Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Space

Jesse surprised me with a little piece of the internet to call my own.  So I'll be hanging out over there now.  Come visit me, won't you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Hands Sing the Blues by Jeanne Walker Harvey

"You put down one color, and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody." - Romare Bearden

My Hands Sing the Blues is the story of the artist Romare Bearden, told in his voice, as he thinks on his time in North Carolina and his move to Harlem, New York.  The story is a gorgeous poem starting with Bearden snipping "a patch of color" to make a collage from a picture when a train comes into memory.  He follows that train, incorporating it into his artwork and telling us the story of his trip North.  

Bearden and his parents leave for New York City in 1914, because of the discriminating Jim Crow laws.  And while they are moving North to make a better life for themselves, the sadness of leaving his great-grandparents is palpable.

There are many things I love about this story.  The first is Ms Harvey's writing.  I wrote about her book, Astro the Steller Sea Lion on this blog and what struck me while reading My Hands Sing the Blues is how varied her story telling is.  She writes a musical poem - filled with rhythm and capturing the great sounds of a train - for Bearden's story, all the while telling a great story in his voice. In Astro the Steller Sea Lion she incorporates facts about a sea lion into a touching narrative.  In both books she captures these two different beings' stories using different forms of writing. 

I also love the illustrations.  This is Elizabeth Zunon's first illustrated picture book and the pictures are stunning.  As a mother of young children, I spend lots of time looking at picture books.  I am always impressed at the way the illustrators bring out the words, enhancing emotions or highlighting a character or a scene.  Ms Zunon does this beautifully on every page.  You will taste the tomato slices Bearden shares with his great-grandma as they sit on her porch swing in North Carolina.  You will feel as though you're on the train headed to Harlem.  And you might just try your hand at a collage.

Which brings me to the third thing I love about this book. It is a chance for us to not only read a touching story, but to try and work through a memory of our own using art.  When Hadley and I read this story together, we talked about collages and what they are and then I asked her if she'd like to make one of her own.   We went through some summer pictures and she picked out this one (which happens to be my favorite):
We put it on a larger piece of paper and talked about what kinds of things she could add to the paper.  She began talking about what she remembered about this day: it was a birthday party, it was sunny, there was cake and presents, she named people who were there, etc.  I wrote down some words in block letters and cut them out, and Hadley glued them onto the page where she thought they'd look nice. 

I also told her that with a collage, you could rip paper to make images instead of drawing something and cutting it out.  She thought that was pretty cool.  I think getting things "just so" can get overwhelming for her....I wonder where she gets that from.  Anyway, she loved ripping paper to make a sun and clouds.

Finished product:
What I hoped I was able to do here was give Hadley a chance to own this memory.  That's why I kept my mouth shut and didn't say what I remembered about this day: there was a pinata, a Little Mermaid cake, that Harper and Hadley looked so cute swinging on the swings eating lollipops in their bathing suits, that there was a major brawl when we had to go home.  It's not that I don't want Hadley to remember what I remember, but I wanted to give her a chance to process through this event by herself.

I love this from the book:
"Like a flower, I have roots in my Carolina past,
roots sunk deep in my childhood long past.
The people and the places are in my art to last."

How easy it would've been to read "heart" in place of "art."  But I love that Walker chose to write "art."  To me, she (and Bearden) are saying that the events in our childhood - in our lives - can be molded into art whether it's collage, paint, photography, writing, dance, perhaps even baking.  We can take these events and shape them into something so that everyone can see the melody.

When people read My Hands Sing the Blues, I hope they will be inspired to "put down one color" and wait "for an answer."  I know Hadley and I were.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Road Map

I did a guest post over here and I thought I'd share it on the ol' Sit a While blog. 

Recently, my family of four took a trip from Washington DC, where we live, to Chicago, where I grew up.  This is not a fun trip.  Oh, it’s fun once we’re there, but getting there is a marathon with a 2 and 4 year old.  There’s DVDs to put in and then fast forward, there’s straws to be put in juice boxes while driving 70 mph, there’s all the turning around and reaching for some toy that dropped and the girls insist they need instantly. 

Since we make the trip a lot, I have some tricks up my sleeve that I find useful.  My daughters, Hadley and Harper, each have kid sized backpacks with their names on them.  I fill them with coloring books and crayons.  They also both have small Dora the Explorer lunch box type purses that fit perfectly in their backpacks.  I fill these with small toys – Polly Pockets, miniature dinosaurs, stickers, etc.  These keep them entertained for at least the amount of time it takes for my Starbucks to cool down to drinkable status.

The other thing I do is raid the dollar aisle at Target.  You can find great things to fill travel bags for the kids here.  I usually buy several items then surprise the girls with them while we’re in the car, thus giving me adequate time to drink half of my Starbucks coffee.

This last trip, however, I wanted to do something more.  Something creative.  Something educational.  Something awesome.  Something that would allow me to drink all my coffee while it was still drinkable.  So here’s what I did: I made a map for my oldest daughter, Hadley, to follow.

 I printed out our travel route from Google map, cut it into large chunks and glued it to file folders.  After highlighting state lines, and different cities we’d travel through, I put several stickers in an envelope, then bound it all together with a ring.  This way the stickers would be handy-dandy for Hadley to retrieve when we drove through one of the locations.

Hadley loved it.  It was a fantastic tool for a little person who loves checking off things with stickers.  It also helped Hadley look closely at the signs to see whether the letters matched what was on her map.

There was one thing I neglected to think about while planning this bodacious activity.  That is, Hadley gets carsick.  Specifically, Hadley gets carsick somethin’ awful on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  It is best for everyone if she does nothing except sleep or look out the window during this part of the trip.  Looking closely at a map and then trying to match that to words on green signs while slaloming in the middle of mountains?  Not a great idea.

Needless to say, we were pulled over on the side of the road before you could say, “Change of clothes.”  And that is why the rest of the map was filled out in this outfit while we were at a rest stop in Indiana.

The thing is, moms, I don’t really know what I’m doing.   But I do know this – I love my girls.  I love pointing out the Chicago skyline to them as soon as I can see it.  I love watching them play in the neighborhood parks that I used to play in when I was a kid.  I love listening to them talk and play with their grandparents.  And while I don’t look forward to dealing with a bored, tired, throwing up kid, I’ll deal with it.  With or without a map.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cinderella Stories

It's happened.  Hadley's become obsessed with princesses.  I'm not completely surprised that she's stepped into this world.  I haven't tried to hide the princesses from her.  I myself am a bit of a sucker for those dresses.  I may or may not have had a life dream of wanting to be Scarlet O'Hara (I know she wasn't a princess but you get the idea).

So Hadley and I are doing a little Cinderella study.  We went to the library and checked out as many
versions of the Cinderella story that I could find.  The thing I like about reading with my kids is that it gives me a chance to study what it is that interests them.  I get an understanding of why Hadley loves princesses so much, or why Harper is fascinated by dinosaurs.  And, well, Diego.  But that's another post.
Here's what we did: I created a little worksheet for Hadley that had questions like, "What do you remember about this story?" Or, "What did you like about this Cinderella story?"  "If you could change one thing what would it be?"  I wrote down the responses as Hadley talked.  I also had Hadley draw a picture of something she remembered from the story, as well as practice writing the title down.

We looked at the story Cinder Edna first and I noticed Hadley had a hard time copying the letters down (they were in script).  When we lookedat another Cinderella story, Hadley breezed through copying the letters down and said, "Whew!  I'm real glad these these letters aren't pretty."  It took me a second to figure out what she meant, but I figured out it was easier for her to copy block lettering.  This seems significant in our study of Cinderella in that not everything that is beautiful is actually appreciated or functional.  Just a thought.

This is my favorite picture of Hadley's from our study:
A castle, a carriage, and a "path to get to the castle."

When we were discussing the different stories, I liked that Hadley said things like, "I remember that Cinderedna learned to play the accordion," in Cinderedna.  Or, "I didn't like the prince's hair" in the Cinderella that happened to be the Caldecott winner.  I'm glad I kept my mouth shut because it was fun to remember why I liked this story so much as well.  The gowns, the fairy godmother, the balls, the pumpkin turning into a carriage.  I think the idea that anything is possible is what's so appealing in this story. 

So that's why I don't react much to the stepsisters' cruelty, or the fact that Cinderella's father doesn't do much to help his daughter out.  If Hadley wants to discuss these points, that's fine, but I like exploring this story through her eyes.  There's time for these sorts of discussions later.

For right now, we'll focus on tiaras and glass slippers, and all things sparkly.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Story By Hadley

Last week Hadley made up a story using a twist tie as a main character.  You know, those twisty things you use to tie garbage bags or bags of chips with?  She twirled it around her finger and apparently this inspired her to come up with a story about a spring who saved a squirrel.

I thought the story was pretty clever so I wrote it down as she said it.  She used words like "bobbed" and "rustling" and I couldn't help but be proud. 

I wanted to make this story into a book, but the last time I tried this it didn't go too well.  I think Hadley got overwhelmed with all the writing and lost interest.  So instead of having her rewrite her own words, I typed up the sentences twice, taped one copy on a baggy, then cut up parts of the second copy for Hadley to put together.

She put her words in order, then glued them onto pages I made for her.

Then she illustrated her story.

Here's the story: The Spring Who Save the Baby Squirrel that was Stuck in the Mug of Hot Coffee
by Hadley

One day I heard an annoying rustling sound.  It was a squirrel that was stuck in a mug of hot coffee.
So I bobbed along the path to save the baby squirrel.
The baby squirrel was by a cat-o. A cat-o is the Spanish word for cap.*
After I saved the squirrel I bobbed along the path to tell my mommy and daddy all about my adventure.
The End.

(*Hadley's likes to make up a words and say "That's Spanish for.....")

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Smart Summer Challenge - "I Like Myself" Collage

smart summer button '11

We are participating in the Smart Summer Challenge, a six week adventure where we try and sneak in learning into our summer.  You can get more information (and TONS of ideas) about this challenge over at Teach Mama, Pink and Green Mama, or Naturally Educational. 

I took an idea from the Smart Summer Challenge calendar, which was to make a "me" collage or diorama.  Recently, Hadley has requested the story I Like Myself  by Karen Beaumont, a delightful story about a little girl shouting about the glorious creation that is HER.  She says confidently that no matter WHAT she looks like she will ALWAYS like herself.  I love this story and am sensitive to make sure this idea is drilled into my girls' heads as they grow older. 

I thought that this book would be a good introduction to a "me" collage, so Hadley and I read it first and then got out the scissors, magazines, and glue.

What I hoped to do with this project, was to get Hadley to start thinking about the kinds of things she is interested in.  I asked her what she thought I would put on my collage if I were making one for myself. 

"Uhhhh, I don't know."

"Well, what are some things that I like?"

"Uhhhh, I'm not sure."

"What's the first thing I have to have in the morning?"

"Oooo! Oooo!  WATER!"

I was going for coffee, and we got there eventually.  I told her that if I were to find a picture of a coffee mug, I'd cut it out and glue it on my collage.  So Hadley looked for a lot of pink things because that's her favorite color.  She also cut out animals and flowers.  It was fun for me to see what kinds of things she would pick, and I'm glad I have a little "print" of what she was interested in during June of 2011.

While she was cutting out pictures, I asked her what were some things she liked about herself.  Here are some things that she said:

"I like about myself that I like pink."

"I like that I like chocolate milk."

"I am good at running." (her Uncle Geoff would be proud.)

"I like that I can write my name.  And do color by numbers."

And my favorite, "I liked it when we started this project."

We also took some time to "map" ourselves using chalk outside.  I traced the girls' bodies with chalk, and they filled in what they were wearing using chalk.
Harper (I did the skirt):
Harper wanted to do Bear, too:

What would we do without Bear?  He's been a dear friend to both the girls.  I think it's appropriate to add him to our collages and "me maps" since he does represent a HUGE part of these girls' lives.  I'm happy to have him.

Carrot Soup and Carrot Seeds

We went to the White House Egg Roll in April and came home with some lettuce and carrot seeds that the girls have wanted to plant.  Here's the thing: I know NOTHING about gardening.  My last experience with growing something, well, besides two babies of course, was a sunflower in my backyard.  It grew so high I needed to get on a ladder to reach the top of it.  But I'm pretty sure I had nothing to do with it growing.  I think my parents were behind that project.
I'm just not what you'd call an outside kind of gal.  It's a major flaw, I know, and I try to work on it.  Take this post for example.  I garden suited up and we planted us some carrot seeds. (We were going to plant lettuce seeds too, but Harper insisted on carrying the pot we were going to plant them in and promptly dropped it on the sidewalk before we got any soil in it.)

First, we had to go to Home Depot to find pots and soil. 

Who knew there were so many kinds of soil?  And who knew they were in an "outside/inside" area of the store?   With birds and bees?  Not Callie.  Don't worry, I chose the 25lb bag of soil for a pot this size:
I absolutely know what I'm doing.  Nobody had to go back to get a smaller bag of soil, and nobody had to go back for gardening gloves and a small shovel to put the soil in the pot.

"What are we supposed to do with all this dirt, Mom?"

Anyway, we figured it out with the help of my husband.  His grandpa was a farmer so I think it's in his blood.
After we saved the day, I do what I do (better) and found some books to go along with our carrot seed- watching.
We took a look at Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, and I'm afraid Hadley has huge expectations now for how big our carrots are actually going to be.

We also read Carrot Soup by John Segal, a cute story about a rabbit who plants carrot seeds in the spring for his favoite dish, carrot soup.  Throughout the book, all his friends take the carrots behind Rabbit's back and surprise him at the end with a carrot soup par-tay.  Hadley and Harper love this book because at the end all the animals yell, "SURPRISE!" 

I had Hadley make a chart so she could track the carrots' progress, also helping her to answer her own question, "Are the carrots here yet?"
The other thing we did while we waited was try to make carrot soup.  In the back of John Segal's story, there is a recipe for it and Hadley and I thought it'd be fun to try it out.

Hadley and I also made cheddar/parsley bread to go with it.  That's not in the book, but nobody in this family can just have soup for dinner.  And by nobody I mean Callie.

Hadley didn't want to crumble the butter into the flour, so she took a picture of me doing it instead.
It all turned out pretty yummy.  Plus, it's fun watching the carrots grow.  I admit that I'm the first one out in the morning checking on their progress.  That seems significant since I'm usually standing behind the porch screen looking for wasps.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Recently we took a l'il vacay to the OBX and had ourselves a grand time.  On the last night there, Hadley, Jesse, my dad, and I walked along the beach looking for seashells.  It was a scene straight out of Wave....except instead of just the girl and all those birds it was Hadley, her parents, and her grandfather.  Still, it was very Norman Rockwell.
Hadley collected several seashells she liked and put them in a bag.  I thought that she might like to decorate them during her "down time" in the afternoon one day this week.  Hadley likes to do anything that I'm doing during quiet time which makes these hours in the day a little challening for me.  I adore the child, but sometimes it's nice to have a little quiet in the day. 

However, I have found that if we are doing arts and crafts together, she can work on her stuff, and I can work on my stuff and the both of us are happy.  So that's what we did this week.
A bag o' goodies I made for Hadley's teacher.  To be clear - I stamped it.  I did not sew it.
A note to go with the bag.
Meanwhile, Hadley painted and glitterfied seashells.

Hadley says the most interesting and funny things when we are both working and it's just the two of us. I like to keep a notebook close by so I can remember what she says.  I assumed that since we just got back from the beach, and she was with several of her relatives, she'd talk to  me about her time there.  So I was eager to hear what she said.

Here's what happened:
"Momma, remember when you, Grandma, me, and Daddy were at the pool on vacation?"


"Well, remember when Daddy said, 'Mom' and you and Grandma both said, 'What?'"


"He shoulda just said, 'Callie.' Then you woulda known who he was talking to."

"That's a good point, Hadley."

That's all I got.

C'mon, Hadley.  Don't you know I completely depend on your for my writing material?  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ABC Egg Game

I'm going to go ahead and admit that I like activites that my kids can do by themselves.  Especially during quiet time, it's nice when Hadley can find something to do that she doesn't require my assistance.  The challenge is finding things she likes to do because otherwise she wants to watch TV for the amount of time Harper takes a nap.  That can be anywhere between 2 - 3 hours.  That's a whole lot of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

Lately, Hadley's been interested in working on practicing letters, writing and reading words, and figuring out their sounds.  She has an assortment of workbooks that help her with this, and those are fun to watch her complete, but one game that's been a hit in our home the last several days is what I like to call "The ABC Egg Game."  I took the idea from a blogger who writes the blog, "Rub Some Dirt On It."  You can find the post here.  The entire blog is worth a look or two.  She has adorable children, tells great stories (my favorite post so far is about her finding an animal skull in the yard during her one year old's birthday party), and is really creative. 

This activity is very simple to put together, and you probably already have the materials on hand.....unless you're super organized and threw out all the plastic Easter eggs.  In that case, nevermind.

Here's what you do.  Get yourself 26 plastic eggs.
Write an uppercase and lower case letter on each egg.  One per egg, and one letter on each half. (Do I even need to write that?)
Break the eggs apart, put them in a bag (I used an old Starbucks bag), and shuffle them around a bit.  Then, go get your child who might or might not be watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and tell her that you made a game for her.

Explain how it works (match up the letters), and then walk away.  You're golden.  Go cook yourself some dinner.  Check email, Facebook, or I hear Twitter is all the rage these days.  Whatever you do, there is plenty of time to do it because this game takes TIME.
And look how happy?  Trust me, it's a fabulous game.  And you know that the kids are doing something educational AND fun at the same time.  That's a good thing.  Otherwise, you leave them alone to play and they end up creating scenes like this one:

What in the world is going on here?

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Post for First Book

I wrote this post for the First Book Blogger Book Club. "First Book provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. An innovative leader in social enterprise, First Book has distributed more than 80 million free and low-cost books in thousands of communities." (Taken from the First Book website.)

There's a story I love to tell that happened one evening while my friend Alison and I were studying in the library.  It was during finals and the library was understandably crowded.  Unfortunately, the only table that was available was one next to the copy machine.  Apparently several students at Calvin that evening decided it would be a good idea to copy their entire textbook in order to study for finals.  The sound of the copying was driving us crazy and we were getting nothing done.

"There should be a 'No Copying Hours' time around here." Alison said.

"Or an 'Out of Order' sign for it." I responded back.

Alison lifted her eyebrow slightly like I was on to something.  Or perhaps I was daring her to do something a little wicked.  During a lull in the copy marathon, Alison took out a piece of paper and wrote "Out of Order" in her gorgeous script, swiveled around in her chair, then slammed it on the copy machine.

She never made eye contact with me after that.  Highlighter in one hand, and eyes on her book, if you hadn't been watching her the last 2 seconds, you never would've known what just happened. 

But I saw her.  And as much as I wanted to giggle I did my best to follow suit.  I looked down at my notes and tried to concentrate (Alison had, after all, fixed our problem), but waited excitedly to see what would happen when someone went to use the copy machine.

It wasn't long before I had to leave the library because I couldn't control my laughing.  Student after student walked up to the copy machine with their 450 lb textbook, paused to read the sign, then let out an overwhelmed gasp as if to say, What am I going to do NOW?!?!?! 

Alison never laughed.  She kept right on studying (which is probably why she's a doctor now).  And this made it even more funny for me.  The fact that she so quickly wrote the "Out of Order" sign, put it on the copy machine, then went back to work without so much as a "Hee! Hee!" was incredible to me. 

Perhaps it's not the greatest anecdote, but to me and Alison, it's hilarious.  When I remember that evening I get the giggles at how quickly she acted, and how stoic she was.  I smile because we got away with it, and I laugh (even if it's a bit of a guilty laugh) at the students' faces when they learn they can't use the copier.

I thought about this incident several times while reading the book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.  The main character, Frankie, is a 16 year old girl who starts dating Matthew Livingston, a seemingly charming fellow who's in a secret all-male club.

I feel disresptectful to write that Frankie is desperate to be a part of this club.  I worry it makes her sound as though she might be interested in it because of her boyfriend, or perhaps she doesn't have any friends of her own.  While these statements might have some truth to them, I think what makes Frankie desperate to be in the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds is the need to want to be in on something. 

I get that.  Even if the bond is because of pranks that are being pulled, I understand the need to want to be in on the joke, and I wonder if that's how some of the great friendships start.  What Frankie discovers through observation (a.k.a. spying) of the Bassets, as well as reading (after stealing) The Disreputable History of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds is this: "...the sense of togetherness.  The king usually wrote most of the entries, but Bassets edited each other's writing, scribbled in comments, and took turns telling stories as well. They planned to know one another when they were ancient and gray....." While Alison and I and my other close friends in college liked a good laugh, we also were forming a bond. These girls who made me laugh uncontrollably were also the girls who saw me cry because I was homesick, or throw books at walls because I didn't understand that darn math assignment.  They're the women today who understand my stuggles with motherhood, and through all of that, they can still make me laugh.  I think that's what Frankie is looking for.
I feel for Frankie while at the same time admiring her.  She becomes a criminal mastermind and it is such fun to watch her lead the Bassets around on a leash.  Plus, I love that they have no clue it's her who's doing the leading. But I feel for her too because she's trying to prove to these guys that she can be one of them.  The thing is, they aren't interested in this proof.  This club is for boys. It reminds me of the story Best Friends for Frances  by Russell Hoben that Hadley and I read together frequently.  Hadley gets so angry when Albert tells Frances she can't play baseball with he and Harold, as does Frances.  The boys' reason?  "This is a no-girls game."  And Hadley loves Frances even more when she creates a "Girls Only" day that Albert cannot be a part of.

I liked a lot of things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  I thought the dialogue was hysterical and spot on with how teenagers speak to each other.  I enjoyed the parts where the narrator seemed to take a step away from the events of the story and reach out to the reader as if we were sharing some gossip over a mani/pedi. What I think I like the most, however, is that this story got me thinking about the great friendships in my life, and how they started.  Pranks are bad.  Breaking the rules is not something we want to encourage our kids.  But laughter is so, so good.  And while I want to be very careful in what I write here, I also want to express that it was in some of the not completely stand up things that I shared with my very good - best friends, I also found a part of myself.  We shared many late nights of side splitting belly laughter, and because of that I am able to come to them with more serious things. 

I hope Hadley and Harper read this book.  I want them to enjoy it.  I want them to root for Frankie, but I also want them to grow with her.  I hope they see that one of the greatest things she did in the book was figure out who she was, and who she wasn't.  "It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can't see who you are.  It is better to lead than to follow.  It is better to speak up than stay silent.  It is better to open doors than to shut them on people." I love that Frankie figured this out pulling some of the greatest pranks in Basset Hound history. 

Figuring something out about yourself can by scary and overwhelming.  Trying to see where you belong might be one of the hardest lessons to learn; and we have to learn that over and over in life.  I hope my girls have the confidence to see what Frankie saw in herself.  Maybe it'll be stories like this that make them see that.  Or maybe it'll be meeting a few great friends that make them laugh so hard they can't breath.  Or maybe it'll be a great prank that shows the Alberts and Matthew Livingston's of the world they can do anything boys can do.

Something tells me that if my girls meet Alison's daughters they'll come up with something way better than shutting down a copy machine for the night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kickin' It Old School

Hadley's been quite interested lately in trying to figure out how to sound out and make words.  She likes helping me write grocery lists, and when we read stories together, she tries to find the words she knows like "yes," "stop," or "Euoplocephalus."  I'm just kidding on that last one.  Sort of.

Anyway, she and I were hanging out one afternoon as we often do, and she wanted to play a game.  I decided it was time to teach her how to make a fortune teller, also known as a "cootie catcher" for reasons I do not know.  We didn't talk about cooties growing up.  We were all about "MASH" and these fortune teller thingys.
It wasn't until my adult years I heard other peope calling them "cootie catchers."  Cootie catchers?  Seriously?  What good is that?  How are you going to figure out what kind of car you'll drive or who you're going to marry with a cootie catcher?  Who cares about cooties?  I want to drive a rabbit convertible.

But this is not a post about my issues with material possessions.  This is a post about teaching letters and words to Hadley.


So I creased the paper just like my mom taught me, and showed Hadley how it moves once it's all folded.  Hadley, being the ever practical child asks, "What do you do now?" So instead of teaching her about fortunes or cooties, I came up with a little game that I believe was a stroke of genius on my part.  Read carefully because you're totally going to want to try this at home.

We wrote numbers and letters on all the appropriate folds of our creation.  Then, after moving it the appropriate number of times (called by the number on the fold), we looked to see what letter popped up.

Then we wrote that letter down and after we had several letters, we tried to make words.

It's a great little game to do with kids who are learning how to read and write words.  I had so much fun I'm thinking about bringing it to the next party we go to.

Well, I guess I need to be invited to a party first.

There's the rub.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Lot Can Happen in Ten Minutes

I found a blog that quickly has become a favorite.  It's called Seriously A Homemaker and you will be sure to giggle your way through several of her posts.  Plus, her layout is so cute.  I want my blogs to look cute, but I don't know how to do any of that stuff.  People tell me it's "super easy" but they don't understand how technically challenged I am.  For example: last week at the gym I forgot my mp3 player in the spin room.  When I realized what happened I went to the front desk and told the guy, "I need to go back to the spin room because I lost my WALKMAN."  He said, "You lost your what?"

So I'm afraid to do anything other than write and add pictures or the occasional video to my blogs. 

Anyway, the author of this blog has a 10-Minute Challenge this Monday.  What you do is take a mess in your home and, as she writes, "kick its butt" in ten minutes. 

Usually I would put this sort of thing on my "Notes from Naptime" blog, but the thing that I did combines the book Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano, an art project, and a little homemaking all in one.  If that's not multi-tasking, I don't know what is.

Jesse brought home a book from Grand Rapids for each of the girls last weekend.  Hadley's was the Madeline book.  I think it is my favorite of all our Madeline books because it's about Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom season.  Last year, Hadley and I went to the Easter Egg Roll and she and I love looking at the pictures of the Egg Roll in Madeline at the White House.  We compare what we did and what Madeline and Co. are doing in the book.

I thought a fun project to go along with this book would be to make our own cherry blossoms.  This idea came from the Queen of Homemaking - Martha Stewart herself. Here's what she suggests. 

I wasn't planning on this project taking 10 minutes.  I figured it'd take 30-45, but the H's weren't super excited about doing this.

"Awwww, Mom!  Not another one of your projects!"
"Just humor her, Harper.  Then maybe we can have some chocolate milk."
You know what Hadley was excited about?  Making this:
We went outside to pick up sticks for our Cherry Blossom project, and in the time it took me to put Harper down for a nap (ten minutes), Hadley made a stick guy. 

Not exactly what I had in mind, but I had to take a picture of it because it is pretty impressive.  Also, Hadley told me the guy is saying, "Hey guys!  Wait for me!"  That's why one of his arms is raised.  I know I'm biased, but I think she's quite possibly the coolest four year old in the world.

Back to the project.

I'm not sure why a stethescope was essential for part of this project, or why Hadley had to wear her ballet outfit for it, but I'm learning that some questions are best left unanswered.

Here's the finished product:

Here's why I think this is a nice "10 Minute Monday" submission.  First, it took 10 minutes.  Second, Hadley, Harper and I created something for our home that makes us happy when we walk into the playroom (despite their lack of enthuiasm while doing the project). Third, I didn't spend one penny on the project.  Sticks? Free. Tissue paper? Leftover from presents that were given to us. Vase? It came with flowers that were sent to us when one of the girls was born.  Most of all, it combines things that I love: trying to bring the stories we read into our everyday lives, making our home a nicer place, and hanging out with the H's. Of course, I also get to blog about it which is a lovely bonus as well.

It seems that a lot of what the blogs I like to read are about is taking something that you have and improving on it - whether that's parenting, homemaking, design, writing, what-have-you.  I like to be a part of that kind of thinking.