Small Hands in the Big World

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicks Dig Him

William has been hanging with Henry and Jack, Tobin and Nigel, and Benjamin and Maxwell for the past few years. His preschool classes were always predominantly boys. The small group of girls stuck together while the boys were coming up with elaborate rescue scenarios, endless super hero play, and generally participating in activities that included loud “kkkkrrrrsh,” and “vrrrrrrrrrrm” sounds.

Kindergarten is a whole new world with his classroom pretty evenly balanced with boys and girls. Sure, he has his favorite guy friends to hang out with on the playground but as I witnessed as a chaperone for the class field trip to Remlinger Farm last week, the ladies love that dashing young Will and he loves their affections. Girls were actually arguing over who got to hug him more.
The pictures say it best:

This photo breaks my heart... darling Leilani adores William. Her Mom told me that she came home and talked about the lovely time she spent with me and William adding "she likes you a lot but not as much as she likes William." :-)
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Budding Barista

Gone are the days of quietly sipping my latte while thumbing through a magazine and present are the days of “Little Helpers.” Coffee grounds all over the counter top and drips of espresso are part of the deal but that’s OK since my drink of choice costs $5 at Starbucks—for five bucks, I can wipe a counter. And who am I kidding? I make just as much mess when I make a latte on my own. Anyhow, as long as they are careful about the hot parts of the little espresso machine and allow me to reach in for the parts I need to do, my budding baristas push the on various buttons, wait for the green light, and turn the steam knob when I say, “go.”

“Mom, I do the panting?” Sara asks and it cracks me up every time. She is talking about “tamping,” the part where she uses the cool little tamping tool to press the coffee grounds into place but I can’t help but imagine myself panting like an eager puppy in anticipation of my coffee fix. How about you do the tamping, and I'll do the panting, Sara Bear.

"How 'bout we make some hot chocolate now?"
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lovely Lovely Leaves

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind?
~Mary Oliver, Song for Autumn

It’ll be at least another month before the Big Leaf Maples surrounding our house drop their leaves. Until then, we’ll make good use of the golden beauties from the pair of red buds on the side of our house. At least I thought we would…
As I raked these radiant leaves into a pile on this glorious sunny day, I had visions of staging a little photo shoot and capturing brilliant photos of the kids enjoying Autumn’s splendor. They tried, they really did… but the sad little pile I raked up doesn’t begin to compare to the mountains of dried brown Big Leaf Maple leaves we’ll soon see. They each made a few runs into the pile, hoping to create that feeling of being enveloped in the leaves…. It wasn’t happening. Still, we had fun trying and now they remember what we have to look forward to when the Maple leaves start falling. Pin It

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Art Lady

Eager to get involved in my son’s Kindergarten classroom, I volunteered to be the Art Docent. I had never heard of such a job before it was introduced to me at Parent Orientation but apparently, public schools have come up with this creative approach to filling the Art gap in the elementary school curriculum. At least once a month I’ll schedule a time with his teacher to come in and teach a brief art lesson. There were a couple training sessions and a  beautifully organized binder came home with me, full of creative ideas for classroom art projects.

Considering the season (and wanting something simple), we started with Leaf People using Lois Ehlert’s book “Leaf Man” and this blog post as inspiration and the leaves around us for materials. To prepare for the lesson in William’s classroom, the kids and I wandered around the neighborhood collecting leaves of all shapes and sizes (the ones picked directly from the trees are best—they have the brightest colors and are still nice and pliable to work with). We ended up with big, messy bags full of leaves but once they were sorted and organized, they looked like beautiful art just stacked in their piles ready to be rummaged through by Kindergartners.

I have to admit I was more than a little nervous about heading into a room full of 5 year-olds, they can be a tough crowd… but this kind bunch was gentle with yours truly, Ms. Liz the Art Lady, and the lesson went really well. They arranged their leaves first, used glue stick to secure the leaves, then added googly eyes, signed their names and gave their artwork a title. Some of the kids decided it was a self-portrait and gave it their own name while others came up with friendly names like Earl and Nancy. My personal favorite was the name one creative young man decided his fierce leaf monster:  "Hanny the Alien Beaver."

If you decide to do this project, be sure to press the leaf arrangements and let them dry before posting them... I'm afraid the leaves shriveled up a whole lot more than I realized they would

William decided his Leaf Man should go in a boat
 Along with providing an opportunity to have a lot of fun, I was able to teach them a new word, “Collage,” and introduce the concepts of shape, color, and contrast.

I made a little Leaf Family too -- isn't my Leaf Lady having a good hair day?
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn is...

…Salmon Days, our local festival celebrating the return of the salmon. The kids love the big parade but the big treats are even more exciting 
Chocolate coated strawberries with sprinkles and whipped cream = one happy boy (yes, he devoured the whole thing)

…lots of Indoor Arts and Crafts
Finger painting (which inevitably becomes whole arm then tummy painting)
Gack, also known as Flubber. William can't get enough of it, Sara says it's "too yucky" yet has no problem covering herself in slick finger paints
…chilly soccer evenings

...hay rides at Jubilee Farm

…pumpkin patches

…our annual pumpkin carving party with Grammy and Baba
Focused on getting the face just right

So proud that he carved it all by himself

…and more costumes
We're going through a Super Hero phase, can you tell?

…and last but not least, our soundtrack these days is "The Monster Mash" courtesy of the singing Frankenstein doll my Mom gave us last year. Wow, those batteries are lasting a long time.

Halloween is still a week away but kids are incredibly good at making the most of it all month long.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

This Moment: Hello, Hello, Anybody There?

A Friday ritual. A photo capturing a simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment that I want to pause, savor, and remember. Hosted by SouleMama. (If you're inspired to do the same, please leave a comment below with your link.)

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Homecoming of Sorts

If you are lucky enough to find a preschool with teachers that you and your kids love, stick with them as long as you can. Forget worries about travel times, throw away concerns about scheduling, give up any illusions that all teachers or preschools are created equally, just make it happen.

I had so many “good” reasons for enrolling Sara in a preschool 3 minutes from home instead of taking her to the preschool William attended, more than 30 minutes away. Being able to run home on days I wasn’t working in the classroom, being near William’s new elementary school so I could volunteer in his classroom, reducing our car/freeway time, and making local friends that Sara might go to elementary school with all seemed like good reasons.  Boy, was I wrong.

It took me a month to realize the error of my ways but I am beyond thrilled to announce that we’re back where we belong with our beloved Teachers Judy and Nancy. Back to a water table filled with shaving cream, glitter, gel, and water, back to a painting area where 4 to 6 kids can paint at the same time and the colors are always abundant and often sparkly, back to enough wooden blocks to build multiple fortresses, back to flowing fabrics the kids tie on as capes, dresses, and hair, back to caterpillars in lovely little habitats waiting to spin their cocoons, back to a mountain of boxes and recycled goodies that allow kids to build just about anything, back to a place where seeds sprout and carrot tops keep growing, back to a place where they always go outside and say “there is never bad weather just bad clothing,” back where we belong.
Sara at William's school last year, also known as her new school. This simple display of "five green and speckled frogs" captivated the children. Also note the snail habitat and sprouting carrot tops nearby (and don't miss the happy smile of my then just-turned 3 year old)

Getting Sara out the door to the old preschool was difficult. She wouldn’t stop asking “You stay with me, Mom?” Not wanting to lie, I’d say “No, it’s not my turn but I will stay until you say it’s alright for me to go.” That answer wasn’t good enough so my determined girl would always find ways to make it difficult to leave the house… so much for the benefits of being close to home.

Anyhow, tonight I heard Sara explaining to Daddy a million miles a minute “I go to William’s old school now, da one with Teacher Nancy. Dey have lots of paints and toys and things I like. Momma not have stay with me at my new school.” My happy heart nearly exploded (in a good way).
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seeking Balance: Extracurricular Activities

I never thought I’d be one of "those parents" who over-schedules the family, however, we have extracurricular activities on 3 of our 5 school days and frankly, it’s feeling like a lot of running around. The problem (if you can call it that) is that my kids are genuinely interested in a lot of different things and they are enjoying these extra activities even when it means schlepping all over town and back.

Although it’s challenging to get everywhere on time, I’m grateful that I never have to nag or talk them into going to any of their schools (Pre-K for Sara; K and K-Enrichment for William), guitar lessons (“lukelele” at home for Sara), or soccer. In fact, my eldest reminisces about a theater camp he loved last summer and he just asked if he could please take swimming lessons again too. Really?! I guess that’s the biggest difference between 5 and 40-ish… a whole lot more energy.

Naturally, I want to nurture my children’s curiosity and support their efforts but finding the right balance is tricky, not to mention finding classes offered in the right time frames. And here I am fretting over this when it’s mostly my 5-year old with these extra classes. What about when my 3-year old is ready for dance, gymnastics, lacrosse, skeet shooting and who knows what else?

For now I guess we’ll just take it one season at a time. Soccer will end soon then we’ll consider Basketball. Music lessons will remain constant but we’ll find time for swimming lessons and skeet shooting (kidding) somewhere in there.  
Yes, a theater camp may be in this young Thespian's future
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Five “Oops” and One Big “Oooo La La!”

Ideas and enthusiasm abound in our house, organization… not so much.

A great example of this unfolded when I tried to copy an incredible melted crayon project I saw on another blog (thank you for illustrating it so beautifully, Meg!) Anyhow, the whole effort was a comedy of errors but it turned out well anyhow. Now that’s my kind of project.
  • Step 1:  Secure crayons onto foam core in a somewhat organized fashion. Oops, can’t find my glue gun so tried double stick tape instead. It sort of worked until…
  • Step 2:  Turn warm blow dryer onto crayons. Oops, crayons went flying so I tried securing them better with another piece of tape across the top of the crayons (this is actually a double-oops because I wanted to use plain old scotch tape but couldn’t find that either so double-sided had to do).
  • Step 3:  Turn blow dryer to hottest setting or the wax won’t melt. Focus on the paper-covered portion of the crayon. Another double oops, crayons still shifted all over the place and blowing on the crayon tips made quite a melted crayon splatter.
But here is our happy ending! Even with all of our little blunders, look at the finished product:
Oooo La La!

William calls it "Colors, Colors All Around Us"
The splatter made an interesting display and my sweet boy was thrilled that his art came out looking so explosive. All in all, this is something we’ll definitely try again. Perhaps I’ll be a little more organized next time. Pin It

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Wisdom of Daddy: Math Time

“OK, who wants to do some math?” he enthusiastically inquires after dinner. “Me, me, me,” they both answer as they clamber to the table where he sits with an abacus, paper, pencils, and an agenda of having fun.

Math time with Daddy has become a little after-dinner ritual that the kids look forward to. We talk about it during the day when counting and numbers are naturally part of our activities. "Oh, tonight you can tell Dad that it took 13 steps to walk across the kitchen," for example.

Tonight was extra special when Sara realized that her Princess sticker book has many pages featuring addition and subtraction. Daddy usually steers clear of Snow White but tonight, Sara had him at “look Dad, numbers ones!”
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Nature Craft: Autumn Crowns

In search of uses for droopy golden sunflower petals and fun fall crafts, we just discovered one more reason to love duct tape. Thank you, Maya of the creative and inspiring Maya Made blog for this wonderful idea.

All you need is duct tape, brown paper grocery bags, scissors, and a colorful mix of leaves, flowers, and anything else you’d like to use for embellishments on your crowns.
  • Step 1:  Measure the circumference of each queen or king’s noggin. Use that measurement (plus an extra couple inches for the “seam”) to cut a two inch wide strip from the paper bag that will fit around their heads.
  • Step 2:  Cut another paper bag strip of the same length, but this time cut one side straight and one side in whatever pattern that you’d like to appear along the top edge of the crown (we did a simple zigzag cut).
  • Step 3:  Tear off a piece of duct tape of the same length then lay it down on a flat surface, sticky side up. Attach your plain strip of paper bag at the bottom edge (make sure any printing on the bag faces down) and the shaped strip along the top edge (again with printed bag side down), leaving most of the sticky tape area exposed. This adhesive strip is where you’ll attach all of your beautiful fall adornments to create a glorious crown!

A Max (Where the Wild Things Are) moment for William

Queen Curly Sue. Look closely for the huckleberries (one green and one purple). My silly Sara insisted on using them saying "I put a huckleberry on my crown and people see it and dey say 'look, there a huckleberry on her crown!' Ha ha ha ha ha" 
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