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Saturday, July 23

8 Lammas Activities for Infants & Toddlers

Lammas is a great sabbat. Traditionally, we honor the first harvest and often the Celtic God, Lugh.   Mama Stacey likes to honor the sun, the garden, and the sea.  Corn, grains, berries, honey, herbs, and anything overflowing in the garden (like tomato and zucchini) are traditional for this holiday.

One can know all of that and still have no idea how to honor the holiday with young ones.  My advice for parents of Pagan toddlers is that babies need to experience a holiday, not hear about it.  You can try and teach the names of gods and the magickal properties of wheat and basil, but there is very little chance that it will stick.  Knowledge like that takes time, exposure, and repetition.  What toddlers need is music, food, and to work with their hands.

Here are 8 suggestions for celebrating Lammas with infants and toddlers.

1.  CORN SHAKERS - These honor the corn aspect and make a pretty cool noisemaker.  These can be used in a family ritual to raise energy, around the drum circle to add some zest to the rhythm, or shaken to cheer on your team at the Tailteann Games.   You will need 6oz water bottles, harvest colored ribbon, and popcorn kernals.  For full instructions and other needed materials, visit Pre-K Pages.

2.  MAKING CLAY SUN DISKS - The golden rays of the sun are bringing the harvest to fruition.  It is because of this yellowing of fields and the heat of August that we honor the Sun.  Use the salt dough recipe found on Twig and Toadstool, or use your favorite bake-able dough.  You will need salt, flour, acrylic paints, and a coat of varnish.

3.  YARN-WRAPPED HONEY BEES - These honor the labor of the honey bee.  Honey's golden color makes it the perfect sweetener for Lammas.  It also blends wonderfully with berries and bread, two traditional Lammas foods.  Talk to your children about the importance of bees and leave out some honey on your altar to acknowledge their sacrifice.  To make these, gather up yellow and black yarn, cardboard, and googly-eyes.  The tutorial at Housing a Forest uses old book pages for wings, but I'd personally use parchment or wax paper.  

4.  CORN STALK FOOTPRINTS - These are cute and seasonal.  This flexible craft is easy to do with newborns on up through adults.  You could even make a cute "family stalk" starting with parents on the bottom and children on up to the top.  You will need yellow art paint, construction paper, and a little patience to get this one done.  Check out the tutorial at House of Baby Piranha for full instructions.

5.  SUMMER FLOWER PRINTING - Wild flowers are all in season at Lammas time.  Take a walk, pick some late summer blooms, and sit down to create some sacred art.  You will need some art paint, white paper, and lots of space to get messy.  An art smock wouldn't hurt.  Find out all about this project from Learning 4 Kids.

6.  BERRY PICKING - Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries... there's probably a pick-your-own farm near you.  Give your toddler a basket and let them go nuts.  This is a great exercise in learning where our food comes from, but also one in farm etiquette.  Help your child stick to the rows, pick only what's ripe, and know beforehand that they WILL get dirty and sticky.   Check Me Plus 3 Today's tips for going berry picking with toddlers before you head out.

7.  LAMMAS SENSORY BIN - This is easily my children's favorite.  They will play in it all day long.  To steer this away from Halloween and make it more Lammas-y, try exchanging the fall leaves for star-shaped pasta (for the sun god), shell-shaped pasta (for the sea goddess), and perhaps throw in some green lentils for color.  When you purchase the corn for this, DO NOT use feed corn as it is not intended for human consumption and if I know anything about babies... they WILL put this in their mouth.  The pictured bin comes to you from CBC Radio Canada.

8.  BAKING BREAD WITH KIDS - This is a timeless Lammas tradition.  While I promise that your kitchen will have seen better days, nothing beats the pride a child feels after "helping".  Even 2 year olds can enjoy pouring, stirring, and kneading.  If you want to save yourself a little hassle, use frozen dough from the store.  Get a little encouragement from Kids Activities Blog.


Bonus:  PRETEND BERRY PICKING - If you can't find a berry patch, or don't revel in the the idea of dirty, sticky children, try this clever little backyard activity.  It reminds me of egg hunts, and we know children love those!  You will need ball-pit balls, child-sized baskets, and lots of ingenious hiding places.  Get the low down from Play Learn Everyday

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Sunday, July 17

Two Proud Mothers (or Eavesdropping on a Christian & a Pagan)

We play Pokemon Go.  It's bad.  But so does Table for Eight, so it's made for some fun evenings.  This past weekend, we were smartphone zombies, wandering the streets of their neighborhood at 9 o'clock at night, catching Ghastlies and Weedles and spinning Pokestops.  It was an evening of pure guilty pleasure and giddiness as we traded out our usual drinks and games for Pokemon hunting.

When our collective batteries died, we retreated to the back yard for marshmallows and phone cords.  Doodle Bug and Child #3 were playing in the lawn and I was keeping an ear on their conversation.  Table for Eight's children had just finished their Vacation Bible School for the summer and were full of Jesus love.  Kudos to them for raising their children in their desired faith, however Doodle Bug has had previous encounters with preaching children and gotten very confused.  So, I was admittedly eavesdropping on tweens.

#3 was telling my son about Heaven and Hell.  She was insistent that he was going to Hell.  Doodle Bug simply shrugged and told her "That's not a real place."

POW!  Score one, for my boy.

#3 refuted this and asked him about Heaven.  "It's imaginary," was his reply.  #3 was frustrated by this and I could see her considering that perhaps her special friend didn't understand her words.  She asked if he'd ever known someone who died.  He assured her that his kitty had died last year.  She told him that didn't count because, animals don't get to go to heaven.

"Why not?  That's dumb.  My kitty will be waiting for me."  Doodle Bug loves his pets.

BAM!  Score two.

#3 did not have a response for him, so they moved on.  Doodle Bug offered up that his father (biological) had died 3 years ago and his great-grandmother had died 2 years ago. That was an acceptable answer for #3, who replied, "Okay.  They're in Heaven, then."

"Nope. My Dad is in a star.  He's with our God.  And guess what?  It's a girl."

BOOM!  Score three.

#3 couldn't comprehend that.  She boasted about her family members in Heaven with "the real God.".  She described how happy her whole family will be one day when they are all together again.  And I have to say, good for her.  She truly believes in this and it brings her peace.  Children should have that.

So, I wandered closer to the adults and mentioned to my best friend that she should come hear what our children were talking about.  I described their conversation and she said that she was so proud to hear her child preaching.  I told her that I was blown away by my son's answers as I am never quite sure what sticks and what doesn't.  We walked back, two proud mothers, happy in our ability to raise aware children and still get along.

Did I mention that Table for Eight had recently switched churches?  They changed to one within walking distance.  They hadn't been there for a service yet, but had been asked by a neighbor if their children would like to attend the free bible study that week.  Driven crazy by the sheer number of children at her home in the summer, my friend had readily agreed to let someone take them to church for 3 hours a day.  After all, it was a church.  What could go wrong?

Well, as we approached, #3 was talking about the Rapture. 

"One day, the world is going to end.
There will be no more nighttime and
no more black people and
 the world will be perfect."

Both of our jaws dropped.

My friend rushed to lecture her child, "Black people get to go to heaven, too!"  Meanwhile, I asked Table for Eight's patriarch if they knew exactly what their children had been learning at this new church all week.

Pro tip: don't let someone else head up your child's religious education.

Thursday, July 14

Our Broken Summer

On July 1st, a trampoline accident led to a broken tibia and a severely sprained ankle for our little Adventure Girl.  


It was 11:20 am and to begin, I'm glad that we were there when it happened.  We were visiting friends who are big on "walk it off" mentality.  They don't "coddle" their children.  Mama Stacey is a huge coddler.  Their 3yo injured her elbow on the same trampoline and not only did they deny her rest/hugs/ice-pack... they did not take her to the doctor because they were certain she was faking it (although, between you and me, she had classic symptoms of a dislocated elbow).   We love our friends, but we have some serious differences in parenting styles.  

When Adventure Girl had her accident, she cried out and I immediately knew something was wrong.  As a parent, you can decode seemingly random screams based on pitch, intensity, etc.  I wasn't sure of my skills until that moment.  I now get a hint of what it must be like to speak the subtle languages of dolphins or grizzly bears.  Her cry, in that moment, was different from anything I have ever heard her make before. 

When I got to her, she could not put weight on her leg and the first thing she said was, "I go to doctor."  I lifted her and she began to weep.  As I carried her, she was passing out from the shock.  This is when our friend reassured me that my baby girl was "probably just tired" and "needed a nap".  My instincts were very different.  Papa J rushed her to the nearest emergency room (you should have seen his frantic parking job!).  Within 40 minutes they confirmed the break.  


It was heartbreaking to not only hear how severe the damage was, but to also find that she would need a full-leg cast for 8 or more weeks.  When the doctors left the room, we tried to cheer up our toddler by googling cool crutches and scooters, fancy swim covers, and talked about getting to pick out a cast color.  When they returned to put it in a splint, the other shoe dropped.  Her break was on the growth plate.  Adventure Girl was forbidden any weight bearing, scooting, sliding, or even dangling. No crutches.  No scooter.  No swim cover.  Only sitting or lying with her leg elevated.

We were told to immobilize our 3 year old daughter for the rest of the summer.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Awe man, that sucks."  Or, "Wow, that sounds difficult."  

The truth is, you have no bloody idea.  Unless you've had this same misfortune, you can't appreciate how soul-crushing it is to tell your vibrant child that she cannot play in her sandbox.  She cannot swim on a 101* day.  She cannot swing or slide or seesaw.  She cannot ride her new bike.  She cannot ride the carousel at the fair.  She cannot come with for raspberry picking.  Even if her beautiful blue eyes beg you for all they're worth, you must break her heart to save her leg.


Just the day before, Adventure Girl had inquired about trying out a climbing wall and had been wowed by seeing some people kayaking down the gorgeous river we live near (because, as her title would suggest, she is always up for a new adventure).  We had planned to do both in the coming weeks. Instead, we pass the days reading, coloring, and watching Netflix. 

We try to fight off boredom with long stroller rides, but still the 'recuperation blues' have taken hold.  She refuses food, or pretends to eat it for my sake, hiding it underneath her booster seat.  She cries a lot and takes turns being mad at Papa J and I, who must disappoint her daily.  She complains of being tired. She picks at her cast.


We hold her often, singing to her and trying to comforting her.  It is a difficult time, but I try to see the silver lining.  As the doctor in the emergency room pointed out, he'd rather see her have a broken leg than a broken spine or neck.  Worst-case scenario, over 4,000 children have suffered hospitals stays, paralysis, and even death since 1990. By the Goddess' grace, Adventure Girl is not one of those children.

As my thoughts turn to Lammas and our traditional Tailteann games, I am struggling to find ways to include our girl.  My thought process then leads me to one of the very first posts on this blog.  In it, I promised to provide crafts and activities for children with restrictions and special needs.  I have done a poor job of doing so.  

I look to the Lord and Lady to help our baby girl find her joy and rekindle her spirit as summer continues on.  They have already used this minor tragedy to help me better my parenting skills and amp up my blogging game.   

Faith, my friends.  Faith.   


Monday, April 11

Spiral Sun Yarn Art

The weather has been peculiar lately.  I'm sure you've noticed.  What made for a warm and enjoyable winter however, is making for a miserable cold and snowy spring.  We were granted five inches of snow this weekend.  I don't think it has ever snowed after Easter in my life.

I thought we'd try to encourage the sun to join us by creating something to honor the glow and glimmer we are craving.

6 1/2 yards (235 inches) of Yellow Yarn
6 1/2 yards (235 inches) of Orange Yarn
Assorted Sequins in Warm Tones
Parchment or Wax Paper
Hot Water
Small Bowl
Jelly Roll Pan (or any large tray/plate)
Stones/Magnets/Shotglasses (optional)
Disposable Gloves (optional)
FREE Template

I want to warn you that this project is sticky, requires fine motor skills, and takes about two days to really come together.  If your child has texture issues, try disposable gloves.  There is not much you can do to enhance the dry time on this one, but I offer two  modifications for smaller children and/or those with limited fine motor skills at the bottom of this post.
There is a template for this project.  It is completely FREE.  It is a PDF scan of my hand-drawn pattern.

Begin by understanding that not only are you about to get sticky, but so is your child.  So... hair up, sleeves back, table cleared.  Use disposable gloves if desired.

You will be cutting the Yellow and Orange Yarn into three (3) UNEQUAL segments.  Each color will be cut into a 65" piece and then the remainder cut in half so that you get two final pieces roughly 85" in length.  So, to be clear, measure {65" of Orange, 85" of Orange, 85" of Orange} and {65" of Yellow, 85" of Yellow, 85" of Yellow}.

Lay the Template down on the Jelly Roll Pan and cover with a sheet of Parchment or Wax Paper.  I used some gemstones to weight down the corners of the Parchment so that I could see the pattern a bit better and to stop the paper from sliding around.  You may find that taping the pattern down and then taping the Parchment over top is sturdier.

We will be using a glue slurry in this project.  This is done to prevent the glue from drying too quickly while you work with it.  We will also make it in small batches.  In the Small Bowl, mix a tablespoon of Glue with a teaspoon of Hot Water.  Honestly, I eyeballed this.  What you're going for is a warm, thinned glue slurry.  Place one of the 85" lengths of Yellow Yarn in the bowl and stir it around until the yarn is coated.  There shouldn't be much slurry left.

Pull the yarn out of the bowl.  I ran it over my finger to stop excess droplets, but did not squeeze the yarn.  It should be sloppy and wet.  Begin in the center of the spiral, carefully laying the yarn over the pattern.  Follow it slowly.  The template is made of two spirals.  You are following only one at this point.  There should be an empty template line between the yellow rings you are laying down.  This empty line is where the Orange Yarn will be laid next.  It is almost impossible to see when you start, but it gets easier as the circles get larger.

When finished with the first Yellow 85" length, create another batch of glue slurry.  Stir an 85" length of Orange Yarn into it.  Beginning in the center, follow the second spiral.

Above is a photo of the finished FIRST layer.  Continue on to the RAYS and finish up with a SECOND layer.

Mix a batch of glue slurry and stir in the 65" length of Yellow Yarn.  Pick a small ray and begin on the outer line. As you lay the sticky yarn down, you will trace the OUTSIDE of the short rays and the INSIDE of the large rays, alternating as you lay the yarn down.   As you come back to the spiral, lay the yarn ON the outer ring as shown in the image above.

**Note that the template is not an equal square and so two of the longer rays are cut off.
Eyeball these.  It's art.  A few oddball sun rays just adds to the whole thing.**

Mix a fourth batch of the glue slurry and repeat this process with the 65" length of Orange Yarn.

When finished, I used a cotton swab to paint the "joints" (the places where the rays overlapped the outer ring of the spiral) with extra glue slurry to ensure the connection.


Next, create another batch of glue slurry and dredge the second Yellow 85" length.  You will be laying this length right alongside the first Yellow length.  This sounds tricky, but you'll catch on. Essentially, you are doubling the Yellow string.

Keep the layers side-by-side and flat.  You're not stacking them, you're filling in the blank space.  You want the strings to touch and mingle so that when they dry, they hold each other together.

Repeat this with the second Orange 85" length.

I brushed more slurry over any parts that had dried out.  You really want the thing saturated.  I added random orange and gold sequins to make it shiny and enticing for those warm summer Sun energies.

Place it somewhere warm and dry.  Mine took just over a full 24 hours to dry out and stiffen up.  If any spots come apart, dab with glue and allow to dry again.

After these is fully dried out it should hang well.  These are meant to hang inside as wind and weather will undoubtedly destroy them.

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Young children or those with disabilities may find the fine motor aspect of this craft difficult to master.  In that instance, there are two alternatives to the intricate spiral of this project.  

The first is to weave a sun star instead of a spiral sun.  For this, you will need a square of cardboard and a dozen pushpins.  Lay the Template on the Cardboard and place the Parchment over top.  Secure a Push Pin at the tip of each sun ray.  Dredge the yarn and wind it amongst the Push Pins, criss-crossing through the center of the sun shape.  Use all of the lengths to create a layered orange and yellow sun star.  


The second method is to simply dredge and lay the first 85" length of Orange Yarn in a circle.  Dredge the Yellow Yarn and allow the child to clump and twirl it inside the sun any way they choose.  So long as plenty of it overlaps, it will still work. 

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Thursday, March 24

Coconut Tree Name Slider

Back in February, Adventure Girl was a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom addict.  While searching the web for nifty crafts built around the book, I found that several blogs had name sliders.  They were fancy and cool, but either too large (they'd been designed for a classroom) or the download was a bit out of range for our budget.

Instead, Mama Stacey grabbed a marker and some of our art supplies and came up with a nifty little Coconut Tree Name Slider that we'd like to share with you.

2 sheets of Cardstock
Permanent Marker
FREE Templates

Honesty moment.  I am a construction paper snob.  I know that I can get a pack of cheap paper from the dollar store, but it cracks when folded, fades absurdly fast, and leaves piles of lint in my paper bin.  You can't put it in the printer without making a mess... ugh.  I will use cheap staples, cheap glue, whatever, but I will drive across county lines for a sale on Pacon Tru-Ray construction paper.  It's recycled, the fibers are longer so I can curl it and bend it without it cracking, it comes in over 30 colors, and it's made with fade resistant dye.  They can sit in the open without the sun bleaching them white in a single afternoon.  Really, I may include this stuff in my wedding.  Haha! 
There are TWO templates for this project.  You can honestly get away with printing out only the "front" if it comes down to it.   They are completely FREE.  They are PDF scans of my hand-drawn pattern. 

Begin this project by hugging your child and kissing their face until they tell you you're being ridiculous and you really need to stop gushing on them so much.

Next, print the templates out onto Cardstock.  (If you are okay putting construction paper through your printer, feel free to print directly onto the colored paper.)  Cut the shapes out.  Carefully cut out the circle from the FRONT template and save the circle.

 Now, trace the FRONT onto the Green Construction Paper.  Then, trace the BACK onto the Brown Construction Paper.  Also, trace the circle FIVE or SIX times onto the Brown Construction Paper.  Cut everything out.

Lay the Green tree on top of the Brown and insert the Popsicle Stick between them.  Use the above photo as a guide to see how the Popsicle Stick should thread through the hole.

Leave the Popsicle Stick in place as you staple above the hole and then to either side of the Popsicle Stick's path.  It should be a little loose so that the Popsicle Stick slides easily.

I chose to hide the staples by gluing several Brown Circles around the opening so that it looked like a cluster of coconuts.

You're almost finished.  Time to spread some glue between the Green Front and the Brown Back.  Allow to dry and you're good to go.

Vertically write your child's name on the Popsicle Stick.  Slide the Popsicle Stick through slowly as your child recites the letters.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!

This project helps a child learn the letters and spelling of their name.  We incorporate this into our morning circle time twice each week.  Adventure Girl gets a kick out of it.

This project was part of our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom week.

For other projects and inspirations, check out our Preschool Home Educating page.

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Thursday, March 3

Yink Tails

As part of our Dr. Seuss themed preschool-homeschool unit this week, we cuddled up to the idea of Yinks.  This creature is featured in the book One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish.

We made Pink Ink to drink, but weren't really living the Yink good life until we had a bushy yellow and pink tail to wear.

I had to buy nothing to make this as we are always swimming in felt and fabric scraps.  I LOVE discount scrap bins.  Even ugly fabrics can become the coolest children's projects.

We wanted something quick and easy, so instead of getting "fancy" with a snap or hook-and-loop fasteners (like Velcro) to keep the tail on, I decided to attach it to a simple tie-around belt.

We used:  yellow felt, pink felt, pink embroidery thread

Before I get too far in, I want to tell you that this was a quick and dirty project for us.  I used rough measurements and eyeballed a lot of it.  It took me five minutes to put together.  It is a play toy that, should it break, will not make my heart race.  I am striving to not take everything so seriously lately.  After all, these are projects of laughter and whimsy.

To begin, we measured Adventure Girl's waist.  22 inches was the rough number.  Because we were going to tie it, I added 10 inches.  You may add more or less depending.  I eyeballed the width of the belt around 2 inches.  I also needed a length of felt for the tail.  I chose 20 inches off the top of my head.  It worked well for that limp, drag-along-the-ground quality.  Adjust accordingly to your child.

So, to sum up the yellow felt, I cut a 32" x 2" belt and a 20" x 2" tail

For the bushy pink end, I went with a sort of pom-pom design.  I cut six strips off the short end of a pink felt sheet.  I eyeballed the width to the size of my thumb.  The sheet is 9"  I then layered them asterisk style. 

I stuck the needle through the center and stitched an X to hold them together.  Next, I took an end of the tail and tri-folded it for sturdiness (from previous projects we've found that single layers of felt shred/tear easily).  I stitched a second X through all of the layers of felt.

I quick stitched the tail to the center of the belt.

We tied it on and enjoyed!

Happy Seussing!

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Homeschool: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

We read the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom after I grabbed it on a whim from the local library.  I'd seen it raved about for years, but thought to myself "what's the big deal about an alphabet book???".


We read the book once and STILL didn't get it.  So, I took to the internet to try and wrap my brain around the buzz.  A Scholastic video popped up on Youtube... and it all made sense from there.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is one darn catchy tune.  Papa J wanders the house singing it. If Beyonce had sung this, it would have been a chart topper. 

I am still learning how to build up curriculum.  I know that I want a theme for each week.  However, when I hop on Pinterest to see whats out there... I see one awesome craft and then another and another.  So, pretty soon I have fourteen crafts, seven snack recipes, and zero true academic content.   I often have to scale back the glue and glitter and purposefully seek out math or reading skills.  ::shrug::  I'll get there.

For Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Adventure Girl and I ended up practicing the letters of her name in any medium she wanted (paint, chalk, markers, stickers... whatever).

We made a Coconut Tree Name Slider.  I saw many items like this on Pinterest, but they weren't quite right for us or you had to pay too much.  So, in the end I made my own pattern.  Click our link to get the template for FREE.

Her most beloved project was the construction of a Cardboard Tube Coconut Tree for her foam letter alphabet (a gift from Table for Eight) to climb.  We reenacted the book over and over and over.

Other projects that we thought were groovy, but didn't have time to try out:

Cupcake Liner Coconut Tree from I Heart Crafty Things.

Edible Coconut Tree snack plates from Pre-K Pages.

Exploring a Coconut by Parent Teach Play.

Chicka Chicka Magnet Board by Little Page Turners.

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