a book titled "Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors" by Marian Broida.  This book includes many creative activities. 

Honestly, I am often tempted to turn the activity pages as quickly as I can before the kids have a chance to see the projects and ask to do them.  Sometimes it just seems like a whole lot of work.  But fairly often, I slow down, stop worrying about the mess involved, and dive into a project with the kids.  The results are wonderful and memorable.

Anna loves to sew and often asks for opportunities to do so.

Arik and Anna both designed and sewed their own hats.

Anna and Arik helped sew their very own "Nubian Clothes" from an old sheet that I had on hand.  Nubia was a kingdom to the South of Egypt.  It was located along the Nile in what is now the Southern portion of Egypt and the Northern part of Sudan.

They seem to be quite pleased with the end results!
After sewing their Nubian outfits, they decorated them with puffy paint.  And yes, some of that paint is now adding color to our very light tan carpet.  But these smiles, and the hours they have spent wearing their costumes around the house and yard, are worth the inconvenience of stained carpet and the time and effort it took me to help them with this project.  Maybe those green stains (and the purple, blue, black, and orange ones from previous crafts) are meant to remind me to cherish these times with my kids, to not worry about the mess and just enjoy the moments I have with my sweet treasures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer days in the Sunflower House

Near the beginning of the summer, the kids and I planted a Sunflower House.  I wrote a little about it in this post.

Arik and Anna in the Sunflower House in July.

The sunflowers grew fast.  They grew huge. 

Anna near the sunflowers in August.

Anna and Arik spent many happy hours playing in their Sunflower House.  We read stories in the shelter of huge blossoms. 

Joel and the kids camped in the backyard, right next to the Sunflower House of course.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Going gluten-free

I've been feeling really lousy the past 6 weeks or so.  Depressed, anxious, almost constant headaches and migraines.  Not good.  This is not uncommon for me.  Challenging times.  In the past, I've considered trying a gluten-free diet to see if it helped at all.  But change takes more motivation than I typically have when I am feeling so poorly. 

My lovely mother-in-law encouraged me to see what happens if I avoid gluten for a while.  Just the motivation I've been needing!  To top it off, she ordered a bunch of gluten-free products for me from this company.  Have I ever mentioned that I have the most loving and thoughtful mother-in-law ever?  Well I do!

My shipment of gluten-free products arrived yesterday.  The kids and I made some cookies from one of the mixes today.  I was curious how they would turn out.  I almost always bake from scratch.  Plus most gluten-free flour I've tasted is not great.  But these?  Yum!  After a healthy and gluten-free dinner, I baked a dozen of the cookies.  My husband, daughter, and son each had two cookies.  I had two cookies, too.  Interestingly, all twelve cookies are gone... and I am hoping that your math skills are worse than mine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The way things are

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is hope...  amazing courage, amazing beauty.  And there is a lot of hard stuff.  Well really, not just hard, that is putting it too mildly.

Take a look at this blog post.

"After nearly 20 years of state failure and conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo has become a difficult place in which to be healthy. Life expectancy is only in the early 40s for both men and women; 1 in 13 women dies in childbirth; and 1 in 5 children does not survive to its fifth birthday."

As a citizen of the United States, it is hard to fathom living with these realities.  I have to put my imagination to work; attempt to picture myself walking in very different shoes.  My two kids are 4 and 6.  They are both alive and healthy.  I am always extremely thankful for their health and vitality, but I don't think of it as a matter of defying the odds.  If I was Congolese, chances are strong that I would be mourning the loss of one or more children.  I would certainly have many friends and family members whose young children had died.

When I was pregnant, I didn't worry about whether or not I would live through childbirth.  I am so excited for my loved ones when they are expecting babies.  I don't stop and wonder if they will die in the process.  A baby; a miracle!  Could I have the same joy if I was faced with these odds?  So many women dying in childbirth.  So many children never making it to their fifth birthday.

I'm in my early thirties.  I'm likely to live for many more decades.  Chances are strong that I'll get to see my kids grow up, I'll get to spend time with my grandchildren, and even meet my great- grandchildren.  If I was Congolese, I would be expecting to die at some point in the next decade.  I'd be wondering how my children would manage without my husband and I.

Can you imagine?  This is the way things are.  But there is hope!  What a blessing that we can be a small part of that hope.  Please remember daily to pray for DR Congo.  You can also sponsor a child from the Save the Children Orphanage in Congo.  To do so (or to learn more about it) please follow this link:

I've got to get it right

Dear God,

I tend to worry.  Am I doing everything all wrong?  Am I getting anything right?  Am I at least doing okay on the things that really matter?  Am I going about life in the wrong way?

Please help me to change those thoughts.  I want to be daily asking simply this:  "Am I doing things Your way?"

Minute by minute, I need your guidance and your help.