Monday, March 12, 2012

Pepper Shamrock Stamps

This morning we had eggs inside of pepper rings for breakfast, and we didn't eat all of the peppers, so I thought we should use them for a little "Luck o' the Irish" art. I have always loved St. Patrick's Day. Even though I have always lived in a place where winter lasts well into April and often even into May; even though my birthday is just two days after St. Patty's day and I was born in a blizzard... the decorations of vibrant green plants, shamrocks, spring rainbows, all lift me up and out of my winter funk. 

Most of our activities this week are themed around rainbows. I thought that would be a fun way to incorporate some learning activities into all of the fantasies of leprechauns and pots of gold. Of course as the children get older, we will be teaching them about St. Patrick, why there is a day to celebrate him. But for now we are having fun making pepper prints of shamrocks
Simply cut a pepper laterally, dip it in green paint, and use it to stamp the shape! It is a fun coincidence that the shape of the pepper, especially towards the bottom, resembles a shamrock.
Keep some damp cloths nearby to wipe paint from hands, because the smooth skin of the pepper makes it difficult to pick up with slippery paint on your fingers! I thought about cutting the top of the pepper in a way that would make a handle, but in the end decided not to go through the trouble.
Although the kids are still learning what a shamrock is, they really had a lot of fun stamping the shape of the peppers.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moments of Beauty

When I was young, the church that my family attended would have a time for congregation members to share "joys and concerns" for which they would like to have a prayer. Every week, one particular elderly woman who was known to be quite eccentric, would stand and share her "moments of beauty" with the church. Moments, small and large, that struck her as something that was God-filled. Moments when, even just for a fleeting second, she had something beautiful in her heart.

Today was a beautiful day for a run. Mid 60's, sunny, cool breeze. My training schedule said I should only take seven miles, but instead I went for nine. And along the way, I had several moments of beauty that I would like to share. Am I becoming a kooky eccentric old woman? Well, I turn 30 this week, so I may well be on my way!
1. Passing by gardens filled with purple, white, and yellow crocuses in full bloom; tulips and daffodils appearing to be nearly ready to burst open from their buds. A tad early this year, but beautiful just the same.

2. Hearing a group of children laugh as they played baseball.

3. Running on a work of art

4. Being near the tennis courts and realizing how much I miss my tennis partner and best friend- it would have been a great day for a pick up game with a friend. It's always nice to think of an old friend when they are living across the globe.

5. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands and smooching every now and then as they walked on the path in the park. I hope Daryl and I are as affectionate towards each other as we age.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hat Counting Felt Board

Felt boards are often items that parents see in preschool classrooms and say "That would be neat to have at home!" It seems as though these fun learn-and-play items are only available to teachers or day cares. I want to show you how anyone can make a felt board for their playroom, and it only costs around $10! The one I picture below cost about $7 to make. I don't have any pictures of the process of making the board; I tried but technology hates me this week.

~Large piece of sturdy cardboard (I used a board that I found with the posterboard at my craft store)
       ~ply wood would work too, if it is thin enough to fit the frame, and would offer a more sturdy felt board.
~Large frame with no backing or glass. My craft store has a clearance rack for frames that are just the wooden     framing, for a few dollars depending on the size. The one I chose was $3
~Large sheet of white felt. These should be next to or under the smaller sheets of felt, folded and in plastic packaging.
~Hot Glue Gun

Step 1.
Cut the board to fit inside the frame. Cut the felt so that it gives a 2-3 inch border around the edges of the board (if you place the board in the center of the felt, there should be 2-3 inches of felt surrounding all sides of the board)

Step 2.
Lay the board in the middle of the felt. Cut a diagonal line from the corner of the felt to its corresponding corner of the board. Then cut a line that goes straight from each corner of the board to its corresponding straight edge of felt. So you are essentially cuting triangles out of each corner of felt, to help it wrap around the board a bit easier.

Step 3.
Fold each side of the felt around the back of the board, so that the felt is tightly fit around the board. Hot glue each side as you go.

Step 4.
Secure the felt covered board into the frame. If your frame did not come with fasteners, it can be stapled in.

You now have a home made felt board for your play room! To make the hats below, I simply cut hat shapes out of red felt, added white felt stripes with my glue gun. It was a fun counting activity for the kids during Dr. Seuss week! You can also make items for your kids to sort by color, size, or shape. And you can even create the characters and scenes from your kids' favorite books. Although that can be very ambitious, it gives children the chance to interact with literary characters and act out their story, or even change their story if they are feeling imaginative! It might not look 100%, but no one will be judging you. Chances are, your kids will be the only ones who see them, so who cares if your felt board has that "home made" edge to it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yertle the Turtle Stacking Blocks

Yertle the Turtle is the story of a turtle king, who wanted to rule all that he could see. He ordered all of the turtles in his kingdom to stack themselves up, so that he could see more and more and therefor rule (so he thought) more and more.

This book has been a favorite of ours this past week. The kids have been in love with turtles lately, so this seemed like a logical story to include in our Dr. Seuss week. They also have both been very interested in counting, and stacking things up. Wouldn't it be grand if we could combine all of these interests into one activity?

Find a few boxes of varying shapes and sizes. You want the basic shape to be rectangular, but it was fun to have different dimensions of rectangles to stack. Wrap each box in green construction paper or wrapping paper. I ran out of green paper, and Jonah pointed out that the turtles in the book are actually a blueish purple color, so I started using blue and purple paper as well. The color variety was a lot of fun!!!

I suggest covering the boxes with a top layer of clear contact paper. This protects them from drool, chewing, sneezing, ripping, and wearing down quickly.

Cut turtle heads, feet, and fins from construction paper and fasten them to the bodies with tape or glue. You can laminate these and then glue them on for extra strength as well. Add googly eyes if desired. (I liked the eyes, but Evelyn was insistent on picking them off. she even snuck up to our playroom during naptime, picked the turtle eyes off, and came back downstairs to give them all to me!)

Let the counting and stacking and knocking over begin!!! I made six turtles, because that was all I had the energy and time for. I am hoping to continue to add new turtles to our stack as time goes on!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thing 1 and Thing 2 craft

I got the idea from this site, and I found it on Pinterest.

This is a fun way to create the mischievous (and curiously beloved) characters from Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two. I also chose it because it provided a fun way to encourage Jonah to touch paint- something which he has quite an aversion to!

First you paint the child's hand red, leaving out the ring finger and a small circular area in the palm. Help the child stamp their hand onto the paper. This is the Thing's body.Turn the paper around, so the print you just made is now on the bottom.

Clean the red paint off of the hand and paint the palm white and fingers blue. You can also paint the very top of the hand where the palm meets the fingers, blue. Help your child position their hand to stamp it just above the body.

Allow it to dry and then use a sharpie to draw the face. Paint a white circle into the open part of the red hand print. When that is dry, write either Thing 1 or Thing 2 in the circle.

It appears in some of the pictures, that the paper I used is white. It is actually a pale yellow. Manilla, light grey or beige would also work. Something that is a bit more than plain white, but not too bright or dark or it will not work well with the bright colors.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dr. Seuss Fun with Food

Do you ever play with your food?
Do you find it puts you in a good mood
to make gravy volcanoes out of beef that's been stewed?

Then look no further, my chap
because here's a plan with a map
for ways that aren't rude
to play with your food.

For Breakfast, Green Eggs and Ham:

An oldie but a goodie! Use food dye to color scrambled eggs green. Add cubed ham, or make them into a ham omelet. It might be a good idea to include the kids in the coloring of the eggs. Some kids have an aversion to foods died strange colors, and it might help if they are the ones doing the dying!

For Snack, Cat Hat Stacks:

I came up with this idea last minute in the grocery store when I had one child begging for bananas and the other one begging for strawberries. Wash and slice a strawberry, discarding the stem and leaves. Slice a banana, and reassemble the strawberry slices, placing a banana slice between each strawberry. Hold the stack up with a tooth pick. It was harder than I thought to find strawberries and bananas that were near enough to each other in circumference for this to work. If this is a major problem for you, these would be cute as fruit kabobs as well!

For Lunch, Cat in the Hat Sandwich and his trusty sidekick "Fish":
I am very proud of this. It took me a while to plan and execute, and I am very pleased with the results.

For the cat's face- I cut a piece of white bread  into a squat oval. Then I trimmed a piece of white american cheese to be just as long as the bread, but a but more narrow. I also cut triangles to use for the ears from the scraps of cheese. I placed the cheese on top of the bread and toasted it in the toaster oven until the cheese had melted and the bread was starting to brown on the edges. I had hoped for the bread to get a bit darker when toasting, but didn't want the cheese to get beyond the "just melted" stage. After placing the cheese-bread onto a plate, I added raisins for the eyes and nose, very thin carrot sticks for whiskers, and a small piece of apple peel for the mouth. You'll see where I got the apple peel from in a second.

For the cat's hat- I cut an apple in half from stem to bottom. Then I scooped out the core and removed the stem and blossom. Using a butter knife, I scored horizontal lines across the apple skin. I then very carefully used the butter knife to peel the skin from the apple on alternating stripes. Because the Cat's hat is never empty, I put a spoonful of peanut butter into the hole where I scooped out the core.I placed this on the plate, right up against the top of the cat's face. I cut a second apple horizontally so that I had a round slice. I then cut the slice in half, to make a half circle, cut out the seeds, and placed this slice skin up, for the brim of the hat.

Serve with goldfish crackers.

Dessert, One Fish Two Fish Jello:

Prepare a box of blue Jello as directed. Pour the Jello into custard cups for chilling in individual servings. Once the Jello is set, or after dinner, the kids can choose which gummie fish to "swim" in their fish bowl. Simply push the tails of the gummie fish into the Jello. This is extremely simple, but brings so many smiles! Tip: I got the frothy sea look in the two pictured on the right by using a fork to whisk air bubbles into the liquid before chilling, or you could gently pour it into each bowl for a more glassy look.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Community in Grieving

(Warning for sensitive content. School shooting and funerals discussed; offensive language used)

What can I say about today? Today I drove through a town, which is usually the source of pleasure for me and my family. A trip to Chardon Ohio has always meant apple picking, a trip to get fresh eggs or honey. It's an idyllic northeast Ohio town, just north to where I grew up.

Today however, the apple orchards were lined with trees adorned with black and red ribbons. Signs with hearts were scattered across yards. My car navigated the winding roads, passing makeshift memorials and home made tributes. The site of the town, which usually makes me smile, brought me to tears. Such pain today. Such loss.

I parked my car on Main Street and continued to walk the rest of the way to the church. Teenagers wept openly in the streets. Mothers held their babies a little more protectively than usual. In a town where you could walk the streets for hours and not see a cop, I lost track of how many patrols I encountered. I was attending the funeral for two reasons. The first reason was, like everyone else, I had an amazing sense of grief regarding the events that took place in the beginning of the week. I had to let go of my anger, my sadness over the senseless loss of life so young. I had to join the group in letting the community know they were not alone in their grief.

On Monday February 27th, the unthinkable happened in Chardon. Mothers and fathers dropped their children off at the high school. They probably discussed the after school schedule for the day, whether or not lunches were forgotten. Maybe they talked about grades, or choice in clothes and music. Maybe they remained silent. Some of the families said good bye to their students either at home or in the school parking lot, and it was the last time they saw their child alive. Moments later, before classes began, a boy opened fire in the cafeteria. Three students were fatally wounded. One remains in serious condition and another has just been released from the hospital.

As a mother, I had to stand with this community so close to home. I cannot begin to fathom dropping my child off at school, and an hour later learning that he is dead. It is a thought that is too immense for my soul and heart.

But a second reason that sealed my decision for going was a tweet made by the infamous Westboro Baptist "Church." They declared that they would be picketing the funeral. For those of you that are unaware of the WBC, just imagine the most vulgar, inappropriate, despicable person that you possibly can. They frequently picket the funerals of victims of acts of violence, or soldiers. They spit on people entering the funeral. They call those mourning the dead "Fags, cunts, sluts, queer, dykes." Yes, I typed every one of those hateful words, because I want to share with you how low the members of this hate group are. They call a mother burying her child a slut and a whore, as she is mourning. A mother who did nothing. To say they call names is not descriptive enough to depict their black souls. And they were threatening to come to MY corner of Ohio. MY turf. Well let me tell you, Westboro Baptist Hate Group: There is no tolerance for you here.

And so I joined the hundreds of people, who out of love and support, went to lift the family up during this difficult time. We stood, surrounding the church, so that we would bear the hate slurs, the spitting, the obnoxious signs, rather than those trying to say goodbye to a son, friend, and student. We stood to show those in mourning that for every hateful soul, there are a hundred people with compassion in their hearts, ready to walk down the road of grief with them. Compassion and love won. I will not say any more about the Westboro Baptist Hate Group, other than they did not show up. Rumors, including word from a police officer, were spreading that they had been in the area, but left without sounding off at all. This was the best case scenario for us. The community was surrounded by nothing but love and solidarity.
The line of support for the victim's family went on as far as one could see

As ten o'clock neared and everyone in the crowd was suffering from frozen toes and shaky knees from the cold, the motorcade arrived. I was amongst a group of students who did not feel they were emotionally prepared to be inside the church, but wanted to pay their respects. Upon seeing the hearse, a young girl standing next to me burst out in tears. "I just don't know why!?" she sobbed. I put my hand gently on her back. "We're here with you." I softly said. The woman to her other side placed her hand next to mine "We're all here with you." She reiterated. The girl calmed and we hugged. She said "That was all I needed; I'm ready to go home now. I don't know who you are, but I love you for coming." We hugged again briefly and she broke away from the group, walking toward her home, still sobbing slightly.

And that is all that I can really say about today. As everyone finds a new normal, as parents regain the courage to say good bye to their children in the morning, as students battle the grief of losing friends, of being in a place where suddenly they were threatened, as we all find our footing on this path that has been laid out- Chardon, we are with you crying, and we are with you healing. We are all with you.