Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

A new reminder on my mother's wall...

I know it's late to offer a wish for a blessed day replete with many moments of grace and gratitude.  However, I'm going to do it anyway with a prayer:

Lord, thank you for this day.  A reminder to pause, to pray, to count blessings, to share what is good.

Thank you for providing for our needs, gifting us with grace, showering us with with reasons to be grateful...

Thank you for faith, family and feasting.

Jack digs in to his first ever turkey leg.

Many today, myself included, have shared satisfied smiles and been held in circles of love.  

Luke unwraps an early birthday gift during our Thanksgiving dessert time.

Some, however, have not.  They have been caught in places of loneliness, challenge, fear...  They have, for one reason or another, been unable to fully unwrap the gift this day has been.

I know this, Lord, because I was such a person on some holidays past.  Yet, you never abandoned me.  You still don't.  You never abandon any of us.

Lord, thank you for embracing me through the years when I was too sad, scared, angry or numb to recognize your embrace.  Thank you for doing the same for others today.

Please use me as you used others during my difficult times.  Please use others, too.  Let us be your voice, hands and heart.  Help make your unconditional love and tender care apparent to those who need it tonight (and always!).  Help us dispel despair and point one another toward truth:

Life is an incredible gift, born of love -- 
now and eternally.

Nina plays dress up win Grammy and Grampy's playroom.

Thank you, Lord, for abundant blessings, that shine with love and joy!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Belated All Saints Day Party -- Sensory Smart Games and Lots of Fun

St. Nina (also known as St. Nino), St Michael and St. George

"Mom, I understand,"  a disappointed Luke told me,while looking with concern at his sister who had spiked a fever during the night.

Then, he spied the angel wings that the kids had helped me create for Jack and the sheet we'd spent lots of time cutting up.  "But, you did all that work."

For angel wings, we took a pair of broken Dollar Tree fairy wings and upcycled them.  First, we taped a white cardstock cut out of an angel wing shape to the elastic arm bands.  Then, using "fancy" scissors, we cut out a bunch of feather shapes, which we glued on in layers.

"I know," I consoled, "and, it's okay.  We can use those things another time.  Today, what's important is helping Nina heal and not passing germs onto anyone else.  We can pray here at home, practice our virtues of compassion and caring, enjoy quiet activities at home today and play All Saints Day games another time with other children."

Playdough saved the day for us on All Saints Say, entertaining a sick Nina and her brothers for hours on end.

Later that morning, when Nina felt well enough to play a bit with her brothers, I took out lots of playdough and tools.  While the kids busied themselves with these, I got online to ask the mom of another family that had had to miss the annual All Saints Day party due to sickness if we might plan and enjoy a small, belated All Saints Day party together once both our families were healthier.  She thought it was a fabulous idea!

Our Belated Party

"St. Nina" wears the colors the saint is traditionally pictured in (a red dress, a blue tablecloth for a cape and a white lace tablecloth for a veil.)  She carries a "grapevine" cross and a scroll."

Last week, the children and I were thrilled to participate in the belated party!

"St. George" wears armor and a red cloth cape.  He carries a weapon and even has a small dragon figurine (which cannot be seen in the picture) to represent the dragon legen says he slayed.

We began with a simple meet, greet and free play.  Then, once all had arrived, we circled up to pray, chat about All Saints Day and pray and play an All Saints Day Bingo, which another mom had printed out from Shower of Roses and laminated.  (She laminated "gift" copies for my family and the other family.  Bless her and her kind heart!)

St. Micheal also wears armor and carries a weapon.  He also dons angel wings.

After Bingo, the children enjoyed a snack together and then, we split into small groups to play the games I had prepared.

The tactile input of our St. Anthony Search game was a big hit.

First up for my children and one of their friends was St. Anthony's Search.  Their challenge was to find ten "lost" objects in a small sensory bin.

Nina laughs as she begins to be wrapped like St. Lazarus.

Next up was the game we had cut an old bed sheet apart for -- St. Lazarus' Wrap.  This game, of course, provided proprioceptive and vestibular input for the children.

The Build a Church Like St. Francis game I created a few years ago was a hit again.

Third in my children's rotation through the game was an old favorite -- re-building "San Damiano" as St. Francis did when he first heard his call to rebuild the church.  In this game, the children used their creative imaginations, deciding how to construct their churches to ensure it had a cross and other typical aspects of church design.  Plus, since the blocks for building were placed a room's length apart from one another, and we made a stipulation that children could only carry one block at a time, the game also provided vestibular and proprioceptive input.

If you look just above this caption, you will see the small plastic jar that "St. George" is trying to drop clothespins into.

After some vestibular/proprioceptive games, I placed two for concentration and calming.  The first was St. Martha's Clothespin Drop.  The children loved this one as they worked to meet the challenge of dropping as many clothespins as they could into a jar.

The Halo Toss was difficult to get a decent  photo of due to where I placed it in our friend's home, but it sure was fun to play!

The final game of the rotation was our Halo Toss, where the children tossed flow necklace "halos" around ring toss sticks that had images of saints on them.

Two of my three well-satiated saints.  The children thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship, fun, skill building and learning of our belated All Saints Day party.

After all these games, we enjoyed lunch together and, then, were going to play a round of the Corporal Works of Mercy Walk game I had prepared.  However, by the time the mamas has finished eating, the children were all free-playing happily, we decided to nix the final round of games.  The Corporal Works of Mercy walk will be for another day.

What are some of your favorite Saints-inspired games and activities?

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Our Art-n-Nature Element of Color "Hike"

Beginning to Explore the Color Wheel

Our fourth Art-n-Nature hiking club experience contained no hiking, little art, but a whole lot of fun with two other families!

With Some of Our New Friends

Because it is traditional for my children and I to visit a local zoo around Halloween, and because there was not enough time in our schedule to pencil in both a visit to the zoo and an Art-n-Nature hike, we decided to combine the two experiences.

Preparing for Our Element of Color "Hike"

Nina's Color Wheel Exploration
In preparation for our Art-n-Nature Element of Color experience, I wrote up an announcement as usual (shared here for anyone who would like to borrow verbage for their own local club) and posted an event invitation on our Art-n-Nature Hikes Facebook page.  Then, I put together a supply bag with:

  • watercolor paint tubes
  • normal, recycled plastic lids (for the paint)
  • normal, recycled plastic containers (for the water)
  • paintbrushes
  • Q-tips
  • paper
  • warm Colored Pencil Sticks
  • cool Colored Pencil Sticks
  • colored pencils
  • paint shirts
  • water (to drink and to use for watercolors)
  • lunch
  • a hand towel
  • a phone
  • a camera

This bag had all the materials we would need to make color wheels, sketch animals and plants and do guided drawings colored in warm or cool pallets.

Jack's Color Mixing Exploration

I also jotted down vocabulary I wanted to include in the day:

  • hue - the name of a color
  • primary colors - red, yellow and blue
  • secondary colors - orange, green and violet
  • tertiary colors -  red-orange, yellow-green, blue-violet, etc.
  • color wheel - a circle of colors that shows the relationships between colors
  • cool colors - blue, violet, green
  • warm colors - orange, yellow, red
  • value - lightness or darkness of color (maybe
  • intensity - quality of brightness (maybe)
  • and perhaps, complementary colors and analogous colors.  

Luke's Explorations

Our Color Stroll Experience

Two new friends begin their color wheels.

As planned, we met other families at the zoo for a picnic.

Then, we circled up and reviewed some basics about Line, Shape and Form orally before including some Line and Shape vocabulary in order to begin creating our color wheel (using hand drawn curved lines make circles at the points of an imagined triangle.  Then, three straight lines to make triangles between these.  And, finally, four straight lines to make rectangles between all the triangles and circles.).

A Shape and Color Wheel In-Progress

Shapes drawn, we passed around the primary colored paints, yellow, red and orange to fill in the circles.  Then, we explored these to create secondary colors in the triangles and talked a little bit about which colors are "cool" and which are "warm".  Finally, some of us tried mixing further to create tertiary colors.  Through doing all this, we explored the color wheel.

Nina and Jack decided to explore painting sticks, too!

Then, since we had a young crowd, who was ready to move and see the zoo, that is exactly what we did!  We enjoyed one another's company while exploring all the zoo exhibits.  

Luke and a new pal chatting about the animals.

I had intended to do a color spotting walk while exploring the exhibits and/or to do sketches and guided drawings of some of the animals that we could then color with cool or warm palettes.  However, as I watched the children chatting and observing animals and climbing on rocks and noted the temperatures dropping to levels that may have been a bit too brisk for us to sit still again to create art, I decided to nix such plans.  So, little visual art was explored, yet the arts of conversation with new friends and marveling at God's wonderful natural creations were enjoyed!

Climbing Boulders with New Friends

Once we had strolled about the entire zoo, one of the families went home (for naps!) while the other went to a playground right outside the zoo.  Luke, Nina and Jack opted to stay behind in the zoo for a few minutes more to enjoy a carousel ride, made picturesque by the parade of trees bedecked in colorful autumn splendor that went by as we went round and round.

Beautiful Colors All Around

After the ride, we joined the other family out at the playground. 

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a report on our fifth Art-n-Nature experience on Texture, which we we enjoyed last week, and, if the weather continues to cooperate, our final two hikes in our Elements of Art series.

Meanwhile, if you missed the first part of this series, feel free to check them out:

What are your favorite Element of Art projects?  Do you have fabulous ideas for value or space?

Ideas and inspiration for Art-n-Nature Hikes can be found on our growing Pinterest page.  Please leave links to your favorite Elements of Art projects and Nature adventures in the comments on this post.  That way, I can pin them to share with others as time allows.  Thanks! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Free Printable "Pocket" Book to Take An Endangered Species Fair

A Simple "Pocket" Book to Take to the Fair!

Tomorrow, my children will be participating in their first Endangered Species Fair.

What fun we had researching to decide which animal each would focus on, and, then, what the they wanted to share about their selected endangered species!  They worked so hard on their display boards and are continuing on today to create additional projects to share in front of the boards.

The kids set up their board in our hallways in to play "Endangered Species Fair."

Meanwhile, I have created a little project of my own to share -- and I do mean "little".

Room to Spotlight Five Species and to Capture Favorite Facts

What I did was whip up a simple, one page booklet to print for each of my children to use at the fair.

The idea is that my children will write their names on the fronts of their little booklets and, then, slip them in their pockets to bring to the fair in order to capture use capture ideas that excite them as they view their friends' displays.

I am sharing the printable for the book here free so that others going to the Endangered Species Fair can easily create their own booklets as well -- and so those of you who would like to find or create your own fair can use them, too!

They are super easy to assemble.  All you need is the printable and a pair of scissors.  Then, follow the directions this kind youtube contributor offers:

We can't wait for the Fair!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Highlighting Virtues with A St. George Resource Round Up (Or What Mama Has the Kids Do When She Is Sick)

Luke's St. George and the Dragon Scene
On Friday, I woke to find my voice gone, my eyes burning, my head aching and my mind realizing that I needed a different plan for the morning than I had gone to bed thinking about. Read-togethers and Endangered Species Fair preparation just would work considering my laryngitis and lousy head cold.  I needed another set of morning activities to engage the kids.

With praise be to our Lord for generous folks on the Internet, I put together a new plan rather quickly: a mini-book on the virtues of St. George.

The inside of Jack's finished mini-book.
The flap of Jack's mini-book before he opens it to the inside.
Inside Nina's mini-book with a happy, grateful, loving princess and St. George leading a dragon away with a rope.

Why Saint George when we are nowhere near his feast day?

Well, because, Jack and his big siblings are enamored with knights and castles right now and youtube has an Adventures from the Book of Virtues video with the story of St. George and the Dragon in it.

So, while I did breakfast dishes and some laundry, the children watched that.

Then, I squeaked, "What virtues did St. George show?"

Once the children had shared their ideas, I  gave each child a blank tri-fold mini-book, set out pencils and googled for knight how-to-draws.  The children and I decided that we'd try this one:

Nina's in-progress drawing of St. George.

Once we completed our "St. George"s, Luke asked me to find a dragon how-to-draw.  He chose one here for him and I to do, while Nina chose a sleeping one:

Then, the children asked for a princess how-to-draw.  We chose this one.

Drawings done, each child did basic copy work to write, St. George showed bravery, kindness and faith.

Luke chose to embellish his lettering with dragon-fire and swords.
Nina showed persistence each time she wrote words on Friday.

Then, the children proceeded to add color to their mini-books before setting up for and creating their own St. George and the Dragon drama improv in the hallway.

Jack coloring what he'd asked me to draw for him.
What a blessing it was to have them all so engaged in learning about saints and virtues, while reinforcing writing, drama and creative skills without me having to use my almost-gone voice!

Better still was that, as the day unfolded, each child demonstrated personal virtues of kindness, faith and more, and they also decided to begin their own medieval lapbooks using other how-to-draws that they found online.

What are your go-to resources for teaching about St. George?  Virtues?  And how to you keep your children engaged, learning, practicing skills and enjoying when you're feeling poorly?

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Our Art-n-Nature Element of Form Hike

Balancing on logs along the trail.
Our third Art-n-Nature hike on Form began (and continued) with several bumps, but ended up being another enriching experience for the kids, friends – old and new – and me.

Some of the kids, ready to head out.
The following week, when I rescheduled the hike, I knew that driving to the initially planned location would be tough to fit in with the rest of our schedule, so, I picked a different, closer destination and wrote up a hike announcement.  (Our Form Hike announcement can be downloaded here, should you want to use it as a base for planning your own similar experience.)

Luke's Cone Shape
The art projects I planned for the hike were simple ones:

    Prior to the hike, my printer had an issue which left me unable to print out select Andy Goldsworthy art examples to inspire new friends and old along the trail.  However, being kids, they had their own ideas anyway:  hut buidling!

  • a sculpture, inspired by nature, made from GFCF homemade air-dry dough

One child, who typically does not get into art according to his mom, enjoyed working with the dough.

In my pack were:
  • water
  • lunch
  • a hand towel
  • GFCF homemade air-dry dough in sealed containers (which was supposed to be a beautiful autumn hue, but was not, because I ran out of food coloring and did not have enough paint to make it so)
  • a phone
  • a camera
Of these, the water and towel ended up being the most valuable.  For, while most of the children liked making forms with the dough, many of them did not like the residue the dough left upon their hands.

Vocabulary I intended to introduce on the hike included:
  • form  - a three dimensional object
  • sphere
  • pyramid
  • cone
  • cube
  • cylinder
This intention was perhaps one of the only ones that did not go awry in one way or another during the experience.
So what went awry?

Since we had not trail map, it was a good thing I thought to take this photo of the one in the kiosk at the trailhead.  Between it and one Dad's GPS we averted getting lsot at the close of our hike.

As I already mentioned, prior to the hike, the initial hike had to be postponed; my printer had an issue that prevented me from bringing inspirational Andy Goldsworthy pictures; and we ran out of coloring while I was making the air-dry dough.
Then, when we were getting started on the hike, I let the children vote to decide which trail to take.  Big mistake!  Nina's trail lost and she spiraled into one of her worst tantrums ever, making getting started with the hike less than ideal.

A mom friend of mine offered to try to cheer my upset and obstinate Nina while I moved along the trail with the other mom and children.  While she was facing that challenge, the other kids were eager to move way ahead.  I slowed them by suggesting we build some Andy Goldsworthy-inspired form pieces from art, and while they were doing so, another mom called my cell.  She'd sent her husband along to the hike with their sons, but he'd gotten lost and needed directions.

Another mom had a phone with a map application, so she figured out where the dad was and where he needed to be and, then, I headed back to the parking lot to recollect Nina and the other mom and wave in the lost Dad as he found his way to where we were.

Later, along the trail, someone needed a band-aid.  It was only then I realized that I had forgotten to put our first aid kit in my pack. 

When we were in the midst of our sculpture project, two of my three children needed to use the potty.  So, I had to abandon everyone else.

Towards the end of the hike, the trail markings got confusing, so we almost got lost.

So, what actually went "right"?

It's all in the balance.

Although rain was forecasted, the day stayed clear enough for us to enjoy it.

A mom and her son, that we had never met before joined us.  So did a dad we didn't know previous to the hike.  All were great companions and both the "new" adults have interests in wild edibles.  So, ideas for a future series of walks are brewing...

There were moments of idyllic community and positive kiddo concentration along the trail.

Snacking and sculpturing along the trail.  Note how Nina is engaged in pressing out a form with her dough.  My unofficial sensory seeker often calms with and becomes engaged by such activities.

Building rock pile sculptures provided further heavy work for all.

There were so many cool critters under those rocks.  I cannot recall which caused Luke to make this face, though.

The forms of fallen logs offered wonderful opportunities for proprioceptive input, balance and more.  

Nina crawling in a hut we found along the trail.
The hike ended with a picnic lunch, chatting, playing and even some football in the parking lot.
And what about the art concepts and projects?

When we  first started out, we paused in a normal circle at the trailhead to chat about line, shape and form, reviewing prior concepts and vocabulary and coming up with a definition for form.

As we started along the trail, I asked the children to pick up at least one particularly interesting shape or form along the way, intending to use whatever they picked up as inspiration  -- or even a part of -- their air-dry dough sculptures.  However, by the time we dealt with Nina's moodiness and helped the lost Dad find us, my request was long forgotten.  The children were too busy creating stick structures.

So, when we did pause later along the trail to sculpt, we just looked around us for inspiration, whereupon, some children (and parents) chose to use nature as inspiration -- or a part of -- their designs and others chose to simply create free forms.

Prior to creating our own art forms, we also shaped the dough into different geometric forms.

And why so few pictures this time?

To be honest, I was too distracted by the "bumps" along the way to take many pictures.  And, when I was not, I was too "in the moment" to capture it on film.  Loads of photos or not, the hike was memorable for both its challenges and its delights, and, in the balance, I'd call it another success!

Enjoy the Other Posts in This Series...

How do you reset when bumps along the way threaten to hamper ideal explorations?

Ideas and inspiration for Art-n-Nature Hikes can be found on our growing Pinterest page.  If you have  favorite ideas or links to your own Elements of Art and Nature adventures that might inspire folks for further hikes, please leave them in the comments so I can pin them when time allows.  Thanks!


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