Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Go on an Art-n-Nature Element of Value Hike

As I went to share about our Art-n-Nature Element of Space outing the other day, I realized I had yet to offer a report here about our Element of Value hike.  So, for those who have been following this series in order to borrow ideas, I am doing so now.

This past summer, when a friend asked me to revive our Art-n-Nature club this year, I knew I could not do so as a weekly fall series as I had initially run the club.  However, I figured I could manage to plan and lead experiences about once a month - especially if I tied some of our club excursions to hikes that I was already planning to enjoy with my family.  Thus, I kicked off our monthly 2015-2016 Art-n-Nature club series by offering an Element of Value lesson prior to a pre-scheduled park interpreter-led hike at Scusset Beach Reservation.

Exploring the Element of Value with Pencil and Paper 

The day of our Element of Value outing was an overcast one with t-storms threatening.  However, when I put a call into the park interpreter to ensure that she was, indeed, planning to lead a night hike, she told me she'd be there if we would (and if no lightening started just as we were about to set off on our beach walk.)  So, I messaged folks about an hour before we'd planned to meet to confirm things were a "go".  Then, my family headed out to meet folks.

Around 7 p.m., we began greeting people at the fishing pier parking lot at Scusset Beach Reservation, where the kids thoroughly enjoyed climbing some cool-shaped trees while waiting for stragglers to arrive.


Then, we walked over to the grass along the paved bike trail across from the fishing pier, where I officially welcomed everyone, shared a brief history of what the club is and why we meet, reviewed basics about
Line, Shape, Form, Color and Texture using things we could see around us as examples, as well as drawing on the kids' own knowledge.

After that, I used things around us to introduce the idea of Value before handing out value scales (with thanks to Donna Young's free printable!), pencils and drawing boards (cut pieces of showerboard) to those who did not bring their own.  I challenged the children to create at least one solid scale of light to dark values and one that used dots, lines, or patterns.

After the children completed at least one shaded value scale example, I drew the children's attention to the objects around us and asked them to name what form they were: part of a sign post looked like a partial pyramid, power plant structures looked like cylinders, parts of the fishing pier looked like cuboids, parts of the fishing pier looked like cylinders, etc.  After noting these, I led the children that wished to learn how to draw such forms in drawing and shading them,.  (Other children skipped this part of the lesson in order to take a "wiggles "jog around the fishing pier.)

I had then planned to have the children apply the use of value in sketching objects around us, but when I looked at what time it was, I realized it was time for us to head over to the beach to meet the park interpreter for the hike.  (She'd actually joined us for part of our art meet up, but had already gone over to the beach in case any other folks had decided to join the public hike.  None had, but we did not know that and did not want to keep her waiting...) 

Observing Value in Nature as Night Fell Upon the Beach... And Learning About Adaptations, Too

After wrapping up our mini-lesson on the Element of Value, we headed over to meet the park interpreter for the public night walk on the beach.  Due the iffy weather, our group members were the only ones who showed up for the hike, so we lucked out with our own private tour. However, since the park interpreter wanted us to experience the beach at night with as much authenticity as possible, no flashlights, cameras or phones with glowing screens were allowed on the hike.  Thus, we only have a few photos from our gathering time, when the kids enjoyed climbing the life guard stand and running through giant sand craters left by earlier beach goers.

After all our light-sources were turned off or put away, we began our beach walk.  Immediately, the the park interpreter engaged the children (and adults!) in discovering how animals adapt at night.

We talked about how some animals have wet noses which help them to smell better, and, of course, some of the kids then went to the shoreline to wet their noses, after which they sniffed canisters to identify scents such as olives, cookies, peaches, and more.

Then, we talked about how some animals hear well at night and why that is important. To drive that point home, the children played a blindfolded owl game.

We also talked about animal sight - how owls have binocular vision and how many nocturnal animals have more rods than cones.  While discussing this, we took colored crayons in the dark and tried to guess what colors we had by writing the color names in paper.  Later, when the hike ended and we were back in the light, we opened our papers to see if we had "seen" the colors correctly in the dark.  Very few of us had!

We also talked about luminescence.  The park interpreter showed us how if you crunch a wintergreen lifesaver in your mouth it will glow with luminescence.  She also demonstrated how two quartz rocks hit together at night will glow/spark.  How cool!

Of course, we also all noted how our vision of the beach changed as darkness rolled in - a perfect tie-in to our Element of Value explorations.

It was a wonderful hike capped off with some casual chatting and play in the semi-lit area leading into the beach.


If You'll Be in the Area...
For those planning to be on the South Shore of Massachusetts or in the Cape Cod area, be sure to check for other park interpeter-led walks and talks.  The ones at Scusset are typically free and well worth attending.

Want to Know What We've Done on Our Other Art-n-Nature Hikes?


We've now completed our first foray into each of the seven elements of art and design.  We plan to revisit all of these elements with future excursions based on single elements or combos and would love to hear about YOUR favorite outdoor art ideas.  Please share them in a comment here or on the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

From Burn to Blessing

Uh oh.  The boy got paint on his swimshirt while I was leading an Art-n-Nature gathering last week week.  Dad, playing with camera settings, got a picture of the shirt coming off...

... and another of me taking a break from guiding kiddoes in a negative-and-positive space painting exercise in order to go wash the shirt out in the ocean water while my boy began to play battle games on the beach.

Once the paint had been rinsed out of the shirt, I offered it back to my son.  Being a "sensory kid", he did not want to put the wet thing back on though.  So I told him to be sure to put sunscreen on instead.

Unfortunately, my boy did not listen to me, and I had no idea that he had not asked Daddy to help him spray his pale white shoulders, back and torso until several hour later when I noticed his back getting just a little pink.  I was not too concerned though since he looked more white than pink. 

Seriously, my boy did not look burned most of the day.  Just take a look at this photo of him standing proud after conquering the fear he had of floating down the current of a "river" to the ocean right towards the end of our excursion.

Not so pink, right?

Well, sunburns do tend to appear more inflamed after the fact... And that was the case with my son.

Shortly after the proud river-floating moment, we left the beach, went to Adoration,  and then headed home for dinner and showers.  That was when -- YIKES!-- my son's white-with-a-little-pink upper body transformed into an inflamed and stinging red "tee shirt".  Poor thing!  After suffering through a shower, he could barely handle me slathering him with aloe.  Each touch brought a yelp.

My boy's riotous red "tee shirt" sunburn made it next to impossible for him to sit comfortably, never mind lay down to sleep.  So it was that he came to me with begging, wailing tears at bedtime.  "Mom, please ask people to pray for me!"

Immediately, my daughter took up her rosary and began to pray for my son, and, heeding my boy's request, I jumped on Facebook to ask for immediate prayers. (I honestly have no idea who paused to take the photos - my daughter or my other son.)

Within minutes, in-real-life and online friends began to respond with prayer, support and encouragement.  My son, sat next to me reading each comment that came in, comforted by the knowledge that so many people he knew -- and even those he did not -- were praying for him. 

The power of other people's prayer truly helped my boy's tears to abate and he began to quiet and pray again, too. 

Then, although still in great physical discomfort, he was finally able to get to sleep.  Praise God!

Over the course of the next couple days, the natural repercussions of not listening to Mama when she said, "Put some more sunscreen on," became even more challenging for my boy.  His sunburn stung and made him feel stiff.  By the second day with it, my son found it painful to move his arms, because doing so stretched his stiff, burned skin too much.  Thus, he took on a t-rex sort of posture whenever he had to use his arms.  He looked so odd and uncomfortable with his elbows pretty much frozen to his torso while he simply used  his forearms to do whatever was necessary.  My heart ached for him.

By the third day with his sunburn, my son's skin was so inflamed, dry, and tight that it was all that he could do to be personable and bear keeping a tee shirt on for two hours while we had guests at our home.  Then, after they left and his tee shirt came off, his crying commenced again.  He moaned that his burn seemed worse, not better, and he began begging God for relief "even if this is my own fault."  He also cried for me to help, but what could I do?  Each time I gently rubbed aloe or a salve of essential peppermint and lavender oils in a coconut oil carrier on him that night, he cried out as if I was torturing him.

In fact, my son cried even when I was not applying salves onto his thirsty sunburned skin. The experience of being burned was just too much for his sensory system and he literally carried on for hours on end, praying aloud, tears rolling, yelps punctuating his speech.  All I wanted to do was to hug him, but I could not even do that.  Hugging simply hurt him too much.

So, I finally persuaded my son to at least climb onto my lap, his body stiffly sitting up so not a single part of his back would touch me as I lay one of my hands low around his lap and placed the other atop his head where it would not hurt him.  In this position, I began coaching him to breathe and taking time to pray over him and with him.  This helped for a bit, as did hearing that more folks online were praying for him followed by us listening to calming music.  Even with all this, it was such a long night for him!

The next day was rough, too.

But, finally, as last Sunday unfolded, the raw, stinging and stiffness of my son's sunburn subsided.  He came to me to ask me to make another salve with the essential oils a friend had graciously gifted us for him, apologized for not listening to me a the beach, and asked me for a hug.  As I held him, he winced a bit, but thanked me and pointed out that he could at least be hugged (gently!) again.  His prayers were being heard and healing was happening.

Then, later in the day, our family went on a hayride together at a farm that we are members of.  As I leaned around my son to snap a picture of my husband and younger son, my other hand brushed my son's shoulder.  I did not notice it right away.  Then, my boy  commented, "Mom, do you notice something special?"  I could not guess what he was referring to, so he finally told me, "Your hand, Mom.  It's on my shoulder and I am okay."  Wow!  The natural everyday act of my hand on my son's shoulder had become something to celebrate, because just 12 hours prior, when I had inadvertently touched his shoulder, he had screamed in pain.

Amazing how my son's one act of disobedience in not putting on more suncreen when he was told to do so and my own distraction from following up on whether he had, indeed, applied more sunscreen resulted in so such pain, yet such lessons, too.  Through his experience with feeling the burn, its pain, the stiffness, and the peeling, as well as through asking for and receiving prayer and healing, my son learned a lot.  I did, too.

This week, my son  came to me and said words he has never spoken before, "Mom, can you please put sunscreen on me."  More than that, though, he has been making a better effort toward overall obedience.  He has mentioned how grateful he is for others' prayers.  He has shared with me prayers he had hitherto silently prayed every night, asking for healing and safety for others.  He has relished the simple ability to be hugged and held.

I have been wowed by how many people kindly offered prayers and words of support to my son.  I was moved by my son's appreciation for being able to feel my hugs and touch again.  I remain grateful for the blessings that beat discomfort.  

Yet, I am also filled with sadness.  What about the parents whose children have not listened and have suffered worse natural consequences?  What about those parents who, for whatever reason, can never touch or hug their children again?  What about those people who can find no solace during physical pain because they have no faith?  What about... so many people who are hurting at this very moment.

My son and I are abundantly blessed by general good health, an amazing network of praying friends, and a faith that turns us to God both at moments of petition and those of thanksgiving.  Others, I know, do not sense such graces poured down on them.  For those people, today I pray.  Please join me in doing so...

2 Fun and Fabulous Games that Build Skills and Bring About Laughter {A USAopoly Review}

What do Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game by USAopoly have in common?  Besides the fact that these two fast-paced, family games were offered to us for review recently, both are easy-to-learn, fun-to-play and can be enjoyed with family, friends, or, even as my kids discovered, alone.

The More the Merrier

The day after we received our review package from
USAopoly, we had a playdate on our calendar.  How better to test out new games than with friends? I thought.  So, I put the unopened box in our minivan and, the next night, we tore into it with friends.  Luckily, they had two AA batteries and a screwdriver, since these were needed to prepare Tapple for play.

 As soon as we put the batteries into the Tapple board, my friend and I noted that the game had no volume control and,perhaps, could use one.  However, we soon discovered that what we thought would become loud, annoying sounds while playing just added to the fun.  And what fun we had!

 USAopoly Review

My friend, her children, my children and I played round after round of
Tapple together, and, later, her children and I played more while I babysat them.

Playing Tapple is super easy.  You take the category cards that are stored in a handy compartment at the bottom of the game out and flip the switch on the bottom of the game to "on".  Then, you choose a card to determine a category you'll name things from.  Say "things at a party".  Category determined, you hit the big red button to begin a 10-second countdown, think of something that you'd find at a party (or that fits whatever category your card said), tap down the letter that begins the word you call out, say "b" for "balloons", hit the timer to restart it, and pass play onto the next player.

If the timer goes off before a player taps a letter, that player is out of the round.  If all letters get tapped before there is only one player left, you play a speedier round where each player has to name two things within a category before the timer goes off. 

All the letters for the alphabet except U, V, X, Y and Z are on the board.  (Sometimes we wished these letters were, too, but I understand why they are not since some of them, especially X, would be challenging to tap often!)  However, even with "missing letters" very little opportunity to laugh, get creative with our answers, and enjoy time together was missed while we played Tapple.  In fact, we had so much fun playing that the kids groaned when I suggested that we stop in order to check out the next game.

USAopoly Review

Luckily, the kids agreed to take a Tapple break in order to learn Wonky, for that game became a fast-favorite, which, by the end of the night, had one of the kids grabbing his iPad in order to give a score to our game with sad orchestral music when turns got tough and victory music when traps were set.  It was hysterical!

Concentration.  Laughter.  Plots hatched.  Strategies foiled.  So much unfolded as boys teamed up against girls and as siblings made and broke alliances while we played Wonky, a simple (yet challenging!) game where you draw cards and then discard them while stacking blocks of three colors and three sizes into towers you try not to topple.  This is harder to do than it though, since each block has three flat sides and three curved ones.  The curves, of course, cause precarious tilting towers that threaten to topple unless played upon with excellent balance or a whole lot of luck!


What a great night unfolded because of Tapple and Wonky!
Academic Tie-Ins

Both Tapple and Wonky have found homes on our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E.+ shelves.    

Tapple  is on our "L" shelf, a shelf stocked with tools and activities that help us "learn and play with language".  For, indeed, that is what Tapple does.  To play, we have to know spelling, vocabulary and creative communication.  (One of the rules is that players can name anything that might fit a category, even something "outside-the-box", so long as other players agree that it fits.  So, for example, when naming something round, "ox eyeballs" could - and did!- become acceptable.)

Wonky is on our "M" shelf, a shelf stocked with tools and games that help us "master math skills together".  Although the game seems quite easy - just stacking blocks - the design of the blocks require players to exercise balance and engineering skills.  The game also encourages strategy, both in how you play cards that let you skip players or reverse the direction of play and in how you can :set traps:for subsequent players through which blocks you choose to stack. 

I just love when games support learning!

Solo Play Works, Too

Since the games have been on our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + shelves, the kids have regularly taken them out to play with one another, to play when friends come over, and to ask myself or my husband to play.  They have also played them by themselves.

To play Tapple solo, a child chooses a category and sees how many 10-second time rounds it takes to name something for each letter.

To play Wonky solo, a child draws cards and stacks blocks, seeing if all the blocks can be stacked without the tower tumbling.

Or so that is how we started playing the games solo  Since these basic rules of play developed in our home, all manner of variations have been added...
So, quick to learn, fun to play, skill boosting, and flexible would be descriptors of the games as we have come to know them.  We enjoy both and would recommend them to anyone who likes games.

Tapple is meant for 2-8 players, ages 8+ to play for 10-20 minutes, but we have found it plays well with one to as many players as you'd like, ages preschool on up, for 5 minutes to as long as you like.  (Sometimes we gave preschoolers extra time or helped them find the letters to tap!) Wonky is meant for 2+ players ages 8+, but we played it with one to lots of players, from preschoolers on up with no trouble at all.

In the Kids' Words

My nine-year-old had this to say about Tapple:

I think it is an okay game.  There is not really anything bad about it.  I had fun playing it with my friends.  But, you should make your own rule: No using people's names.
And, this to say about

I think it is an awesome game.  I especially liked setting traps for other people and using passes and reverses to send traps backwards and forward without having to do a thing. I also think that, at the beginning of the game, if someone places a large block, you should always place a small block on top of it.  That's my key to trapping people.

My eight-year-old said the following about

I thought it was good.  I liked playing it with my friends a lot.  My friend said it was addictive, because it is.  I think that you should make it so you cannot use names, too.  It's way too way with names, because names can be anything."

And, she had a lot to say about
It is awesome!  But... there is one thing bad about it: you get seven cards, which is way too much.  We minused two cards to make it five and I liked that a lot better... 
I love giving passes to people when they think they might have trapped me.  I like setting traps.  I also like when we play as a team to team up against one certain other team so one team can win. 
I also liked to play it by myself, drawing seven cards and using them. If they were passes or reverses, I put them back in the pile and grabbed other cards.  It's easier with yourself only, because you have your own ideas and plans.  You do not have to set traps to ruin your tower.  You can build it as high as you want, because you are the only one playing.  The challenge is that it is hard when the tower is  small and curvy and all the blocks that are left are big blocks that you have to place on the small, curvy blocks. I figured out which side it was titling to and put the big block on the other side.  Once the big block was on the other side, I put the other big block on the opposite side and stacked like that so the weight would be equally used.  It worked.  I ended up with steps sometimes. 
I really liked when we played with only four or five people, too, and the people all knew the game - were introduced to it all at once - and people could team up against each other. Teams are fun to play with so you feel like you don't stink at the game.  Your team can still win if one has too much cards and is totally dead in the game, the other person can help out.  It can it easy and fun. I just love the game.

My five-year-old said:
I liked that you have to be quick in Tapple.  I also liked pressing the button.  I did not like that you had to think of something super fast, lightening fast.  It was hard.  So, I liked when Mommy helped me.

He added the following about Wonky:
I liked that we beat Mom at our friend's house.  I like that it is different colors, but I did not like that it has no orange, and I didn't like that it has purple.  I like that you got seven card and that sometimes you I minused it to three.  I like that it is a fun game.

As for me, I find both games fantastic and, besides wishing for all the letters of the alphabet on the Wonky board, only would change  one other thing about games:  their packages! Tapple comes in a box with an open front, which is all well-and-good for letting potential buyers see what the actual "board" with the push down letter  tabs looks like, but is not the best for storage once purchased.  Wonky comes in a sturdy box with a convenient cloth pouch for storing the blocks inside, but the box itself is not a rectangle.  It's got a rather odd angular shape on two sides, which make it less pleasing to stack than it could be with a more traditional box.  But, in both cases, it's what's inside the box that really counts and what is inside is hours of fun and skill building!
So, I think it's clear:  both
Tapple and Wonky were well received here with Wonky as the biggest hit! I am so glad we were introduced to these games and have not doubt we will be playing them on our own, as a family , and with friends for years to come!

Learn More

 USAopoly Review

 USAopoly Review

What games have kept you laughing and learning lately?  Would your family and friends enjoy Tapple and Wonky as much as mine did? 
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