Friday, February 18, 2011


Today I get the opportunity to start a service wandering by traveling with InterVarsity New England to New Orleans to work with Habitat for Humanity and some other groups.  I'm keeping this post short as I still have some packing and errands to run in the next four and half hours before we load up our van.

Why am I doing this?  Several reasons.  The most simple: Jesus served people and he calls us to do likewise.  Secondly this trip models service for Nate and Elli and, while they will miss Mama, it sets a good example of helping others for them to follow.  (Leaving for a week is made a lot easier knowing that I have an awesome husband who loves being with his children. - They're going to have a great time.

While I'm gone I'm giving Nate and Elli a project.  They have Hands Journals.  I started by tracing my hand and a short message to both of them.  While I'm gone they're going to see lots of friends and family.  Each journal has the following instructions in the front:

Please help Nate & Elli complete their hands project.

Find an empty page and trace your hand.  Write your name and the date.  Also if you’d like you can write them a special message.  Elli has the green notebook and Nate’s is blue!

Thanks for your help!  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Puppet Play

Recently Jeff brought home a couple paper boxes from work for the kids to play with.  These more often than not end up as cars.  However this time I had in mind a higher purpose.  We have an array of finger puppets that have found their way into our home, and of course they needed a proper performance space! Nate and Elli were embraced the possibility of a new toy and eagerly handed over one of their boxes and shared the "car."

For this project you will need:
1 sturdy paper box
Rugged scissors or a knife (adult use)
A metal clothes hanger
Wire cutters
14 brass fasteners
A piece of fabric 13" x 24" (I used wool), cut into two pieces 13" x 12"
About two feet of duct tape
Crayons/markers/etc. to decorate theater
Note:  We had all of these items on hand, if you don't have something just look around and see what you can substitute.)

Cut a rectangle in the bottom of the box.  Ours was 4"x12."  Basically you want to leave about two inches around each edge to retain the integrity of the box structure.

Using wire cutters, cut off the hook and twisted part of the hanger.  Straighten out the hanger and set aside.

Cut your fabric into two pieces, 13"x12" each.  Taking your brass fasteners punch through the front of the fabric at regular intervals across the 12 inches about a half inch from the top.  Once each fastener is through you will want to make a loop by making a "V" with the ends of the fastener.  You will then bend each end together until they are overlapping (see picture).  Do this for all 14 fasteners.

Push one end of the straightened wire hanger through the top front of the box about a half inch from the front and top.  Thread on the curtains (this is a great job for kids), and then push it out the other side.  Bend the extra wire on each end down to be parallel to the sides of the box.  Duct tape these in place.

Decorate.  Nate and Elli drew a house and sky on the backdrop.  We have also been toying with the idea of making a slit in the back of the box and cutting cardboard to fit.  They can then decorate this to change scenes.

To use your puppet theater take two chairs and set them so the seats are facing each other.  We like to then put a blanket so the audience can't see the puppeteers.  Set your theater box on and you're ready to go!

To create a home for our puppets we recycled a small oatmeal box and did a google image search for "puppets."  I then copied and pasted this onto a center of the sheet and typed "PUPPETS" in a fun font.  We glued this onto the box and now our puppet have a place to go at the end of the day!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Observations from a morning of painting

Painting with kids can be wonderful or a disaster...

Nate and Elli started painting while still in their highchairs.  It was easy then.  I'd strip them down to their diaper and give them a piece of paper, a couple colors, a brush (or not) and let them go.  I'd have the tub on stand by and tada! we'd have some great  baby art!  It was actually amazingly similar to eating spaghetti.

Today with an almost 3 and 4.5 year old we've reworked and refined the process a little more and, while a bath was still needed for a certain little girl who ended up with some purple hair, it went incredibly smoothly.  I took great delight in watching the evolution of their creativity.  Here are some of my observations:

Sense of Story - As they were painting both Nate and Elli were talking about what was going on in their paintings.  Nate's was a little more developed, but he's been at it a little longer and for Elli I was able to ask questions to bring out a greater level of thinking.

Sharing - There was one paint jar for each color with one brush.  They had to wait their turn.  More often than not, I observed them using their "please" and "thank-yous."

Appreciation of Other Techniques - At one point Nate commented that "Elli wasn't doing it right" when she was dabbing her paper with the brush.  We were able to talk about how different people do things differently and with painting Elli would get different results with spots.  I referenced a book we had read, The Dot by Peter Reynolds, about a little girl whose art teacher's insight changed her view of her artistic abilities.

Pride and Care - Each took time with their paintings to do them well.  They were focused on their creations and were happy to tell me about them.  They were excited!

Curiosity in the Other's Work -  Throughout our time of painting, Nate and Elli were asking each other what the other was painting.  There was an awareness and joy that they were doing something wonderful together and they didn't want to miss out on what the other was doing.

Pride in Others - At one point Nate excitedly said, "Elli you made a perfect dog!"  While Elli's dog didn't look a ton like a dog it was somewhat recognizable.  Nate had recognized her hard work and affirmed her.  Elli was so proud at Nate's praise.

Articulating Needs/Wants - Neither one of the kids had any trouble letting the other know exactly what they needed.  "Nate, I want green!"  "Mama, I'm all done!  More paper please!"

Basic Color Recognition - Both in choosing paints and mixing colors on their papers, the kids were routinely recognizing colors.  When we first started painting  in the highchair days, I would put out two primary colors and say their names often while the kids were painting.  When they'd make a new color we'd excitedly name it.  "You just made orange!"

Following Basic Instructions - While this is sometimes a challenge, I laid out clear and simple expectations which, on this day, were pretty much followed.  Each paint had its own cup with its own brush.  One expectation was that we not mix brushes, although mixing colors on the paper was embraced.  The second expectation was that we use brushes on the paper.  The final expectation was that when they were done with a color they would put it back in the middle of the table for the other to use.  Both Nate and Elli eagerly embraced these expectations and it showed in their finished artwork.  I'm happy to say that our paints are still relatively unmixed for our next color adventure!

Creative Thinking - This was evident throughout our time painting in the discovery of new shapes, use of color, and techniques.  It was also evident when Elli got tired of painting and started building with our unused paint brushes.

Problem Solving - "Mama, we don't have any green!" turned into an opportunity to figure out how to make some!

Responsibility - When the final painting was finished I watched as they embraced the cleaning process, something that we often struggle with (If you visit my house on short notice you will most likely see bits of paper, markers, crayons, and glitter adorning our floors and tables).  After our painting adventure I asked Nate and Elli to bring their brushes to the sink where they each washed some.  They learned that when the water ran clear their brush was clean.  Part of their eagerness to clean the brushes related to the lack of said brushes due to poor cleaning of recently deceased brushes.  They want to paint again!

Simple Math - Simple questions.  "How many colors do we have?"  "What shape is that?"  "Is that a pattern?"  Also we did a matching game as part of clean up with the paint cups and their matching lids.

This list could go on... I was amazed at what I saw in about 45 minutes when I took the backseat and primarily just watched Nate and Elli's creativity.  It was awesome!

In the near future I'll post tips for setting up a painting station.