Thursday, November 3

A Month of Gratitude

Moving into an actual house (A New Year) has granted my inner Martha Stewart full license to tackle my Pinterest wishlist, one project at a time.  There is so much to do... and I'm starting with trendy Thanksgiving stuff.

Something I've wanted forever is a decent dining room to put a huge wooden table in and have sit-down dinners with my family.  This goal has been enthusiastically accomplished. My children took to tablecloths and prayer rather quickly.  They remind me when I forget and have even asked to eat at the table on lazy weekends.  They are just as thrilled with our new home as Papa J and I are.

If you are curious about our mealtime prayer, check out this old blog post on a prayer entitled "Peaceful".

Another great aspect of our new dining room is having blank wall space. I purposely left one wall furniture-free so that we can do holiday art projects on it. I decided to start with a Thankfulness Tree to correspond with Thanksgiving and the general vibe of "we are waaaay too happy" that's in the air around here.

Now, some people are brave enough to paint stuff right on the wall. I am the nittiest nit-pick that ever lived.  I can't commit. And I want that space for other projects, like a Winter Solstice advent project in December.  So, I taped together three sections of my daughter's easel paper. This gave me roughly a 40" x 50" canvas.

Adventure Girl helping out.

I knew I was going to have to get artistic, but I was feeling it, so I searched Pinterest for some ideas on how others had drawn their trees.  I pulled this one up on my phone, from The Mama Birds blog, and started to sketch with a pencil. I wanted a more tree-like look, so I began to add detail and extra twigs and rough out the ends. It took an entire nap of Baby O's to get it sketched, so about an hour.  Naps are legit currency In the House of Mama Stacey.

I upped the contrast.  These are my branches and twigs.

Baby O has a cold right now, his first ever, so he's napping more often.  He worked three in yesterday, and that worked very well for my three-step project.  Haha!  During his midday nap, Adventure Girl and I took up our brushes and painted our tree.  The watercolor look was accomplished by adding a little water to the brown tempera paint so that it was thinner and thicker in some areas.  It gave the tree that varied bark look.

Mama Stacey painting in her p.j.s.

This dried very quickly, but the final step had to wait until after dinner and bathtime.  While Baby O was snoozing again and Adventure Girl was engrossed in My Little Pony, I outlined the tree in black tempera paint (I did not water this down). 

Top: Halfway...
Bottom: All done!

I think it turned out well.  I'm not sure if I can get something this large laminated, but it would save me some time next year if I can.  I still haven't decided if I'd like to add some words at the bottom.  I've even thought of Pagan-ing this project up by painting little Greenman faces on the knots of the tree or adding little symbols among the branches.  We'll see. 

I'm thankful that I can do these projects with my kids.

For the leaves, I found this handy template on the Corwin House blog.  I printed it straight onto construction paper.  I did have to use my handy-dandy rotary paper trimmer to reduce the paper width  from 9" to 8.5", but otherwise my Tru-Ray paper went right through the printer.

You might be able to fit more on each page.

I pre-cut the leaves out and keep them in a small bowl on the dining room table.  So far, everyone writes down something they are thankful for on a leaf before eating.  I am attaching with small bits of rolled masking tape, but if I can get the tree laminated, I imagine sticky tac would rock. 

If you decide to try out a project like this, let me know in the comments section below!


Tuesday, November 1

A New Year

Good Morning!  October was a maddening swirl for the Mama Stacey Clan.  It began with a guest speaking gig at Pittsburgh Pagan Pride Day and ended with Samhain.  In between, the baby got SEVEN teeth, we adopted a dog, Doodle Bug started a new special needs program, and.... we got a house!

We have always made due with teeny-tiny apartments, but with a family of five + regular visitors + a big dog + a zillion hobbies, we were bursting at the seams.  We had been chasing our dream home all summer and it ended in tears as acquaintances of ours butted heads with the owners and they unceremoniously dropped us from the running.  I was bumming pretty hardcore.  I grew angry with the goddess Hestia as we'd been praying to her for months and I had put my faith in her.  Little did I know, She had not betrayed me.  She had taken my wish list and found us an even better home.

Our jaws dropped when we walked in.  The kids immediately began playing in the yard.  We were the first and only ones to look at it.  It was ours.

We began the process of moving on October 4th.  This involved the usual emptying of our old home, but after years of living in too small of a space, we had additional belongings scattered in storage units, family homes, and garages over three counties.  It took a lot of muscles, sprained everything, days off of work, and everything in our bank account to get all the scraps of our life to their final destination.

We gained 700 sqft.  This translates into a 'classroom', larger bedrooms for all, a doubled living room, and a kitchen with cabinets and counters for miles.  We are in love with our new home.

Top:  Our porch decorated for Halloween & Samhain.
Middle:  Our new kitchen complete with lots of cabinets and a dishwasher.
Bottom:  Half of our homeschooling classroom.


A new address gave us the opportunity to transfer Bug into a much better school.  His needs are being met much more often and they are teaching him skills for independent living, which at age 14 should have been a major focus in his schooling (I am trying my best to forgive the old school).

We got a phone call about six weeks ago.  It was a friend who had just adopted a second dog.  We had admired this pup from the get go.  He was all black and soft as can be.  He was half Siberian Husky and half Black Labrador.  Her older dog was much too big and had recently injured the pup while playing.  She feared for his safety and immediately thought of us.  We rushed right over and adopted him.  His name is Roland (Papa J named him after a character in Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' book series) and he is exactly what this family was looking for.

Roland at 4 months.  He is MUCH larger, now. 
This month also granted me the opportunity to share a stage with some Pagan heavy-weights.  Selena Fox and Byron Ballard presented at the Pittsburgh Pagan Pride with me trying my best beside them.  I felt like a giant!  I never realize how tall I am until I get around a crowd.  Haha!

Mama Stacey, Selena Fox, Byron Ballard, and Pittsburgh's PPD Coordinator.

Baby O got seven teeth in one go, this past month.  THAT was fun.  He couldn't help but bite while nursing and made both of us miserable.  Things are better now that they are all out, but that was rough stuff while trying to handle all the other changes and mental/physical stresses that our home underwent in October.

We ended the month with a traditional night of Trick or Treat and honoring our ancestors.  Adventure Girl chose to be a doctor (go her!).  Baby O was supposed to be a business man, but ended up looking like a cute little hobo.  Doodle Bug is in those teetering final years of engaging in Trick or Treat, so he committed only to a mask which he removed the moment another teen boy poked fun at it.  Oh, well.



Transformation has come upon our home.  It has changed us for the better.  I pray for a winter that allows us to iron out the wrinkles and relax in our new environment. 

How has your October been?

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

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.  

AT THE HOSPITAL, TRYING TO BE BRAVE.

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.  

SHE SLEPT FOR 16 HOURS AFTER HER LEG WAS SPLINTED.
  THEY DON'T MESS AROUND WITH CHILDREN'S PAIN MEDS.

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.

HER CAST WAS PUT ON 3 DAYS LATER,
AFTER THE SWELLING HAD GONE DOWN.

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.

BORED, BORED, BORED

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.   

ITS EVEN HARD TO ENJOY A PONY PICNIC IN THE PARK,
WHEN YOUR LEG IS BUSTED.

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.


ITEMS YOU WILL NEED
1 sheet of Green Construction Paper
1 sheet of Brown Construction Paper
2 sheets of Cardstock
Glue
Stapler
Large Popsicle Stick
Scissors
Permanent Marker
FREE Templates


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. 'Front' onto green and 'Back' onto brown.)  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 used during with our Preschool Lesson Plan.

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

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!


Tuesday, March 1

Spending the Day with Yinks

It's Dr. Seuss week and our entire homeschool lineup for the next five days is dedicated to his stories.  Today, Adventure Girl attended a birthday party for Dr. Seuss at the local library.  They colored and read and ate Cat in the Hat Popcorn (popcorn drizzled with white chocolate and tossed with red and blue sprinkles). 

The librarian chose One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish to kick things off.  If you've never actually read it, then you may not know what the book truly contains. It has very little to do with fish.  It's actually a collection of strange Seuss characters doing those odd word-family, rhyming things that Seuss characters do. 



Adventure Girl became endeared with the Yink. 


The Yink drinks pink ink.  The Yink has a really cool long yellow and pink tail. 

The Yink became our Seussical focus of the day. 

To start, we decided to make Yink ink to drink.  I knew that I could cheat and just use Nestle Quick strawberry milk mix... but to be honest I'd already been out of the house once that day and the thought of packing the kids up yet again did not entice.  I told myself that that mix was full of junk anyway. 

A quick Google search yielded the solution: homemade strawberry simple syrup. I found a recipe from One Hungry Mama, scanned it over, got the gist, and made my own. 


Roughly, I threw a cup of water, 6 tablespoons of local honey, and 10  strawberries (I often have a cache of frozen berries from summer in the deep freezer) into a saucepan and simmered for 30 minutes.  I used a potato masher to break down the strawberries.  You can stop there, but for kicks I let my daughter give it one solid squish of neon pink food coloring. 


Once cooled, we added several teaspoons to a glass of unsweetened almond milk.  Add a pink straw and voila!  Yink Ink. 


Wink like a Yink while you drink your "pink ink".


We also fashioned a quick and cute Yink Tail for Adventure Girl to wear.  I put that in a separate blog post just so I could get some dinner on the table.  Click HERE.
Happy Seussing!

Saturday, February 27

Hello Baby Boy

Here he is, Baby O, our last bio-baby.  He came earthside November 11th, just before the stroke of midnight.  He's had a little more trouble breastfeeding than Adventure Girl did, but we've stuck with it.  He's a snuggler and quickly earned the nickname "Teddybear".

My best friend sat in on the birth.  I'm a very private person and had my doubts about even her being in the room, but I haven't regretted it for a second.  She cheered me on (Papa J is more of the hold-your-hand-silently-while-you-scream-breath-and-push type), cried tears of joy, and took photos for us. 


Baby O had some jaundice issues, as some breastfed babies do, and gave me a scare on day two.  An overnight with some bili-lights made him feel better.


He's almost 4 months now and is teething, playing with toys, and loves to sit up propped.


Doodle Bug is older with this baby and has no fears about holding, calming, and feeding his baby brother.  Adventure Girl brings him toys and kisses his head all day. I love my family.