Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not a Turkey

Of course we didn't only make turkeys. We also made a banner on which we wrote things we are thankful for. 

Anthony made an Indian headband at the Y (Katie made one too at school).

I stocked up on ideas for this school-free week, and we went to the museum of Natural Science on Monday. Both little ones were exhausted and required a nap when we got home, so Ellie got some rare one-on-one time. I gave her popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, plastic cutlery, and rubber bands, and told her to make a catapult. 
I made one too. 
We launched candy corn. 
We also made paper boats, and we pretended the Indians were shooting at the Pilgrims before Ellie declared that they were friends and should not be fighting. 
Eventually, Katie woke up and Paul got home, and they joined in on the fun. We even tried shooting the candy corn into each other's mouths with the catapults. I'm thinking this might be a fun Thanksgiving day activity with extended family...

We also cut open a pumpkin and put potting soil in it to see if we can get the seeds to sprout. Time will tell...
And I found some cute tracing and do-a-dot worksheets for the girls too. They were a little beneath Ellie, but she adjusted them to her skill level by adding to the pictures. 

I had picked up these growing crystal trees over the summer and never got around to doing them with the girls. They are fall colors, so I figured they'd be just right. It was cool to see them grow. 

We also had to make slime. "Pumpkin Pie" slime, of course, orange in color and scented with cinnamon... In mini pie tins for the full experience. I tried to make soluble fiber slime, but I must have bought the wrong kind of fiber, because it totally didn't work... So we went with tried and true borax and glue. Perfect. 

Next up, candy corn science experiments. We predicted what would happen if we put candy corn in water, microwaved it, and froze it. Then we performed the experiments and recorded our observations. Pretty cool. 
I take no credit for the activity, but I can't remember where the idea and printable came from. 

And lastly, I put together some placecards/napkin holders with everyone's photo. Ellie picked who got to be an Indian and who got to be a pilgrim. I think they turned out super cute!

Our table is ready... 

We really do have so much to be thankful for. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A time to give thanks

It can be overwhelming to try to give something to everyone at school during Christmas time, and often the support staff is overlooked during holiday giving time, so Thanksgiving is the perfect time to acknowledge the people in my children's lives, from the classroom teachers and special subject teachers to the school nurse, secretary, and receptionists. An apple with caramel sauce is a simple, inexpensive, and usually much-appreciated gift. Teachers don't often receive actual apples, and it's a healthy(ish), single-serving snack. 
Just dress them up with some tulle, twine, and a cute little tag, and they are set!
Ellie signed her name on the back of the tags, and each tag was personalized with the recipient's name. None of them expected a token of gratitude for Thanksgiving, so the surprised and happy looks on their faces were pretty awesome. 

Turkeys Turkeys everywhere

If you need a few craft ideas to keep the kids busy while they wait for Thanksgiving dinner, here are a few turkey crafts we've made over the past week. 

Sticky foam turkeys... Anthony's is, um, deconstructed. I cut the feathers and other pieces from sticky back foam board. The kids did the rest. I also wrote the outline for the words on Katie's. She's really into tracing letters lately. 

I know you'll be too busy preparing dinner to bother with decorating sugar cookies, but I had to share these because this post is all about turkeys, after all... I used a hand-shaped cookie cutter and decorated these chai spice sugar cookies to look like turkeys! They were enjoyed at Ellie's school Thanksgiving feast. I still am not the best at making decorated cookies and find the task to be quite tedious, but I always remember this halfway through the process. Oops. 

We also painted with pinecones instead of brushes... What does this have to do with turkeys?!
Well, we used the painted paper to make turkeys of course! 

Katie made the classic turkey handprint at school. I just gotta show it off. Plus it's a really cute craft. 

Another fun thing we did was a feather scavenger hunt, an idea I got from the No Time for Flashcards blog. I hid different colored feathers around the living room, and the girls searched high and low for them. 
They enjoyed this activity very much... We hid them over and over! 
They counted out their feathers to make sure they had found them all. I had 9 feathers for each girl, and they were only allowed to have one of each color, which encouraged them to help each other find the colors they needed. 
The game lasted about an hour. When they got tired, they made pinecone turkeys with their feathers and some more foam board. 

I love these crafts. They're fun to make, and now that I have all these cute turkeys, we can use them to add a little whimsy to the Thanksgiving decor. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who built the Ark?

I often feel like I never have the time or energy to sit down with my littlest ones and play/learn/make with them. Somehow, it all came together today, in part because Katie actually asked for a craft after lamenting the fact that she didn't have school today (an unprecedented occurrence!). With the filling of our newly-built pool and the storms today, water inspired this perfect rainy day craft for Katie and Anthony. 
We read a Bible story about Noah's Ark, we talked about the animals coming in two by two, we sang a little bit of the song ("Brother Noah built the Ark!"), and we made our own arks and helped the animals get on them. 
I had a bunch of animal stickers that they stuck on strips of yellow construction paper. While they stickered (only two animals of each kind!), I quickly cut out arks from brown construction paper, making two slits in the middle to pass the paper strip through, creating a "window" to see the animals as they boarded the ark.

Then we pulled the paper strip the other way to "help" the animals off the ark once the rain stopped and Noah found dry land. They loved it and wanted to do it over and over again. A Bible story, fine motor skills from sticker placement, animal identification, counting pairs, and creative play all wrapped up into one quickly thrown-together craft. Not bad for a rainy morning. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 thoughts on my 31st birthday

It's my birthday. I didn't make anything tangible for this post, but I did make some observations and musings. Initially I was going for 31 thoughts for 31 years, but 31 is a lot, so here are 10 (with random photos of moments in my day interspersed). 
I don't think I'm getting wiser, but I'm not becoming more cynical either. I still have hope, even on days when the world seems like an ugly, evil place, because I have my kids. I have to have hope for them. I don't have a choice. And at the same time, I have hope because of them. Because they are hope. 
I don't have much interest in the past. It happened and formed me, but I am far more invested in the here and now. I am not looking too far ahead in the future either. Why? Because too much is unknown, and dwelling on what might or might not come to be is fruitless, and my trust is not in anything of this world anyway. So I try to do the best I can with what I have at the moment. 
I am finally realizing that this is it. No more waiting for the next thing to come, no more "once _____ happens, then I'll be set." I am as "set" as I'll ever be. Ten years ago, I constantly felt that anxiety for the next stage to come. Now, that feeling might creep up on the days when I am searching for a light at the end of the toddler-tunnel, but mostly, I accept that this is my season in life. It's a complicated comfort. 
Years ago, I noticed a dad plopped down in the watery sand on the beach with his kids, messy and having fun, as I gingerly stepped in the water by my kid, trying to avoid getting hit by the mud she was flinging. Then I realized what a fool I had been, and I sat down by her, got wet and messy, and it was awesome. These days, it's harder to make or find the time to just sit in the mud with my kids, between schedules and chores and meals and naps. I need to get back in the mud. 
I know that my body is getting older, my metabolism is slowing, it is harder to lose those last ten "baby pounds" (from 2 kids ago!), and I can't eat everything I want without paying for it later. I accept that. I won't use it as an excuse to "let myself go," but I get it. However, it is an injustice that my skin can simultaneously have zits and wrinkles. Pick one, Mother Nature! The blemishes of youth or the lines of age... Not both! Personally, I'd take the wrinkles over the pimples. 
I keep lists. Lots of lists. Unending lists. Of ideas, things to do, crafts to make, places to go... Shopping lists, chore lists, activity lists, schedules... If it's not on one of my lists, it doesn't exist. I keep a notebook I call "my brain" where I store many of my lists and other creative ideas. When it gets cluttered, I rip out the pages and reorganize it all. 
I am a birthday jerk. 40+ of my closest Facebook friends and family wished me a happy birthday, and I hardly ever wish others a happy birthday on their days. Thank you, if you're reading this, and I'm sorry for my thoughtlessness. The well wishes were truly lovely. I got a few really unexpected greetings too... Even my lady-doctor sent me an (automated) email to celebrate me and encourage good female health. 
The thing about birthdays (and other festive days) is that I always get this stupid idea that they should be extra-special, and then my expectations are too high for reality to live up to them. And I end up disappointed. But this year, I felt good. Celebrated just enough. It was a pretty ordinary day, punctuated by unusually cold and dreary weather (which normally would bring about a certain level of gloominess to my mood, but not today), ending with gifts and cake to mark the occasion. That was all. No fanfare. Simple and easy and just right. 
So I feel the need to make new year resolutions. It's a new year for me, at least. The beginning of my 32nd year of life. So I propose to myself to do 2 things that will hopefully help me and the world, even if only a little bit: 
1. Be more responsive. To phone calls, emails, text messages, party RSVPs etc. I often forget to respond or wait until the last minute, and I know it's an annoying and rude practice. 
2. Keep a prayer journal. Even if it's just a list of intentions. I sometimes find myself drawing a blank during my daily 30 seconds before the Tabernacle that my youngest kids allow me before screaming through the quiet church that they want "HOLY WATER!" (Or to go outside and see the construction site). And I have been made aware of so many needs in the world, both large and small. I want to use my time before Jesus to present those needs to Him and place them in His hands. 
It has become so apparent to me how much like children we are to God. Obviously we are His children, but when I roll my eyes at my 3-year-old's tantrum over something simple or nonexistent, I suddenly picture myself as the 3-year-old, wailing to God about something or other that is as significant as the reason my 3-year-old is crying, when put into a Heavenly perspective. And then I feel silly. But I still love my tantruming child and will pull her into my lap to hug her once she's done with her fit. And God's love is even greater than that. 
All that is a little slice of what I've been thinking today. 31 years have taught me a lot, but I am still very unfinished. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014


My favorite part of cake-making is the decorating part. I'm not a big fan of baking, filling, and icing cakes, despite how crucial these steps are to an actual cake's existence. Thankfully, I got to skip straight to the fun part by just making cake toppers again. 
I tried another new-to-me technique: modeling chocolate. These cars are about the size of my iPhone, which amounts to a HUGE hunk of smooshy fondant. Some cake decorators will use foil or other non-edible material to fill large interior spaces, but I like making my creations to be totally edible (minus a toothpick or two, as needed), so I explored the use of modeling chocolate. 
I don't think my sugar-to-chocolate ratios were perfect, or I may have over-mixed it, so I think it was a little too soft. Nevertheless, I plan on using this medium again and learning more about it. Plus, it achieved what I wanted it to for this project. I molded and carved the chocolate into my desired shapes, and the modeling chocolate hardened so I could then cover it in fondant and add all the details. 
Anthony's toy cars were extremely helpfulful as a reference for all the curves and crevasses that needed to be sculpted. 3D models are easier to copy than pictures!
Next I added all of Mater's pieces. I made 3 or 4 different versions of his engine until I made one I liked. I kept trying to make it out of many pieces, but it turned out that simpler was better. 
I am, however, pretty proud of the detail work on his towing mechanism. All of it is fondant, with just 2 toothpicks to hold the center beam and the long arm holding the cable/hook. 
Lightning McQueen's sponsor became the birthday boy, RJ, and it was a cute way to personalize the car (plus, "RJ" is much easier than Rust-eze to spell out in fondant). 
Finally, the make-or-break moment: paint the finishing touches. I was a little nervous because if I messed up the paint job, the whole car could be ruined and hours of work would be wasted. There was no room for error. 
I used some new powdered food colors, which worked perfectly to make Mater look like the rusty old car he is, and I gave McQueen's lightning bolt a little extra oomph!
I am so pleased with the results, as were my clients!
I'll leave you now with one more detail that I thought was the perfect final touch: birthday boy turned 4, and Mater helped remind everyone by bringing in the number on his tow hook.