Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Easy glitter Jack-o-lanterns

(I created this post mid-October and never got around to publishing it. Tuck this away for next year or adapt it for Thanksgiving/Advent/Christmas :)

In our house, stocking up on art supplies every few months (usually about once each season) is a must. Usually I go by myself on these excursions so i can wander and look for inspiration for materials and projects. On one such trip a few weeks ago, I found these great little globe-shaped tea light holders for $1/each and got an idea. (This could easily be adapted to all seasons and shapes of tea light holders.)

How to make glitter jack-o-lanterns

For a more calm and peaceful crafting experience, I recommend setting out all materials ahead of time. (In this instance, I let them watch an episode of Wild Kratts while I did so.) Also I find that if I work with them individually or in twos (instead of all three at once), I am much less likely to lose my cool in the process. Finally, for open-ended art making, I just set out materials and let them go at it, but when we make "crafts," I make an example project ahead of time so they know what we are making. While art-making is great for creativity, craft-making is good for following directions and I find they often expand on the activity or use it as a spin-off into more art-making.

Materials: tea light holder, glue, water, paint or foam brush, black construction paper, glitter, tea light

1. Paint the inside of your tea light holder with glue-water (only add a very small amount of water)

2. Affix the black construction paper eyes, nose, and mouth to the inside of the globe. I then painted more glue water over the outside of the face pieces to help them stay. 

3. Shake some glitter inside the globe. I turned the globe around to get it to cover all over.

4. Let dry and place tea light inside. (I recommend the electric ones for little ones)

My boys loved this project. Jude and Felix carried their jack-o-lanterns everywhere (inside the house) with them for 2 or 3 days! It led to some mini-science "lessons" about light reflection and refraction, as well as vocabulary like the word "opaque"  :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Going car-free: day 1 & 2

I saw an old friend recently who asked me to start posting here again so I am going to give it a try! I am actually on an exciting journey right now and maybe it will be enjoyable for readers (if there are any left, ha!) to follow along.

I am on Day Two of a self-imposed car-free month (well, except for work on Saturdays. That trip by public transit would be a nightmare to say the least). I'm going to try doing all the things we normally do without driving, and if it goes well, I'm going to sell the car. Even with doing some sort of car share like zipcar every Saturday for work, I'd still be paying just a fraction of what I'm paying now for the car payment, gas, insurance, upkeep, etc.

 It's going great so far! Yesterday we biked to the chiropractor, then to the playground, then home again. Henry rode his bike while I pulled Jude and Felix in the trailer. I have to admit that I was shocked and embarrassed when I realized how very close in proximity these places are to each other as well as our home. The gorgeous weather helped, but the trip was a breeze! Last night I rode the cargo bike around our neighborhood for a while to practice. The way the bike moves and steers is different from a regular bike and I want to be very secure with it before I ride the boys around in it.

Today I decided to try out the bus. Turns out the bus line that picks up and drops off practically across the street from our house goes straight downtown. So we took it almost to the end of the line and got off at the inner harbor, and of course they enjoyed looking at everything along the way. I was excited to see that this bus line drops off right outside both our church and the central library! We could also bike to church but I tend to feel lazy on Sunday mornings so it's nice to know the bus is an option for sloth or bad weather.

Anyway, back to today. Typically I have a detailed plan for our outings but this time I just said "we're taking the bus downtown" so that we could have an adventure, and so we did! We started walking and came across the most creative, aesthetically pleasing "playground" I've ever seen! The boys had a blast and I wished I had my knitting, I was actually sitting and relaxing for a few minutes. Well until they began intentionally colliding with each other on the slide and all got hurt. As I am known to say, with three boys, every activity that starts as anything, ends as wrestling.

Then we decided we were all hungry so we went for a special lunch out at potbelly's. Afterwards we went to see the dolphins at the aquarium (where we have a membership) and sat down just as the presentation was starting, perfect timing. Felix had a meltdown as we were leaving but he did that the last time we went there too, so it wasn't transportation-related. He was just tired and didn't want to leave. I managed to get him to ride piggyback the 2 blocks to the bus stop, and we got there with 10 minutes to spare. The bus ride home was enjoyable too and Felix slept on my chest which I loved. When we got off the bus, there was a chorus of "that was so much fun! Can we take the bus downtown again, Mommy?" They talked about the trip and how much fun they had off and on for the rest of the day.

Checking out the ads on the bus.
When they got a little restless I pulled out the pipe cleaners and we made letters and flowers.
We made it!
A wonderful discovery: an artfully designed play area.

Jellyfish right next to the ducks in the harbor!
Hanging out waiting for the bus.
A sweet treat on the way home.

It is interesting to reflect on how I felt differently today vs. when I drive downtown. I felt so much more relaxed without the stress of negotiating traffic, construction, and parking. I was able to actually enjoy the trip and talk with the boys about our surroundings intend of the usual "no, I can't look at that interesting thing you're asking about, I'm driving." I also appreciated being on the bus with people from all walks of life. I felt more a part of the community than when we go straight from our car to our destination.

I think I'm ready to take the boys in the cargo bike so I'm going to give it a try in our neighborhood tomorrow. If I chicken out there's always the bike trailer :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rocks & Minerals

When people find out we're homeschooling, one of the first questions is usually "what curriculum are you using?" This may change in the future, but at this point we are unschooling (i.e. learning by living and playing) and doing interest-led learning, so when one of the boys becomes interested in something, I support and encourage the interest and help them find additional resources and information.

Henry's newest (and biggest) interest right now is rocks and minerals. Luckily for me, this is something I loved as a girl - I still remember the little guide I used to identify the stones I found in my yard or bought from gift shops on vacations. A couple weeks ago, Henry and I went to the local toy shop together and he picked this out:
Over the next couple of days, he made his own rock guides:

He has also been spending a lot of time digging up rocks in our yard and at various parks by himself and with anyone else he can convince to help him!

I had already been planning a trip to DC to see the cherry blossoms, so once Henry became interested in rocks & minerals I added a visit to the Natural History Museum to the itinerary.

 He took a lot of pictures and a video of the exhibit so he could look at everything more closely later.
 After viewing the exhibit, we visited the gift shop where he got "all the rocks you can bag for $6." I also bought him a couple guide books and a DVD for further exploration.

...and this is where my meter had run out so we needed to get to the car fast and I said "every boy who sits in the stroller gets rock candy."
Here he is at home checking out his guide books and counting his rocks. I think he fit almost 30 in that tiny bag!
I am planning a trip to Luray Caverns for future exploration...let's hope his interest in this topic lasts at least until then!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easter 2013

We've found a wonderful group of homeschoolers and have been meeting up with them most Fridays; on Good Friday we joined their Natural Egg Dyeing co-op.

Here are the eggs back at home - I think they turned out great! Felix enjoyed rearranging his eggs in the carton.

Our sprouts on Easter

 It was rainy on Easter, so we had our egg hunt inside.

After collecting half a dozen eggs, Felix plopped down on the couch and promptly ate all his candy. Good thing I didn't put much in each egg!

Jude sporting the tattoos from the egg hunt

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some firsts and other things

I don't really have a cohesive theme for this post, just a few odds and ends - some of these things are "firsts" for us, others just seem important for me to remember.

I've been working on making my own version of an iced caramel macchiato brewing extra-strong pour-over

Henry adding jewels to his treasure box

Setting up the rocket Henry got last week

Getting ready to blast off - it is reusable with baking soda & vinegar!

Starting seeds indoors for the first time with my little makeshift "greenhouse"

With Henry's hoodie complete, it's time to start a new project!

Winding the yarn for Felix's new sweater, using this pattern (thanks Beth!)

Our first visit to Irvine Nature Center. They have an amazing outdoor play area that the boys loved. We played outside for 2 hours with friends despite the chilly weather Friday afternoon!

Henry has really embraced springtime!

Palm Sunday artwork

And one more. I think I am going to frame these and hang them every year for Holy Week. Seriously, I know I'm his mom and therefore biased, but this kid's talent is amazing.

And finally, the first (and hopefully last!) snow in springtime!