Thursday, January 31, 2013

Permanent record

How often do you get to put your handprints in cement? (Uh, with old pipes like ours we've had two chances in three years, but let's make like the trend is ending.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Reading Roundup 2013.01.25

Whoopsie, I was supposed to post this on Friday. Here are a few things that have caught my eye lately.

Who's Next? Washington Post Answer Sheet (Jan. 18, 2013)
Some real numbers on how much time those tests take.

Pearson criticized for finding test essay scorers on Craigslist, Washington Post Answer Sheet (Jan. 16, 2013)

It's Vegas, (Breastfeeding) Baby, Vegas! Huff Post (Jan. 16, 2013)

The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery, Truth-Out (Jan. 15, 2013)

Evolution, Teacher Tom
About children, change and growth...and rotating materials to stimulate growing minds. (Jan 19, 2013)

Traces of melamine from dinnerware can seep into food, study says, Los Angeles Times (Jan. 21, 2013)

D.C. public schools may drop U.S. government requirement, WashPost (Jan. 23, 2013)
What am I doing in this basket and why is it so hot in here?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's National Peanut Butter Day!

 We celebrated with Peanut Butter - Banana smoothies and peanut butter-filled pretzels!

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie Recipe
Makes two large smoothies. Don't forget the straw!

blend together:
(in blender or using hand blender and milkshake cup...make sure the liquid is at the bottom for easiest blending)

a splash of milk or almond milk
3-4 giant globs of greek yogurt, or more
2 heaping Tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 big squirt of honey
2 bananas, peeled (they can be frozen if your blender can handle it)
a few ice cubes (can be optional)
optional: a little bit of runny vanilla yogurt
optional: a handful of fresh or frozen organic spinach, rinsed and squeezed dry
optional: cinnamon

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reading Roundup — 2013.01.18

The Kabuki of Hand Washing, Teacher Tom (Mar. 9, 2010)

Six minutes of outstanding storytelling, and by a highschooler, Snap Judgement

Recess is important to child development, Time (Dec. 31, 2012)

Choose a one-word theme for your year, Fairy Dust Teaching (Jan. 2, 2012)

Everything you've heard about failing schools is wrong, Mother Jones (Sept./Oct. 2012)

Anything with wheels

Over the holidays, we visited the warehouses where volunteers were decorating floats for the Jan. 1 Pasadena Rose Parade.

The floats have to be covered entirely with plant materials. In addition to flowers and leaves, they use poppy seeds, beans, rice, corn, and more. Sometimes they pulverize the material in the blender to get the right color and consistency. We saw one volunteer sorting red cranberries by color: Light, medium, dark.

This volunteer is poking carnations into the painted foam backing on a float, almost a week before the event. Delicate flowers go on last.

It was a really interesting process, and was fascinating to see the intense amount of labor that goes into each float. And interesting to try not to think about how if this much effort went into education, or sharing fulfilling parenting tricks, what a different world it might be.

Anyway, it was a nice family day, and we haven't talked much about it since.

But I guess the day made an impression—this week Starboy built his own floats out of Lego Duplos. A little light in the "natural materials" category, but I guess that's what imagination is for.

He explained that this one has a display area for the decorations.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Styrofoam print-making

I've been dying to try styrofoam printing with Starboy for ages.  I got the idea from The Artful Parent. The results are fantastic!

To hasten the process, I drew some shapes on the styrofoam in advance. This cut down on the number of steps to the process. I used washed take-out containers and styrofoam plates. This is the killer of the project, knowing you're using foam you are just going to throw out. If this concerns you, try to recycle some that will be tossed out anyway.

Starboy rolled the brayer through a glop of tempera paint. The paint is in a small, flat tray (recycled heat-and-serve mac & cheese container.)(Don't judge. You know it's delicious.)

He laid a piece of paper on top of the wet positive, then rolled the back of the paper with a second, clean brayer.

Carefully peeling away the paper revealed a beautiful positive image! (Okay, the photos aren't exactly sequential, but you get the idea.) I encouraged him to keep the prints to one end of the paper, so we could turn them into note cards, but that only happened with intensive guidance.

That laundry mountain in the background? We're ignoring that. We have priorities.

I only showed him the process one time, and he was off to the races on his own.

I did make a drawing of a truck on the fly, and when he discovered that new images could be made on the fly, he started to demand more trucks, wanting to make only one print of each one. For your first attempt at this, it might be a good idea to pre-make the printing "blocks" and keep it at that, unless you have all day to spend!

This project was lots of fun, and really satisfying. I enjoyed it, too! If you have older kids, this would be a great idea for a Valentine's Card-Making after-school gathering. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Accessories for Dao

Starboy informed me, after Mary Jane* came to play last week, that Dao needs "more clothes."

Specifically, he needed "Shoes, and a hat, and a white mouse. All white, with a white belly and white ears."

I need to note that since Dao does not have any wheels he gets pretty much zero playtime with Starboy. He mostly is stuck "supervising." But apparently he is hopelessly underdressed for this task. And in need of a mouse. Clearly.

So I used this pattern from Rhythm of the Home to hand-stitch some felt shoes. The pattern will seem freakishly big, but I only had to size it down a little bit for Starboy's 12" doll. Starboy loves that the shoes look like his own green fleece booties. I left the ties off to avoid frustration for him, but I suspect that this only will add the frustration of the shoes always falling off.

I used this pattern from Rhythm and Rhyme for this ridiculously cute mouse. Note that you can't use a piece of felt for the tail. We have found that it usually breaks right off. Microfiber works great, and on this one I tried cotton yarn, like you would use to knit a dishcloth.

I see now that I have been sewing the ears on wrong! Makes it look more like a bunny mouse. I'll pay more attention to that for the next one I make (they are addictive).

For the bear hat, I just cut out four tiny felt semi-circles for ears and two larger felt semi-circles for the hat. The ears were stitched and turned inside out, then pinned into the right side of the hat. I stitched the hat on the wrong side, and turned the whole thing right-side-out.

It would look much neater had it been stitched on a machine, but it was much faster to just whip it up then haul out the sewing machine and set it up. I had really wanted to knit it, but just didn't feel like starting a whole new project, since I'd have to do the math to create a pattern.

Now, Starboy says, Dao needs more clothes the same color as the hat. He pointed out five different beige felts and kept saying, "Like this color."

Does anyone have links for quick-sew 12" Waldorf doll clothes?

*Code Name

Monday, January 7, 2013

Beauty and the brayer

Techman invited Starboy to do a project on Sunday. Starboy said, "I want to paint. I want to use a roller to roll the paint all around." He demonstrated with his hands.

He'd been with us at the art supply store to get some brayers for a printmaking experiment I'd like to try, but all he knew was that we'd bought rollers. I hadn't told him what they were for, and he hadn't seen them since we'd come back from the store a week ago.

So I gave him one of the new brayers and two squirts of paint—different hues, but all we have left is green—and he was delighted.

"Look, Mommy, It spreads the paint around! Look, it picks up the paint that's already there! And I can move it over here!"

The resulting art is beautiful and also could make good wrapping paper! I feel grateful for knowing about Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent and the moms from Play at Home Mom—they provide the kind of daily inspiration that spurred me to get the brayers, for their suggested projects!

 We tried some linoleum blocks for printing, but that didn't go as smoothly. Or I should say: It didn't go according to my pre-conceived ideas. That's more accurate. Techman was overseeing that bit, and I forgot to ask him for the full report.

This was my favorite one.

The brayers were about $12 each. I wasn't sure which ones to buy, so I got an acrylic one and a hard rubber one. I like to have two of things so that two children can work at the same time. I realized during this project that you'd likely be better off with two per child—one to roll ink on your positive, and a second, dry one to roll across the back of your paper while making the print. We'll see how it plays out over time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Embroidered artwork tea towel

Starboy is making the leap into representational artwork, which happens for kids anywhere between three and five years old. He drew an airplane on the back of an envelope that blew us away.

I used his light table to trace it onto a tea towel (from Joann) with a pencil, then embroider it one evening. According to Starboy, the pilot drives from the right side and the left side is the tail, but we prefer to believe he is a genius at perspective and it's the other way around.  I also added a tiny name and date in one corner so we can remember when he created the airplane!

This is going to be a late Christmas gift for Starboy's aunt and uncle, who have everything they want and need nothing. But who doesn't need another tea towel?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reading Roundup—2012.12.28

A few things that caught my eye over the past few weeks:

Best Practices for Raising Kids? Look to Hunter-Gatherers, Newsweek and The Daily Beast

Baby Formula Ads in Sweden May Soon be Banned from Featuring Babies, Huffington Post (Nov. 8, 2012).
When I posted this link on FB, the headline was: Will This Law Make Moms Feel Like Failures? Which is outrageous, in my opinion. Why isn't the question: Will this law help more mothers breastfeed successfully, and for longer?

Are there aspects of mothering that can make you feel like shit? Yes. Quite a lot of them, actually. Should you refuse to keep trying at something for the absolute health of your baby just because you feel like a failure? Um, no. Sucking it up so your baby can come first is called Motherhood. Should there be training and resources in place so that mothers can be supported and successful in this often difficult aspect of the journey? Yes, yes, yes. And if it takes a law to generate an upswell in community support, then, well, that's one way to go. That's my opinion, anyway.

Is the Medical Community Failing Breastfeeding Moms? Time (Jan. 2, 2013)
Spoiler alert: The answer is yes. Duh.

How to Overcome Neediness, Huffington Post blogs (Nov. 15, 2012)
Feel free to add a comment below so I can feel connected. (Snicker)

Listening for Understanding, The Attached Family (Dec. 31, 2012)

Education Stories that Resonated in 2012—and will matter in 2013, Washington Post Answer Sheet (Dec. 31, 2012)

Robbed, Washington Post Answer Sheet (Jan. 2, 2013)

Choose a one-word theme for the year, rather than a resolution, Fairy Dust Teaching (Jan. 2, 2013)

Denying recess should not be used as a discipline tool, USA Today (Dec. 31, 2012)

Simple print thank-you notes

I set out the last of our tempera paint and some notecards for Starboy to decorate some thank you notes after the holidays. He wasn't too interested, so I showed him how to make a simple print by painting on one half of the card, and pressing....or by pressing a wet, painted card onto a dry one, making two cards.

He loved it. Though the prints this time were not as beautiful as the process.


 He couldn't stop making them. The beauty of the project, of course, is that one always needs notecards, and a stack of notecards makes a great gift.

We dried them on trays
My dream is one of these painting and drying racks (pictured above) like Miss Molly has, but that's a bit dear in both dollars and space at our place. So our next-best solution was to get a bunch of plastic trays from Ikea ($2 each), and stack them for drying projects in a small space. The sides on the tray keep the mess contained, although it does inhibit the painting a bit. And you can't beat the price. We only have about eight of them, but I'd like a few more—that's only enough for two kids to paint four pieces.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homemade Cheez-Its

Techman and I both have a weakness for Cheez-Its, but I try not to buy them because they are utter junk. And I will eat half the box on the way home.

But Smitten Kitchen has a dandy recipe for homemade fish crackers that taste just like Cheez-Its—only better. Just flour, cheese, butter, and a little seasoning. The only real work is in the shape-cutting.

For New Year's, I made cheddar stars. As the appetizer for cheese fondue. And ice cream for dessert.

It was a dairy good sendoff to 2012 in our little bungalow. Right up Starboy's alley.

The recipe filled two jelly roll baking sheets. I re-rolled the dough twice, and it didn't seem to get too overworked.

 That's a lot of 1" stars. Until you start eating them. Then it's not so many.

At some point I got tired of cutting out stars, and baked the large scraps and a bunch of rectangles.

They toast up purty.

These won't last on the counter for long, and would make a great gift. They do seem a bit soggy on the second day, but a few minutes in a warm oven should crisp them right up.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"It's dead, Jim."

Fire hazard? Maybe a little. In the final days, Techman was calling it the Crispmas tree.